It's All Kinected!

A UWSM Original by the United Way Staff

Kinexus understands that the success of our community lies in connecting individuals and businesses with the right opportunities for growth, engagement, and change. This philosophy is practiced through their work in the community, as well as part of their daily office culture. One of the ways they accomplish this is by providing their employees with opportunities to showcase their leadership skills through their office’s United Way campaign.

“At Kinexus, we view the campaign as an opportunity for staff to professionally grow.  It’s an opportunity to demonstrate their skills, earn project experience, and even recognition, by peers and leaders.  It’s like a leadership work-experience that benefits the individual and the organization. It’s part of our strategic imperative of investing in our people,” states Todd Gustafson, Kinexus’ Chief Executive Director.

When outgoing Employee Campaign Chair (ECC) Paula Polaskey stepped down, new ECC and Kinexus' Talent Development Specialist, Evelyn Castrejon, found the position enabled her to learn more about United Way as an organization and forge a strong relationship with her co-workers.

Mary Morphey, Manager of Corporate Communications, and Dan Peat, Vice President of Business and Community Development

Mary Morphey, Manager of Corporate Communications, and Dan Peat, Vice President of Business and Community Development

“When Paula stepped down this year it was a competitive process to see who would get to be the ECC. In our weekly operations and intel meeting they announced they needed volunteers to run the campaign. Several co-workers said I should do it, or said they thought about me right away,” says Evelyn. “It really helped to see how the rest of the team supported me and believed in me. That led me to believe more in myself. The support of the whole staff was a big factor because I was new; I felt a part of the team.”

“At Kinexus, we view the [United Way] campaign as an opportunity for staff to professionally grow. It’s an opportunity to demonstrate their skills, earn project experience, and even recognition, by peers and leaders.”
— Todd Gustafson, Kinexus CEO

Besides being a corporate partner, Kinexus is a United Way funded partner through the Bridge Academy and Jobs for Michigan Graduates programs. In 2016, Kinexus made an impact on the local economy by filling 3,050 positions for 620 local employers and training 422 people in industries that grow our economy.

“Most of our staff knows what United Way does but learning more of the details gives us a better working knowledge of things we might not see day to day. For them it was good to highlight how United Way is a force multiplier, that we run a campaign not just because we are a funded partner but because the other services of the United Way’s other funded partner’s help move the needle on; on things we are not involved in. We may know what United Way does, but they may not recognize how it effects our entire environment,” explains Kinexus’ Vice President of Business and Community Development, Dan Peat.   

During the campaign Evelyn and her team organized impact tours with other United Way funded partners, brought in speakers that had been helped by United Way programs, provided data and facts sheets for rallies, and hosted events like office mazes and basketball tournaments. The mix of group activities and information hit a home run by giving Kinexus employees an experience to have fun, raise money, and make a difference together.

Mary Morphey, Manager of Corporate Communications, thought this year’s Kinexus campaign had a unique identity because, through addition of impact tours, it helped many of them connect the dots and see the whole picture.  

“On one of [the impact] tours, there was a staff member whose son received help from United Way’s Center for Reading and Learning at Andrews and knew it was funded by United Way. When she got to the tour of the shelter she got emotional. She realized that not only her family benefitted from the United Way, and her work benefitted, but how many other families are benefiting,” explains Mary.  “A strong United Way makes a stronger community, and a stronger community makes a stronger Kinexus and stronger partner organizations. That strength drives economic development and makes stronger opportunities, and that’s what makes our area a great place to live, work, and play.”

For more information on Kinexus, visit them at www.kinexus.org.