Pounders, a research and development technician in Lake County, Illinois, is one of 3,500 AbbVie employees in 45 countries who worked to make a tangible difference in their local communities during the company’s second annual Week of Possibilities.
The results are impressive: During this year’s Week of Possibilities — the signature event in the company’s year-round Possibilities 365 volunteer program — AbbVie employees provided more than 17,000 service hours to the communities where they live and work.
In North Chicago, where AbbVie is based, transforming education is a special focus. The school district there was taken over by the State of Illinois in 2012 due to years of poor academic performance. The district now faces debilitating funding problems. In early 2015, nearly 1 in 4 North Chicago residents were living in poverty andunemployment was as high as 9.7%; meanwhile the area’s property tax base is shrinking.
During this year’s Week of Possibilities, AbbVie targeted North Chicago Community High School and the Neal Math & Science Academy for library revitalizations, dramatically renovating each with new furniture, books, resources and computers.
AbbVie volunteers also provided fresh coats of paint to classrooms, cafeterias, gymnasiums and offices at North Chicago High School, Neal Math & Science Academy and A.J. Katzenmaier and North elementary schools.
"Through overwhelming contributions of time, talent and treasure, AbbVie has created an early childhood center, built a playground, transformed six school libraries and six staff lounges, built a new professional development room for teachers and painted and cleaned more classrooms and common areas than one can count," said Jennifer Grumhaus, executive director of North Chicago Community Partners, a nonprofit founded to provide resources and support for the beleaguered school district.
In addition to these much-needed renovations, AbbVie volunteers have provided ongoing community support in other meaningful ways.
"They facilitated engaging science activities with students and teachers, distributed food at health and wellness events, and collected coats, food, hygiene items and school supplies,” Grumhaus explained. “They packaged Welcome Back to School kits for teachers, painted faces at family events, weeded gardens and taught classes on the Constitution. The collective impact of their contributions is immeasurable."
The employees in North Chicago are just one piece of a much larger grassroots movement. Elsewhere in the U.S., AbbVie volunteers renovated libraries and other school spaces in Redwood City, Calif., and Worcester, Mass. Smaller groups in other cities worked at food banks, homeless shelters and beach cleanups.
Meanwhile, AbbVie volunteers in 44 other countries made a difference in their communities.
In Tokyo, children living in group homes participated in the AbbVie Foundation's SEEK (Science Engineering Exploration Knowledge) program, which gives young students hands-on insight into the scientific discovery process.
In Budapest, Hungary, AbbVie volunteers visited hospitals to read stories to children undergoing long-term treatment, while other employees renovated a local secondary school and offered health lectures to illuminate the dangers of smoking, offer hepatitis C infection prevention tips and provide insight into living a healthier lifestyle. Many other projects around the globe provided improvements for local schools, patient care centers and food banks.
The projects touched the lives and hearts of many in the local communities, including the principal at Escuela de Párvulos Berlin, a public school in Guatemala.
“I’ve been the principal for 24 years, [and] we’ve had very rough years. We have no support; what you see here has been possible because the parents of the school donate their time to maintain the school. Having AbbVie here today, it’s a total blessing,” she said, her voice breaking and her eyes tearing up. “Thank you for doing this for us! Thank you for giving the kids a place to play, a place to read!”
The reward for the volunteers? Not something that could be measured in terms of dollars and cents.
“Every year we do something, and we get to see the before and after," Pounders said. "I encourage everybody to try this out once a year.”