Community involvement: Not just for the holiday season

Posted on December 12, 2012 by Heather Redfern - Also by this author

GM Joe Casey (center) kicked off SEPTA’s 2012 food drive to benefit Philabundance. Since 2009, the agency has collected over 65 tons of food during the month-long drive. Casey is the driving force behind the event.
GM Joe Casey (center) kicked off SEPTA’s 2012 food drive to benefit Philabundance. Since 2009, the agency has collected over 65 tons of food during the month-long drive. Casey is the driving force behind the event.

As public service institutions, transit organizations’ involvement in their communities should extend beyond bus routes and train stations. Organizations must practice social responsibility through service activities — not only during the holiday season when many are filled with “peace, love and goodwill toward others,” but throughout the year, too.

Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) demonstrates good citizenship collectively as an organization and through its employees’ individual community service activities. From an annual summer food drive — which collected 19 tons of food in 2012 and more than 65 tons since 2009 — and the holiday employee toy drive, to increased efforts to bring more veterans into its workforce, SEPTA makes a difference in the Greater Philadelphia region.

Individually, many of SEPTA’s more than 9,000 employees participate in some volunteer endeavor — in  their neighborhoods, athletic associations, places of worship and organizations like Habitat for Humanity. The commitment to help starts at the top of the agency, where SEPTA’s management leads by example.

“How can you ask your employees to give their time and contribute to causes if you aren’t willing to do the same?” asked SEPTA GM Joseph Casey, who holds leadership positions with several organizations, including the Transportation Learning Center board of directors (serving as treasurer this year) and the March of Dimes Transportation, Building & Construction Committee board. He is also the driving force behind SEPTA’s participation with the “Stop Hunger at Your Station” Food Drive for Philabundance and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter’s annual “Philly Spring Clean-Up.”

“We can all make excuses for how busy we are, but there is always time to help our neighbors and charitable causes in some way,” Casey added.

One of SEPTA’s most recent community service programs included hosting Philadelphia Corporation for Aging’s annual Thanksgiving dinner for Philadelphia’s older adults at the Authority’s Market East Regional Rail station. Deputy GM Jeff Knueppel and Assistant GM Susan Van Buren were among SEPTA’s leadership staff on hand to serve the attendees.
One of SEPTA’s most recent community service programs included hosting Philadelphia Corporation for Aging’s annual Thanksgiving dinner for Philadelphia’s older adults at the Authority’s Market East Regional Rail station. Deputy GM Jeff Knueppel and Assistant GM Susan Van Buren were among SEPTA’s leadership staff on hand to serve the attendees.

One group that has been the recipient of SEPTA’s long-term support is the March of Dimes - Pennsylvania Chapter Southeast Division, specifically their Transportation, Building & Construction Awards luncheon. The agency’s Deputy GM, Jeff Knueppel, is in his second year chairing the event, which is the largest special event in the state of Pennsylvania.

Many people get involved with organizations because the cause hits a personal note — this is how Knueppel explains his work with the March of Dimes.

“I have been concerned about issues the March of Dimes works for for many years and have a sincere desire to help however I can,” he said. “I started out as a regular member of their board, but I knew I could do more and wanted to make more of a difference.”

In his first year as the luncheon chair, Knueppel helped the March of Dimes raise $314,000, well over the goal of $280,000.

“Jeff is a valuable member of our volunteer leadership,” said Alexis Dowhie Moyer, the March of Dimes’ senior community director. “We rely a lot on our volunteers and Jeff truly has made his mark on this event and continues to do so.”

SEPTA Assistant GM for Human Resources Susan Van Buren donates her time and expertise to the United Way.
SEPTA Assistant GM for Human Resources Susan Van Buren donates her time and expertise to the United Way.

Like Knueppel, SEPTA Assistant GM, Human Resources, Susan Van Buren also donates her time and expertise to organizations she believes in, like the United Way. Now finishing her term as a member of the United Way’s board, Van Buren also worked for that institution while in college.

“I was an administrative assistant and I fielded calls from people who needed basic necessities, food and shelter. As a kid from the suburbs, I hadn’t dealt with those issues before,” she said.

Throughout her career, Van Buren has led United Way annual giving campaigns for her employers and currently serves on the organization’s Human Resources Advisory Committee. For her work in that role, Van Buren was honored by the United Way.

Despite the success of current initiatives, SEPTA leadership knows there is always room for growth.

“We have to make an investment in our communities,” said Van Buren. “We should never stop looking for ways to help. We can always do more.”

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