What do you get when you combine an electrical distributor, its employees, and a charitable organization focused on building simple, decent, and affordable housing for those in need? You get a group of community-minded entities all dedicated to a single cause: helping Habitat for Humanity build homes.
To support that cause, Rexel’s San Diego branch (and other company locations) participate in “team building” events that find employees working together to solve a construction problem. In 2017, for example, they handled the trench work on one home construction project in the area. Rexel, which also donated building materials, “rallied its troops,” says Branch Manager Max Gabin, “and got everyone outside to work together and give back.”
Not only do these experiences position Rexel as a company that cares and that wants to give back to the community that it serves, but they also stoke a new level of “team-building” among employees.
“Our jobs here in electrical distribution aren’t the most exciting in the world to do; it’s not like we’re doctors or anything like that,” says Gabin. “It’s pretty cool that we can give back and know that we’ve helped someone achieve the American Dream of owning a home.” What makes the experience extra special is the fact that Gabin and his staff typically volunteer their time and company materials in areas that they’re already familiar with.
“It’s pretty neat to be able to say, ‘Hey, we were just out in Chula Vista—which is right down the road—to help build homes for people in need,’” says Gabin. The company isn’t on any “regular schedule” for such projects, he notes, but it does try to fit them in whenever it’s feasible. “Habitat usually has several projects underway at once,” says Gabin, “and at different times throughout the year.”
As soon as Rexel learns about those projects, the distributor reaches out to its contact at Habitat to find out what the organization needs to be able to finish the home. “They’ll usually just send over a long list of materials,” says Gabin. “We go through it, figure out where we can help out, and then deliver it to the site.”
Veteran’s Day Lunches
Known for having a large military presence, San Diego is the kind of city where veterans make up a significant percentage of the workforce. At the local Rexel branch, for example, roughly 10 of the company’s 25 employees served in some unit of the armed forces. To honor those workers and other veterans in the community, Rexel has hosted “Veteran’s Day Free Lunches” in the past. “We get a food truck to come in and give away free lunches to all of our employees,” says Gabin. Rexel covers the cost of the meals, with all of the proceeds from the meal going to the Wounded Warrior Project. A charity and veterans service organization, Wounded Warrior Project offers a variety of programs, services, and events for wounded veterans of the military actions following September 11, 2001.
“This is a great cause that everyone can get behind, and that ties in well with Veteran’s Day,” says Gabin. “Pretty much anyone who lives in our region has a family member or friend who is connected in some way to the military.”
Sometimes It’s Downright Fun
Rexel’s commitment to giving back to the community doesn’t end there. According to Gabin, the distributor also participates in customer-led efforts to raise money for, and otherwise support, local charities. Last year, for example, an electrical contractor in San Diego hosted a cornhole tournament to support a local charity. The buy-in was about $200. Rexel covered that cost and sent several employees to the event.
Gabin says these types of events help position Rexel as a vendor that gives back. It also helps to build company morale (who doesn’t love a good game of cornhole, after all?) and pushes employees to form bonds that go beyond their 8-5 job commitments. “We’re pretty busy here, so it’s easy to get stuck in the rut of the five-day-a-week, 8-hour-a-day life,” says Gabin. “It’s nice to have something to switch things up while also making our staff think about the community and our place in it. In fact, it’s pretty fun.”
Pull Your Crew Together
In a work world where employees—and millennial and Gen Z workers in particular—want to do more than just “punch a clock,” electrical distributors need to be thinking about the different ways that they can give back to their own communities. A good starting point, says Gabin, is to simply “pull your crew together” and ask them what they’d like to get involved with.
“This gets everyone talking, and thinking about where they’d like to focus their time and energy,” he says. “Let everyone put in their votes and rally around certain causes. When people get excited about something and involved from the get-go, it really helps to increase participation.”Tagged with charity, habitat for humanity, Rexel