National Neighborhood News

Giving Tuesday: Employees Who Give Back is all about helping people find their perfect neighborhoods. Behind the scenes, the people who work at try to be good neighbors themselves. To celebrate Giving Tuesday—the social media-fueled day of giving to contrast the consumer-centric Black Friday and Cyber Monday holidays—we talked to some employees about how they like to give back, both in their neighborhoods and beyond.

Eric Dunlap

As our Creative Director, Eric Dunlap does everything from leading the efforts to improve the user experience of to designing things himself. Outside of work, Eric has lent a hand in a variety of ways to GiGi’s Playhouse, an Illinois-based organization that provides resources and support for people with Down syndrome. Eric’s three-year-old son, Jack, has Down syndrome.

Eric explains:

“It’s one of those things where you don’t know about Down syndrome and what it means for somebody until you have a kid who has it. Now we’re part of a new club we didn’t know existed. GiGi’s does a lot to support growth and opportunities for kids with Down syndrome, as well as provide support for parents of families.”

Eric helps out by raising money for and working at events the group hosts for World Down Syndrome Day and its annual 5K race, even using his creative skills to jump in and take photos at events when needed.

“It’s been a great place to build a community,” he says.

Omar Ortiz

Omar Ortiz rose through the ranks from intern to Digital Marketing Manager, and he shares his talents through his volunteer work with the Hispanic Scholarship Fund. At its daylong College Camp, which Omar describes as a “crash course on everything there is to know about college,” students are equipped with resources about the college application process and other valuable information. The camp is free for attendees.

“Most people who attend are the first ones in their family to go college, so they lean on us to answer questions about the process,” he says. He also says he aims to convey to students the importance of hard work and a college degree as a “gateway to opportunities.”

Omar received a college scholarship through the Hispanic Scholarship Fund. He also does similar work for the organization Adelante, a leadership development and non-profit organization that helps Hispanic college students succeed in corporate America.

When considering the weight of his impact, Omar says:

“I get a feeling of happiness knowing I’m helping people who were in the same position I was when I was their age. I’m talking to people exactly like me, contributing to the success of youth of the future, paying it forward.”

Mary Sweeney

Besides keeping editorial operations running smoothly as our Publishing Operations Specialist; running her own macabre decor business, Horror Floral, outside of work; and indoor rock climbing when she can, Mary Sweeney is the embodiment of a good neighbor. 

She’s responsible for organizing our volunteer outings, including our annual build days and fundraising with Habitat for Humanity Chicago, our participation in clean-ups for Chicago River Day and It’s Your Park Day, and our volunteer efforts at local animal shelters with PAWS Chicago. She’s led collections of soda pop-tops for Ronald McDonald House, she’s coordinated office clothing swaps, and she’s currently organizing a toy drive for the holidays.

In regards to the importance of her efforts, Mary comments:

“When you just send money or donate you don’t always feel your impact. Honestly I love helping people and it’s nice to be at a company surrounded by other people who want to help, too.”

A few years ago, she traveled to Guatemala to help paint murals promoting healthy habits with local school children, even helping one student buy supplies and pay his school fee. For Mary, the more hands-on the volunteer work, the better. 

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