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Philanthropy Thought Leadership

Delta Air Lines shows some love with volunteer project

Employees have helped dress and pack more than 1,000 bears over past few months

By Bradley Roberts

Delta Air Lines employees again showed some love for Greater Atlanta’s children Thursday with a United Way of Greater Atlanta volunteer project. 

Volunteers at the Delta Base Logistics office filtered into a conference room lined with stuffed teddy bears and Valentine’s Day-themed books ready for packing — the bears were assembly-line ready, each one needing a white T-shirt with a heart outlining “Love United,” a book and a handwritten note of encouragement. In all, Delta has packed more than 1,000 bears for United Way of Greater Atlanta over the past few months. 

The bears are more than just a cute stuffed animal, though. 

United Way of Greater Atlanta and Build-A-Bear Workshop partnered recently to hand out more than 4,000 bears to children in schools across Greater Atlanta. The bears act as a reading buddy for kids — children read to their stuffed animals and also create stories, and these communication skills lay the groundwork for reading and writing. Research shows that about two-thirds of Georgia’s children are not reading proficiently by the end of third grade. United Way feels that by building stronger readers we can ultimately improve the well-being of children in all of Greater Atlanta’s 13 counties. Over the past few months, Alston & Bird, Chick-fil-A, Coca-Cola Company, Corporate Volunteer Council, Kilpatrick Townsend and Stockton LLP, Havertys, Home Depot and Roark Financial Solutions, Selig and Schlotzsky’s have also participated in these volunteer events. 

This is the third time volunteers at Delta held one of these specific volunteer events. 

“We did this, like, two weeks ago,” General Manager of Base Logistics Ed O’Brien says. “We helped write notes to every one of the kids. We [Delta] really encourage people to get involved in the community.” 

Stayce Michelle, who works in the TechOps department for Delta, has become a big advocate for United Way. It was a personal experience with United Way that made her so passionate about United Way’s cause, Michelle says. 

“I love working with United Way because they helped me and my family out a long time ago,” she says. “I told myself then that I was always going to be an advocate for United Way. I’ve been at Delta about two years now, and when they did a campaign last year, I realized how strong the partnership was.”

Michelle says she promised United Way of Greater Atlanta board members that she would make sure to advocate for the work United Way does. She would proudly spread that message to her fellow employees at Delta. 

So, the number of volunteers kept growing Thursday to help Michelle pack these bears for United Way. 

Chelsea Slaughter says she’s done a bunch of different volunteer events with Delta. But this one speaks to her directly. She remembers how much she loved reading as a kid. 

“I was an avid reader as a kid. I was a nerd,” Slaughter jokes. “I like that this is geared more toward elementary school-age kids. I always liked reading as a kid, and so I think something like this really helps.” 

O’Brien says he was always reading to one child or another over the past decade. He has three children of his own, but he and his wife helped foster more than 40 children. 

So, O’Brien always had someone who wanted to read along with him. 

“It was nonstop,” O’Brien says. “I’ve volunteered to read for kids in the past, and it’s the little things we do for them that touch their lives. They really appreciate that.” 

Whether it be a volunteer event dressing a teddy bear, handing out a 2-1-1 card or giving to United Way by payroll deduction, the important thing is to make others aware of the need in our community and how we can address that need. 

This is the message Michelle has become so passionate about sharing with her coworkers. 

“I think people need to be more aware of what ‘need’ looks like,” Michelle says. “I think sometimes we have this stereotype of someone who, ‘looks homeless,’ but a lot of times people won’t share that they have a need. They could come to work and act normal and not share the need. So, I’m trying to make sure people are aware that United Way makes it so easy, and there are resources out there and you should be comfortable asking for help.”

If you or someone you know has an immediate need, access 2-1-1 by calling, searching online, emailing [email protected], using the 2-1-1 mobile app or by chatting with a call center specialist at 221online.unitedwayatlanta.org. You can also text your need to 898-211.

If you would like to help United Way fulfill the needs of children, families and communities across Greater Atlanta, then donate to the Child Well-Being Impact Fund. 

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