By Charisse R. Lillie
It couldn’t have been a better day to get your hands dirty.
On April 26, I had the chance to travel from my home in Philadelphia to Nashville to spend a beautiful Saturday morning at Jere Baxter Middle School with nearly 600 volunteers. It was our 13th annual Comcast Cares Day — a single-day volunteer effort with more than 80,000 Comcast employees, their family and friends, and community partners volunteering at more than 800 projects around the country. At Jere Baxter, we planted spring flowers and bushes, painted classroom walls, built picnic tables and even erected a bright red concession stand. It was hard work made fun by the time we spent together.
This was my first visit to Jere Baxter, but several of my colleagues know it very well. For the past three years, more than a dozen members of our team have been working with students there as part of a mentoring program called Beyond School Walls. This collaboration between Comcast and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Middle Tennessee brings seventh-graders to our workplace every other week for lunch, conversation and a chance to make a difference in each other’s lives. Comcast hosts the nation’s largest workplace mentoring program in partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, with about 325 Comcast employees serving as “Bigs” at 14 Comcast offices nationwide.
The stories from the program in Nashville are incredible. One Comcast employee helped a 13-year-old boy manage his anger and start completing his homework on time. Another worked with a young girl as she struggled with the death of her grandmother. Together, they used the girl’s progress in school as a way to honor her grandmother’s memory. The mentor says the relationship helped her become a better listener as well.
Nashville has always been a special place for our employees. Hundreds of Nashvillians come to work at our Comcast offices every day. We take our investment in Nashville, and the trust that people place in us, very seriously. And as Nashville continues to grow, we at Comcast are keeping pace and are committed to serving the community.
During my visit, I delivered a check for $20,000 to help fund further improvements at Jere Baxter Middle School. But I left with so much more. I left filled with respect for a school that, despite hard odds, is working to improve the lives of its students every day. I left filled with admiration for Jere Baxter Principal Corey Walker, Mayor Karl Dean, U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper and other city officials who joined us to support the school and cheer the volunteers on. And I left filled with pride for members of our Comcast team who have given so much of their time and talent to support a school and students they’ve come to love.
I’m back in Philadelphia now, but I have brought some Nashville memories home with me. I want to thank the people of your fine city and the team at Comcast for showing me once again how much can be done when a community comes together. I know that when the students at Jere Baxter walk across the stage to receive their high school diplomas in a few years, their families will be smiling, and so will some very proud colleagues of mine.
Charisse R. Lillie is vice president of community investment for Comcast Corp. and president of the Comcast Foundation.