Come spend a day in an abandoned trash dumping ground full of old tires and wildly overgrown with invasive plants.
It hardly sounds inviting. But when Lookout Mountain Conservancy CEO Robyn Carlton offered that opportunity to employees at Unum’s Chattanooga, Tennessee office as part of an annual Day of Caring volunteer event, they enthusiastically rose to the challenge.
Over the past three years, nearly 900 employees have volunteered more than 6,100 hours on a swath of land on the side of Lookout Mountain. The 50-acre site is managed by the Conservancy, an organization created to protect Lookout Mountain’s scenic, historic and ecological resources and to use conservation as a tool to provide environmental education and leadership training to middle school and high school students.
The work needed to restore the site appeared insurmountable, but an army of Unum employees, local students and other volunteers have transformed the park into a beautiful place for people to enjoy.
“We’ve removed more than 900 tires, built a trail system, created a 27-boulder bouldering park, reclaimed hillsides from invasive plants and restored other areas with native grasses,” Robyn said. “We’ve created a labyrinth, built bird houses and bee hotels, and discovered a root cellar that had been lost to time.”
And while the measurable impact of Unum’s involvement is impressive — helping move more than 10,000 bricks, spreading 100 bales of pine straw and 391 bags of top soil, laying 18 2-ton pallets of flagstone and more — Robyn is keenly aware of the immeasurable impact as well: being part of something bigger than yourself, building special places, building community, and establishing a sense of pride, belonging and purpose.
“There’s something magical that happens when people get out of their daily routines to give back to their communities,” she explained. “The land challenges and yet brings out the best in people. While sweating, using muscles that aren’t usually worked so hard and getting your hands dirty, a relationship is built between people and the land. At the end of the day, after you’ve given so much, my hope is you leave knowing you’re now a part of the bigger community.”
Each year, Unum employees have gone home covered in dirt and tired, but full of smiles. They’ve built a special relationship with the site and are happy to have helped the conservancy restore the land for the enjoyment of others.
As impressive as the effort has been, it’s far from unusual for Unum employees. They’re known in their main office locations for the work they do to build stronger communities and help others when they need it most. In 2018, they logged more than 67,000 volunteer hours supporting causes they care about — and they’re heavily engaged in community projects again this year.
The Day of Caring volunteering events are among the most popular with employees. In Portland, Maine, more than 300 employees went to work this year at organizations including Ruth’s Reusable Resources, Goodwill Industries of Maine and Avesta Housing.
And in Worcester, Massachusetts, more than 100 employees participated in volunteer activities at 11 agencies, including Community Harvest Project, Habitat for Humanity and The Greater Worcester Land Trust.
Visit Unum’s 2018 Corporate Responsibility site to learn more about how Unum and its employees are making a difference in the communities they call home.