UnitedHealthcare: helping a good cause

Chico call center employees give big time to Habitat for Humanity

Dia Thao and Margo Franks hard at work on one of the homes.

Dia Thao and Margo Franks hard at work on one of the homes.

Photo courtesy of unitedhealthcare

It’s been months since Pam Jamian picked up a hammer to help construct Habitat for Humanity homes in Chico, but the volunteer builder is still beaming about the project.

Jamian is the site director for UnitedHealthcare in Chico, a call center of Minnesota-based parent company UnitedHealth Group, which, among other things, specializes in administering health plans. Locally, the company employs 350 people, making it one of Chico’s largest private employers, and is known for lending its support to various charitable organizations, including participating in the American Cancer Society’s annual Relay for Life walk-a-thon and donating cash and food to Catalyst Domestic Violence Services. The company is also a platinum sponsor of the March of Dimes.

All of those causes are extremely worthy, of course, and the employees enjoy helping them succeed. But there was something very different about the company’s recent partnership with Habitat for Humanity, because it was the first event in which its volunteers could so very clearly see the results of their labor.

Jamian spoke excitedly about the time and effort her team spent working on the project in south Chico.

“The hands-on aspect really hit home with the employees,” she said.

Jamian was referring to the massive manpower provided by UnitedHealthcare: about 60 employees, plus several of their family members. The volunteers spent five days over several months working on three houses in the Habitat Greens project, an eco-friendly subdivision on East 16th Street. All told, the employees logged 440 hours on the build.

When completed next winter, the project will comprise eight homes, seven of which are being built to the gold standards of LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), according to Darlene Giampaoli, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Butte County.

Habitat for Humanity is a nonprofit organization that provides affordable housing for low-income residents. One home had been constructed in the Habitat Greens neighborhood when UnitedHealthcare joined the effort back in June during a simultaneous build of the project’s next three residences. Two of the three houses the company worked on are now occupied; the third is getting its finishing touches this month.

UnitedHealthcare employees helped Habitat for Humanity get halfway to the organization’s goal of completing the eight homes in its new eco-friendly subdivision.

Photo courtesy of unitedhealthcare

In addition to spending full days providing free labor for the project, UnitedHealthcare employees helped provide lunch for all of the volunteers on site, including folks from other businesses and organizations, as well as the families chosen to occupy the homes. The employees were so inspired that they held office bake sales, providing Habitat with a $1,000 donation. They also adopted the three families in December, giving each of them care packages with gifts and food for the holidays.

Some of UnitedHealthcare employees brought family members who are in the construction trade, but the majority of the group had little or no experience in such work. Jamian said that wasn’t a problem for the novice builders, whom Habitat outfitted with special gear and tools.

“All you need to bring is a willing heart and willing muscle,” she said.