On a recent summer day, Daisy Martinez, Rachel Johnson and Abbie Kingsley grabbed paint brushes and spent an afternoon cleaning, prepping and sealing furniture for Immerse Arkansas, an organization that helps youth aging out of foster care.
As three of 14 summer interns at Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Daisy, Rachel and Abbie and the others learned that service to the community is a big part of the company’s culture.
Daisy, a marketing major at University of Central Arkansas (UCA), interned in Group Marketing and Member Engagement. Rachel, a graphic design major at University of Arkansas, worked in Marketing Design Services, and Abbie, a marketing major at Harding University, worked in Employee Benefits and Compensation.
“Having the opportunity to volunteer while completing my internship at Arkansas Blue Cross was an amazing experience,” Daisy said. “Immerse Arkansas focuses on providing a path for success for youth groups that have had difficulties growing up. During this day, it was amazing to learn about the services they provide, the opportunities they grant, and the lifelong connections that are formed for the youth during their time here.”
This year, interns worked primarily remotely because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
While interns learn the ins and outs of working at Arkansas Blue Cross, they also volunteer in the community as part of the intern program. Usually, they would volunteer as a team, but this year was different.
“We have traditionally coordinated a group community service project, but since they’re working remotely and are spread across the state, we let them volunteer at a charity of their choice, either individually or in small groups,” said Keri Taylor, event coordinator for Arkansas Blue Cross. “Commitment and service to our communities are important to our company’s culture, and we find that volunteer activities and other ways to give back increase employee engagement.
Giving back throughout Arkansas
Sharika Minor, a statistics major at Arkansas State University, interned in Individual Small Group Pricing and Reporting. She volunteered at Arrow Adoptions in Jonesboro.
“I had the opportunity to volunteer for a new non-profit organization in Jonesboro called Arrow Adoptions,” Sharika said. “I chose this charity because I am a big advocate for adoption. When the time comes, I plan to start my family by fostering and adoption.”
Sharika said her volunteer effort was easy, but critical, because Arrow Adoption, which offers guidance and resources about adoption, is still in its infancy.
“The founder asked me to go to different business in town and get permission to post information cards about the charity,” she said. “I was able to spread the word about Arrow Adoption and inform many businesses that could potentially donate.”
Ryan Norman, Thuy Scanlon and Lambert Merlin Longnang Kongni gave a helping hand to Potter’s House Thrift in Northwest Arkansas. The trio loaded trucks, sorted goods and organized one of the organization’s stores.
Potter’s House, a nonprofit Christian thrift store in Fayetteville, works with many programs in Northwest Arkansas.
Ryan, an economics major at University of Arkansas, was an intern for FEP Pharmacy & HEDIS. Thuy, who also attends University of Arkansas, is majoring in statistics and analytics and interned for the company’s health economics team. Lambert holds degrees in finance, accounting and computer science and compute engineering from University of Douala and University of Arkansas. Lambert interned in group product systems support.
Learning about food insecurity
Another intern trio – Joshua Sample, Faraz Ali and Corrina Van Burnt, volunteered at Little Rock’s Union Rescue Mission.
“I personally had a great time volunteering for Union Rescue Mission,” Joshua, a computer science major at UCA who interned in Enterprise Automation. “We chose Union Rescue Mission because we felt like we really wanted to help those in dire need, and Union Rescue Mission provides housing for those struggling with addiction.”
Joshua, Faraz and Corrina worked in the Union Rescue Mission kitchen, stocked items, cleaned dishes and served food.
“I felt like I was making a difference in their lives,” said Faraz, an intern in EBI Financial Informatics and University of Arkansas student. “It was really a great experience for me, and I would love to do more volunteering in future.”
Corrina Van Brunt, a business management major at UCA and a Human Resource Administration intern, said she also planned to volunteer again at the Union Rescue Mission or a similar organization for women.
“My heart was touched by some of the residents I got to talk to,” Corrina said. “Change happens in these men’s lives because of the work done through the Union Rescue Mission. It was my honor to serve them lunch and help clean their kitchen. They were all so appreciative of us being there to talk to them and serve them. It was a very rewarding experience.”
Bhavya Patel, Shibani Lal, Andrew Lee and Elyse Settles volunteered at Arkansas Foodbank in Little Rock.
They sorted and boxed food at the food bank’s warehouse and packed emergency food boxes for Arkansas communities. The emergency food boxes included fruits, vegetables, beans & lentils, meats, snacks, and drinks.
Bhavya Patal, an intern in Regulatory Compliance Programs, is a business management at the University of Arkansas. Bhavya has volunteered at the food bank since high school.
“I believe it is important to help towards fulfilling basic human needs,” Bhavya said. “Nutritious food is one of the essential components of having a healthy body and mind. I see it as our responsibility to help others in any way we can, whether it is through financial donations or through volunteering our time. I think if we all contribute even a small amount, and we can work towards creating thriving communities.”
An intern for Medicare Network Performance Analytics, Shibani is working on a Master of Science in healthcare data analytics at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.
“World hunger is a global issue, and Arkansas Foodbank is on a mission to fight hunger by donating meals to communities in need,” Shibani said. “I have an affinity for hunger causes as I believe if hunger threatens a child, then our nation’s future is threatened as well.”
Andrew, an intern in Medicare Advantage Pricing & Analytics, worked as a restaurant line cook while an undergraduate. Now working on a graduate mathematics degree at Emporia State University, Andrew still loves cooking and knows food is a unifier.
“I love watching food bring people together,” he said. “Arkansas Food Bank provides an enormous amount of food to those in need. I was surprised by the magnitude of their impact across the state. I was also impressed with how well organized they were.”
Elyse Settles, an intern in Procurement and a student at Philander Smith College studying business administration, also helped pack food and stack boxes.
Giving back after saying goodbye
Daisy, Rachel and Abbie also volunteered at Home for Healing, a private, nonprofit Little Rock facility offers support to parents of NICU babies and individuals and their caregivers undergoing cancer treatment by providing convenient and affordable lodging in a peaceful and restorative environment.
“We helped write thank you notes to the partners and donors of Home for Healing,” Abbie said. “Daisy was able to assist him with work in Excel.”
The volunteering doesn’t stop just because internships are over.
“Home for Healing is working to add more modern artwork to the rooms so Daisy, Rachel, and I are going to do some pieces for them,” Abbie said.