CSR Spotlight: Coastal Steward Long Island

By Melissa Nau

By now, you’ve probably heard of the term CSR, or Corporate Social Responsibly. And I’m sure you’ve heard about a corporation donating money to a charitable organization via some form of media. While Roux Associates does take part in donating and raising money for charities, it’s important to remember that those aren’t the only ways you can lend a hand to a non-profit. My recent CSR experience led me to supporting the efforts of Coastal Steward Long Island (CSLI), a non-profit local to Roux’s headquarters, whose goals include promoting marine education, preserving our beaches, and restoring shellfish populations. Since CSLI has three programs, there’s a lot of room for Roux to help while ensuring we’re not doing the same task over and over. And for me personally, even beyond the three programs, I gained invaluable work experience through partnering with CSLI that would have never been possible without volunteering.

It seems obvious why companies support charitable organizations: it makes them look good. And on an individual basis: it makes you feel good. But there’s so much more to it than that. My personal CSLI mission covers three goals: to help the environment, other people, and the organization as a whole.

An environmental consulting firm supporting an environmental conservation group seems like a perfect fit—and it turned out to be my perfect fit too. I love the beach; I’ve lived ten minutes from one for my entire life. If I had never heard of CSLI, I would have undoubtedly gone to the beach every weekend this summer anyway, so it’s doubly motivating and rewarding to be spending time in the setting I love while working to protect it. When I see a piece of trash on a beach, my first instinct would always be to pick it up. Now, I’ve applied that impulse to a cause, all while soaking up the sun and still making time to relax in a setting I’m proud to call home.

Networking has been a huge part of my experience, whether I’m telling random beachgoers about today’s cleanup, promoting the organization online, or getting friends and colleagues directly involved. CSLI allows for “helping others” by not only introducing them to a worthy cause that aligns with their personal interests, but by helping teachers and students engage in their education programs.

In cooperation with the Town of Brookhaven, CSLI offers marine education programs at the Marine Environmental Stewardship Center in Mount Sinai. The center—a homey, two-level marine haven right on the beach—contains fish tanks, touch-screen games, interactive displays, books, and high-tech microscopes. Through field trips to the center that Roux helps support, CSLI teaches many different programs including collecting and identifying organisms in the salt marsh, analyzing microscopic plankton (using the microscopes), and much more, covering a wide variety of age groups.

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In promoting CSLI’s education programs, I made a point to tell some Long Island teachers about these exciting opportunities. Thanks to this networking, I successfully set up a school field trip to the center for the special education class in my high school—benefiting the students, the teachers, and the CSLI board members, who are always looking for chances to share their knowledge and resources. In my high school, marine biology was always the first elective to fill up because of the high volume of student interest, so it’s inspiring to know CSLI gives students an opportunity I always wanted but didn’t get to experience.

My networking experience also extends to the CSLI board. Two of my colleagues are members of the board: Nathan Epler, Ph.D. who works as a Principal Hydrogeologist at Roux, and Spencer Saraf, a recent Marine Toxicology graduate student at Stony Brook University and newest board member. Spencer described her experience on the board thus far as an extremely rewarding experience. She shared, “[Being a board member] has given me the opportunity to apply my marine science background and make steps towards restoring our oceans. I am looking forward to watching this program grow and develop, so that we can reach more of Long Island through education and restoration.”

Board member Ashly Carabetta is another Stony Brook graduate who I’ve developed a close working relationship with in coordinating events, press releases, flyers, and more. Having helped to establish an intelligent, tight-knit group of professionals in the field of science has not only allowed me to meet and work with great people, but it has created a larger network of like-minded individuals who share a zeal for the same cause. “I love being on the CSLI board. The field of marine conservation is driven by passionate people, so we’re willing to do a lot for very little,” said Ashly. “It feels good to be a part of a greater good. And for someone like me who is just starting out in her career, it’s nice to know my voice will be heard and that I’m making a difference.”

Coastal Steward Long Island
Some of CSLI’s board members, including Nathan Epler (second from right)
and Ashly Carabetta (third from right)

Unbeknownst to me, this CSR effort also taught me about the art of negotiation and allowed me to be part of rebranding the organization. After much required communication and collaboration between veteran and new team members, we collectively decided to rebrand the CSLI name, logo, and website. As a young professional in marketing, being included in the rebranding dialogue was alluring, knowing my opinions played a part in the final decision. This was great practice for any type of business meeting or lunch: discussing possibilities, sharing new ideas, and controlling the dialogue to stay focused and give all proposals a fighting chance. It was intriguing to witness the complete overhaul of the brand from a marketing perspective—there’s a multitude of factors to consider, which I’ll now keep in mind moving forward in developing my own career’s brand.

On top of cleaning beaches, helping others network, setting up field trips, and taking part in the rebranding efforts, my favorite part of the CSLI experience was experimenting with new platforms of work. I was challenged to develop my graphic design skills in creating posters for events like CSLI’s Earth Day Beach Cleanup and for showcasing their education programs, which is not one of my usual work tasks. In addition, I assisted in restructuring, revamping, and leading the team in creating a new website. While I’ve had years of web development experience under my belt, I never thought I would have the opportunity to start fresh while utilizing my previous experience. I was entrusted to create new content, speak with technical support personnel, continue to preserve branding consistency and appealing design, all while publishing the site within a narrow time frame. Aiding in the creation of the CSLI website in just a few weeks is something I never thought was possible. The experience I gained while making a functional site that advertises a great cause is truly invaluable, and never would have been possible without volunteering.

It’s essential to realize that donating time is one of the most valued things to a non-profit organization, which nearly all of us can do. If you think of charity and picture spooning food onto a plate in a soup kitchen, jump on Google and see what types of volunteering opportunities are in your area. There are tons of organizations out there—the trick is just finding one that means something to you. Regardless of whether your job is directly involved in your charitable activities, you could still build solid business relationships and gain unique work experiences that satisfy both your interests and your resume. Volunteering for a charitable organization (aka engaging in Corporate Social Responsibility) was one of the most rewarding things I’ve done in my past year at Roux, and I look forward to my continued involvement with Coastal Steward Long Island for years to come.

If you’d like to learn more and help support this organization, click the links to read about CSLI, their marine education programs, and their upcoming beach cleanup with Fabien Cousteau this Saturday (May 20, 2017). We’d love to see you there!

Roux Pulls an Overnight for AFSP

Saturday, June 4 The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention hosts two overnight walks per year. The goal of these Out of the Darkness Walks are to raise money to research, educate, and advocate for public policy based around suicide prevention, while supporting survivors of suicide loss. Those who walk are contributing to AFSP’s goal of reducing the annual suicide rate 20% by the year 2025.

Wendy Monterosso, a Senior Hydrogeologist at Roux’s New York office, is proudly participating in the New York City Out of the Darkness Walk. To donate to her cause, click here.

The New York City walk is 16-18 miles, lasts from dusk until dawn, and takes walkers through the historic sites of the city, including Greenwich Village, the Brooklyn Bridge, Union Square, and many more. Click here to learn more about the walk and organization behind it.

New York City Out of the Darkness 2016

CSR Spotlight: Guatemala Mission Trip

When Roux Associates started encouraging employees to take part in charitable activities, it quickly evolved from a suggestion to a passion. Through our CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) program, we have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars and countless hours of volunteer work in just a few short years. In supporting a wide range of charities, including group and individual efforts, Roux most recently supported Larry McTiernan, a Principal Hydrogeologist in our Massachusetts office, who traveled to Guatemala for five days to help orphans and struggling families in and around the nation’s capital, Guatemala City.

On April 23, 2016, Larry set out to Guatemala for the second year in a row with his church, Granite United Church. The church itself was embarking on its fifth trip in the past four years; they’ve also done mission trips to Mexico, Trinidad, and the Bahamans. For each trip, the church has partnered with a group called Manna Worldwide, a Christian non-profit organization striving to “rescue children from the grip of poverty.” Larry made the journey with 25 other church volunteers, taking part in what he called a mix of “faith-based, spiritual and physical missionary work.”

A portion of the church’s time was dedicated to helping out Manna’s orphanage in Guatemala City, which Larry’s church helped build during trips in 2013 and 2014. The facility currently houses 21 children, yet only two are actually eligible for adoption. Larry explained that many of the children in the orphanage had been abused and taken away from their parents by the government, yet they cannot be adopted unless their parents give permission. For that reason, most of the kids are in a sort of family limbo: they have no home, but cannot look forward to adoption. Their ages range from a newborn baby who was recently found abandoned, to about 14 years old. The volunteers spent hours with the kids, running around outside and playing indoor games like Uno.

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Larry and his group stayed in a dorm in Guatemala City at night. By day, they worked directly with a missionary couple who live about 20 minutes away from the orphanage in a town called San Lucas. The missionary couple—one of whom is Mexican, the other from Wisconsin—happen to be builders as well. Over the years, they’ve played an integral role in the group’s other projects: building a feeding center, houses, and wooden beds.

The feeding center and home building were last year’s projects during Larry’s first trip to Guatemala. This took place in a much more rural, largely Mayan part of Guatemala called San Rafael el Arado, or El Arado for short. The volunteers mixed concrete by hand in order to lay the foundation for these buildings, often carrying large bags of cement and cinder blocks up and down steep hills. Two years ago, the family pictured below lived in a house made mostly of sugar cane stalks. They are now pictured in a home the church built. According to Larry, “That tiny woman carried three cinder blocks at a time…with one on her head.”

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The structure that Larry helped to build last year is now a functional feeding facility, community center, and church. He returned there this year to help serve food to the locals. Five times a week the feeding center provides children with what is likely their only substantial meal of the day, typically comprised of rice, beans, meat, and vitamins. About 100 kids are fed each day, many of whom walk over five miles to get there. At home, children in El Arado usually have nothing to eat but corn, which they grind by hand to make corn flour tortillas. “That’s really all they have to eat,” said Larry, “which isn’t the most nutritious.”

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In addition to providing kids with food, Manna also offers vital medical care to El Arado’s children and adults through a clinic. Thanks to generous donations from the United States, the clinic is now fully staffed three days a week. The majority of the medical efforts are dedicated to pregnant women who arrive at the clinic, who are given neonatal vitamins to help healthy child development and prevent birth defects. The center also provides basic first aid; one of Larry’s fellow volunteers was a trained nurse who cleaned a deep wound on a little boy’s foot. Most of the Guatemalan children do not own shoes. Each of the volunteers brought along a large crate as their second luggage, filled with shoes and toys to give out to the children at feeding centers in two villages—Roux helped to fund this last year. Larry recounted, “Both years I went, United Airlines was kind enough to waive our fees for the second bag. Probably saved us about $1,000, money which we could use on other things down there.”

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Larry’s group also helped out by providing lice and foot-worm treatments. Feet were washed and cleaned deeply, and hair was deloused and combed out. Little girls were ecstatic to get ribbons in their hair. Every child was thrilled to get their hands on some toys—favorites included nail polish and soccer balls.

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This year, Larry spent most of his time constructing beds for families in El Arado and impoverished areas of San Lucas. Their homes generally contain a dilapidated bed for parents to sleep on, while children sleep in swinging hammocks, or on the floor. Commonly, beds are their only existing furniture. Larry and his church built beds for families by hand. The long process involved cutting, sanding, staining, and sealing all of the wood; assembling the various pieces of wood into a simple frame; buying mattresses, sheets, and pillows; and finally carrying the beds (often up steep mountains) into their new homes. Lumber is extremely expensive in Guatemala, resulting in a total cost of $150 per bed. Thanks to Roux’s donation along with outside contributions, Larry’s church was able to build 15 beds this year. “The money went a long way,” he reported.

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Last year’s experience for Larry was very different than his trip this past April. He certainly experienced culture shock the first time around. He traveled in three-van convoys on roads with heavy traffic and no speed limits, met people who had to walk hours for food or water, and walked through villages that were littered with stray animals and garbage, stricken with poverty. He found it difficult to pray with the people he met, knowing that at the end of the week he would end up back in America while they continued to struggle.

This year, it became easier to focus on the positive. Larry’s favorite part of the trip was “seeing the kids and the simple joy on their faces.” The convoys drove through two villages to get to El Arado, where families stood in their doorways with blank stares—but as soon as Larry waved to them, the kids’ faces would light up instantly as they waved back with excitement.

One of his favorite stories started with traveling to a home where the only bed had a huge hole in it and had completely collapsed. After her new bed was built, a mother of multiple children was “gushing with thanks.” She then started opening up to some of the Spanish-speaking volunteers about her home life. Her husband had abandoned their family. One of the American volunteers shared that she was going through a similar situation back home. The emotional exchange led the two women to cry, and before long every woman in the room was crying. Even though he doesn’t speak language himself, Larry was touched by the universal experience the women shared, despite coming from two completely different worlds.

Granite United Church’s next adventure will bring them to a cancer hospital in Honduras later this year. Larry plans on traveling back to Guatemala next year to build more beds, or take part in whatever activity the church has planned. His son, who takes Spanish in high school, may accompany him and help to close the language barrier. Roux Associates thanks Larry for the time and effort he has dedicated to this wonderful cause. We look forward to hearing next year’s stories.

Guatemala
Larry McTiernan, standing third from the left, and his fellow church volunteers

Roux Sets Sail in Boston!

Each year individuals from businesses support the Courageous Sailing Summer Youth Program by racing on a company-sponsored boat in the Corporate Challenge. Roux will compete with our company name and logo proudly emblazoned on our boat’s jib sail, while sponsoring 6 children for the week-long Youth Program Sailing 101 course. Courageous Sailing serves 1,000 children each year, most of whom would not otherwise have the opportunity to learn to sail or experience the ocean. The program strives to open up Boston’s youngest generation to the beauty of the ocean, the possibility of maritime careers, and the importance of preserving our environment.

Monday, May 23 marks Roux’s first sail for the 2016 season, where our boat will sail off of Pier 4 in the Charlestown Navy Yard for some fast-paced, college-style, short course keelboat racing.

Click here to discover all of the ways that Courageous Sail helps kids “take a new tack in life” and click here to view all of Roux’s race dates on our CSR calendar.

Courageous Sail