In this special edition of Stories from the Couch, we are grateful for the opportunities we have to get involved in and give back to our communities.
Last year, we started a blog series called Stories from the Couch. We shared insights into our culture and our employees’ lives as we all tried to navigate the pandemic.
As we enter the season of gratitude, in a special edition of Stories from the Couch, we’re reflecting on the opportunities we’ve had throughout the year to reach our communities through service projects, donation drives and pro bono work. One of our core values is Igniting Passion for the Greater Good, and that’s exactly what each of these stories reflects — our hope to do some good in our world.
Read along and reach out to share your own experiences with this collection of Stories from the Couch.
A Boston Backpack Drive for Project Hope
As a recruiter for Centric Consulting, Talent Acquisition Specialist Meg McCauliffe understands the skills women need to get jobs with living wages and a career track—and the challenge of securing those skills when balancing kids and limited incomes.
That’s why McCauliffe helped our Centric Boston team organize a backpack and school-supply drive for Project Hope, a local nonprofit.
“Project Hope’s focus on women who are struggling resonates with me,” McCauliffe says. “Their mission is so important — to help families and women move up and out of poverty. Something as simple as helping their kids get school supplies can truly be an ‘unmatched experience’ for these women.”
About 10 of our employees stepped up to McCauliffe’s request for items. In August, McCauliffe delivered backpacks filled with pens, pencils, folders, hand sanitizer, facemasks and more the Project Hope.
“They were so excited to receive our donation!” says McCauliffe. “Project Hope serves people in some of Boston’s most challenged neighborhoods, so it’s great to be able to make an impact in our community.”
Njiba Mbuyi, a development associate at Project Backpack, recalls one particular letter of gratitude.
“All of our clients showed an overwhelming sense of gratitude, but one woman shared her story of having to work many hours and not having time to go shopping with her children,” Mbuyi recalls. “It is also hard for her to shop with young children, even when she does have time.”
Typically, Project Hope distributes the backpacks to parents at a back-to-school party, but because of COVID, parents or childcare providers picked up backpacks without the kids this year. That did not detract from the impact – for Centric volunteers or Project Hope.
“I had not heard of Centric before this, and it’s always exciting to make a relationship in the community,” Mbuyi adds. “I’m so glad they reached out to work with us this year. I would love for them to join us again any way they can!”
We Reach Cross Country to Raise International Aid for India
When words alone cannot capture COVID’s impact on his native India, our Seattle team Architect Madhavaram Pedarla turns to stories.
“If you called someone on the phone, whoever answered was probably the only person left alive in that household,” Pedarla recalls of the pandemic’s darkest days in spring 2021. “Everyone I know has lost at least one immediate family member. My wife was raised by her grandmother, whom she lost to COVID. But my wife could not even say good-bye, because her grandmother’s body was taken straight to cremation.”
Even those in India who wanted to help survivors or victims’ families with food or money could not because they lacked personal protective equipment. “People would be afraid of you if you tried to help,” he says.
Those experiences inspired Pedarla to find a way to help from the other side of the world. He turned to his sister for help. A primary school teacher at the MPUP School in Ammapalem, a village in the state of Andhra Pradesh, she said what her students needed most was basic groceries, such as milk and bread.
A retired teacher from his high school, who had collected donations for an ambulance for cremation services and had donated a site for a permanent home for the Aditya Institute for the Disabled and Orphans in Hanuman Junction inspired Pedarla.
“With my sister, we determined that $1,250 would be enough for three months of basic groceries, such as milk and bread, for kids at her school and the Aditya Institute,” he says.
Then he talked to his colleagues here at Centric.
However, because the Seattle team is relatively small, Pedarla reached out to Ted Goodman, creator of our Chicago operating group. Goodman asked Robbie Moran of Chicago to help coordinate a joint Seattle-Chicago fundraising project. Moran then worked with Chicago’s Community Engagement and Social Connections team to help coordinate a joint Seattle-Chicago fundraising project.
The result — a cross-country international relief effort.
“We have so many advantages here. I believe it’s my duty to help,” Moran says. “I would feel ‘less than’ if I didn’t do my part. When we heard about Pedarla’s project, we were all like, ‘This is perfect!'”
Moran sent out emails in early September, and Rahm contributed photos from India to illustrate the tremendous need. Moran shared the photos as part of the Chicago team’s monthly meeting. The stated goal was to raise $1,250 in less than a month.
Our employees in Seattle and Chicago stepped up to the challenge. Pedarla and Moran had raised all the money and then some by September 30. To make giving easier, Pedarla used his own Venmo account to raise the funds. He will then transfer the money to India. He plans another appeal during the winter holidays.
“I am so grateful for all the people across the U.S. who participated. This has truly been an unmatched experience for me and my friends and family in India!”
Centric Miami Teams Up With Partners and VolunteerCleanup.org
After months of not seeing each other during the pandemic, our Centric Miami team wanted to reconnect in an open-air environment. They seized the opportunity to give back to the community by partnering with VolunteerCleanup.org to clean up trash at Oleta River State Park in North Miami.
Centric volunteers and client partners joined Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines employees to pick up 130 pounds of bottles, cans and other debris floating in the river’s bay.
“As this was our first act of community service since the pandemic, we were delighted to be able to enjoy an extended team get-together while helping the environment on a glorious fall day,” said Jansen Pennock, our Miami Team Relationship Development Manager, who participated in the cleanup.
VolunteerCleanup.org engages volunteers to clean up their neighborhoods, shorelines and waterways to raise awareness about the environmental effects of marine debris.
The group learned the most common routes trash takes to end up in the ocean (street litter via storm drains) as well as actions everyone can take individually and collectively to make a difference. Dara Schoenwald, Executive Director of VolunteerCleanup.org, described how even these individual efforts could have a big environmental impact:
“We had a really good discussion about how we can all reduce our reliance on single-use plastics in our personal and business lives. It is those conversations that lead to bigger change.”
The cleanup allowed the team to give back to the community while also engaging more personally with their peers, customers, and business partners. It brought everyone together around a common purpose, creating a shared, unmatched experience.
“Being with people that mean a lot to me while at the same time doing something that means a lot to me was a win-win.” Kim Caruthers, Miami Operating Group Lead, said.
Schoenwald added, “Our businesses thrive when the people and the environment which we serve are in good shape, so investing in our communities through service is just plain good business.”
Helping Provide Healthcare to the Homeless Using Microsoft 365
Providing healthcare for those who are homeless is especially difficult. Just ask Molly Pringle, MPH, Executive Director of Portland Street Medicine (PSM).
“Homeless people have more complex barriers to receiving care than other populations,” Pringle said. “We are in the field bringing healthcare to people wherever they are. Without permanent addresses or other documentation, it is difficult to track our patients’ care over time and build supportive relationships with them.”
Our pro bono solution was to stand up the Microsoft 365 platform for PSM, replacing the Google GSuite platform they had used previously.
For our Enterprise Collaboration Teamwork Lead Michael McNett, PSM’s unique position as a mobile provider of medical care for transient populations provided the perfect opportunity to test Microsoft Office’s value in the field.
“Anytime we work with end users who are using tools in unique ways, it’s helpful for us,” McNett said. “Usually, we deploy solutions in more traditional settings. For our Healthcare Practice, that might be a hospital, where employees and their clients are in one place. PSM didn’t have that luxury or of a hospital’s infrastructure. Working with frontline workers like the PSM healthcare team has many applications that can benefit society, such as first responders or vaccine administrators.”
During their pro bono engagement, McNett’s team stood up a Microsoft 365 tenant and helped the migration from G-Suite to their new platform.
“We didn’t have tools to coordinate the complex care-management our patients needed,” Pringle explained. “The Microsoft 365 platform was more sophisticated. Centric helped us launch to the next level in an amazing way, making use of the basic Microsoft tools we didn’t know we had access to. That gave us more capacity for real-time care coordination, teams that were better able to collaborate using Microsoft Teams chat, and different file-sharing capabilities. If we had stopped there, we would have considered it a success.”
Fortunately, the improvements did not stop there.
“As part of our work, we created several Power Automate flows to streamline the intake of patient information through Teams,” McNett said. “That solution directly enabled PSM to provide better and more efficient care to the homeless.”
Pringle shared the story of one of their clients, “Joey,” to illustrate the project’s benefits for patient care.
“When we first met Joey, he was complaining of a skin infection,” she said. “With Centric’s help, we entered this information on a SharePoint form instead of a paper form or other e-charting tools, which require customization and data points that are not always relevant to our teams or our clients.”
When Pringle’s team next saw Joey, they saw that his skin condition had worsened.
“We captured that data on the form and encouraged him to seek more intensive care,” Pringle continued. “The next time we see him, we will be able to access this history through the SharePoint form, allowing us to follow his case better and make sure he is getting the care he needs.”
Tracking patients with SharePoint forms within Microsoft 365 also allows PSM to categorize the cases they see on the street. For example, PSM documented that soft-tissue issues such as Joey’s could comprise 60 percent of their cases over the next three months.
“It makes us really agile and allows us to create a more targeted program,” Pringle said.
Microsoft Teams expanded the project’s scope further by making it easy for team members to conduct day-to-day administrative check-ins, conversations, meetings and more over chat.
“These improvements have been both innovative and transformative for Portland Street Medicine,” Pringle said. “This will allow us to grow over time and to continue innovating in ways that that would have been pushing the limits of our old platform.”
For us, the project also provided valuable data for our Healthcare group even as it gave team members the satisfaction of helping a great cause.“We are actively exploring and delivering valuable innovations within the Healthcare industry,” said Marcie Stoshak-Chavez, MD, National Healthcare Lead. “It was a privilege to learn alongside PSM as we helped simplify the collaboration and business processes for their mobile care providers and significantly improved the overall efficiency and effectiveness of their services to increase their outreach to the homeless. We are continuing to explore expanded capabilities for Care Coordination for PSM with the addition of Microsoft Dynamics going forward. We’ll continue helping, one step at a time.”
Enterprise Collaboration Manager Courtney Culver added, “Often in tech, we work businesses to help with business processes. At Portland Street Medicine, we were affecting real-world problems. We could see our work helping the homeless population get better care in Portland. It’s entirely different to know because of our solution and partnership, we helped provide better to people who really need it, and it may even save a life. That makes it worth it every day.”
Centric Teams Up to Help Joseph’s Coat With a Tech Update
Joseph’s Coat is a faith-based non-profit in Columbus, Ohio that provides free clothing, furniture and household goods to those in need. Our Modern Software Delivery Service Ofference Lead Joe Ours’ wife volunteers with the organization and saw while they have been so busy helping people across Central Ohio, their technology had fallen behind.
“We have no IT department, so we are hugely paper-driven until those papers are entered by hand into a Microsoft spreadsheet,” Michael G. Whitfield, Operations Manager at Joseph’s Coat, said.
That’s why Team Centric volunteered their services to help the non-profit develop a better system.
Eight people from our Modern Software Delivery (MSD) and Experience Design teams are working with Joseph’s Coat to convert their current database to a modernized, cloud-based solution.
“We wanted to make the new interface simple enough for volunteers of all ages, but complex enough so that it is more efficient than their old system.” Said Hayden Payne, Senior Consultant on our MSD team.
This organization has assembled volunteers and donations to distribute over 120,000 items to individuals and families struggling to achieve stability and self-sufficiency. The new system will be more streamlined and user-friendly, allowing Joseph’s Coat to aide even more people.
“We believe that in working with Centric, our outdated Microsoft software will be set aside so that we’ll expedite our customer experience and entry of data needed to share our impact with potential donors,” Whitfield said.
From stocking shelves to software upgrades, volunteers are the backbone of Joseph’s Coat. Our employees appreciate what it means to give back by offering their services to this local charity.
“I think businesses should give back to their communities not only because it can bring the community closer together,” Payne said, “but it can also give those who are volunteering on behalf of the business a different perspective in life that they might not have noticed before.”
Honoring Our Colleague and Veterans through Adaptive Sports Connection
In June 2020, we lost a beloved employee, Gwenn Denorme. Denorme, a partner in our Columbus office, had worked for years with Adaptive Sports Connection. This Powell, Ohio-based nonprofit helps injured veterans focus on their abilities to gain freedom and to lead happier and healthier lives.
“Gwenn was a huge philanthropist who supported all veterans,” said Columbus Manager Caroline Weist. “He dedicated days and weekends to fly with older vets to Washington, D.C., on Honor Flights. His other passion was skiing, and he skied around the world, often with his wife and kids.”
Adaptive Sports Connection combined Denorme’s many passions — community service, helping vets and skiing.
“He would go every Saturday to Snow Trails in Mansfield,” Weist recalled. “Snow Trails has a building for Adaptive Sports Connections’ use, and he would help the injured vets ski.”
To honor her co-worker, in February 2021, Weist helped organize a celebration of his life at the Snow Trails building. The kickoff to Adaptive Sports Connections’ annual fundraiser, the event included the announcement of the first annual Gwenn Denorme Volunteer of the Year Award. The money raised that day purchased an adaptive ski chair.
“I know Gwenn would have been thrilled to know that Adaptive Sports Connection now has an award recognizing people who did what he loved to do the most — volunteer.”
Keeping the connection with Adaptive Sports Connection alive, we were a pin flag sponsor for the agency’s Honor. Celebrate. Inspire Golf Classic at The Country Club at Muirfield Village in August.
“Adaptive Sports Connection held such a special place in Gwenn’s heart,” said Columbus Operations Manager Mara Belcher. “He was such an all-around great guy. We miss him terribly, but we are happy to continue his legacy by supporting this great organization.”