Vice President of Marketing Database, Grand Circle Corporation
Recipient, "Patriots Difference Maker" Award
Chris Pedersen, Vice President of Marketing Database at Grand Circle Corporation, has renovated almost every room in his house—and not just the visible surfaces, but what's underneath them, too: the plumbing and electrical systems. Most people leave things like that to the pros, but Chris seems to thrive on the challenge of improving the inner workings of complicated systems in order to make the larger organization—whether at home, at work, or in the community—function at its best.
As a dedicated volunteer for the Boston affiliate of the national philanthropic group Rebuilding Together, Chris often focuses on this kind of essential, behind-the-scenes work. But even for those content to stay behind the scenes, good deeds don't always go unnoticed—which was certainly the case for Chris Pedersen early this October.
A Touchdown with the New England Patriots Foundation
In September of 2011, the New England Patriots launched a season-long initiative to celebrate volunteerism, with a different area of charitable focus featured on their website each week. The goal of the initiative is to build awareness of the need for volunteering, identify volunteer opportunities, and recognize dedicated volunteers through a weekly "Patriots Difference Maker" award.
On the week of October 9, the Patriots Foundation chose to focus on service projects, in cooperation with Rebuilding Together Boston (RTB). A longtime partner of Grand Circle Foundation, RTB helps home-owners and eligible nonprofit organizations make critical repairs and renovations to their homes and office spaces—improvements that would otherwise be impossible as RTB's recipients are usually elderly, disabled, or veterans in need, unable to keep up with their property's maintenance due to things like rising property taxes, fixed income limitations, and financial hardship.
When it came to choosing the recipient of the week's "Patriots Difference Maker" award, there was no better candidate than Grand Circle's own Chris Pedersen, who has consistently gone above and beyond in his contributions on behalf of RTB. The awards committee credits Chris with being one of RTB's most dedicated volunteers, having served in several different capacities over the past 11 years.
As a Board Member of RTB since 1999, Chris helps to organize many fundraising efforts, such as an annual Comedy Night and an annual charity golf tournament, which has raised money for RTB for the last ten years. As a volunteer on the ground, Chris draws on his do-it-yourself talents to deal with brass tacks—literally. Serving as warehouse manager, Chris has spent hours upon hours cataloging and distributing the supplies inventory that RTB's hundreds of volunteers need in order to get the work done.
Every year, on the last Saturday of April, over 700 RTB volunteers gather at several sites across the city to repair and renovate homes and nonprofit facilities. The organization also sponsors many other volunteer opportunities on weekends throughout the year. A few of the nonprofit organizations RTB has helped include Project Hope; Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly; AIDS Action; Brookview House; and the Dorchester Nazarene Compassionate Care Center. In 2009, more than 100 Grand Circle associates were honored help renovate the New England Center for Homeless Veterans, which annually helps more than 1000 veterans who are coping with substance abuse and PTSD.
It Goes Both Ways
The recipients of RTB's work are often emotional about the gift RTB volunteers give them. Dorothy
Dolan, a 76-year-old widow whose house was given a major facelift, hadn't been able to keep up with repairs and general maintenance since her husband died thirteen years earlier. An elderly woman taking care of her 47-year-old son with special needs, Dorothy had watched helplessly as her house fell into greater and greater disrepair until, according to her, it had become "the worst one" in the neighborhood. But the 46 volunteers who showed up, armed with hammers, nails, and paintbrushes that Chris Pedersen had put in their hands, changed all that in one day.
"It's unbelievable what people do for you," Dorothy told a Boston Herald reporter last year, "It just touches your heart."
This kind of gratitude and joy goes both ways, Chris attests. One of the more emotional moments for him as a RTB volunteer came after a long hard day of work as the project manager for a home that he was renovating with several other GCC associates. When the group was done making the improvements, the homeowner came up to Chris and gave him a big hug. "With tears in her eyes, she said, 'thank you,'" Chris remembers, "and that is what it is all about."
The Consummate Role Model
Chris says that working at a company that values volunteerism and helps its employees to get involved in real ways has changed him as a person.
"I have known Alan and Harriet since the first week I started here at Grand Circle, about 13 years ago. They have both challenged me—professionally and personally. They have given me the opportunity to become a much more socially-minded person. We can always just give money to any charity, but to take the 'real step' is to become involved. Be active in a cause that you believe in first and then, before you know it, you're helping many groups and organizations—and it feels great!"
Chris's unhesitating enthusiasm in stepping up to the plate to meet the challenge Alan and Harriet set for their employees earned him the company's first Community Service Award in 2004. At the Awards Ceremony, Chris was described as "the consummate role model of what we hope we might all become at Grand Circle: people who make a difference by putting our talents to work in our community."
Always There to Help
Chris and his wife Megan transmit the same value of making a positive difference in the world to their sons, Ben and Nathan.
"Megan and I have always felt that it is so important for our sons to understand that helping those less fortunate than us will make them a better person," says Chris.
The whole family is very active in charity work for many organizations, participating in events like the Boston AIDS walk, an annual golf tournament to raise funds to eradicate the disease Neurofibromatosis, and organizing fundraising events for one of Chris's favorite organizations, Up & Out, a program that helps Boston veterans residing at the New England Center for Homeless Veterans to get up on their feet and into their own homes where they can make new lives for themselves.
For someone who works at a world-renowned travel company, Chris is strikingly keyed into the importance of home, whether it's his own house, the new dream-home of a veteran just emerging from a city shelter, or an old home given new life by the volunteers of RTB.
Ask Chris about what he does with his life—at work, at home, and at the various volunteer organizations he's involved with—and the same theme comes up again and again. He's always rolling up his sleeves and getting to work. Of course, he doesn't do it alone—team effort is how things really happen. Even at home, everyone in the Pedersen family helps out with the renovation projects. "Whether it's scraping, painting or installing a new light," says Chris, "my wife and kids are always there to help."
It's a sentiment that surely wasn't lost upon the New England Patriots Foundation, which encourages teamwork not on the football field, but out in New England communities. We congratulate Chris for being named a "Patriots Difference Maker," and thank him for the difference he's been making with Grand Circle Foundation for the past 14 years.
Featured in our October 2011 E-Newsletter. Read the full issue here.