Allstate Lends a Helping Hand to Erie House
April 26, 2016 | Chicago, IL
Randy DeCoursey applies paint to the hallway walls at Erie House's site in Little Village during a recent volunteer day with his Allstate colleagues. FILE PHOTO
The second floor of the Epiphany Catholic Church building at 4225 W 25th St in Little Village is starting to feel more like home for Erie Neighborhood House staff and participants.
The organization began utilizing the additional space for its sprawling programs earlier this year after entering a new lease agreement, but a recent paint job—courtesy of a volunteer team comprised of Erie House board member Randy DeCoursey and his colleagues from The Allstate Corporation—has breathed new energy into the heavily trafficked hallway and a Proyecto Cuídate classroom.
Providing a helping hand is consistent with Allstate’s modus operandi, and Erie House has benefitted greatly from a partnership that has emerged over the past several years.
DeCoursey, vice president of agency service at Allstate, joined the board of directors at Erie House in 2015. Allstate had previously partnered with Erie House by serving as an event sponsor for the Future of Promise awards dinner, and the corporation provided counsel to DeCoursey as he explored service opportunities with a nonprofit organization.
Last fall, Erie House began participating in the Allstate Fellows program in response to an invitation from DeCoursey. Facilitated by the Taproot Foundation, the skills-based volunteer initiative identified nonprofit organizations demonstrating a specific need that could be addressed by an Allstate employee with a complementary area of knowledge and expertise.
The Allstate Fellows program paired Erie House with Ann Freeman, director of marketing for Life and Retirement at Allstate, in order to develop a more effective communications strategy. She met with staff from the Erie House development and communications department on a regular basis and provided a framework for evaluating audience, content and delivery.
“Ann was very attentive to the assets we possess as an organization,” says Erie House executive director Kirstin Chernawsky. “She challenged us to identify ways we can leverage those strengths to advance our mission and helped our team think about communications in a more proactive way.”
Freeman valued the opportunity to connect with an organization in a meaningful way. “I met wonderful, dedicated people who are eager to make a difference,” she says. “It was inspiring.”
During her participation in the fellowship, Freeman went out of her way to learn more about and connect with Erie House: She brought a team of Allstate colleagues to volunteer at the organization’s Holidays with Heart gift drive for families in need, attended the annual Future of Promise awards dinner and provided additional communications consulting as Erie House underwent its executive transition.
The opportunity to connect Erie House with the expertise his colleagues could provide was paramount for DeCoursey. “While there is terrific talent within the nonprofit community, resources are always limited,” he explains. “You might not have the depth and breadth of experience that a large corporation like Allstate can tap into.” To that end, he was excited to see the relationship develop between Erie House and Freeman.
In addition to her skills-based volunteer work, Freeman logged sufficient hours to qualify Erie House for a Helping Hands Grant—a $500 foundation grant awarded whenever an Allstate employee volunteers sixteen hours at a nonprofit organization.
Moving forward, Erie House hopes to continue strengthening this relationship. The organization has begun to engage the corporation’s Professional Latino Allstate Network (PLAN) through upcoming volunteer opportunities and is examining other areas of need for future participation in the Allstate Fellows program.
Chernawsky applauds the active role DeCoursey has played since joining the board of directors last summer. “One thing that has helped us thrive for such a long period of time is the support our board of directors has provided,” says Chernawsky. “So when someone like Randy comes along and is able to help strengthen our relationship with a partner such as Allstate, it makes a tremendous difference.”