“The Home Cook Heroes program gives us the opportunity to connect directly with the people we help serve – in real time. Every time we’ve been there, the guests – and staff – have been so grateful for what we do.” – Greg Dommel, Voya Financial
As the clock approaches 6 o’clock, inviting aromas of roasted pork tenderloin, breaded tilapia and berry cobbler beckon guests into the dining room. Even after three main courses, lots of sides and plenty of desserts, there are rarely any leftovers from this particular group’s Home Cook Hero meal!
Since its inception, the Voya Financial team has been nothing but committed. Greg Dommel, their team leader, created the Home Cook Heroes program through his company. Like many employers, Voya Financial strongly encourages staff to get involved in the community, offering incentives to encourage them to take advantage of volunteer opportunities, including 40 hours of paid time each year to volunteer.
The Voya Community Partners initiative presents several opportunities to get involved throughout the year. All opportunities are selected by employee nominations in an effort to interact with organizations and causes important to its employees. Because Gift of Life Howie’s House was near and dear to Greg’s heart, he has been ensuring his company’s involvement in our programs since 2011, when the Howie’s House first opened.
Greg has a close personal connection transplantation, as one of his own family members needed a heart transplant in the early 2000s. He mentioned commuting back and forth from Lancaster to the Philadelphia area for transplant care was a strain on his family. He understands the important need of the Howie’s House and is thankful that families traveling g to Philadelphia for transplant care nowadays have a warm and inviting place to stay.
When the opportunity arose, there was no question in Greg’s mind about where he wanted to direct his time in volunteering. He quickly formed the Voya Financials Home Cook Hero team and was excited to hit the kitchen.
The team’s natural talent to “rebrand” has not gone unnoticed by Howie’s House guests and staff! Greg recalls one day the team was scheduled to volunteer at the Howie’s House, “Mark and I finished off our grocery shopping with a diverse range of desserts including a Mixed Berry Pie with Lattice Top. During the car ride from West Chester to the Howie’s House, contents shifted. When we unpacked our groceries, the pie was still sealed and fresh – but was no longer anything close to being pie-shaped.” Being fast on his feet and thinking with marketing savvy, Mark took the object formerly known as a pie and placed it in a slow cooker. “Just like that, our pie was rebranded as ‘Mixed Berry Cobbler.’ Interestingly, our ‘cobbler’ was one of the most popular items that night!”
Volunteering at the Howie’s House means a lot to the entire Voya Financials team, even beyond having a personal connection to transplant. “It gives us the opportunity to connect directly with the people we help serve – in real time. Every time we’ve been there, the guests – and staff – have been so grateful for what we do.”
For other corporate companies looking to start a team, figuring out where to start can be a challenge. Greg sheds some light on the issue: “I quickly learned to surround myself with people who enjoy cooking. Initially, most of our Home Cook Heroes team came from my Marketing group, but soon expanded to other departments. We have a revolving door of frequent volunteer cooks, but our lead chef, Mark Siciliano, helps coordinate the planning and execution of our meals.”
The Home Cook Heroes program offers a unique and engaging opportunity to get involved in both the local and the transplant community. It provides a chance to engage directly with the people you are helping. Working with your coworkers, family, friends or classmates, groups of up to 10 people can prepare meals (on or off site) and serve them to our guests. Just bring yourself and your food and we will provide everything else in our modern, fully-equipped kitchen. For more information about the Home Cook Heroes program or to sign up, please click here.