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Celebration of Service

What you give is what you get back—lessons in sustainability and life

IBM volunteers build sustainable practices at child care center in United States

At the Mount Kisco Child Care Center (MKCCC) in the United States, IBM volunteers are combining the center’s commitment to each child's intellectual, physical, emotional and social development with a physical environment and curriculum that emphasizes productive harmony with their surroundings.

At MKCCC the intention is to build a setting in which children can learn, at an early age, how to smartly use resources for each others’ well-being, today and in the future. At the same time, the effort will enable the organization to operate even more efficiently.

“I believe that being a sustainable child care facility begins with understanding what we can do to be better global citizens and to educate our students to understand the importance of their actions,” says Steve Wysmuller, an environmental engineer for IBM and volunteer board member at MKCCC.

In 2011, IBM awarded a Catalyst grant to the Center to help them improve the sustainability and efficiency of their operations, and enhance the sustainability curriculum for MKCCC children, their families and the surrounding community.

IBM volunteers, with Steve as the service leader for the project, and in collaboration with Dorothy Jordan, MKCCC’s Executive Director, joined with MKCCC staff, board members, children and families, sustainability professionals and the community to develop a comprehensive sustainability action plan for energy efficiency, waste and food expense reductions, better food sourcing and increased recycling.

“Having worked and closely tracked IBM’s environmental costs and associated savings for many years, I knew we could help MKCCC’s triple bottom line by measuring economic, social and environmental performance over a period of time,” says Steve.

An active role

For forty years, MKCCC, a not-for-profit organization, has provided high quality, affordable childcare and early education to a diverse group of children in a safe, healthy environment.

“I became involved with MKCCC when we chose to send our son, Ben, there,” says Steve. “By being involved with the Center, we were able to learn and work closely with staff, students, and families and build a connection with our community.”

In 2007 Steve attended MKCCC’s annual board meeting and was motivated to join in order to play an active role in the Center’s future. “With my engineering background, there was a natural fit to help with the facilities committee. After several successful projects, the board elected me as its president in 2010,” he says.

The sustainability project, begun in May, 2011, will involve several components, including the enhancement of the seed-to-table gardening and nutrition program called Feed Me Fresh—which teaches children and their families where food comes from and the importance of healthy food choices.

Also, IBM and community volunteers planned to install and maintain a 100 sq. ft. on-site greenhouse to expand the growing season and capacity, and to repair, relocate and maintain MKCCC’s outdoor garden beds to permit easier physical access to garden activities for younger children and older adults from My Second Home, MKCCC’s partner in J.E.W.E.L. (Joining Elderly With Early Learners).

IBM volunteers will also introduce school age children to spreadsheets and databases to develop a business strategy and plan for MKCCC’s gardens and farmer’s market enterprise. These skills will help children deepen their knowledge of sustainable agriculture, the environmental conditions that impact plant success, and how to plan and grow vegetables best suited for their climate.

Worth every minute

Located near several IBM facilities in Westchester county, Steve says, “We have had tremendous success recruiting volunteers. We had nearly 40 volunteers from accounting and finance attend our IBM Centennial Day of Service on June 15th.” He adds, “Having a ‘service day’ promoted by senior management really helped us have a successful event” and credits several IBM team members for their help, including Raul Cosio, Eddie Mondonedo, Kimberly Cullen, Britt Connolly, and Jason Furgala.

In recounting their progress, Steve mentions that the Center now has a functioning computer lab to track plant yield, a newly constructed greenhouse, barrels to collect rain water for the gardens, and a reduction in energy usage and costs. Also, some classrooms are now weighing the amount of garbage they generate each day to show how they can reduce, reuse, or recycle materials.

“I have always believed that ‘what you give is what you get back,’ so I try to live by that everyday,” says Steve. “Getting ‘Thank You’ cards from the children is worth every minute I have spent in the past five years at the Center.”

IBM is marking its centennial year with a worldwide celebration of volunteer service. Throughout 2011, IBM invites everyone to join our global community of employees, retirees, families and friends as we support the communities where we work, live and learn together.