AP NEWS

‘Volunteerism on steroids’ fueling Super Bowl activities

January 28, 2018 GMT

As the multitudes converge on the Twin Cities for 10 days of Super Bowl festivities, a massive volunteer workforce will be helping some of Minnesotas best-known businesses enrich their brands.

This is the Super Bowl, said Jill Madison, a marketing manager for Sleep Number Inc., where 125 workers signed up for duty at two locations. Its volunteerism on steroids.

Such in-kind contributions from workers provide an opportunity to meld business boosterism with civic pride. Employees who normally collect paychecks when working on their employers behalf instead get a front-row seat to the action.

This is a once-in-a-lifetime event, said Gina Leighton, who stepped away from her desk at Sleep Numbers wholesale division last week for a few hours to learn about her volunteer assignment at the companys football-themed display of smart beds.

Ill be working until midnight tonight to get my work done, said the mother of three, but its totally worth it.

Minnesota has a long history of pitching in for causes, be it the $14 billion National Football League or Toys for Tots.

The state ranks second in per capita volunteerism behind Utah, providing work worth $3.3 billion in economic value, according to U.S. Census data and the Corporation for National and Community Service.

What makes Minnesota great in so many ways is our legacy of corporate volunteerism going back generations with companies like 3M, General Mills, Target and Cargill, said Susan Schuster, president of the Corporate Volunteerism Council of the Twin Cities. Its built into the culture of who we are.

While some companies such as Schwans, Delta, Red Bull and Hormel are putting on their own employee-hosted volunteer events, many businesses encouraged their workers to fold into Crew 52, the official volunteer army of the Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee.

About 10,000 goodwill ambassadors will be stationed at key locations across the metro, including the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and throughout the skyway system to help answer questions and guide lost patrons to their destinations.

Target Corp., which designed the trendy Crew 52 uniforms, signed up at least 200 employees. UnitedHealth Group tapped 400 volunteers, the highest number of any Super Bowl partner, according to the health care company.

With much of the training and duties happening on weekends or after 4 p.m., companies are relying on flexible policies and clear lines of communication.

People are opting to take personal time or coordinating with their supervisor to make it work, said Joe Lutz, an enterprise brand manager with St. Paul-based Securian Financial, where 100 people jumped at the chance to work as ushers for Fridays opening night in downtown Minneapolis.

People are excited, Securian spokesman Jeff Bakken said. A lot of people want to give back to the community, and this is a unique way to do that.

Theres no arm-twisting involved, added Sleep Numbers Madison.

We positioned it as: Its not a duty, its an opportunity, she said. From the executive team and throughout the organization, were just rolling up our sleeves to be part of this.

Many companies spent two years brainstorming and planning an eye-catching way to pump up their brand and get their workforce involved.

More than 250 Polaris employees have volunteered for four- to six-hour shifts chauffeuring people between Nicollet Mall and the zip line across the Mississippi River in one of the companys electric or off-road utility vehicles. The company made sure that all volunteers were qualified and properly trained to handle off- road vehicles.

At Polaris, we were born in the Bold North, said Jenn Rogers, a company spokeswoman, echoing Super Bowl LIIs tag line. We love the chance to show off Minnesota and why we love living in this state. Its fun to have employees help create this cool experience.

Thrivent Financial decided to mobilize its employees and members around the Twin Cities-based charity Hats and Mittens, which collects donations, hats and mittens for homeless children.

Upward of 100 Thrivent employees have been working on the craft project. Some spent their Thursday lunch hours making the colorful winter garb, which was displayed in the companys light-filled dining room.

Denise Dunnell Wells, a business intelligence analyst and leader of the companys Get Stitching group, quickly got behind her companys effort to deliver 52,000 hats, mittens or equivalent cash.

I love to crochet, Dunnell Wells said. But you can only make so many hats and blankets for yourself.

Thrivent hoped to draw additional donations at a four-hour event Saturday where it expected to draw 1,000 Super Bowl fans and others in the community.

Thrivent offered free parking at the Hennepin County Government Center plus readings from local childrens author, Nancy Carlson, who was commissioned to write a story about where hats and mittens come from. Live sheep were to be on hand at company headquarters.

What I love about this event, said Thrivents Callie Briese, is that it brings together our members, our employees, people in the community everyone gets to come together and say what makes Minnesota special.

Jackie Crosby 612-673-7335