Sara VanSlambrook, chief impact officer at United Way of Central Indiana, Symea Black, executive assistant
at OneAmerica and Ryan Johnson, senior engagement manager at United Way of Central Indiana
Built to Serve

When Executive Assistant Symea Black talks about her volunteer experience during the 2021 OneAmerica Week of Caring, what stands out most vividly is a moment of human connection.

“We spent the day at Helping Veterans And Families [HVAF], cleaning up and talking to the vets there,” Symea said. “My husband is a retired Army general and my father was also in the service, so I saw this as a way to give back to that community. As we were getting ready to leave, an older veteran approached and gave us boxes of chocolate. It’s hard to describe, but it felt very special — we’ve all spent so much time apart during the pandemic, and you miss how powerful those face-to-face interactions can be.”

This year marked a return to in-person volunteering for 400 OneAmerica associates. Additionally, 206 associates volunteered at virtual events. In total, they served more than 40 nonprofits across the country, including many United Way agencies. This flexible approach allowed associates to serve in safe and meaningful ways, while making space for those personal moments.

Chief Impact Officer Sara VanSlambrook at United Way of Central Indiana (UWCI), believes those moments are about more than making nice memories.

“It’s about hope,” Sara explained. “It’s about showing each other that someone else cares enough to be there and walk alongside me. When you’re struggling with poverty or going through a moment of crisis, you can feel very isolated. Those human connections become very meaningful.”

Part of the reason Symea chose to volunteer in person this year was the chance to make those connections. Community service has always been something she values, and, in fact, that’s part of what drew her to a career at OneAmerica.

Symea's husband, Wayne Black, being honored as a general in the Army.

Above photo: Symea’s husband, Wayne Black, being honored as a general in the Army.

“When I first started as a contractor, right away I could see OneAmerica cared about its community. There were always opportunities to serve,” Symea said. “Part of the reason I wanted to work here was that it gave me more ways to give back.”

It’s a culture of engagement that Senior Engagement Manager Ryan Johnson at UWCI appreciates for the good it does locally.

“OneAmerica is one of those companies that puts its money where its mouth is,” Ryan said. “Both from employee engagement and fundraising, we see big investments from the company and individual employees. Week of Caring is a high-profile example, but we see that support for nonprofits continue throughout the year from OneAmerica and the associates who work there.”

Symea isn’t surprised to hear that. For her, it rings true as another example of an empathetic company culture that cares for every person.

“There are such strong values behind every decision,” Symea said. “When I began, I felt like the smallest person in the organization, but very quickly I felt the compassion and support of this company. I appreciate the chance to share that back into the community.”