The firm’s Volunteer Committee was formally established in 2008. The directive (from Greg) to the committee is that we:
- “Make an impact with our time/donations, and that we make a meaningful difference in the lives of the community in which we live/work/associate.”
- The activity/event should take us away from our normal work environments during the normal work period and allow for “Colleagues to work together as a team on a particular initiative, build camaraderie, and have the chance to learn about each other in ways that they would not do during their day-to-day work environments.” This allows colleagues to learn about each other in both social and personal ways that would not have been otherwise possible.
- All full-time staff are granted 16 hours of paid time to participate in any number of volunteer activities (with their manager’s permission). There are many great opportunities and meaningful ways to use the volunteer hours throughout the year. This can include actively joining a group for an external event or assisting team members with preparations, announcements, or the assembly of items to be donated.
About the committee:
The committee meets three to four times a year. We currently have 21 Committee members nationally, not including Greg and Laura Diallo, who serve as Chair of the Committee. We have members representing our national offices from Dallas, Chicago, Atlanta, and New York. Because of our various locations, meetings are held virtually, where members can participate remotely. Locally, we have members in our HQ/Pasadena, Woodland Hills, and West LA offices. Our committee has grown significantly since we first began nearly 14 years ago. However, our passion for making impactful and meaningful connections with our various communities remains at the forefront of our mission.
At the beginning of each calendar year, the Committee members identify organizations, causes, or initiatives with which they feel a personal connection or would like to advance to meet the criteria discussed in the introduction. Our activities can be internal (i.e., clothing drive, food drive, toy drive, socks drive, food drive/soup collection, breast cancer campaign/men’s health awareness Movember campaign, etc.) and should focus on a particular objective with a relatively narrow focus, along with a single organization. The activity should have an “end date” but is not as strict as the external activity. For example, you might initiate an ongoing clothing drive from January to May and then decide which organization you will take the donations to at the end of May.
Three especially rewarding internal events are:
- Paracord Assembly group activity that brings colleagues together in all offices through either Zoom or in-person guidance from Jerilynn Pakcyk. Pakcyk hosts these events several times during the year to make paracord bracelets that are donated to Operation Gratitude for inclusion in the care kits that are distributed to first responders, as well as a letter-writing campaign to send greetings and warm thoughts to our service personnel deployed at various locations throughout the world.
- Annual “backpack and school supplies” campaign where we collect backpacks and requested supplies for students entering school, ranging from preschool to 12th grade. The donations are transported to the Woodland Hills office, where they are taken to a local family support organization in the San Fernando Valley.
- Annual ”Door of Hope” Secret Santa/Angel Tree, where we adopt around 15 families that are either homeless or in transition from homelessness into secure housing, and we fulfill all their Christmas/Holiday wish lists.
However, external activities require planning, time, and a specific timeline. This will involve logistical planning, time away from the office, a specific location, and a particular number of hours to be used by staff. External events and activities involve a broad context of participation and time.
Here are just a few of the external activities that we’ve planned over the years:
- Habitat for Humanity to help with the construction of new housing in the San Gabriel Valley area
- Windy City Habitat (Chicago) to help with the repair of homes
- Door of Hope “Room Refreshment” activity that involved designing, planning, and decorating a room that was in preparation for assignment of housing to an incoming (and formerly homeless) family
- “Day of Service,” which involved assembling hygiene kits, sorting clothing donations, and preparing lunch for homeless ladies at a women’s housing facility in the Skid Row area of Los Angeles
- 6Stones Community Powered Revitalization, where volunteers from the Dallas office make home repairs to help various communities. This activity takes place several times during the year and involves participation from the entire office
- City of Refuge (Atlanta Office) involved community service and donations to support homeless residents and single-parent mothers, while also assisting in painting, refinishing floors, and replacing unusable furniture
- Park Slope Children’s Coat Drive (New York Office)
- Preparing and serving meals at a soup kitchen in Harlem (New York Office)
- Walk to End Alzheimer’s events (2) and fundraising events, planned and coordinated by the West LA Office
Additionally, the Volunteer Committee has a joint partnership with the Sustainability Committee, where we cooperatively plan external group activities and encourage colleagues from all area offices to participate in environmentally impactful activities. Some of these have involved:
- Tree People – An educational and training environmental advocacy organization based in Los Angeles that advocates and works to support a sustainable urban ecosystem in the Greater Los Angeles area through education, volunteer community-based action, and advocacy.
- Heal the Bay – An environmental organization dedicated to making the coastal waters and watersheds in the Greater LA area safe, healthy, and clean. They use science, education, community action, and advocacy to fulfill their mission.
In addition to the activities listed, the committee receives ongoing requests for funding or in-kind donations to support community organizations, initiatives, and to advance causes that improve the lives of people within our respective communities. We also encourage sponsorship of group gatherings at our various offices.
Greg provides the committee with a budget each year and this gives us some guidance with our objectives, programs, and planning.
All requests and proposals for funding or support for (or participation in) an activity are vetted, after which they are submitted to Greg with a summary and justification with a recommendation for approval.
Expansion of Volunteer Committee Role:
In 2019, Greg shared his idea for initiating a new dynamic outreach program that would involve two local community colleges: Pasadena City College (Pasadena) and LA Pierce College (Woodland Hills). This initiative would target underrepresented students, particularly students that identify as Black or African American. His objective is to implement ways to participate with these institutions by providing financial, mentorship, and internship support in a manner that will eventually lead students to select academic programs and career interests that might “change the face” of our industry. This is particularly important because the percentage of underrepresented students, particularly Black students, who elect academic or career paths specific to our industry is very low.
Laura Diallo initiated the process by contacting the respective counseling programs that target the needs of the students that identify as “Black or African-American” at each institution. Greg and Laura participated in all the initial meetings. Together, with representatives from each institution, we brainstormed about what would be impactful to both programs and particularly what would best motivate and support students in a way that could eventually result in their cultivating and interest and, eventually, a commitment to our industry and hopefully, at our firms. As discussions got underway to introduce our concept and objectives, it became clear that the most impactful support for the students that we wish to target would be through a meaningful level of financial support. This is because many students have hardships that are not overcome by the typical level of financial assistance. Thus, based on input and recommendations from the counselors and faculty at each institute, we decided to establish scholarship funds at the respective institutions.
Each institution would receive donations of $20,000 and the funds were to be assigned as follows:
- Three scholarships in the amount of $5,000 each ($15,000) and one emergency fund donation.
- The KROST CPAs/KBKG, Inc Ujima Program/Blackademia Scholarship was formally established at Pasadena City College (through the Pasadena City College Foundation).
- The KROST CPAs/KBKG Umoja Scholars Scholarship Fund was established at LA Pierce College (through the Pierce College Foundation).
$40,00 of funding for these scholarship awards were distributed from the Volunteer Committee budget.
Since the initial establishment of these awards, through competitive application and selection, the firms have awarded a total of seven scholarships: Three at Pasadena City College and four at LA Pierce College. Three of the awardees have expressed an interest in internships at the firm(s), and one student is actively working in the KROST CPAs Assurance and Advisory Department. In the 2021 award ceremony at the Pasadena City College annual Scholarship Celebration, members of the firm attended and presented the scholarship award to Ms. Knight: CJ Aberin; Greg Kniss; Laura Diallo, and Keith Hamasaki.
As we begin the 2022–2023 academic year at each institution, we are again partnering with the respective Foundations and meeting with their counseling organizations and faculty to launch our initiative for connecting with students through mentorship, internship, financial support, and career advancement in our industry.
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