As Director of Civic Engagement at EMR USA, Stacey Pierce has a clear philosophy: “To whom much is given, much is expected.”
Having spent her career both studying and leading community projects in Camden, New Jersey, it is a philosophy that fits neatly with EMR Camden’s efforts to build stronger ties with local residents.
“Camden is a community where there is limited access to resources and employment opportunities. At EMR USA it is important for us to provide access to our resources and to give back to the communities we serve.” she says.
For more than 25 years, Stacey has worked for organizations including the State of New Jersey’s Redevelopment Authority, The Camden Empowerment Zone. Working with Rutgers University, meanwhile, she was again able to focus on the needs of residents, non-profit and small business communities.
“I worked with a team from Rutgers, directly in the Fairview section of Camden, with its redevelopment and neighborhood planning efforts. This included grant writing, community engagement and capacity building as well as looking for different sponsorships for activities and events,” she says.
Stacey is able to call on established relationships, built over her 30 year career, to find out what’s going on in the city – useful when there are more than 800 non-profits operating within the city limits: “I’ve known the mayor and most of the sitting city council members since we were kids, so I can always pick up the phone and find out what’s happening and see how we can help.” For Stacey, it’s important not to presume the needs of the community but to engage them to ensure that EMR are best utilizing resources.
Unsurprisingly, Stacey was considered perfect for the role of building stronger links between EMR and the people of Camden.
“When I first arrived at EMR, the first thing I wanted to focus on was employee-based volunteerism. I believe that you build the capacity of an organization to do good in its community by doing more than just writing checks,” she says.
This has included helping local organizations to execute community events and hosting community meetings where EMR USA’s Chief Executive Joe Balzano attends and takes the time to answer every single question the community might have. EMR employees also volunteer time, distributing goods and offering services to those in need as well as taking part in clean ups in various neighborhoods. Stacey says it is vital that the community takes a lead in directing where and how EMR offers support.
“We had to reach out to the community. We asked questions like ‘Hey, what do you guys need? What are your priorities?’ That helped us direct our volunteer program.”
To create this culture of volunteerism, Stacey is trialing new ways to encourage people to take part. This includes a smart calendar where staff can sign up, as well as QR codes for each event to provide additional information about the organization, the event and the help that will be required on the day.
While volunteering is an extremely effective way for EMR to ‘give back’ to the people of Camden, sponsorships and donations are also crucial.
Financial support and volunteering are two substantial ways EMR can ensure the community of Camden are supported. Yet, it is also crucial that residents feel heard and engaged by the company.
“We have to make our presence known – whether by being part of the Environmental Committee with the Chamber of Commerce of Southern New Jersey or attending the Camden Collaborative Initiative monthly public meetings held by the Environmental Protection Agency.
And Stacey’s commitment to community engagement is similarly tireless.
“EMR has a community hotline which is connected directly to my work phone. It runs 24 hours a day and means I’m always available if there are any concerns – I even take it grocery shopping!”
It’s further evidence that, for Stacey, supporting the Camden community is a life-long vocation. And thanks to this energy and experience, Stacey is helping EMR Camden become a better neighbor every day.