H&R Block volunteers create a virtual children’s library   

July 09, 2020 : H&R Block

Pandemic prompts H&R Block associates to reimagine how to give back to build connections in the community

Each June for the last 16 years, district general manager, Dorothy Lirio-Casa, looks forward to traveling from her California home to the H&R Block U.S. Retail summer convention for annual leadership training. This year, for the first time in company history, H&R Block transformed the in-person event and invited Dorothy plus 500 of her fellow retail leaders to stay home, experience the convention online, and participate in a virtual volunteer opportunity to give back to underserved youth.

Associates were asked to volunteer virtually by recording a video while reading a children’s book. Hundreds of associates across the country accepted the invitation. Their submissions did not disappoint. One associate read “Billy Goats Gruff” to a live audience of goats, while Dorothy’s 13-year-old daughter donned her mixed martial arts uniform as her older sister read “Positive Ninja” from their living room. “It was a unique way to spend some family time, and I wanted to involve them in what H&R Block does to give back,” Dorothy shared.

Inspiring confidence in children everywhere

With many nonprofits still closed to in-person volunteering, H&R Block worked in collaboration with United Way of Greater Kansas City to identify a need related to youth literacy programs lacking adult volunteers this summer. Now, with hundreds of approved videos available online, H&R Block and United Way of Greater Kansas City invited Operation Breakthrough, Phoenix Family, United Inner City Services (UICS), Northland Early Education Center, and the United Way of Greater Kansas City to utilize the read-a-long library.

“So many nonprofits are trying to figure how to navigate the landscape of being closed to the public while still providing quality services to those who depend on them,” said Volunteer Engagement Manager for United Way Brandon Calloway. “This is especially difficult for those early learning organizations that utilize volunteers in their implementation of their programming.”

Each of the nonprofit agencies will use the read-a-long library in their summer youth literacy programs, starting in July. The H&R Block Read-A-Long Digital Library playlist currently houses more than 250 videos and 15+ hours of approved content.

“These read-along videos are very much needed right now as our in-person volunteer openings are greatly limited,” said Gene Willis, Chief Engagement Officer of UICS. “Giving our infant, toddler, and pre-K students the opportunity to read with a compassionate adult stimulates their imaginations, strengthens connections, and encourages understanding of others.”

Making every block better with books

To make an even greater impact on the community, H&R Block field leaders suggested a book drive to benefit children participating in summer programs. Independent Kansas City bookstore, Rainy Day Books, agreed to aid the effort and provided a discount on 12 book titles, allowing associates to make an online donation.

“We were excited H&R Block allowed our small business to play a role in the effort to help children in our hometown,” said Rainy Day Books owner Vivien Jennings. “It was wonderful to be able to offer a variety of diverse titles, so more children can see themselves in the stories they read.”

Associates donated more than 500 books within the first 48 hours. H&R Block matched those contributions for a total gift that exceeded 1,000 books, which will be distributed evenly among the nonprofit agencies to those in need.

As a business rooted in communities all across America, H&R Block knows real progress happens when we work together. Despite the challenges presented by COVID-19, we believe in finding ways to do our part to help ensure we come out of this stronger than before. H&R Block remains committed to helping one block at a time, city-by-city, coast-to-coast – until together, we make every block better.

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