by Dawn Schneiderman Blue Cross employees are taking the Vaccine Pledge. To support Vermont public health goals, encourage our friends and neighbors to get their COVID vaccinations, and contribute to our overall community health goals, our employee Worksite Wellness Program is donating $100 for each employee who commits to be vaccinated when their group is approved by the state. These donations in the employee’s name will go to their choice of three local community service organizations. Employees have enthusiastically joined the movement, boosting their overall wellness, and supporting our local community organizations.
We are working hard to inspire our employees to make their vaccine appointments by posting photos of our executives getting their shot and sharing what they are most looking forward to once they are fully vaccinated. 255 people have made the pledge so far, which means we are more than halfway there. Along with the donation to a community service organization made in their name, we are offering our employees paid time off to get to their appointment as well as a day after the second shot to manage any side effects. Whatever those side effects might be, the short-term pain is worth the long-term gain.
We encourage our fellow Vermont employers to join us. Encouraging vaccination and supporting local community organizations simultaneously is a win-win. Many employers offer health and wellness programs such as the Blue Cross Worksite Wellness program. This program helps employers with consulting and expertise around fitness programming and challenges, nutrition support and education, community volunteer efforts, and mindfulness groups. Even in this remote environment, these programs bring us together and provide creative ways to support our employees mental and physical health while engaging with our community. With the pandemic this engagement is more important than ever.
Three fabulous local organizations are benefitting from the Blue Cross Vaccine Pledge: Downstreet Housing and Community Development, the Boys & Girls Club, and Therapy Dogs of Vermont. Each fulfills a valuable role in our community:
Downstreet Housing and Community Development provides supports for our housing-insecure neighbors in central Vermont. We chose Downstreet for their work in addressing one of the key social determinants of health. Stable and safe housing has a profound impact on a person’s lifelong health and wellness. As Blue Cross works on policy efforts to address social determinants of health, we are learning about the ways we can assist our community partners to take steps to mitigate adverse health determinants.
The Boys & Girls Club has five locations statewide, including the Montpelier Teen Center which is just down the road from our offices in Berlin. Each club increased efforts during the pandemic to meet the needs of Vermont youth. As 2020 wreaked havoc on kids’ access to regular healthy meals, the Boys & Girls Club stepped in to provide food for children and their families. The Club offers a safe and stable space for kids to connect with their peers and with trusted adults while supporting access to virtual learning and tutoring. As the Blue Cross team went remote last March, it became sharply evident that our neighbors were struggling to maintain a semblance of normalcy for their families. The Boys & Girls Club offers critical services to kids and their families across Vermont.
Therapy Dogs of Vermont serves a diverse population in schools, hospitals, and jails. Their outreach offers mental and emotional health support. The pandemic has shown the critical importance of mental health and wellness in our community as our neighbors struggle with depression, anxiety and learning challenges. Blue Cross employees are, by and large, a team of animal lovers who are always looking for ways to support organizations that work with our four-legged friends.
Vermonters have worked together in so many ways this past year. From neighbors running errands for each other, to checking that homebound older Vermonters are safe and have a full refrigerator, to work colleagues supporting each other in new ways, in this pandemic, we are all Vermonters helping Vermonters. As we enter this new phase where broad vaccination will help us return to a more normal life, I encourage you all to support your friends, neighbors, employees, and colleagues to get their shot. Together, we can put this pandemic behind us.
Dawn Schneiderman is the Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont. She lives in Williston.