When Booker T. Goodwin returned from vacation, he found he had another job. The Westinghouse manager had been selected to work for United Way of Central Maryland. Westinghouse was lending Goodwin to help raise funds for United Way's annual campaign, which officially ends today.
"I wasn't too happy," said the 41-year-old Goodwin. "I wasn't sure what to make of it. I went into my boss' office and closed the door. We had a frank talk. Such an assignment pulls you out of the political scene at work."
Several months later, Goodwin has been so moved by the needs in the Baltimore community that he wants his fraternity, Omega Phi Psi, to adopt one of the service organizations with which he worked.
"I don't live in the city so when you hear on television about a crisis and kids in need you say, 'gee that's too bad,' Goodwin said. "But now I drive through the neighborhoods and see the homelessness and, all of a sudden, it has an impact on your life."
Goodwin, who markets high-tech manufacturing systems to small businesses for Westinghouse's division in Columbia, no longer questions the decision to lend him to United Way.
"I don't have any regrets now," he said. "I take this work very seriously."
Goodwin is one of 65 professionals who were freed by their employers for 69 days to work in this year's United Way campaign as a loaned executive while Linda S. Lotz, a quality consultant from CSX Technology, was one of 25 executives assigned to work in emerging markets.
"It's really good [being on loan] because you get to see the city and know what's around you," she said. "I've gotten to know Baltimore a lot."
Lotz said she has become so much more aware of people's needs that she now walks around with the telephone number to First Call For Help, an advice-referral service, and has since left a quarter and the telephone number on a man sleeping in a doorway and given another $30 to a man asking for change.
While she has been on loan to United Way, Lotz said, her work at CSX has been divided among fellow workers, a situation with which she has not been entirely comfortable.
"It's a little hard to let go," said Lotz, who develops management strategies and writes for her company's internal newspaper.
Lotz said she checks in with her office at least once or twice a week by either calling or going in on some evenings and weekends to catch up on paperwork, give advice on a project or attend meetings.
"I feel if I don't go, people will forget about me," Lotz said.
Goodwin, who also works in the emerging-market segment, said he also goes into the office once or twice a week to keep in touch.
Lotz said "although it was hard to leave and give something up," her experience as a loaned executive has been "fun" and informative.
Although the three-month-old campaign officially ends today, companies are still turning in pledges.
"Reports are coming in slower this year," said Mel Tansil, director media relations. "Small and mid-sized companies are reporting but larger companies, because [the] employee base is spread out, are taking longer."
Of the 3,500 companies participating in the United Way campaign, only 34 percent or 1,200 companies have reported. Tansil said. Among those that have, however, corporate gifts have increased 5 percent and employee giving has increased by 12 percent from last year, Tansil said.
"We are concerned about the large number of outstanding pledges," Tansil said. "Perhaps people are apprehensive of giving money because of the present economic situation."
Tansil said 100 contributing companies, which have brought in $110,000, are new to this year's campaign, and he credited their joining to the participants in the 15-year-old loaned-executive program.
Usually employers pick a person they think would do a good job as an executive. "We tell the company what kind of people we are looking for and the company says 'we have someone' " who fits that description, said Kim Scheeler, campaign manager for United Way. "Normally most of the loaned executives do not know about the loaned-executive program, so they would not volunteer," Scheeler said. However, some do know and volunteer, she added.
Larry Hines, manager for Giant Food Inc.'s Milford Mill store, said he felt honored when he learned he was being loaned to United Way.
Working for the United Way has "been a high point of my life," Hines said. "I've met so many people who are willing to give to our community."
"The vice president of operations chose people to represent Giant," Hines said, "and it's an honor to be chosen."
From September to November, the group of executives supplement United Way's staff by assisting corporations and service agencies in their fund-raising campaigns. The executives are paid by their companies while they are on loan. Most will be back at their own jobs next week, while a few may stay longer.