These days, Christine Matheney’s office mates are quiet, obedient, and very good about getting in their regular exercise. They also sleep most of the day.
“It’s perfect for my meeting schedule,” reports the business program manager, who for several years now has been volunteering with Guide Dogs for the Blind (GDB). “Dewdrop is always ready to go out and train, but she’s also happy to join my calls.”
Community strengthening, company-matched
A few years after she began working in the Bay Area’s dog-friendly office, Matheney approached her co-worker Jennelle Crothers, who always seemed to have a different puppy at her side. Matheney learned that Jennelle was raising guide dogs who would have a profound impact on the lives of the blind and vision impaired.
“I was hooked right away, and now I’m a puppy sitter,” Matheney says with pride. “I take over for puppy raisers when they are in different life situations and can’t have a puppy at that moment. Jennelle raises one full time. I’m a go-between that covers for people like her, or if the puppy needs to get out of the kennel, I can help for a little bit until we find a permanent home.”
In 2019, Matheney and her coworkers across the globe teamed with Microsoft to donate $181 million dollars towards organizations like GDB, helping local communities and the world at large. A culture of giving compels others to do the same. That is why 77% of Microsoft team members opted into philanthropical efforts supporting 23,500 nonprofits and schools with some 825,000 employee volunteer hours last year.
It’s a cycle that plays itself out repeatedly around the office: one co-worker discusses their volunteering passion, another becomes interested, and the benefits go to those who most need them. “Three years ago, there was one dog raiser in the office. Now, there are six,” Matheney laughs at the thought of so many co-workers bathed in puppy kisses. “It’s impressive how supportive Microsoft has been in getting people involved.” Donation matching and monetary contributions for every hour volunteered by a Microsoft employee encourages people to follow their passions with confidence, knowing the company is behind them offering its full support.
A companion and co-worker
Since Christine lives alone — and like so many of us these days, is working from home — her volunteering passion has dovetailed with a lesson so many of us have been reminded of over the last few months: Tender eyes, sloppy kisses and doggie cuddles make even the worst of days better.
Before Dewdrop, her office mate was Future, a dog who has since moved on in a chain that GDB estimates takes 251 volunteers to transform a single puppy into a successful guide dog. But as Matheney has seen firsthand, these dogs don’t have to wait until their graduation from “Guide Dog University” to make an impact.
“The first day I had Future, I’d bring her on Teams calls at work; the amount of joy she brought to me and my colleagues was amazing,” says Matheney, who is as quick with a laugh as she is a puppy anecdote. “People asked, ‘Christine, can you bring her closer to the camera? What skills has she learned?’ The amount of engagement and joy she could bring to people, even virtually, blew my mind.” Matheney also sets aside time for regular video calls with other Guide Dog volunteers, checking in with Future and other pups that have touched her life.
Fetching a new friend
Microsoft employees are passionate, and when that passion extends to offering their time, money and skills to others, it’s a natural extension of the company’s mission to empower every person and organization on the planet to achieve more. Every employee has the option to give back to the things that mean most to them, whether that falls under the umbrella of health and human services, arts and culture, education, disaster response or elsewhere.
At the end of the day, knowing that you’ve given donations and hours of your own time to help others leaves you with a special feeling. And if your passion happens to leave you with furry, friendly, face-licking office mates keeping you company while you work from home, well, that’s just an extra treat.
“If you’ve seen ‘Pick of the Litter’ on Disney+, you know how much impact a dog can make in a visually impaired person’s life,” Matheney says. “Especially during the pandemic, having a couple of puppies to rotate through my house and help train them has been great.”
Like the pups before her, Dewdrop will someday move out of Christine’s home with ambitions of attending “Guide Dog University”. Until then, the two will continue to enjoy their special moments together as homebound office mates.
If you’d like to be part of a team focused on empowering others by giving, local career opportunities can be found here: https://aka.ms/MicrosoftBayAreaCareers