From 200 to 100,000 Volunteers: Here’s the Story Behind Comcast Cares Day
The lasting impression volunteering leaves is often told through the account of one person spending their time making a difference for another. One person showing up on one day could make all the difference in someone else’s life.
This was certainly true for police in Italy, who cooked a meal for an elderly, lonely couple, or this basketball star, who shared lunch with an autistic boy, as it was true for Harry Behrens, a Comcast NBCUniversal employee who built an entire sustainable community farm after a chance encounter with a hungry neighbor.
Rarely, though, do these actions grow to be an entire movement lasting over a decade with tens of thousands of people involved. But that’s what Comcast NBCUniversal has done with its annual celebration of year-round volunteerism. What started with 200 employees in Philadelphia who wanted to take action on the issues in their own backyard is now the largest single day corporate volunteer effort in the US.
Global Citizen spoke with David L. Cohen, Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer at Comcast Corporation, to learn more about the history of this massive day of giving back, and its lasting impact.
GC: How has Comcast Cares Day grown since you joined Comcast?
Cohen: It’s really an amazing evolution. In 1996, about 200 Comcast employees volunteered as part of Philadelphia Cares Day. After seeing how much volunteerism resonated with employees in our company’s hometown, Comcast Cares Day in its current form launched in 2001. From then on, it just kept growing. This year, which will be our 16th Comcast Cares Day, we expect to have more than 100,000 volunteers at about 900 projects in more than a dozen countries around the globe. And by joining with Global Citizen and Red Nose Day, we can also amplify the impact of volunteerism to millions of people and help make the world better.
GC: What is the effect of this day throughout the year for Comcast?
Cohen: The idea behind Comcast Cares Day is really rooted in the values of our company founder, Ralph Roberts. Ralph founded Comcast more than 50 years ago, and he always felt strongly that if we do business in local communities, we should give back to those local communities. Of course, while we come together each year on Comcast Cares Day, our efforts to help our communities goes on year-round, from mentoring children to making technology more accessible, Comcast Cares Day really exemplifies our organization at its best, and represents how our employees care 365 days a year. I think Comcast Cares Day is the best day of the year for our employees, and for our company.
GC: What is your most memorable moment from a volunteering experience through Comcast Cares Day?
Cohen: At my first Comcast Cares Day, I joined a group of employees at the YMCA in Chester, a struggling community outside of Philadelphia. We painted a mural and installed a technology lab for after-school and adult education programs. A few weeks later, I was talking to a group of former AT&T Broadband employees who had just joined the company about that visit. Afterwards, a woman came up to me and shared how important that same YMCA was to her family, as a safe haven in her community when she was growing up. She told me, with tears in her eyes, how proud she was to work for a company that was doing so much to help the community where she had grown up. That has stayed with me over the years, and I can share dozens and dozens of more stories just like it.
GC: What can other companies learn from Comcast Cares Day?
Cohen: To us, Comcast Cares Day is an opportunity for everyone in our company – from our executives to our frontline employees to our NBCUniversal cameramen and women – to work side by side and directly connect with our communities and customers on a personal level. For our employees, it is a chance for their real families to meet their work families. It’s also one of the important ways we build relationships with local community organizations, helping us stay connected to our roots, and true to Ralph’s values.
GC: As Comcast Cares Day continues to grow, what is your hope for it?
Cohen: Everywhere I go throughout the year, I hear from our employees and so many other volunteers about the positive change we’ve made by improving schools, revitalizing parks and playgrounds, supporting our troops, and so much more. Comcast Cares Day has helped make that happen. It has truly become an annual tradition for thousands of people – our employees, their families and friends, and our community partners. It’s a tradition that makes real impact, and I look forward to its continuation for years to come.
To sign up for a project that interests you during Comcast Cares Day, visit comcastinthecommunity.com