On August 18, 2018, several Goken employees trudged up a trail along the Scioto River with garbage bags in hand, sweating, getting muddy, and getting bit by mosquitoes as they picked up trash and cleaned the waterways. However, there was no feeling of impatience to get back home or being forced to do something you didn’t want to do. Instead, conversation, laughter, and joy filled the air. They were volunteering in the Mike Utt Memorial Scioto River Cleanup as a part of Goken’s volunteering initiative.
The Scioto River Cleanup is an annual event hosted by the city of Dublin in memory of Mike Utt, a longtime resident of Dublin who loved the river and went to great lengths to take care of it. After his passing, his daughters and family members kept up the tradition by gathering once a year to clean the river and honor his legacy.
This was a great opportunity to live out Goken’s mission, which states, “By building trust, we foster greatness in our people, excellence in our clients, and impact in our communities.” However, people volunteer for different reasons. Some do it to support a cause, some do it so that it looks good on a resume, and yet others do it as a passion. What was the reason some Goken employees took part in the event? Three different volunteers gave their perspective.
“Conservation is something I was born into,” said Kinsey Olson Sovern. Volunteering was an important part of her life growing up, as her family often volunteered in various events. One such event was the Practical Farmers of Iowa, a sustainability-based farming practice. “I can’t farm here in Ohio because I don’t have a farm, but the river is here, so I thought that would be one way that I could continue giving back,” she said.
She also offered a unique perspective to volunteering. “I know that plastics in the water waste has been a major concern [environmentally], getting into oceans, and that kind of bothers me a little bit working in plastics.” Kinsey explained that working as an engineer at Goken, she understands the benefits and demerits of plastics better than most. Plastic has benefitted society greatly and is crucial to the automotive industry, as it is a rigid, low weight and low-cost material. At the same time, it has often left a negative impact on the planet because of littering and environmentally unfriendly practices by some. “[Volunteering] is one way I can help increase the balance between sustainability and what my career is,” Kinsey explained.
Volunteering is not only a great way to positively impact the environment, but also a great way to meet new people and get to know your coworkers better. “It was nice, because for once you talk about some things that’s not work,” said Nythia Rajan. “You are volunteering your time, but you are also learning a lot of things which you wouldn’t if you’re not in that place, right?” She even said that she met a coworker whom she did not know before, although both had been at Goken for several years, and she explained how volunteering helped increase teamwork and communication among her and her coworkers. “[You] see all these people in a different light.”
The cleanup had its fair share of excitement too, when Kinsey found a snake in a low-hanging branch, and three tires were picked up. “How in the world did they end up here? Did they float down the river?” smiled Nythia. “The joke was they only needed one more,” said Kinsey. There was also Michelle Carlos, a first time volunteer who was glad that she was not the one who found the snake. “I’m not a very wilderness person. Hiking and camping are not my thing. Cleaning the river was something that I’ve never, ever done before.” While she expressed that she did not know what to expect going in, she said that once she started, she enjoyed being a part of the volunteering event.
Michelle was also pleasantly surprised by the reaction her group received while they were cleaning up. “There were people walking around the park, and they were saying ‘thank you for taking your time.’ It was a really good feeling… They go there on a daily basis and we’re keeping the area clean.”
When asked what her favorite part about the whole experience was, she said, “People were very thankful of us being there. It was a good feeling being a part of something that impacts the environment. Like I said, I had never done that before, so it was a pretty cool feeling after.” She said that she would love to go again next year and that she also would definitely recommend the experience.
It is pretty common to pass up an opportunity to volunteer in favor of sleeping in, spending time with family and friends, or doing a hobby. However, it is easy to underestimate the good that people can do when they are willing to give their time, effort, and heart for the community. Goken America is proud of these employees, who are living out its vision, mission, and values, and is excited for more to join in the future.