by Erin Gasperi

Since 2016, Voice Systems Engineering (VSE) employees have been putting their love for exercise to charitable use. What started as an initiative for internal company fitness classes grew into an on-going fundraiser for charity. 

After completing her certifications in personal and group fitness training, Galina Woshczyn began to volunteer her time. She offered to run donation-based fitness classes in coordination with Jackie Torpey, the Charity Events Coordinator. Twice a week, Galina instructs Bootcamp and strength-style classes over the lunch hour for any VSE employee interested. Galina enjoys coaching the course and doesn't mind doing it for free. "It's gratifying for me to see the progress of our team improving." She said. "Getting stronger, endurance getting better, and we do it together." 

Each class is donation-based, and the money raised goes to different charities throughout the year. VSE supplies the equipment, so employees only need to bring themselves (and a pair of comfy shoes). Each year, Jackie surveys the company for feedback about charities. "We try to keep variety in the different types of charities. Typically, we have 4-5 charity events per year, and all the money raised throughout the year supports those initiatives"- Jackie said. 

Employees enjoy the fact that this allows them to give back to organizations. "The money I would have spent on a gym membership, I now donate each month to a charity everyone in the company has a voice in." – Kristin Chianese, a VSE marketer who has been utilizing the fitness classes since they started. 

As the group class size continues to grow, the amount of money raised also continues to grow. The class always had at least 12 attendees. "It snowballed because you had the opportunity to spend time with people that you didn't always interact with and your relationships with them grew. It turned into never wanting to miss class because you didn't want to miss out on the social interaction break during the day."- Jackie Torpey. 

The attendees formed a channel on Microsoft Teams to communicate ideas, schedule changes, and competitions. The Teams channel also helps to create a sense of community that encourages participants to stay motivated. The classes themselves also act as a great team-building exercise, even if the employees do not typically work together in the traditional office setting. "We keep each other motivated and rally each other together to head to class. The convenience of working out at lunch with a great group of people who support each other is ideal."- Kristin Chianese. 

"These classes are a super fun and motivating way to bond with co-workers and support a good cause while staying active and healthy – it's a win in every sense." – Infrastructure Lead Link, Demian Royer. 

Project Manager, Kayla Sheely, says that the combination of social interaction and workout was what makes the classes so unique. "I enjoyed the Bootcamp classes both for the sweat and the social interaction! People from different departments participate, allowing me to get to know others outside my normal work circle. And with a hefty commute, the Bootcamp classes allowed me to exercise on days I might not normally have. Knowing the proceeds go to a charity we care about is the icing on the cake!" -Kayla Sheely. 

When quarantine started as a result of COVD-19 and VSE went 100% remote, it didn't stop employees from getting their work out. VSE created a Zoom account, and classes resumed virtually. A dedicated virtual "wellness week" was held to help support a local charity raising money to provide food boxes and lunches for people impacted by COVID-19. The event included various workout classes such as yoga, boot camp, strength training, and a virtual 5k walk/run.  The VSE employees who volunteered their time were all certified trainers. The money collected totaled $550 just from the wellness week's event. "We still were able to get our social interaction, and I missed that a lot" – Galina Woshcyzn. 

With the holiday season quickly approaching, VSE is planning more events to raise money for Philabundance, a local non-profit hunger-relief organization. Another wellness week is on its way to support the charity initiative during the holiday season. The team is looking forward to the classes during the event and the money raised for charity.