On Friday, Direct Relief staff bid farewell to Carmen Lennon, a GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) PULSE volunteer, who will return to Philadelphia after six months on assignment at Direct Relief headquarters. Since June, Carmen has been an invaluable part of Direct Relief, providing both professional advice and humor every day.
Carmen came to Santa Barbara as a part of the GSK PULSE program, which gives employees an opportunity to use their professional skills and knowledge during a three- or six-month immersion experience nationally and internationally. The PULSE employee volunteering initiative was launched in 2009 by GlaxoSmithKline pharmaceuticals (GSK), a long-time corporate product supporter of Direct Relief.
“The goal of the program is to do more than paint houses,” said Carmen. “We want to deliver sustainable change.”
In Philly, Carmen works as the Internal Communications Manager at GSK. During her time at Direct Relief her role was to set the communications strategy. She examined the activities and goals of Direct Relief as they related to the bigger picture.
“I basically tried to figure out how communication could help the Development department get more donors; how communication could increase awareness in the community; how communication could be improved among employees,” she explained.
While in Santa Barbara, Carmen experienced Direct Relief in emergency mode during October and November when Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast. She describes this as one of the highlights of her time here. “The work I do at GSK doesn’t let me see or experience saving lives first-hand,” she said. “Being here and seeing how Direct Relief reacted to a disaster was an amazing experience.”
Sandy hit close to home for Carmen, literally, because her family and friends were directly affected. But seeing the Direct Relief staff in action gave Carmen reassurance. “The most touching part was how people I worked with, besides doing their job to bring relief to Sandy victims, asked me every day how my mom and family were doing,” she said.
Carmen certainly contributed a lot to the Direct Relief staff during her time here. But she also describes some things she’s learned from working in a new environment. “I’m impressed at the amount of work that Direct Relief gets done with their staff size,” she said. “There are lots of smart and incredible people working at Direct Relief. The experience of watching what they accomplish with their given resources is something I’ll definitely take back with me.”
Of her temporary new home, Carmen said, “Santa Barbara is absolutely beautiful. Moving out here has really challenged me to get out of my comfort zone and do things I wouldn’t normally do.”
One of those things is riding a bicycle. Direct Relief President and CEO, Thomas Tighe, taught her how to ride a two-wheeler, a skill she never had need for in a big city like Philly.
“I’ve definitely enjoyed my time out here,” she said. “But it has also shown me that I’m really a big city person.”
After six months at Direct Relief, it’s now time for Carmen to pack up and head back home to Philly. “I’m incredibly excited to go back because I work with an awesome group of people at GSK, and I want to show them how much their support has meant to me and how much I’ve learned,” she said. “But I’m also sad to go because I’ve established relationships with some great people at Direct Relief and I won’t get to see them every day anymore.”
Direct Relief will miss Carmen’s presence and talents and sincerely thanks her for her service and contributions.