Homeless Backpacks and Olympia Orthopaedic Associates

Tabatha Newman: Bringing Community Involvement to Work

Tabatha Newman, Management Analyst at Olympia Orthopedic Associates, has been with the company for 15+ years. In this interview, she talks about workplace culture, bringing the Homeless Backpacks initiative to work, and the amazing response it received from her colleagues and company.

Tell us about your job at Olympia Orthopedic Associates (OOA).

I’ve been with OOA for more than 15 years now. I’ve worked in our billing department, as the lead of our front office and clinic prep departments, medical records, registration scheduling team, and as our system administrator.

I’m currently in the role of management analyst in our administrative office. I do reporting on our phone system, electronic medical records, appointments, and provider statistics. I’ve also been working on a project to create a new reporting tool called Microsoft Power BI to allow for reporting that will no longer require manual manipulation day after day.

“For me, the sense of community that is being built within the organization makes OOA an enjoyable place to work.”

Tell us about the Homeless Backpacks program.

The program itself has been around for about ten years. It was started locally with a couple of friends that saw that there was a need with our homeless population in town.

What they found out was that there was a large underserved population of children in the area. They then redirected their focus from the general homeless population to the children in our community that needed us most.

They provide a bag of food to get students through the weekend when they don’t have the support from the school district’s lunch program. Having this food helps them stay focused and stay engaged in school, graduate, and become contributing citizens. For some, it’s that little bit of hope to keep them going.

When I started with the organization, we were supplying around 300 bags of food per week. In just a few short years the need has grown to 600. I think the word spreading and the need in the community has grown as well. The program is run 100% by volunteers and we have zero paid employees so we are a true 501c3 organization.

How did you get involved with Homeless Backpacks?

I started volunteering with the Homeless Backpacks program over five years ago. At that time, a friend of mine posted on Facebook that he had helped out at a bagging party on the weekend. I’ve always been someone who likes to volunteer their time for charities – especially when women, children and food come into play.
I thought it would be a fun thing to do on the weekend to help my community and then I just fell in love with the group of people who were in the organization. They have such big hearts and were so kind. From the bagging party, I found out about the opportunity to volunteer as a shopper so I started doing that and it just kind of evolved from there.

How did you bring this initiative to OOA?

Back in 2014 I brought the idea to our leadership team and said, “I’ve been volunteering with this organization – would you be open to having a food drive and see how it goes?” For that first particular drive, we set a goal of 150 bags of food and I think by the end of it we got to 175 bags. We are lucky to have this great resource available with a large company and employees who care about making a difference in our community. There is certainly power in numbers!

What were the results of your 2019 food drive for Homeless Backpacks?

We had an amazing turnout. We set an employee goal of 300 bags of food and in the end, the employees were able to fill 300 bags of food and write a check to the facility for $1,695.17. Then Olympia Orthopedic Associates as a company decided that they were going to match the bag contribution from the employees, so they contributed money to purchase another 300 bags of food.

Altogether, we did 600 bags of food plus the check from the employees.

Any final thoughts?

There has been a big, positive, culture shift in the organization within the last three to five years. I think the current management team has identified a lot of areas to improve employee satisfaction. Part of that is doing more community involvement work like this. There has been a lot of work that our marketing and sports med teams have done in the community with the local schools as well.
For me, the sense of community that is being built within the organization makes OOA an enjoyable place to work. I’ve really appreciated their sense of bringing everyone together and getting people involved – not just with OOA and their daily work here – but with our community as well.

Special thanks to:

Advisory Members Donna Bouret, Kaylie Nelson, Christina Potter, Kendra Wright, Robin Adair.
Mickey Ziegler, Mike Flemm, Lindsay Ahrens, and Jennifer Lewis for lending their vehicles, muscles, and time to load and unload all the food.

Also, a big thank you to Matt Webb, David Cooke, Rachel Sherburne and Courtney Scott for their help with inventorying all the donations from the clinics!

Facts & Stats

Cost per bag: $8

Serves middle and high schools in:

  • North Thurston Public Schools
  • Olympia School District
  • Yelm Public Schools
  • Tumwater Public Schools
  • Rochester School District
  • Tenino School District
  • Rainier School District

*They also serve elementary schools in Yelm, Rainier, Tenino and Rochester.

Items included in bag:

  • Tuna (5 oz can)
  • Ravioli (15 oz can)
  • Chili (15 oz can)
  • Milk Box (shelf-stable) (6.75 oz) Both white & chocolate
  • Crunchy Granola Bars (1.5 oz 2 bar pouches)
  • Top Ramen (3 oz. Individual)
  • Individual Snacks (crackers, cookies)
  • Microwave Popcorn (3.29 oz)
  • Instant Oatmeal (individual packets)
  • Easy Mac Packets
  • Zip Lock Bags (sandwich size)
  • Applesauce Cups (4 oz)
  • Peanut Butter Singles (1.5 oz)

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