Making a Difference
Kelli Byrd steps up to coordinate Reinhart’s ‘Season of Service’ events in Johnson City, Tenn.
When it comes to supporting her community, words alone aren’t enough for Kelli Byrd. Born and raised in northeast Tennessee, the sales administrative assistant for Reinhart’s Johnson City facility knows that making a positive difference in people’s lives requires action. So shortly after being hired in 2018, she reached out to the employee engagement committee.
“I went to our leadership and said I feel like we need to be doing more to give back to the community,” she says. “They said, oh do we have an opportunity for you.”
That opportunity was to become coordinator of Johnson City’s local “Season of Service” program, a companywide initiative that provides Reinhart employees an opportunity to give back through organized events twice a year. It was a perfect fit.
“Food scarcity and hunger is a big passion for me,” Byrd explains. “It’s something I studied in college and I care deeply about. In northeast Tennessee about 13 percent of our population is food insecure, and that percentage is even higher when you consider more vulnerable populations like children, seniors and veterans.”
She soon found that she wasn’t alone in her desire to help. With the company’s long history of charitable works, her new office was already filled with eager volunteers ready to build upon their past efforts.
While “Season of Service” events vary, most conveniently fall right within Byrd’s area of interest.
“We’re a food company, so we try to focus our charitable efforts on alleviating hunger, and here in Johnson City that historically means helping at our local food bank in Kingsport,” she says. “It’s a one-day event, but for the six weeks leading up to the date we hold a canned food drive.”
Volunteers need to be flexible, as the work takes all forms.
“We walk in and ask, what do you need?” Byrd says. “We’ve sorted produce. We’ve sorted canned goods. We’ve packed backpacks with nonperishable food for school children who are identified as being food scarce to take home and eat over the weekend.”
And while the work’s not easy, volunteers always enjoy taking part.
“I love to see our team coming together, and there’s an interesting cross section of people who volunteer,” she says. “People who don’t get to interact with each other often spend three or four hours together packing food, and we always have a good time.”
For its most recent “Season of Service” event, the Johnson City division selected a charity whose work supports millions across the country.
“We’re doing something a little different and agreed to participate in American Cancer Society’s [‘Making Strides’] breast cancer walk because so many people are affected by it,” Byrd explains about the event that took place last October.
Whether she’s working with food pantries, walking for a cure, or helping out in some other way, Byrd always finds meaning in the company’s charitable efforts.
“I love being able to give back, and I love it when our employees tell me that helping out made them feel good,” she says. “It’s something that, from the beginning, told me that I worked for a good company.”