StratEx Serves: United Way

“We rise by lifting others” – Robert Ingersoll

Whew. We made it. The “most wonderful time of the year” is behind us. Also known as: “The busiest and most stressful time of the year.” It’s so easy to get caught up in the busyness. Gifts to buy, ship and wrap. Special food that needs to be bought, prepared and baked. Parties and get-togethers with friends and family. B.U.S.Y.

Then, there’s our work at StratEx. HR. Payroll. Benefits. This time of year defines “busy” for this kind of work. In fact, there can be a feeling of initiation for first-timers and a lasting camaraderie of “surviving” Year-End at StratEx. We simply wouldn’t be successful without every StratExian pitching in and working hard to get everything ready for our clients’ new years.

It’d be understandable if we just kept our heads down, focused on the work, and pushed through.

And yet… we choose to take the time to look up and out. We choose to break through the busyness and focus in a way that puts things into perspective.

StratEx Serves: United Way

In honor of the holiday season, our StratEx Serves program was lead by one of our Shared Resource Specialists, Kira Gavigan, to team up with the United Way of Metropolitan Chicago for their annual holiday gift drive. Through the United Way, we were given the opportunity to participate in their Adopt-a-Family program to help a family in need this holiday season.

We were honored to gather winter coats, hats, gloves and scarves for the two adults and three children in our adopted family. We also included gift cards for the adults, clothes, books, and crayons for the children, and a doll for our family’s 6 year-old girl.


Once all of the items were gathered, Kira, Alyssa Garza (Benefits Administrator) and Madeline McDonnell (HR Account Manager), dropped them off at United Way. In mid-December, our adopted family was one of 400 families that United Way was able to provide with gifts.

Kira Gavigan and Madeline McDonnell dropping off gifts for our adopted family.

According to the United Way:

“Our Adopt-a-Family program supports families in need in Brighton Park, Cicero and Robbins/Blue Island. This year, 2,016 individuals received gifts ranging from clothing, to kitchen wear to bicycles. We distributed the gifts to families in each neighborhood during festive holiday parties.”

Kira shared this about the experience:

“Adopt-a-family has been a cause that’s near and dear to my heart since I was child helping pick out gifts for others in my hometown. I can’t imagine anything as sad a little boy or girl waking up on Christmas with no presents, through no fault of their own.

I was really touched by the generosity of so many people at StratEx. It made me proud to work for a company with so many people who genuinely care about making a positive impact in the world around us, and taking action to follow through. There’s a line from Robert Ingersoll that has been repeated over and over in my house growing up, “We rise by lifting others.” I am excited to work at a company that clearly exemplifies this.”

Me too, Kira.

Cheers to a prosperous New Year from StratEx!

Dear StratExians… a letter from Adam

My fellow StratExians,

As I slowly come out of the fog of the surprise election results, I awake with a new vigor that a vote without action is not good enough.

skyline-office-viewWhen I sit in my office, looking out at beautiful views of the city we call home, Chicago, I am left with a strong conviction that being a citizen of this amazing city has certain civic responsibilities. As I read that the murder rate has gone from a sad number to an unconscionable one, I realize that reading about it, watching it on TV and talking about it while we shake our heads in disbelief is NOT ENOUGH. This is not a West Side or South Side problem, this is a Chicago problem.

We are left with a few hard choices: pack up our bags and move away from the violence around us, complain about it and hope somebody will do something, or get involved, speak up and give back.

When we started StratEx Serves, it was under the guise of action through volunteerism. One of the many things I love about StratEx is our sense of community and our desire to make a difference, not only in the product and service we deliver to our clients, but by giving back in our community.

I honestly don’t know what to do; however, I know that we all need to get involved and do something.

One thought that has remained persistent for me is that with hope and belief that one’s life has value, a person is probably less likely to be involved in gangs or gun related activities. When opportunities are afforded to each person that allows them to have a slice of the American dream, that is one way to break the cycle.

I believe there is a strong parallel between the hopelessness that a suicide bomber feels in the Middle East that allows them to come to the decision to strap explosives on their body, and the despair and lack of opportunity that some of our inner-city youth feel that takes them to the point where they engage in gun-related vendettas.

When that hopelessness and despair become overwhelming, one might feel their life has no value — so they engage in reckless activity. Perhaps, my fellow StratExians, one answer is providing more opportunities to those who don’t see any. Perhaps this means getting more involved in after-school programs, mentoring teenagers, becoming involved in a Big Brother/Big Sister program while at the same time insisting that our city and nation make it harder to have access to assault rifles and other weapons of destruction.

I am open to your ideas. And I will lead by example. I will stand up and be heard. We can and must do our part to make our city safe for all of us. Otherwise, the alternative is to talk and complain or pack up and move. I don’t know about you, but I don’t quit and I don’t give up. Those are words that are not in my vocabulary and lessons I do not want to teach my children…

Humbly submitted,

StratEx Serves: Gilda’s Club

Gene Wilder died yesterday. When I saw his name trending on Twitter, I cringed as clicked on it, hoping that wasn’t the news.

WilderRadnerOf course, he was the original (and best) Willy Wonka, but one thing many may not remember or know is that he was once married to the effervescent Gilda Radner. Gilda was one of the original cast members of Saturday Night Live, well-known for her characters ‘Rosanne Rosannadanna’ and ‘Emily Litella’ among others. She won an Emmy award for her work on SNL, and to this day, remains one of the most beloved cast members of all-time.

Gilda was diagnosed in 1986 with ovarian cancer. She once said that cancer gave her “membership to an elite club I’d rather not belong to”. She died in 1989 at the age of 42, with Gene by her side.

In her honor, Gene co-founded the nonprofit “Gilda’s Club” in 1991, which provides free support for those affected by cancer– both those with cancer, and those that love and care for someone with cancer. Support groups, counseling, education and a sense of community are provided, “so that no one has to face cancer alone”.

StratEx Serves

When a new employee starts at StratEx, I create a quick introduction of them and email it out company-wide. It’s one of my favorite parts of my job. To tease out the details for the intro, I ask them some questions and reference their resume. One thing that is present on nearly every resume I receive: volunteer work. Almost every single StratExian has a heart for volunteering.

StratEx ServesWe knew this was an area where our company should follow the lead of our employees. We are proud to announce our new initiative: StratEx Serves.

Gilda’s Club of Chicago was an easy choice for the focus of our first StratEx Serves event.

This nonprofit is especially important to two StratExians, so they knew that one service that Gilda’s Club offers is art therapy. For two weeks in July and August, we held a drive for arts and crafts supplies to be donated directly to Gilda’s Club of Chicago. We didn’t know what to expect, so we set an initial goal of 50 items.

Happy to report: Goal exceeded!

GlidasClubAGCWe estimate we gathered more than 175 arts and crafts items. These were dropped of at Gilda’s Club of Chicago by Madeline McDonnell, one of our HR Account Managers and Gretchen Van Vlymen, our VP of Account Management.

We look forward to following the lead of our fellow StratExians again and again to serve our community through StratEx Serves.

Rest in peace, Mr. Wilder, and thank you for your work.