It was on a mission trip to Malawi that Sydnee Crews, leader customer care and energy assistance, first found herself captivated with volunteerism. During the day, her team taught English to locals, provided basic medical care and were physically building a new church building. At night they slept in tents beneath a bright blanket of stars.
Over time, Sydnee’s volunteerism has continued, expanding into varied causes, coalesced around social justice issues: homelessness, LGBTQ issues, women’s rights (particularly women of color) and numerous other causes. Sydnee has helped build houses with Habitat for Humanity and partnered with Kaleidoscope Youth Center — Ohio’s only LGBTQ center for youth and their allies. She also recently became an Ambassador for Zora’s House, a co-working space for women of color to connect and engage with each other and their wider communities.
Sydnee’s drive to serve the underserved extends deep into her belief system. When asked what motivates her she replied, “Love — in an expansive way. A love for humanity.” She was quick to add that anger is also a powerful motivator, but that she’s only angry out of her deep love for people. “Anger is definitely there, but love is the bigger motivator. When you boil down anger, there’s really just a lot of love and lot of grief. Grief for how the world works.”
Now Sydnee is focused on people who are often overlooked, particularly black women and the LGBT community saying, “Homelessness, hunger and youth causes get a lot of support. My focus now is on people who may not be hungry or homeless, but still have a lot of need.”
Sydnee brings her passion and love for people to work at NiSource through volunteering and through the employee resource group she helped found: NiPRIDE.
NiPRIDE exists to recruit, retain, develop and support LGBTQ employees and allies by fostering a safe and inclusive environment while furthering the spirit of diversity and inclusion. The group meets weekly and continues to grow and representatives from all over our footprint will be marching in Pride parades this month.
“In terms of LGBT inclusion, NiSource is doing a good job of starting a conversation,” Sydnee said. "When we started NiPRIDE, we weren’t sure how it would be received, but it’s been great.”
And she knows that those efforts to include diverse voices will pay off.
“If we’re diligent and continue to include more and more diversity of thought, we will see and feel the benefits of the inclusive environment we’re creating,” she said. She also believes that these benefits won’t just help employees work better together, it will also help the customers they serve. “The more diversity of thought we have as a company, the better equipped we’ll be to serve our customers.”
Volunteering and a focus on inclusion and diversity come from the same root — a compassionate heart.
Our employees are active in the communities throughout the year, but this June is our first ever Volunteer Blitz — a month to come together as a company in support of the important services provided by local non-profit organizations. Employees submit their volunteer hours to our Dollars for Doers program, which recognizes employee volunteerism by donating $20 per hour for volunteer time, up to 25 hours per year.
Volunteering comes as naturally to Sydnee as breathing, but what if someone hasn’t volunteered before or is nervous? Sydnee’s advice: Find a cause that has meaning for you, grab a friend who has volunteered and get started.