A gift for the future Featured

9:47am EDT July 22, 2002

Unicare Corp. understands the power of giving. Executives there know that urging their employees to tutor grade school students can change the lives of both the children and their workers.

In fact, Unicare pays each of its employees to spend a portion of their week volunteering in the community.

As a health care reimbursement company, Unicare comes in contact with many people who need help in its everyday business dealings. The company often helps find health care coverage for the uninsured and assistance for the hungry or poor through local organizations.

In 1993, it established a nonprofit organization to take this commitment a step further. The Unicare Family Foundation was created to help low-income families beyond its own client population with the purchase of prescription medications. Since then, the company has contributed $72,000 to the fund, which has provided prescription assistance to more than 1,000 people.

But Unicare is doing more than setting money aside for charity work. Through the community outreach arm of the company, it works closely with organizations striving to make long-term community improvements.

“We want to do things out in the community that will make a big difference in the long run,” says Bob Graff, Unicare’s community outreach coordinator. “As we started community outreach, the idea was more around getting our associates involved in the community and creating good will as a part of individual and corporate citizenship.

“I think what has happened over the past three years, since we’ve formalized our community outreach position, is we realized a lot of the social issues need more of a long-term solution and that is more and more of our focus.”

Unicare is actively involved with the Coalition for Greater Cleveland’s Children, and is the only business that has a seat at the table during the coalition’s bi-monthly meetings. Graff says the hands-on role the company plays allows it a clear view of what issues shape the state of the community, and where long-term improvements need to be made.

“We’ve chosen to become actively involved in subcommittees so we can learn what the issues are and the things that have to happen in the community to improve the lives of all children,” says Graff. “You get one type of impact by touching one child at a time through tutoring, you get another impact by taking on the long-term issues.”

Graff’s hope is that Unicare’s involvement in bringing change through helping other organizations will afford the company’s employees the opportunity to look back in a decade and see the evidence of their efforts.

“It’s sometimes the more long-term issues which may not provide you with the immediate satisfaction, but when you look at the part you’ve played for those organizations, it does feel good,” says Graff. “It’s something we struggle with, but we want to look back in 10 years and say, ‘This is the difference we’ve made.’”

How to reach: Unicare Corp, (216) 431-5200

Jim Vickers (jvickers@sbnnet.com) is an associate editor at SBN.