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Team Upstate celebrates 20 years of service

They’ve walked, ran, donated toys, books, clothes and food, raised money for cancer and cardiac research, assisted at health fairs and festivals, painted faces and homes, fed the hungry, raked and pulled weeds.

Almost every weekend, especially during Syracuse’s nicer weather, a throng of Upstate employees and students identified by their Team Upstate T-shirts can be found doing good around town.

Service always has been a hallmark of Upstate’s mission, after all it is the area’s largest employer, but 20 years ago it strengthened its community service outreach with the introduction of Team Upstate.

The push to identify Upstate’s beneficence with the Team Upstate moniker paid off as it fielded the largest teams of various walks and runs, like the annual Heart Walk.

“Team Upstate was formed in 2003 to gauge the extent of Upstate’s participation in volunteer opportunities,” said Team Upstate Committee Chair, Zanette Howe. “But a by-product of the introduction of Team Upstate was that it galvanized our volunteer efforts at Upstate and in the community, and reinforced that Upstate Medical University comprises many caring individuals who want to improve the quality of life for others.

“We were always out and about, but now we were more unified in our service to others,” Howe said.

Soon after word was out about Team Upstate, calls came in from everywhere to see if Team Upstate could volunteer for area charities and service organizations.

“And we did,” Howe said. “We showed up in our Team Upstate T-shirts with our volunteer spirit and spent mornings and afternoons supporting other good-deed doers in the community.”

Howe credits many employees and Upstate leadership for supporting Team Upstate’s efforts, which have expanded over the two decades of service.

Upstate’s Center for Civic Engagement, which supports student outreach, regularly works with Team Upstate ensuring that all of the university’s outreach efforts no matter who’s doing them find support, such as the students’ Rescue Mission clinic for foot care, among others.

One of the more recent endeavors for Team Upstate is the support for The United Way of Central New York’s Emerging Leaders United program at Upstate. The program is supported by young employees who “demonstrate leadership by helping make lasting change” in the community. Close to 30 Upstate employees are involved in Emerging Leaders United (ELU).  The group’s co-chair, Matthew Capogreco says the program provides “the ability to showcase the good work Upstate brings to the community.

ELU members have done exhaustive service, including supporting UWCNY’s Day of Caring, the Salvation Army Christmas Bureau, monthly work with the Samaritan Center and Sarah’s Guest House.
Another highlight of Team Upstate’s history is the Your Cause program, which encourages Upstate employees and students to nominate a local non-profit organization whose mission is in line with the mission of Upstate. The selected organization is featured as Team Upstate’s “Your Cause” partner for the year and receives support for events and outreach.

Since its inception, Your Cause has benefited agencies, such as the Rescue Mission Emergency Youth and Runaway Shelter, In My Father’s Kitchen, Clear Path for Veterans, OnPoint for College, Chadwick Residence, and most recently Sarah’s Guest House.

Accolades to Team Upstate include the Exceptional Corporate Volunteer award presented by the Corporate Volunteer Council and the United Way Spirit of Caring Volunteer Service award, among others.

“The recognition is nice, but the greatest thrill for us is being out in the community giving our time and treasure to make someone’s day a little brighter,” Howe said.

Caption: The Team Upstate Heart Walk team at the SRC Arena in 2019.