Outstanding Aramark Volunteer Honored for Leadership
Jun 1, 2014 2:00 PM ET
Campaign: Aramark Building Community
Debbie Breclaw believes that volunteerism is contagious.“Once you do it, you don’t want to stop,” she says.
A dedicated 22-year Aramark veteran, Breclaw was named an Aramark 2014 Outstanding Volunteer for her volunteer leadership, passion for service, and commitment to more than a dozen nonprofit organizations.
Breclaw, who started her career in Refreshment Services before moving to Business Dining more than eight years ago, heads the Chicago Star Team. In that role, Breclaw leads Aramark Building Community in Chicago, and manages our local partnership with Casa Central, the largest Hispanic social service agency in the Midwest.
She was first inspired to help others by her father, an avid volunteer. She and her father worked side-by-side at Bridges, an organization in northern Indiana that assists those with mental disabilities, and she continues her work there today.
Sadly, Breclaw lost her father when she was a young girl, and he was only 36. At the time, her mother told her young daughter that as difficult as it was for her family to lose him, there is always someone who is struggling more. It was at that moment, Breclaw said, that she decided to take her volunteerism to the next level, and volunteer as often as she possibly could, for as many organizations that needed her.
As she continued her volunteer work through high school and into her early career, she found she had an affinity for helping those who were physically unable to do as much as others, which is reflected in many of the nonprofits she is affiliated with. Being part of Aramark, she said, has allowed her to not only continue her own contribution, but also to rally others to get involved.
“It’s a great company,” she said. “Not only the people and the job…this organization has afforded me the opportunity to do something I love to do. Aramark has always embraced volunteerism, and it’s why I’m still here today. Not every company is as committed to the community as we are.”
Under her leadership, the Chicago Star Team has impacted more than 7,000 families. On Global Volunteer Day in March 2014, for example, Debbie organized more than 200 volunteers, who gave nearly 1,800 total hours in a single day, to “inspire kids to be healthy for life.” She coordinated a group of dietitians and chefs to host healthy cooking demonstrations, and team members created healthy snack packs, built new community produce gardens, and so much more. It’s a role she relishes, in part because she knows that once employees get involved in volunteering with the team, they’ll continue.
“I see the people from multiple lines of business, who have never met before, come together. When they are volunteering, especially when they are with children, it’s like they have known each other forever. It creates an amazing bond.”
Her volunteer work extends to more than a dozen nonprofit organizations. After a friend’s son was treated at a hospital for a childhood illness, she founded the Treasure Chest Foundation, which offers baskets of gifts to children who are hospital bound. The foundations has since grown to 30 hospitals throughout Illinois and is now being adapted for hospitals in Wisconsin.
Breclaw is also heavily involved with Almost Home for Kids, which provides transitional care for children with complicated health needs, plus training and respite care to help their families. Additionally, she supports ARC of Indiana, working with people who have intellectual and developmental disabilities and with St. John Garden Club and Purdue University, helping beautify the neighborhoods. She sits on The Board of Directors of the Chicago Chamber of Commerce.
Despite her 24/7/365 schedule, Breclaw dreams of doing more, and has already planned her retirement. A certified master gardener, she plans to work with nonprofit organizations that serve the mentally handicapped, and develop a program that allows clients to create take-home planters they can nurture and grow.