Most work days, employees at the biopharmaceutical firm EMD Serono are in their offices or labs, researching and creating therapies that extend or save lives.
To offset work responsibilities though, the company encourages its workers to complete 16 hours of community service annually.
And, last Tuesday, May 17, approximately 35 employees from EMD’s research and development offices on Middlesex Turnpike in Billerica were working at the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Billerica, building picnic benches, spreading mulch, and preparing the club’s obstacle course for the spring and summer seasons.
That same day, other EMD employees helped set up interactive and hands-on projects for students at the Hajjar Elementary School STEM Fair.
An EMD spokesperson said the projects at Hajjar were designed to teach the students problem solving and teamwork skills. With EMD’s help, the students learned how to make a robot, about static electricity, and how to design a roller coaster.
Roy Nagy, executive director of the Boys and Girls Club, said that over the past five years, EMD “has been unbelievable to us. They have helped to make the outside space beautiful and highly functional for our kids.”
EMD’s partnership with the Club, Nagy said, began with a $5,000 donation five years ago for a handicapped lift for the swimming pool, and then their “taking ownership of the challenge course in 2013.”
During a break in the work at the Boys and Girls Club, Chris Nesman, EMD senior facilities manager, said May 17 had been designated the annual company-wide community service day, with EMD volunteers working in both Billerica and Rockland, their headquarters.
“We like to support the communities we are in,” said Nesman, who is also a member of the Boys and Girls Club board. He added that the partnership between EMD and the Club began when EMD joined the Billerica Alliance’s Green-Up, Clean-up Project, and it’s been a success ever since.
Dick Ackroyd, unit manager at the Club, praised the 5-year partnership with EMD. “They do a great job; it’s a life saver for us.”
George Lima, EMD’s environmental health and safety manager, and president of the Billerica Alliance, said the EMD crew built the obstacle course for the Club three years ago, and continues to maintain it.
Last week, he said, they were expanding the picnic table area and adding new picnic benches, repairing a paved walkway, and mulching the obstacle course.
They used 30 yards of mulch and 10 tons of pea stone on the projects, he said.
Lima pointed to the crew painting the new picnic benches, and said, “It’s great to be able to give the kids more options for things to do at the Club. Just being able to eat outside is an example.”
Why is the community service project beneficial? Lima said just seeing “hundreds of kids enjoying themselves and being safe” is worth it. Nesman added, with a smile, “We wish we had this when we were kids.”
Lima and Nesman co-coordinated the May 17 project.
Eileen Samy, an EMD scientist, and Natalia Martin, an EMD principal scientist, both agreed it’s great “to think, relax, and do good in the community.” Samy also cited team building, and Martin noted the opportunity to see colleagues outside the office. Both work on lupus research.
EMD lab support staffer Adam Browning said he liked helping the Club complete items on its wish list, and Kim Thomas, a program coordinator in immunology, said the community service day “is awesome. It’s nice to give back to the community, and it’s a great stress reliever for us.”
Jack Conway, an EMD construction project manager, said “Billerica welcomed us (EMD) with open arms, and it’s nice to give back now.”
According to its website, EMD Serono is “committed to improving the lives of our patients by developing breakthrough solutions in our therapeutic areas of focus.” The company’s portfolio includes seven marketed biotech products. It has developed drugs to treat cancer, multiple sclerosis, lupus, osteoarthritis, and infertility.
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