Orange County Register
Church's Kingdom Assignment spreads to private business
O.C. business owner gives workers $50 each to multiply to help others.
Friday, March 20, 2009
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What would you do if your boss gave you $50 and told you to go do something good with it?
That's the assignment Bob Brumleu gave his employees at Omni Duct, an Anaheim manufacturer, in 2007.
His assignment is familiar to many local Christians whose churches have implemented the Kingdom Assignment, started as a lesson in stewardship by Denny Bellesi in 2000 when he was pastor of Coast Hills Community Church in Aliso Viejo. He's now head of Kingdom Assignment International in Lake Forest that has spread the project worldwide.
Brumleu is one of seven Southern California Christian business owners who Bellesi asked to move the project into the workplace under the name On Assignment.
"We have a lot of faith-based people in business who wanted to be able to influence their people through values they hold and not in a proselytizing way," Bellesi said. "If this works in a church, it can work in a business."
Omni Duct's results illustrate what one business can do when the owner and employees seek to live out the company's core values. At Omni Duct, those values are integrity, caring and stewardship.
"It has bothered me over the years that the employees who create the ability for me to give back to the community don't get to share the joy I get out of giving," Brumleu explained.
On Assignment gave him a chance to share.
It is based on the New Testament parable of the talents in which individuals are entrusted with something of value with the expectation that they will multiply it.
At a company meeting, Brumleu handed each employee a 50-dollar bill - $6,500 total – with three rules:
• It's not your money; it's money your company has entrusted in you.
• The money is to be invested in some cause, purpose or group outside the company about which you have a passion.
• In three months, report back what happened.
"It didn't have to be religious," Brumleu said. "As a Christian, I was trusting them to make the decisions."
Employees worked in teams, based on their jobs. Participation was voluntary. Only one refused.
"You get this $50 and the sense of responsibility weighs on you. At first it's overwhelming," said Omar Vazquez, part of the 18-member customer service team. "
Credit manager Lillian Sanchez, said her initial reaction was to hand it off to someone else. "I would give 1,001 excuses but as we brainstormed, my mind started changing toward finding ways to get it done."
Her group of six decided to work with the Free Wheelchair Mission that helps the disabled in third world countries. Each wheelchair costs $45. The group set a goal of leveraging their $300 into 50 chairs.
The group suggested asking customers and friends to participate. "I said, 'I'm the credit manager; I don't have friends!'" Sanchez said.
But when she explained the project to a few customers, "I was amazed. They embraced it. One donated two wheelchairs; another donated four."
Sanchez bought candy at a discount and sold it at work to raise money. Teammate Belinda Bofferding baked cookies and cupcakes. The quietest employee involved her whole family in making bead bracelets that her nieces sold at their work.
When they reached 50 donated chairs, the group realized they still had many resources to tap so they kept going.
Toward the end Sanchez dressed up in a padded sumo wrestler costume and danced the Macarena for a donation of 10 wheelchairs.
The group's final donation was 110 chairs.
"It brought us closer," Sanchez said. "It gave customers first hand knowledge that we live our values. It changed my perspective on life."
She later went with Free Wheelchair Mission to hand out wheelchairs in Peru.
Vazquez's group decided to raise $3,000 to pay for the foundation and installation of playground equipment that had been donated to Orangewood Children's Home.
They organized a bowling tournament and a barbecue. Each member asked customers for donations of food or prizes.
They turned their $900 into $3,700.
In the midst of the playground equipment project, a team member's brother died in an accident leaving two young children. The group decided to give the extra money to the widow for groceries and necessities, Vazquez said.
Other teams helped an Arizona Indian reservation, a camp for abused children and a project that enabled terminally ill children to visit Disneyland.
At the end of the three months, Omni Duct employees had leveraged their $6,500 into $20,303 and involved more than 1,200 other people in their projects.
"I think the most pleasant surprise," Brumleu said, "was the positive impact it had on teamwork and camaraderie. There was no downside."
Bellesi explained, "It's meant to be a stewardship lesson, an empowering lesson. Most people don't get involved because they are intimidated. They think they don't know enough.
"Many companies already give to their communities. Usually they write a check, but their greatest resource is their people. Why not take a slice of that money and empower your people to multiply it?"
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