Lessons in Leadership: C&A’s Spirit of Service

The few weeks before Christmas are my favorite time of year. I love that people are full of cheer, the city is beautifully lit, and classic songs and movies play around the clock. Best of all is the atmosphere of giving and spirit of service. Hearing the ring of a bell and the clink of spare change hitting a cold bucket outside every store makes even the coldest winter nights a little warmer.

People and companies give particularly generously during the holiday season, but this dwindles as the lights come down and the snow starts to melt. Giving should not be seasonal, as it shapes values and affects organizations internally and externally. Guided by a strong mission and culture, C&A Industries goes above and beyond in service, touching lives regardless of the time of year.

As C&A Industries has experienced significant growth as a leader in the staffing industry, it has hired more great people who are excited about the company’s values. This surge in size has been a key component in developing a giving culture and serving the community more than ever before. Craig Wolf, Vice President and General Manager of Aureus Medical Group, said, “We have been very successful on the business side of C&A but our organizational philosophy is that we do not feel and will not feel like a successful company unless we’re giving back to our community.” In the late 1990s, Wolf helped pioneer the AurElves holiday giving program that nearly all 500 in-house employees are involved with today.

The organization’s commitment to being a leader in community service starts with the leadership team. Liz Hall, Executive Director of Training and Development, operates on a service-oriented approach to leadership in and outside of the office and encourages others to do the same. “If you are truly a leader,” she said, “you’re there to serve. It’s not about you; it’s about others.”

This spirit of service is rooted in the company’s generous founders, Larry and Kathy Courtnage. A lifelong proponent of giving back, Larry Courtnage saw an opportunity to invest in improving the community’s mental health and founded The Kim Foundation, a not-for-profit organization that has had a profound impact on advocacy and awareness in the community. Julia Hebenstreit, Executive Director of The Kim Foundation, is proud of how the organization has affected people and is excited to keep developing it as a unique leader in the community.

When I sat down with Hebenstreit, she described the serious, hands-on role The Kim Foundation plays in working with individuals impacted by mental health and connecting them to resources they need. She placed huge emphasis on the power of talking about the sensitive topic of mental health that society tends to bury. “We feel like it’s an important [conversation] to have, but also a very difficult one,” she added, “We see ourselves as a key player in starting that conversation and breaking down some of the myths that surround mental health.”

Affecting one in four people, mental health certainly impacts our community, and The Kim Foundation has taken action on a variety of levels. In addition to raising awareness and starting tough conversations, the nonprofit awards grants to outstanding service providers in the community. Additionally, it has been active in moving along key mental health related legislation to prepare Nebraska for community based programming, manage rates to uphold services, and train educational professionals on suicide prevention for students in the community.

C&A’s connection to The Kim Foundation has allowed both organizations to play a crucial role in affecting the community on a deeper level. Experiencing the devotion and encouragement of the company’s values inspires me to serve because C&A Industries stands tall as a leader that addresses the community’s needs and make every season a time to give.

LibbyStevensonLibby Stevenson is a junior at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, majoring in Psychology and Leadership Education. She is working on projects in Training and Development for the second year with the C&A Industries Skills for Success Internship Program before leaving to study in Spain for two months. Libby is passionate about leadership, community service, and travel, and loves spending time with her friends and family.

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