Oct 3rd 2013
By Deanna C. White
As a CPA, Susan Roher of Virginia Beach, Virginia, is used to watching over people, guarding and gently guiding them in the right direction on their journey to a safe financial future.
But on September 20, Roher, a member of the Virginia Society of CPAs (VSCPA), helped steer an entirely different type of "clientele" into safe waters.
Roher, and her fellow volunteers, participated in a turtle-nest sitting at the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia Beach.
The volunteers watched over the nest of sea turtle eggs overnight and when dawn broke, helped the sea turtle hatchlings make their scramble to the sea – avoiding predators along the way.
For Roher, it was a chance to step out of the office and outside her everyday duties as a CPA to demonstrate her ongoing commitment to her community, the local ecology, and see something amazing about the place where she lives and works.
"When one of the hatchlings emerged, we transported him from the protected 'nursery' site to the high water line on the beach and watched him follow the moonlight into the sea," Roher said. "It was cool watching him take his first steps."
This September, Roher was just one of thousands of public accountants from state CPA societies across the country who tossed their spreadsheets aside to paint dorms at local women's shelters, tutor kids at the Boys and Girls Club, and serve countless meals to the hungry and homeless during the annual CPA Day of Service.
CPA societies in Illinois, Virginia, Indiana, North Carolina, and, for the first time, Idaho and Ohio, provided the impetus for firms and individuals nationwide to take part in this year's annual CPA Day of Service. Individual CPAs and firms chose their own service opportunity for an organization of their choice, while the state societies promoted the event through registration sites, T-shirts, buttons, and help with publicity.
"The CPA Day of Service is a unique program that allows CPAs to band together to serve the communities in which we work, play, and raise families," said Todd Shapiro, Illinois CPA Society (ICPAS) president and CEO. "The collective efforts show a great spirit and compassion for our communities and the people who live in them."
The VSCPA was one of the first state CPA societies to jump on the volunteerism bandwagon when it hosted its first CPA Day of Service in 2009. Jamie Walker, CPA, partner at Walker Chaney in Glen Allen, Virginia, and past chair of the VSCPA, was one of the key players in initiating Virginia's CPA Day of Service in 2009.
"Often, CPAs are pigeonholed as the treasurer of an organization," Walker said in a 2011 interview. "But they have so much depth and breadth about them; they have so much more to offer. It is very important as individuals and citizens to give back and for the CPA community to step out of what they would normally do."
This year, for example, more than 350 Virginia CPAs representing more than forty firms volunteered at a variety of indoor and outdoor service projects benefitting Virginia. They played bingo with patients in the rehabilitation center at the Lake Taylor Transitional Care Hospital in Norfolk, tutored adults in reading and writing at the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia, and helped the Loudoun County Area Agency on Aging host a sock hop for seniors at the Senior Center of Leesburg.
Chris Tilley, a CPA from Sterling, Virginia, was already looking for a way to help his community when the event popped up on his radar. He said the CPA Day of Service provided him the perfect opportunity and motivation to take the leap. Tilley signed up for training classes to teach adults how to read and write through the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia.
"I really want to thank the CPA Day of Service for motivating me. This volunteer opportunity was very flexible, and this was a very worthwhile cause," Tilley said.
North Carolina Association of CPAs (NCACPA) Marketing Specialist Hannah McCain said North Carolina's inaugural CPA Day of Service, held in 2012, was so successful, the association decided to make it an annual event.
This year, more than 2,220 CPAs and volunteers participated in the NCACPA's second annual CPA Day of Service, which benefitted more than seventy organizations throughout the state. North Carolina volunteers cooked meals for families at the Winston-Salem and Charlotte Ronald McDonald houses; played kickball with kids and cleaned conference rooms at the Alexander Youth Network in Charlotte; and secured fencing and built temporary grazing pastures at the Corral Riding Academy in Cary, a nonprofit that works with neglected and abused horses and at-risk teenage girls.
North Carolina volunteers also donated shoes to students in need at Battleground Elementary School in Lincolnton, where school officials say 99 percent of their families are living in poverty. School Principal Jim Heffner said words just can't express the joy on a child's face when he or she receives a desperately needed pair of shoes.
"On behalf of our entire school community, I want to thank you for sponsoring the CPA Day of Service and for providing badly needed shoes for our children," Heffner told the NCACPA volunteers. "I wish you could see their faces when we put their new shoes on. Your efforts have made a lot of families happy today."
CPAs from the ICPAS also continued their strong tradition of giving when they celebrated their fourth annual CPA Day of Service this September. More than 1,000 Illinois CPAs wearing blue CPA Day of Service T-shirts volunteered in villages, towns, and cities – from Carbondale to Chicago and from Quincy to Danville. Accounting firms and individual accountants organized their efforts to give back to their favorite charitable organizations, including Clearbrook (which assists people with disabilities), the Northern Illinois Food Bank, and Feed My Starving Children. Volunteers also spruced up Millennium Park and Touhy-Herbert Park in Chicago. Approximately 120 community and nonprofit organizations were served.
David Shatkowski, vice president of communications for the Indiana CPA Society (INCPAS), said the INCPAS celebrated its tenth annual CPA Day of Service this year. The INCPAS was the first society to celebrate a CPA Day of Service when it hosted its first event in 2003. Indiana has served as the model for many state societies that now participate in the event.
Shatkowski said 339 volunteers helped out at thirty-two locations across Indiana, including the B & O Trail Rails-to-Trails in Indianapolis; Roscoe's Rescue, Inc., an animal rescue in Richmond; and JA in a Day with Junior Achievement in South Bend.
The INCPAS produced its first video chronicling this year's CPA Day of Service. You can view the video on the society's YouTube channel.
Maureen L. Holman, CPA, Idaho Society of CPAs (ISCPA) director of the Southeast region of Idaho, said the ISCPA Board's new president encouraged them to create a statewide service project effort. On September 19, ISCPA launched its first CPA Day of Service – fanning out across the state to help a diverse array of nonprofits in their own backyards.
The Ohio Society of CPAs (OSCPA) held its service day in June to avoid any altruistic "competition" with its financial literacy programs, which are held in November. More than 100 Ohio CPAs and their coworkers turned out for the event, which benefited twelve community organizations.
CPA Mark Schutter, chief investment officer with the Miller-Valentine Group in Dayton who volunteered at United Rehabilitation Services, said he will definitely be back for the OSCPA's second CPA Day of Service because he knows just one day of volunteering made so many positive changes in his community, and in him as well.
"You can tell you made a difference in people's lives just by the smiles on their faces," Schutter said. "And, I'll tell you one thing. After today, I'll be a better professional, a better adviser, and a better parent as well."
For more information on projects conducted at this year's various CPA Day of Service events visit:
- Idaho CPAs Host Inaugural Day of Service
- Ohio Society of CPAs Seeks Volunteers for First CPA Day of Service
- CPAs Foster Selfless Service