By Deanna C. White
When you walk into the vestibule of most public accounting firms you are likely to be greeted with the same décor - a lone potted plant tucked into the corner or an austere empty space serving as the backdrop for the firm's placard emblazoned on the wall.
But that isn't the case at Kessler, Orlean, Silver and Company, PC (KOS) in Deerfield, Illinois. Instead visitors have been greeted with a drop box jammed with gently used hockey and lacrosse sticks, rollerblades, baseball gloves, and the errant nine iron - all waiting to be donated to the Sports Shed, a Chicago-area organization that provides sporting equipment to children in need.
That final drop box, one of six collected by KOS employees over the past twelve weeks, will be picked up Friday, September 21 - the annual CPA Day of Service.
It's a day when thousands of accountants from CPA societies across the country will put down their tablets and pick up everything from paintbrushes to rakes to spatulas and volunteer in their communities.
"Our effort is a little different from many of the firms' Day of Service activities, which ask employees to go out into the community and have direct contact an organization, like a food bank, on the actual Day of Service, but we are still doing something very tangible for the community," said Geoff Harlow, CPA, tax partner at KOS. "It's a good feeling to know you're helping underprivileged kids participate in activities that they might not have had the opportunity to participate in before."
And, Harlow says, he hopes the firm's donations to Sports Shed will have more than a fleeting impact. "I'm a firm believer in the fact that you build a wall brick by brick," Harlow said. "Hopefully, this might turn into a lifelong hobby for some of them."
CPA societies in Illinois, Virginia, Indiana, and North Carolina are providing the impetus for firms and individuals nationwide to take part in the CPA Day of Service Friday, September 21. Individual CPAs and firms will choose their own service opportunity for an organization of their choice, while the state societies promote the event through registration sites, T-shirts, buttons, and help with publicity.
Jamie Walker, CPA, of the Walker Consulting Group in Glen Allen, Virginia, and past chair of the Virginia Society of Certified Public Accountants (VSCPA) was one of the key players in initiating Virginia's CPA Day of Service in 2009.
"Often, certified public accountants are pigeonholed as the treasurer of an organization," said Walker. "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 700 Virginia CPAs will volunteer at a variety of indoor and outdoor service projects. Some organizations with CPA volunteers include Central Virginia Food Bank; James River Park System; and The Sophie House, a home for single women and children.
Kerri Norment, CPA, and her colleagues at Witt Mares in Richmond, PLC, Virginia, will walk and groom dogs and clean cages at BARK (Bandit's Adoption and Rescue of K-9s) a local shelter that rescues orphaned or abandoned pets and other adoptable dogs from animal shelters in the Richmond area.
"BARK is a great organization that rescues the abandoned and abused, many at the last minute just before they are euthanized," Norment said. "I've volunteered there for several years, but now I'm absolutely thrilled for the people I work with to go out there and see what great work they do."
Representatives from the Illinois CPA Society (ICPAS), who hosted their inaugural CPA Day of Service in 2010, said participation in the event has been incredibly enthusiastic and the list of diverse organizations local CPAs serve continues to grow. According to ICPAS officials, more than 900 volunteers had registered by Wednesday, September 19, and the phone lines were still deluged with people looking to volunteer.
This year ICPAS volunteers will help students prepare and study for their citizenship exam, compile postcards and care packages for foster youth in college, participate in a junior achievement life skills event, and fill grocery bags at countless food banks across the state, among other activities.
"CPA Day of Service shows that hope can shine through during uncertain times," said Elaine Weiss, ICPAS president and CEO. "With their wide range of skills and big hearts during these still difficult economic times, the efforts of CPAs have a tremendous impact on communities throughout the state."
And, the CPA Day of Service isn't just about helping people achieve a brighter future. For Allison Robinson, CPA, and her colleagues at Burdette, Smith & Bish LLC in Fairfax, Virginia, it's about helping them connect with the past.
This year, Robinson and her colleagues got a jump start on their service by assisting Honor Flight - an all-volunteer organization that flies WWII veterans from across the country to Washington, DC, to visit the World War II Memorial.
It's an emotional experience, Robinson said, for veterans and volunteers alike. "This year there was one gentleman who stopped me in the middle of the WWII memorial and after I took his picture, he got really choked up." Robinson said. "It really means so much to them to know that they're still remembered and still appreciated for their service."
For more information on the CPA Day of Service visit: