Building a Culture of Goodwill

Every two weeks 20+ employees at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (Blue Cross) gather together on the Durham campus and find a place on the BackPack Buddies assembly line. Some quickly move towards the milk or vegetable stations while others take on the role of official bag counter, yelling out at every 50 completed until the 300-bag goal is reached.

These workers are not from the company’s Community Relations team, but are volunteers from all different departments across Blue Cross. It’s not a job requirement, but instead a commitment to the surrounding Durham community and a corporate culture that Blue Cross has instilled amongst its employees to take time to spread goodwill.

“It’s amazing how it brings people together for certain causes,” said Blue Cross employee Tynia Barrow. “It means a lot to people to be able to come and help. It brings different areas of our company together.”

The BackPack Buddies/Blue Cross partnership provides bags for 100 students a week at Durham’s YE Smith Elementary School and 50 bags each week to the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Durham. Blue Cross not only packs and delivers but also provides the funding for the six balanced meals in every bag.

Mailroom Clerk Kevin Evans plays a vital role in making this all happen. He is responsible for setting up the packing events and delivering the BackPack bags every Friday to their partner schools: “I do it because I like the feeling of being able to help someone, especially kids in need of food. It’s made me realize that hunger is all around us.”

While it takes an hour or so of an employee’s day, and lots of logistics, the bags are indispensable to the agencies they serve. The social worker at Y.E. Smith Elementary, Bisset Parobek, says, “These bags mean so much to our families who don’t have the ability to buy enough groceries throughout the week, and the school community as a whole cannot thank Blue Cross for their sponsorship and dedication to providing us with this invaluable resource.”

The volunteer effort has had a profound effect on many of the Blue Cross volunteers, forging deeper connections with their neighbors.

“The fact that we need to do this for kids so that they have something to eat on the weekends is very humbling and makes you realize that there is a lot of poverty here and we can all do a little more to help,” said Mary Beth Foil, data analyst at Blue Cross.

The partnership between Blue Cross and BackPack Buddies, started in 2009, enables both organizations to provide support that enriches the Durham community as a whole, the employee experience, and the overall partnership of Blue Cross and IFFS. For more about what Blue Cross does in our community, visit