Giving back with Keely Respass

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Voices of GoTo: In this series, we highlight the people that make flexible work, work: our employees! GoTo is a global company with more than 4,000 employees worldwide; these are their stories.

One night while on a walk, Keely Respass tries to take a selfie to capture her surroundings. A group of teenage boys nearby notice she is struggling and offer to help. Getting into it, the boys provide artistic direction. As the clock strikes 9:30 p.m., Keely shifts the focus. “It’s a little late for you guys,” Keely says, “what’s going on with school?” The magic question opens Pandora’s box. Over the course of two hours, each group member shares their uncertainty around a career, prompting Keely to give out her email address. Since then, four of the kids have followed up with her. “Too many of our youth are wandering in the world,” Keely says, “and we must show up for them.” Amazed by the exchange, Keely felt on fire.

Keely, walk me through your nearly ten years at GoTo.

I came on board when we were still Citrix; I’m becoming vintage! I started as an Office Operations Manager for the Jersey City office and facilitated us in a move. One of the wonderful parts of my job – that still means so much to me – is that I had an opportunity to plan events and volunteer opportunities. I steered the culture for the Jersey City office and made sure that we were committing to our sixteen hours doing things that truly benefited the Jersey City community. When the Jersey City office closed, my position was gone, but fortunately there were great people that created opportunity. I worked as an Event Producer as a contractor for two years. Now I’m working as a Partner Renewals Representative. When I accepted the role, I had to learn new skills while retraining myself on other skills that I didn’t use over the years. As people we should be in a state of flexibility and adjustment because you never know where life is taking us these days.

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In your own words, what is GoTo Gives?

GoTo Gives is the purpose for the greater good. I work with Amy Wendel and the GoTo Gives team a lot, and it means so much to know that whatever we’re doing within this realm is always with the best intention to help and make an impact on those who need it the most. It’s a very purposed realm of existence and opportunity. It’s also a very sacred place in that you must show up. You can’t just say, ‘I’m a volunteer’ or, ‘I’m just going to write a check.’ You’re going to have to do something. So, this is where you own it, and you’re doing something about it.

What’s your biggest reason for being so involved with GoTo Gives?

Ultimately for me it’s within my value of what I believe. I sincerely say that we have a purpose and responsibility as inhabitants of this planet. Unfortunately, we’re not doing a very good job of taking care of it, but for those of us who know that we can’t simply sit back and say, ‘We’ll wait,’ or, ‘We’re going to complain about the problem,’ it’s a matter of taking responsibility and knowing that it’s not my world, it’s our world, and we must take care of it.

What are some ways that you’ve given your time or resources?

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Being on the board of the Rotary Club I raise funds for anything and everything. Right now, one of our key projects focuses on mothers – and their newborns – who are having challenges accessing formula and education. I’ve been a court-appointed special advocate for kids in foster care and was sworn in front of a judge under the state of New Jersey to protect, care for, and monitor three children. I’ve also had the opportunity to offer career development work at New Jersey University, like putting together mentorship workshops for kids that are unsure of their career or need assistance defining their goals in life. I let them know that as adults, we’re all scared and confused, and we figure it out as we go.

What advice would you give to people who want to do more, but feel like they can’t?

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What are you passionate about? Do you love trees? Children? Flowers? You can incorporate whatever you like into some form of volunteer work. I promote opportunities on my social media channels and see if anyone is interested because that’s where it begins. I’m organizing a career day that focuses on interview skills – virtual, on the phone, or live. I coached my friend’s daughter, and it was a great thing that I did because it would not have been a good experience for her had she not practiced; she got the job! If you know that there is a need for something, you must step up. If you want to engage, then the only thing you must do is to do it. There’s no magic trick or formula. You don’t need a grant from The Rockefeller Foundation. When we receive gifts, it’s super important for us to pay them forward as well. For example, I did a sparkling wines fundraiser where I asked restaurants in the community to donate a pan of food for a silent auction, and I took leftover food to the homeless shelter.

Why is it important for companies and people to give back to their communities?

It’s wonderful that we’re at this incredibly successful company with great products, but we are the people of the planet, and it would be strange to me if we had a culture that didn’t embrace the fact that we must pay things forward. So, this is where we have a responsibility, not just from a corporate perspective, but from a social responsibility perspective, to care about the world that we live in.

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What’s next for you volunteer-wise?

Thanks to our GoTo Gives social responsibility platform, I'm attending a Prevention Education Workshop on Human Trafficking and Exploitation with the GoTo Renewals team on January 11th – National Human Trafficking Awareness Day. Many people are under the impression that these things happen elsewhere, not realizing that we are the biggest traffickers of the world here in the United States, but it all starts with awareness. When you’re aware of something, then you’re going to be ready to act and be in service when you see that something is wrong. You must try to get more information to know the best way to fix it, and it does feel good to give back.

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