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Plymouth Volunteer of the Week: Joni Marti

This Plymouth resident's heart for service is lived out both locally and around the country.

As a Channel Operations Manager at Tennant Company in Golden Valley, Joni Marti has found ways to connect work and service.

In 2009, Marti coordinated the first 363Days event at work. 363Days is a nonprofit that provides sandwiches 363 days a year. The other two days, according to founder Allan Law, are covered by other volunteers on Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Once each quarter, Marti sets up a room and employees stream in to make the simple sandwiches of white bread, meat and cheese. The most recent event netted 1,000 sandwiches in 33 minutes.

“When 363Days first started, Allan Law's goal was to provide 150 sandwiches as often as possible during the year,” Marti said. “Our company alone provides 1,000 sandwiches each quarter.”

363Days provided 520,000 sandwiches in 2010.

“It was but a few minutes of our time, but it meant so much for so many people.  I was glad to be a part of this and will join again,” said Jeff, a Tennant employee and volunteer.

“Aside from the positive experience we all have working together to make the sandwiches, the end result positively impacts those who are most in need," said Betty, another employee volunteer.

Marti said she can’t imagine being challenged to put food on the table or not know where the next meal may come from.

“We often forget just how blessed we are,” she said. “My daughter teaches in a first-ring suburb of Minneapolis. Her eyes tear up as she describes that some children do not receive meals outside of school, and that some are even homeless.”

Marti introduced her to the concept of 363Days, which her daughter plans to propose to the school and district administration to supplement their current food drive efforts.

Marti’s heart for volunteering extends beyond the Twin Cities. When planning began for the February 2011 Tennant global sales and marketing conference, she suggested community service opportunities for the 330 attendees in place of the standard golf outings designed for socializing.

The first of three concurrent opportunities Marti arranged mirrored 363Days. She connected with Second Harvest in New Orleans and explained the concept. They liked the idea, and 100 Tennant employees put together 10,300 sandwiches in one day.

Second Harvest picked the sandwiches up and delivered them to some of their 240 agencies.

The second service event Marti set up was held at Kinder Haus Montessori where Tennant employees renovated the playground by tearing down the old equipment and building new play structures, and painting the building’s shutters, trim and fence.

“I am still trying to process the experience,” said Pat Lcoste Lytle, director of the Kinder Haus Montessori. “I am thrilled that the children were able to see all the people who came to do something for them. This was truly an experience where the givers and receivers were blessed.”

The third event involved cleaning up City Park, one of the largest urban parks in the United States. Tennant employees operated the cleaning equipment, raked and painted curbs and crosswalks.

“I left with a strong sense of pride and gratitude. Proud to be part of a company with people so willing to go above and beyond and grateful to see this New Orleans landmark looking so good,” said a Tennant employee who is a New Orleans resident.

Community service plans are being finalized for the 2012 Global Sales Conference in Florida. Making sandwiches through Feeding America is on the list, as is cleaning up a beach and making personal care kits.

"In Minnesota or in other cities, it's a small dent, but we know we're helping," Marti said.

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