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Giving Our People Time to Give Back


Opening gifts is part of what makes the holidays so special – especially for kids. That’s one reason Karen Strelitzer, large case underwriting consultant, jumped at the opportunity to make toys for the Operation Christmas Child program at her church. 

“They were looking for a woodworker to make some toys. Someone knew I had just gotten into woodworking and asked me to help,” Karen said. “The biggest thing for me was to give kids in need the opportunity to have something new.” 

Finding time to make a difference 

Fairly new to woodworking, Karen was tasked with handcrafting 250 toy cars, trucks, and helicopters. She knew the project would be rewarding, but it was far from easy. Cutting 1,000 wheels for the toy vehicles was the most time-consuming part. Karen was already balancing her full-time job and her role as a mom to two children, ages six and eight. Knowing that Northwestern Mutual provides 16 hours of Volunteer Time Off each year, Karen asked her leader if this project would qualify. 

“My manager easily approved my request,” Karen said. “This project probably took much more than 16 hours but having the ability to use Volunteer Time Off definitely helped me finish.” 

With the extra time off and the help of her husband and kids, Karen finished sanding and painting the vehicles in time to pack and ship them to children in Malawi, Africa. 

Carving a family tradition 

The Strelitzer family enjoyed the experience so much that they agreed to participate again. Karen is thankful to have Volunteer Time Off to complete it. 

At Northwestern Mutual, employees use Volunteer Time Off for a variety of community-based initiatives: from chaperoning student field trips to working the polls on Election Day. Every year, full-time employees receive 16 hours of paid time to volunteer and give back to the community in addition to their current paid time off. It’s one of the many ways we support our people in making a positive difference.