Springfield, MO

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Opinion: Employers can think creatively for gift-giving

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Time is one of the best gifts an employer can give their employees.

When I had children at home, a typical day was to prepare breakfast and lunches for the family, transport my children to afterschool activities, prepare dinner and review homework. Those were average days. By the time everyone went to bed, I had very little “me” time.

I loved my job and wanted to be promoted, but there was little time after work to pursue a degree. I did take one or two classes a semester at the local community college. I would leave my children in the college library to work on their homework while I was in class (the librarian kept them in eyesight). I was also living paycheck to paycheck, but my employer did reimburse me for my books and tuition after I completed classes.

I was tired of training new employees with degrees and certifications – who had less experience than me – for the higher-paying jobs. My frustration motivated me to ask my supervisor about options. My supervisor referred me to Consumer Credit Counselors (operated in Springfield by Catholic Charities of Southern Missouri). I was allowed to adjust my work hours so I could meet with them twice a month. In a matter of months, I was no longer living paycheck to paycheck.

For the career path I wanted, I needed a degree. This was a challenge because I thought I could not afford to attend college. However, when I was helping my son apply for college, I learned that I qualified for a student loan. I was able to switch my work schedule to work 10-hour days, four days a week. This change gave me a day to attend University of Phoenix, complete homework and prepare for the week for my family. The classes I took each semester at the community college paid off because I had 60 credit hours by time I attended University of Phoenix.

As employers, there are creative ways to provide gifts of time that can benefit the business and employees. For larger employers, it may be more cost effective to invite organizations to the business location with extended lunch workshops. Several local organizations will come on-site to provide services to more people. Catholic Charities of Southern Missouri has financial counselors, Community Partnership of the Ozarks has basic budgeting workshops and the Northwest Project provides financial coaching – these are a few entities that I know will come to a business. For creative ideas based on the needs of your business, contact these organizations or others.

Providing gifts of time allows employees an opportunity to grow within their company, or it may lead to an employee moving on to a career path that benefits them and our community. The gift of time will look different for each employer based on their infrastructure and their policies. Sometimes it is best to look at some of those policies that may need to be revised to give a gift of time.

Francine Pratt is director of Prosper Springfield, a poverty reduction initiative led by Community Partnership of the Ozarks and United Way of the Ozarks. She can be reached at


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I love this, Francine! Thanks for sharing your story.

Thursday, December 27, 2018
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