Elizabeth Brooks
Community members and volunteers from Salt Lake City marketing firm Experticity construct a greenhouse in a rural village in Bolivia as part of a service expedition last August. The company recently instituted a new benefit policy that pays its employees to go on humanitarian trips to serve Third World communities in need.

SALT LAKE CITY — For some people, charity can be expressed through serving others in need. And for one Utah employer, encouraging its employees to serve begins with helping to make that service financially possible.

Salt Lake City marketing company Experticity has instituted a benefit policy that pays its charitable employees — those who participate in payroll giving — to go on humanitarian trips in an effort to foster a culture of generosity and selflessness in service to communities in need. As part of the program, Experticity covers trip expenses like food, lodging and transportation up to $2,200 per person annually, in addition to letting employees take paid time off for the trip, explained chief financial officer Heather Mercier.

"Any employee that has been (with us) for one year and has participated in our payroll giving for six months can apply to go on a humantarian expedition," she said. "Each employee can do that once every two years."

She added that all employees enrolled in payroll giving are eligible to participate on a trip to one of four locales — Bolivia, Ecuador, Kenya or Nepal — if they so choose.

"They can help build schools, greenhouses, furnaces or stoves that provide heat to houses as well as for cooking," Mercier said. "It just depends on the village and what they actually need."

While the program was just launched in July, the company awarded two service trips last year to employees who were enrolled in payroll giving — one of whom was business intelligence engineer Jordan Squire, who traveled to South America where he participated in a humanitarian effort in Bolivia to construct a greenhouse in a remote mountain village.

"It was a really wonderful opportunity to go into this rural area of a Third World country," he explained. "Everyone in the surrounding community of this rural area all came together at the same time and we worked side by side with the locals to help them build a greehouse."

He said the village previously had little access to vegetables, and this new facility provided a much-needed source of healthy food to their everyday diet.

"Their diet consisted of potatoes and occasional meat," Squire said. "All other kinds of vegetables they weren't able to grow because of the altitude. We were able to help them build a greehouse so they could grow more vegetables."

They also helped build a computer lab as well as renovate one of the buildings in the village to serve as a hotel, he noted.

"We worked side by side with individuals from the community as well as other humanitarian workers," he said. "What these programs are able to do is to help them get themselves into a better place. It was just so fulfilling to watch the joy as they were able to complete this greenhouse and immediately (plant) seeds."

Squire said participating in such a meaningful program was an "eye-opening experience" that he would like to do again.

"As soon as I hit my two-year mark, I'm definitely going to apply for another grant," he said.

The company employs 240 people locally, and about one-third are eligible to participate in the charitable giving service program, Mercier said. She said having more employees join the effort would be a long-range goal of the program.

"To build that bond with our employees, to make them proud to work for Experticity, and make them feel that it's a great place to be is worth every penny," Mercier said. "If other companies look at what we're doing and think it's cool and roll this out, I would be so honored and proud because that just means that there are more people out there doing good in the world."