Unearthing New Ways to Partner
Sondra Smith is the Senior Director of Corporate Social Responsibility at Level 3 Communications, LLC and a Director of the Level 3 Foundation, Inc. She is passionate about giving back, serves on numerous nonprofit boards of directors and loves to teach and mentor youth and young adults. She is currently an adjunct Professor in DU law school’s MSLA program and a guest lecturer in CU’s Leeds CESR program. Sondra is a Colorado native currently living in Evergreen but spends a great deal of her summer at her cabin in the San Juan Mountains, in southwestern Colorado. She loves spending time in the mountains with her three dogs and adult children and their dogs. Not necessarily in that order, but sometimes.
Be the change you wish to see. It takes effort to purposely do good. Level 3 and Ciena make the effort and recently combined forces to do good in a big way.
In 2012, I was asked to design and setup a formal corporate social responsibility (CSR) program that ultimately became our current Level 3 Cares program. The cornerstone of our Level 3 Cares program was to support the good works of our employees by providing our employees paid volunteer time. Over the years, we continued to design additional CSR programs which support our employee interests, including forming our own separate 501c3 public charity, the Level 3 Foundation, Inc. As with Ciena, here at Level 3 we pride ourselves on finding unique ways to engage our employees to support our community and engage in good works and doing good.
In 2014, Laurinda Pang, Regional President of North America and Asia, offered me a challenge: can we use some of our land to support those in our community who are food insecure? Let me explain, Level 3’s headquarters is located in Broomfield, Colorado. The location and the surrounding area is beautiful with majestic views of the Rockies. Level 3 owns raw land near our headquarters, therefore, the challenge was not totally insurmountable. Or was it? Most who know me are keenly aware that I am not afraid of hard work. This is a good thing because when I said yes to this challenge, I seriously had no idea what was ahead of me.
"...this vision to not only provide food for our community, but a vision to bring our community together to build something lasting. Something bigger than ourselves. Something that will be enduring and something to be proud to say, I remember when, I remember when I did that."- Sondra Smith, Senior Director of Corporate Social Responsibility at Level 3 and a Director of the Level 3 Foundation
Ultimately, Level 3 Communications, LLC agreed to provide the Level 3 Foundation with an acre of land. The hard work was to begin. The Broomfield City Council unanimously approved our request, the land was rezoned, a water tap was donated by the city and community partners emerged to support the building of a community garden. We had a winner, a true community garden! Level 3 employees and members of our community would build this garden, work on this garden, and could adopt the raised garden beds for their own families’ use with just one caveat: on our established harvest days we would commit to donate a portion of our individual harvest to local food banks.
We broke ground in February 2016. Through our generous offering of paid volunteer time, our volunteers have joined us almost every Friday and some Saturday’s since then. Everyone who joined us at the garden stepped up; literally stepped up, sometimes onto ladders to build the shed, the pergola and the beautiful pavilion generously donated by Ciena!
Level 3’s partnership with Ciena on this project began in a very informal way. I arrived at the garden one Friday morning to find two new volunteers. The man happily mowing our tall overgrown grass was Jim Riley. The spunky female was none other than Karen Spencer working with our volunteers to install fence posts. After the obligatory hugs and introductions, I shared our story, our vision, our concept and they were hooked. Ciena wanted to be a part of this unique project, this vision to not only provide food for our community, but a vision to bring our community together to build something lasting. Something bigger than ourselves. Something that will be enduring and something to be proud to say, I remember when, I remember when I did that.
"We hold to a five-year vision to fully buildout additional sections of our garden: a memorial rose garden, a children’s play area, trees, vineyards, an herb garden, a parking lot, additional raised bed gardens and a pumpkin patch."- Sondra Smith, Senior Director of Corporate Social Responsibility at Level 3 and a Director of the Level 3 Foundation
Ciena sponsored a magnificent post and beam picnic pavilion as the centerpiece to this remarkable project. Through much coordination, the materials arrived and with Ciena volunteers working alongside Level 3 volunteers this massive structure was erected in less than one day. A tremendous effort on the part of the volunteers. A generous gift on the part of Ciena!
It has been a long journey. A lot of hard work. Over 450 volunteers have worked many long hours to see our vision a reality. The garden is far from done. Pacing ourselves, we hold to a five-year vision to fully buildout additional sections of our garden: a memorial rose garden, a children’s play area, trees, vineyards, an herb garden, a parking lot, additional raised bed gardens and a pumpkin patch. We will get there – we have great partners. The Giving Garden – the name given to our community garden – is the result of community partners committed to supporting a vision of a sustainable community project - one where the community comes together and literally enjoys the fruit of their collective success. We look forward to working side by side with our Ciena partners as we continue on our journey. We cannot do this alone. Thank you Ciena for your support of the Giving Garden, a true community garden.