(Photo via twitter.com/ls_caresphilly)
Philadelphia’s 50,000-plus life science professionals now have a direct line to volunteering opportunities in their city.
Life Science Cares (LSC), an organization dedicated to fighting poverty through funding and volunteer work, launched in Philly in mid-December after first finding success in Boston. Its mission is to connect local life science companies to nonprofits through opportunities such as clothing drives, in-person mentorship and internships.
The org aims to take on poverty specifically in the areas of education, job training and survival. LSC will partner with five local nonprofits in its first year, which have each received a $10,000 grant from LSC Philadelphia: Broad Street Ministry, Cradles to Crayons, First Hand, Year Up and Philabundance. The five range in focus from homelessness to professional development.
By comparison, its branch in Boston, which started four years ago, will be supporting 27 different nonprofits in 2020. About 180 life science companies have engaged with LSC in the past year, with more than 5,500 volunteer hours accumulated in 2019. One of LSC’s biggest initiatives, Project Onramp, created 50 internship opportunities for low-income and first-generation students in the Boston area.
Peter Wolf, the executive director of LSC Philadelphia, spent more than 20 years working with life science companies as a lawyer before developing a larger interest in nonprofits.
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[Marybeth Gerdelmann of Technical.ly] chatted with the Havertown resident about LSC’s expansion to Philly, the organization’s focus on tackling citywide poverty, and how life science pros can get involved. The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
Gerdelmann: Why did Life Science Cares decide to expand to Philadelphia?
Wolf: We have such a growing and vibrant life science community. Companies are actually moving here because of the research that is happening here and the companies that are being founded here. It made a lot of sense to bring Life Science Cares here.
Why poverty as a focus? Is there a specific tie between the life sciences industry and poverty?
It is not an obvious connection. The life science community is well-suited to address complex issues like poverty. An analogy that we use is: “Fighting poverty is not that different at a very high level than fighting cancer.” There’s not going to be one approach from one person or one company that’s going to solve poverty.
We feel that the life science community has a lot of people who are dedicated and entrepreneurial. We are used to dealing with those large, challenging issues. The goal is to try and activate the people who have that skill set and thought process and bring them in to learn more about what’s happening at these nonprofits and think about how the life science community can add something extra to what these nonprofits are doing to advance their efforts and hopefully make an impact on poverty.
Why did LSC partner with these five nonprofits to start?
When Life Science Cares was created and [the founders] thought about how to define poverty — because it is such a large issue not just in Philadelphia, but also in Boston — they looked at three specific areas: They looked at survival, which is meeting people’s basic needs; education; and sustainability, which includes job training. One category is meeting basic needs and two categories are helping people find a pathway out of poverty.
When we look for nonprofit partners, we look for organizations that are not just looking for funding, because our main driver is the people in the life science community. The goal of LSC is really to reduce the friction between people who care and give them high-quality volunteer opportunities and the chance to care actively and really get involved. We are looking for nonprofits that have volunteer opportunities that can use the time and talents of people in the life science community.
How can people in the life science industry directly volunteer with LSC?
We try and create a portfolio of volunteer opportunities because there’s no one way to volunteer. The goal is to create ways for everybody to feel like there’s an opportunity for them to contribute.
We conduct in-office drives to collect materials to support these nonprofit partners — for example, canned food for Philabundance and clothing for Cradles to Crayons. That’s one way to get involved that is relatively low impact on the employees and the business as a whole, but high impact for the nonprofits that require those goods.
From there, you would go to volunteer opportunities that provide different ways for folks to serve others. One of the things we do is we schedule our own events and have people sign up. We post or share on social media what these volunteer opportunities are and individuals or small groups of people from different companies go and sign up on their own.
What has LSC’s progress been like in Philadelphia since the December launch?
We have spoken with over 50 different companies in the life science community who have expressed interest in participating. Participation can be sending volunteers. It can be saying that they want to sponsor events and provide funding for us. It can be in individual executives from these companies who want to join our advisory board. We are starting out pretty strongly here in Philadelphia as far as the number of life science companies that are engaged with us.
We have also had two volunteer events and have a third scheduled for later this month and a couple more scheduled for February and March.
What do you envision for the future of LSC?
For Philadelphia specifically, our goals are to continue to expand the number of nonprofits that we support and have that something extra come out these interactions with the nonprofits that we are supporting.
Nationally, we are in discussions with some folks in San Diego. There have been inquiries from other cities where there are clusters of life science companies that have approached [LCS founder and chairman] Rob Perez about the possibility of bringing LSC to those cities.
Individually, it is really hard for any one of us to think about getting involved with something as big and challenging as poverty. Collectively, we believe the life science community is something that we can add.
The next volunteer event for LSC Philadelphia will be on Wednesday, Jan. 29, at Broad Street Ministry. Volunteers will be serving meals to the guests of Broad Street Ministry. Learn more about this and other opportunities on LCS’s website.-30-
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