For DTE’s team at the Cass City Service Center, caring for their community goes beyond being another part of the job, it’s a way of life.

The team started their volunteerism journey at an awkward time. The contact center portion of the service center was slated to open in early 2020, just as the COVID-19 pandemic plunged the world into lockdown. What was supposed to be the beginning of a team working together in person to meet customer needs, turned into individuals – many who hadn’t even met in person – collaborating from afar.

“It was horribly challenging,” said Heather Radick, a supervisor of the customer care team at the Cass City Service Center. “It wasn’t just trying to create an engaging volunteer atmosphere, we had limitations to what groups would allow us to do as volunteerism.”

While it was a challenge, it was one the team quickly rose to meet.

It started with a goal of caring for service members during the holiday season in 2020. It was a tumultuous time, one that had many people forgoing traditional trips home to avoid spreading the virus or finding ways to gather outside in the cold to lower the risk of transmission. Those changes hit especially hard for military families like Radick’s who had children away at boot camp, people who traditionally would have been granted leave to come home for the holidays.

“A lot of the people at boot camp were very young,” Radick said. “This would have been their first holiday away from their families. So not only did they go through a rigorous training with boot camp, they were looking at not being able to come home for the holidays before leaving for more training.”

The back-to-back training without leave would mean that, for many of these young, enlisted men and women, it would be a year and a half without seeing their families.

But where others see a problem, the Cass City team sees a way they can help. Radick reached out to others at the center to see if wanted to help make the holidays special for these students, and the team responded with an outpouring of love for Radick’s son’s class.

“I thought I was just going to raise about $100, maybe $125,” she said. “It ended up being $600.”

From the donated dollars, the team put together stockings for the students, serving as the perfect kick off to creating a caring culture at Cass City.

The team holds its military roots close, raising funds for a veterans’ food pantry around Veterans and Memorial Day, and they’ve expanded into other areas, too. A recent effort includes a euchre tournament to benefit the local animal shelter.

But for Radick and her team, the most important thing is getting to help people in their community alongside their DTE family.

“It really changed the dynamic of what people were willing to do in a virtual work environment,” she said. “They were coordinating with people that they have never seen in their entire lives before, but then also trying to coordinate with the community to get help to where it needed to go. We’re only four years old, and it’s really cool to watch how this just exploded. I feel like we’re finally starting to put a little pin in the map. We’re here, we’re not going anywhere and we’re doing great things.”