APA Center for Organizational Excellence: Best Practice Honoree

The Awards

Building a Brighter Future

MinnesotaOrion Associates was founded on the core principle of “service to others” and the organization has a history of encouraging employees to volunteer in the community. While catering to clients’ needs and providing employees with a rewarding and fulfilling work experience, this small management services organization is a thriving example of how business can catalyze change within the community and have an even larger impact on the world.

In 2005, Orion took its long history of volunteerism to a new level with “River of Hope,” a project engineered to assist New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Witnessing the devastation first hand as a Red Cross volunteer psychologist led Orion’s CEO to rally employees together for fundraising and twelve mission trips to help with relief efforts and the rebuilding of New Orleans.

In response to the community’s unmet mental health needs, Orion formed a volunteer mental health resource center. In addition, employees helped swell a volunteer pool to 460, working tirelessly alongside plumbers, electricians and contractors to gut and rebuild homes. Where there once was total destruction, Orion instilled hope. To date, River of Hope projects have contributed more than $600,000 in materials and supplies to New Orleans’ Ninth Ward.

Following in the footsteps of the “River of Hope” projects, Orion formed the nonprofit “Headwaters,” armed with the mission to serve any community, anytime, any place. Volunteers are responsible for the cost of their own transportation, housing and meals and employees who volunteer can still count on their regular paychecks from Orion. Every penny of the money Headwaters raises goes back into the community. As a result, according to Forbes magazine, Headwaters is one of the most efficient relief organizations in operation.

Employees are proud to work for a values-driven organization and their inspiration propels them to give clients, co-workers and the organization their all. Beyond the personal satisfaction of giving back to the community, Orion employees have positioned themselves for real-life tests of leadership and creative thinking that no seminar or team-building exercise could replicate. Employees emerged from their work in New Orleans as team players, problem solvers, creative thinkers – leaders. As part of something bigger, employees look forward to where the journey will take them, knowing that wherever the destination, they will be among their peers, building a brighter future.

"This is not pie in the sky; this is about the bottom line. Building psychologically healthy workplaces isn't just the right thing to do, it's also the smart thing to do."

The Honorable Alexis M. Herman
Former U.S. Secretary of Labor