Posts Tagged ‘community’

A Scary-Good Time at the San Fernando Valley Rescue Mission

rsj-halloween-volunteer-eventOur new Volunteer Committee was formed just in time for Halloween. The obvious theme choice was to spoil kids with costumes and candy; but we wanted to ensure that we provided a meaningful experience for both our volunteers and the trick-or-treaters.

We decided to partner with the San Fernando Valley Rescue Mission for our Halloween event. They are a local organization right here in the valley with 46 children who are currently guests. Although not all the kids attended, we created personalized goodie bags for each one so that no one felt left out. RSJ volunteers spent the lunch hour on Friday stuffing the goody bags full of candy, glow sticks, erasers, Halloween stickers (regular and scratch and sniff!) and RSJ chapstick, and also carved pumpkins and made Witch Hats so that those who couldn’t attend the event over the weekend were still able to participate.

Our Committee Chair Becky Kusen coordinated the event with Christine Gregorchuk, the Program Assistant at the mission. Christine helped us to navigate the policies and guidelines of the mission so that we could ensure our event was both compliant and impactful. For example, guests are not allowed to keep food in their rooms or overnight bins; while we did fill the goody bags with a few pieces of candy, we gave the extra to the mission staff so that they could ensure that parents could give out candy to their kids in case they weren’t able to go trick-or-treating.

On the day of the event, RSJ provided a hot, catered brunch to all of the mission guests that our 10 RSJ volunteers served to each guest. We donated Halloween costumes and accessories so that everyone had the perfect costume to haunt Halloween night. A few of our volunteers even did some Halloween themed nail painting for those goblins and ghouls who needed a final touch on their costume.

In planning the activities for the event, an important requirement was the need to be sensitive to the personal space of the guests. Our committee selected games that would allow everyone to participate, that didn’t require any of the volunteers to touch the guests. The Witch Hat Ring Toss, Pumpkin Golf, “Mr. Bones” skeleton building relay, and Gourd Hockey were all chosen with this in mind.

Additionally, we also wanted to be sensitive to the waste that any of the games or activities created. For example, it would have been easy to do the “mummy wrap” as a game, but this not only may have been invasive to guests who were sensitive to their personal space, it also would have wasted a dozen or so rolls of toilet paper. We didn’t want to come into a place where the guests are being provided the most basic of resources and play games that wasted these resources. In fact, our Gourd Hockey was played with brooms which the Mission then kept for
chores!

It was really a thoughtful event. Not only did it require some of our time and resources as a firm and as individuals, it also challenged us to be intentional, compassionate and considerate of the needs of the guests. At the end of the day, serving others is about putting their needs above your own. So, it was a really rewarding challenge to meet the needs of the guests and re-think some of the typical ways we may have engineered this event.

Note from San Fernando Valley Rescue Mission

Note from San Fernando Valley Rescue Mission

Update 11-14-16: We were incredibly touched to receive a beautiful thank you card from the staff at the San Fernando Valley Rescue Mission, which included messages written by the families who participated in our event. Although we cannot share the card publicly, we can share this sweet message from the staff.

Bringing the Real World of Accounting into the Classroom

Alan-Kazden_avatarAfter 29 years in any career, it is easy to forget what it was like when you were finishing school, wondering what your future held and how you would actually put your degree to use.

Thanks to a professor friend of mine at Cal Lutheran University, I have the opportunity several times a year to meet with CPA students who are in exactly this position. I am able to talk candidly about my three decades at the firm of Rose, Snyder, & Jacobs, about the business and what to expect from it and how to succeed in the accounting world.

One of the topics I like to focus on — especially with this generation — is ethics. It is important that students go into this industry with their ethics intact. We discuss cases of fraud by using examples of our own clients, as well as some cases that have made the national headlines. We talk about the reasons accountants might be willing to go along with these unethical practices, as well as how they ultimately got caught and the consequences their actions delivered.

As some students get close to graduation and are in the process of completing their requirements, they inquire about career options other than accounting. I always stress the importance of taking the CPA exam since having their license is of great benefit in a variety of other jobs. I tell them, “You have spent years working towards this final test, so you might as well take it and have that credential in your professional arsenal.”

Since much of my presentation focuses on “real world” accounting and how our firm works, I am often asked if it is possible to succeed in a small firm. I was the first junior accountant hired at RSJ, and 29 years later I am still here, so my answer is yes, you can! At the time, there were only eight of us in the office; now we are the sixth largest firm in the valley.

Your experience will be different at a larger firm, where you’ll get more extensive training; as they send their people off to training courses several times a year. You might also spend a longer time focused on a particular area — you may get pigeonholed for a while, but you will also hone your expertise.

At a smaller or mid-size firm like RSJ, we work as a team and the results provided to our clients depends on teamwork. You will have an opportunity to learn an array of valuable skills. Your training may be more informal, but it will be more hands on, and you’ll get quicker client interaction.

In addition to talking with students on campus, we also hold a “Firm Night” once or twice a year. Students are invited to spend some time at the firm and see first-hand how we work. A couple of senior and junior partners address the students, all followed by a tour of the office. Afterwards, we all dine together in our conference room where students can ask questions, or just continue conversations. It’s a great way not only for students to get a glimpse into a working firm, but also brings our different departments together in an unique and meaningful way.

While I hope that all these events are helpful and educational for the students who attend, I ultimately do it because I enjoy it. If by sharing my experience and the importance of what our profession truly brings to our clients, I can help at least one student follow their path to a career that is fulfilling, I am honored to play a part in that.