At Southwest Airlines, our Employees make it their mission to connect People to what’s important in their lives, but some Employees take it a step further. They connect Hearts.
Like many of our stories, it all started on a plane. Las Vegas-based Flight Attendant, Gina Duvall, connected with fellow Coheart, Gary Bjarke, Dallas-based Director Contract Services in Technical Operations. In Gina’s words, “When I caught Gary's ear on a flight, and with his ties to the community, it was serendipitous!”
Gina and Gary discovered something they had in common beyond working at Southwest—Gina lives in Albuquerque, and Gary was born and raised in New Mexico. Gina asked if Gary and his Team would be willing to help her support New Mexico Kids Matter, a nonprofit organization dedicated to serving children who have been abused or neglected.
Gary went to his Team in Dallas, and Senior Manager Airframe Field Services, Joe Brown. Joe says, “For me it started with Gary asking us to get involved. With the passion that Gina and Gary had for this effort, we had to get behind it. His Heart is so big and we could see how touched he was when he talked to us about it.”
Gary’s passion for this cause is evident. “It’s really about the kids. Through no fault of their own, these kids are removed from their homes, and in many cases separated from their siblings, and placed in a foster home with few or no personal effects. Think about that, the people who brought you into this world—and the one place that the majority of us consider our safe place—are gone. When I look into the eyes of some of these kids, it crushes me. I just want them to know that people do care and they do matter.”
At this year’s event, 228 backpacks were handed out with school supplies. Thanks to the fundraising efforts of Gary’s Team, each child received a $100.00 Target gift card, a value of $22,800. The children were then introduced to a volunteer shopper who helped them shop for back to school clothes and other necessities. Additionally, through Southwest Airlines’ Tickets for Time program, New Mexico Kids Matter earned four roundtrips. They plan to use the tickets to travel to other states to promote awareness and to raise money for the cause.
Gina shared, “Beyond the joy of helping my community I have learned that as Employees of Southwest we have a different drive when it involves helping those who are less fortunate. Maybe because we are fighters and our history is based on being the ‘under dog’, but it is an unexplainable feeling when we gather from all over Inflight, Tech Ops Support, Provisioning, Customer Service, Call Center Support, and Operations to help these children.”
Joe put it best when he said, “When we go to events like this, I believe Gina gives us too much credit. It is her Heart and Dedication to these kids that is amazing. We are blessed to be involved and that all started with Gina getting Gary’s ear on a plane.”
We’ve all heard the phrase, “Teamwork makes the dream work.” In this case, Teamwork truly made dreams come true for some very deserving children in New Mexico.
Rachel Roberts, Gary Bjarke, Joe Brown, (Joe's daughter), and Gina Duvall