Members Give Back: AK Material Handling Systems

Meet the Give Back Crew

By Nicole Needles

The desire to help is often contagious, and the employees of AK Material Handling Systems (AKMHS) exemplify that notion. AKMHS has a more than 30-year history of pulling together to serve its communities. Spearheaded by one or two group leaders, they participated in charitable events and causes on an informal basis for decades.

That strategy changed in 2011 when the Give Back Crew (GBC) was formed to consolidate their efforts and make more powerful impacts. Three years later, the crew was structured into a 501(c)(3) with a five-person Board of Directors to maximize the operational and financial support that the GBC is able to provide to its charitable partners.

Events and missions that have been team favorites over the years include recognizable national campaigns: Feed My Starving Children, Polar Plunge for Special Olympics, The Salvation Army bell ringing and the Walk to End Alzheimer’s. But also, to keep it close to home, the team loves to help small local organizations like The Potato Head Project.

The Potato Head Project assists families of premature infants. The families receive infant care packages that include leg-warmers, hats, blankets and a Mr. or Mrs. Potato Head toy. The Potato Head toys are an easier-to-disinfect alternative to stuffed animals when taking photos of the babies as they show growth in a NICU environment. The GBC has supported the Potato Head Project financially and volunteered service time at its fundraising events.

On June 6, The GBC was a sponsor of 2023’s Reaching for Ralph, the annual gala for Hammer Residences.

“We have been supporting Hammer Residences in various ways for a couple of years now,” said Danielle Strege, board member of the GBC and accountant at AKMHS. The event raised over $300,000 to empower individuals with disabilities and provide them with the resources they need to lead fulfilling lives. “Hammer Residences is a cause that is near and dear to the GBC. It is so incredible to be able to say that we were a part of that.”

The Give Back Crew has also seen direct impacts from their efforts, and these touches on others’ lives are very meaningful to the team.

“There’s so much need out there,” said Andrea Neisen, board member of the GBC and senior project coordinator at AKMHS. Whether it’s installing a new front door for a couple who’s experiencing a medical hardship or Christmas shopping for a mom who is ill, the group is grateful to have the reach they do but is excited to do more. “We don’t always get to help people directly. It happens from time to time, but maybe not as much as we want. In our industry, we tend to be hands-on, practical people who understand logistics. That’s a niche we are able to fill well.”

Much more is being planned by the GBC before the year is out: repacking food for Second Harvest Heartland, walking in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s three times, two Salvation Army food drives and two Salvation Army bell ringing shifts are on their schedule.

“The GBC takes pride in knowing that we are helping, and we have fun while we are doing it,” Strege said. “Being able to help others that are less fortunate or facing hardships to get through life is satisfaction enough to want to make a difference.”