|Giving Back: Alumna Theresa Woods Block’s Charitable Career with Alex and Ani
Service to others is a large part of the ethos at Lebanon Valley College. Starting at New Student Orientation, incoming students engage in service projects run by on-campus organizations to benefit the community. Throughout their time at LVC, students are continuously encouraged and presented with opportunities to give back, and many do. In the 2013-2014 academic school year, LVC students logged a record-high 23,810.5 service hours.
Theresa Woods Block ‘07 is one LVC grad who has gone on to turn the College’s message of philanthropy into her entire career—though it was not the initial career path she thought she would be following.
Since her days as a freshman, Block’s career path has taken several twists and turns. Enrolling as a physical therapy major, she changes majors after her first year to study historical communications. Block credits English professor Marie Bongiovanni as the inspiration for her decision to change paths. Despite initially thinking that a medical path was for her, the time she spent in Bongiovanni’s classes made an impact.
“When I was trying to figure out who I wanted to be and where I wanted to go, Professor Bongiovanni was very inspirational to me kind of in that role, and I guess cheering me on—championing me to use the skills that I already had and bring those out into the world,” Block said. “And I think that being in the first setting of physical therapy where it was more about working with people but working on people, I wanted to focus on working with people and talking with people and I think that she is obviously very good at that.”
Block focused on her classes and pursued multiple internships to decide what direction to take her career. She interned with the historical society in Carlisle, Pa.—allowing her to experience what a career in museum, history, and artifacts would be like, and interned with the Harrisburg press office—introducing her to a different side of the medical field working closely with the health office and emergency medical service. It was Block’s third internship with the Hershey Bears Hockey Club where she fell in love with her work, and realized she should be working in event planning, marketing, and promotions.
Post-graduation, Block went on to work as the Reading Royals Hockey Club marketing assistant, the Hershey Entertainment promotions coordinator, and later as Saint Anne’s Hospital marketing communications associate in Massachusetts.
Block currently works for popular jewelry company Alex and Ani, a company who, according to their Company Ethos statement is “committed to building a culture that focuses entirely on mindful actions.” Alex and Ani’s products are hand crafted in America, with stores purposefully located on main streets to “encourage growth in local economies.”
Alex and Ani launched in 2004 as a small Rhode Island-based company whose popular bangle bracelets are now available in thousands of major stores across the country in addition to its specialty boutiques. Block says the company’s success can be attributed to the care and individualized attention given to each item, its commitment to being entirely made in America, and its policy of using recycled metals.
Its philanthropic mission is achieved through a division called Charity By Design. This is where Block’s role comes into play with the company.
Block became interested with the idea of working in philanthropy prior to ever coming to work with Alex and Ani. Block states that even though she loved her work with Hershey, “the longer I was there the more I started concentrating on what nonprofits were doing in tandem with some of the sponsorships or some of the vendor tables that were along the concourse. And I remember just being really curious…It was really impactful for me to realize that these people, yes they went to work every day just like I did but they could say ‘hey, what I do on a daily basis makes people’s lives better’.” This awareness made Block realize that her job was centered around other people’s entertainment, not raising money or focusing on making people feel better or doing good things.
In February 2013, Block joined the Alex and Ani team as the event and financial coordinator for the Charity by Designs division. Currently, her role has transitioned into the business development manager. The program she works to develop is a new one, run by a small team. The division primarily focuses on in-store charity events, as well as coordinating new philanthropic charm designs—of which 20 percent of sales benefit the nonprofit organization the bracelet represents.
Block’s specific role with Charity by Designs is centered on pairing organizations with retail locations to host fundraising events—in which 15 percent of the event’s sales are given to the benefiting organization. She also has spearheaded an educational program to travel to every official Alex and Ani storefront to educate the staff on the Charity by Design program, and how it can benefit their community. Lastly, Block also has plans to hold the same kind of education program for the businesses accounts that sell Alex and Ani products—such as department stores, and some jewelers.
Block’s goal for her role at Charity by Design is to “be sure that our brand and our charity base is known and being shared with all of our customers, no matter where they are introduced to our product/brand.” She has focused a great deal on growing the education and event portions of the company, stating that because of her marketing and events planning experience, growing the program has really turned into her “special role.”
The numbers are proof that Block is succeeding. The events are up from 104 the year before she came to the company, to an ending total of 763 in 2013—her first year with Charity by Designs.
A few of the charities that Alex and Ani has designed bracelets to support include the American Cancer Society, the National Autism Association, Home and Hospice Care, the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation, Living Water International, Association of Zoos & Aquariums, American Heart Association, Farm Aid, and many more.
Block’s career story and her philanthropic experience is a living example of the ethos of service LVC instills in its students. Not only is Block able to pursue a career she loves while utilizing her marketing and event planning skills, she also gets to start and end everyday knowing that she has made a difference in people’s lives.