As the executive assistant for upper management at Syros Pharmaceuticals, Diane Souza keeps everyone organized. Her communication, planning and time management skills make her an asset to the team. However, it’s her infectious charitable spirit and more-the-merrier mentality that inspires her colleagues, from the top down and the bottom up, to mobilize and engage in community service both in and outside of the office.
Souza is the membership liaison between Syros and Life Science Cares. She is responsible for choosing volunteer and donation opportunities for the company and ensuring that employees get as much out of their charitable experiences as they are giving back to those served by Life Science Cares’ nonprofit partners.
“It’s been amazing to have access to so many opportunities through Life Science Cares that we can pick and choose from,” says Souza. “Most of our 100-person team engages in these efforts without being asked. They have fun working together and feel like they made a real difference in our community.”
Indeed, in just over three years, Syros has made quite an impact. The company has collectively assembled 20 Welcome Baskets for the Pine Street Inn and 10 Welcome Home Baskets for families displaced by the York Street Fire of 2016. Employees have gathered books, toys, back-to-school supplies and clothes for donation drives for nonprofits serving families, including More Than Words, Year Up, Cradles to Crayons, Circle of Hope, and Room to Grow. Syros has donated 43 computer monitors, 14 laptops and 18 docking stations to The Possible Project. Employees have volunteered out of the office, mentoring youth at Camp Harbor View’s Summer STEM Fair and sorting food donations at Food For Free. Most recently, the company collected 90 holiday gifts for LSC’s Holiday Helpers drive in partnership with Madison Park Development Corporation.
“It’s funny, we always see a spike in participation when we are holding donation drives as I think colleagues start to see the impact of our work pile up and feel motivated to join in,” says Souza. “And they really go the extra mile. For example, our chief scientific officer went as far as to coordinate the bath mats he was in charge of getting with the person buying the bath towels so that shelter guests at the Pine Street Inn would have matching sets in their Welcome Baskets. It’s heartwarming to see this side of one another, a side we might otherwise not see.”
During the pandemic, Syros contributed $2,500 to Life Science Cares’ COVID-19 Response Fund, as well as another $1,500 and several iPads to a tablet drive to help patients hospitalized with COVID-19 stay connected to family and friends. In addition, the company donated funds allocated for catered staff lunches to CASPAR and Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program, providing 2,470 meals to those in need.
“I believe if you are in the position to help, you should do so,” says Souza, who a colleague describes as someone who always jumps in to help without hesitation. “We are so grateful for the opportunities that Life Science Cares offers to us as it’s hard to find volunteer opportunities as a whole for our company. And, we love that if we have an idea of our own, the Life Science Cares team makes it happen for us.”
Souza was already a seasoned volunteer for Cambridge-based nonprofit Community Cooks before she began working for Syros. For years, she prepared dinners for a teenage girls shelter, breakfasts for seniors in Cambridge and rallied friends to prepare sandwiches at home that were distributed through the nonprofit to vulnerable populations seeking assistance from human service agencies across Greater Boston. However, her favorite volunteer experience through Life Science Cares was with Christmas In the City.
“It was such a beautiful weekend with so many youth activities,” says Souza. “All kids received one gift from Santa that they had asked for, a backpack filled with winter necessities, a stuffed animal, snacks and more. Our job was to create a winter wonderland carnival with rides, a petting zoo, a performance from the Blue Man Group and indoor snow. Thousands of people attended. It was magical for me as an adult. I can’t imagine how the kids felt.”
Syros is one of 50 member companies working with Life Science Cares to support nonprofits that improve the lives of people living in poverty in Greater Boston. Members access dozens of in-person and virtual volunteer opportunities throughout the year and can offer their expertise as pro bono consultants to nonprofits that often face challenges in areas of sustainability, growth and development.
Interested in learning more about Life Science Cares? Click here for ways in which your company can get involved.