AEO Building a Better World Volunteer of the Month: Michael, Senior Planning Manager – Merchandise Planning

AEO associates share our commitment to doing better, being better and building a better world. We’re proud to spotlight our people who are making a real and lasting impact in their communities.

Tell us about your volunteer service!

I have been a Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Pittsburgh volunteer for about 20 years. I got involved when a fellow associate mentioned to me that I should look into volunteering with BBBS when I started at AEO – and here we are 20 years later!

My first match was with an 8-year-old named Branden and we had an amazing time together over the next 10 years. He got me interested in Marvel comic movies and I got him interested in the Steelers – we went to several games together, including an AFC championship match. We also did a ton of things including trips to museums, reading books, and learning to cook. When Branden graduated, I started working with BBBS’s Mentor 2.0 program where we meet after hours at a school, which I now help manage at AEO. Our program is the longest-running workplace mentoring program for BBBS in Pittsburgh!

I enjoy my time so much with BBBS that I joined the board 15 years ago and help coordinate countless events with  AEO and across the city, like Big for a Day at the Zoo, AEO Bowl for Kids Sake and other events. 

Why is giving back important to you?

I realized at a pretty young age that it’s important to follow the golden rule: treat people the way you want to be treated. To me, it is pretty simple and straightforward, but a lifelong commitment. 

At Big Brothers Big Sisters, it is incredible to be around all of the kids (and Bigs!) who are smiling and having a blast together. The organization does such great work, and after my first Little and I phased out of the program, I became involved again with another one.

How long have you been volunteering?

I have regularly volunteered since I started Mitzvah (Good Deed) Day in my Temple growing up.                                         

How do you think that giving back to the community contributes to building a better world? 

It helps me focus on the goodness that is out there in the world. It’s a break from the grind of  work and is a positive way to lose myself for a few hours. When I was younger and first began volunteering with BBBS, I was doing the things I would have been doing anyway after work – seeing a movie, eating dinner out, going to a museum or a sporting event – the only difference was that I had a Little who would join me! I am so proud of the young man that Branden became during our time together. 

The AEO community has also been tremendously important and I am so grateful for the support I receive from my colleagues. Each year, our associates generously donate to fundraisers like Bowl for the Kids Sake – it’s a team effort and our people truly believe in the power of community to Build a Better World. 

What are some of the benefits you have found in volunteering? 

When I got involved with BBBS, I didn’t expect much in return; however, I think I got more out of it than my Little. BBBS has impacted my life in more ways than I can count and I have learned so much from my experiences with the organization. In two years my daughter will be 8 – the same age as Branden when we first met. A truly full-circle moment. My life has been shaped by BBBS and AEO and I am very thankful for all of those experiences!