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Building Strong and Trusting Relationships

Nicole TrimbleChristine Riley is being honored as a Champion of Change for her time and effort in AmeriCorps.

Fifteen years ago, I joined AmeriCorps. In fact, I was among the first class of members, serving from 1995 to 1997. I had recently graduated from college and, like so many, I needed to build my resume. I had no idea then how that single decision would influence my life and shape my career.

During my first year with AmeriCorps, I served with the AmeriCorps Victim Assistance Program, a statewide program in New Hampshire that provided support to survivors of domestic and sexual violence. During my second year, I was chosen to participate in the AmeriCorps Leaders Program and was placed with the Louisiana Delta Service Corps in Baton Rouge. As a native New Englander, serving in the Deep South was a unique opportunity to experience a totally new culture in my own country. It was during this time that I began to realize that I was part of something bigger than me.

As a young woman, I had a vision that I would single-handedly change the world one person at a time. And for some, changing the world one person at a time is enough. By the end of my two years as an AmeriCorps member, I knew that I wanted a career that would allow me to have a broader impact.  It wasn’t enough for me anymore to influence people one-by-one, I wanted to influence and drive change among the masses – in our systems, our businesses, and with our leaders. And the most important lesson I learned as an AmeriCorps member was how to leverage resources and individuals to do just that. Whether it’s an individual issue like helping a woman leave a dangerous situation or a community issue such as creating safe places for children to play, a sustainable solution is bigger than one person. It’s about getting to the heart of the issue, and that means identifying the people and resources that will get you to a long-term solution.  But it’s not only about identifying the right people; it’s also about building strong and trusting relationships with them. Developing and refining this skill has been critical my career success and I first learned how to do that as an AmeriCorps member.

Currently, I’m the director of corporate social responsibility at Dunkin’ Brands; I also lead The Dunkin’ Donuts & Baskin-Robbins Community Foundation (DDBRCF).  In this role, I am responsible for leading the strategy and implementation of Dunkin’ Brands sustainability efforts as well as developing and implementing fundraising and grantmaking strategies for The DDBRCF, a multi-million dollar nonprofit organization. My success requires building strong and effective cross functional teams of internal colleagues, our franchisees and other stakeholders. Together, we can identify and deliver real and lasting solutions to key sustainability and social issues for both our company and our communities.

My AmeriCorps experience was challenging and life-changing.  I certainly wasn’t doing it for the money –though I definitely couldn’t have done it without the stipend.  I joined in order to build my resume but I left with an understanding of the value of teamwork and the importance of being part of something bigger. As I look back, I know I wouldn’t be who I am or where I am without AmeriCorps. It remains one of the most rewarding experiences of my career.

Christine Riley is the Director of Corporate Social Responsibility at Dunkin' Brands.