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Mott Corp.-Wheeler Clinic partnership expands mental-health outreach

BY Christopher Hoffman
Special to the Hartford Business Journal

12/8/2017
Mott Corporation employees shown volunteering for Wheeler Clinic at various events.
Category: Volunteer

Mott Corporation

Address: 84 Spring Lane, Farmington

Top Executive: Boris F. Levin, President/CEO

Boris Levin, CEO and chairman of Mott Corp. in Farmington, wanted to do more for the community.

Volunteers from his company were already donating their time at Wheeler Clinic, a Plainville-based nonprofit that provides a wide range of medical, dental and mental health services to the needy. Levin wanted to build on that. So about 2 years ago, he met with Wheeler Clinic President and CEO Susan Walkama. To paraphrase Humphrey Bogart, it was the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

Fast-forward to today, and Mott donates tens of thousands of dollars a year to fund a full-time employee at Wheeler who does outreach, informing potential clients of the care provider's services. About 60 to 80 Mott employees — approximately a quarter of the company's workforce — have also become Mott Health Ambassadors, volunteering on average once a month to help Wheeler run informational, outreach and other events.

It's a relationship that has paid big dividends for both organizations, the two CEOs agree.

"We would not be able to have the reach we have with these various services if they were not participating," Walkama said. "I think the impact has been significant."

For Mott, the benefit has been two-fold, Levin said. The company gives back to the community, and its employees develop stronger bonds through their volunteer work at Wheeler. Interactions outside work tend to build teamwork at the office, he said.

"It's been a great partnership for us," Levin said. "We're helping a great community organization, but we are also helping ourselves. When you interact with (your colleagues) outside the company, you get to know them well."

At first glance, the two organizations could not be more different. Mott is an employee-owned company that specializes in precision filtration and flow-control devices. The company's customers include everyone from NASA — a Mott product went to Mars on the Mars Rover — to medical device makers to semi-conductor manufacturers, Levin said.

Wheeler, by contrast, is a federally qualified nonprofit health clinic that provides primary care, dental, addiction and mental health services at clinics in Hartford, New Haven and Bristol, Walkama said. It also assists foster children and runs other social programs. Founded in 1968, the organization operates more than 100 programs and serves more than 30,000 patients a year, she said.

In spite of their divergent backgrounds and purposes, the two organizations have found common ground in service to the community.

Patty Dillon Cruickshanks, Mott's sales and marketing services manager, said Mott employees had been volunteering for some time on a less formal basis at Wheeler, whose Plainville headquarters is close to Mott's offices. After the two CEOs met in early 2015, the organizations tried a "test run," she said. Mott employees volunteered to help at an opioid forum. They were blown away by the stories they heard from people struggling with addiction or its consequences, she said.

"It was like a punch in the gut," Cruickshanks said. "We came back and told this story to other people. It was powerful."

The experience galvanized the company's employees and leadership to increase their commitment to the clinic. More than two years later, Mott employee-volunteers are regulars at similar outreach sessions as well as at events to encourage the public to take advantage of the clinic's many services.

In addition, employees also put together suitcases containing toiletries and other items that foster kids can carry from home to home, and collect Christmas presents for needy children, both of which are distributed by Wheeler, she said.

"Wheeler is a great organization," Cruickshanks said. "You go there, and you spend your time there and they are always thankful and appreciative. It's a really good relationship."

Volunteering at the clinic has opened the eyes of Mott employees to the needs in the community as well as to the depth of the opioid crisis, Levin said.

"We live really privileged lives," he said. "When you go to one of these events, you realize how privileged we are, and we need to do more, especially at this time when the state is reducing funding."

Mott, Levin said, plans to do even more at Wheeler.

"We're going to keep increasing our investment financially and in volunteering," he said.