Associates involved in service of their choice - The Explorer: Pima Pinal

Associates involved in service of their choice

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Posted: Wednesday, January 6, 2010 12:00 am | Updated: 8:07 am, Thu Mar 24, 2011.

At Sanofi-aventis' Tucson Research Center, community outreach is simply "us being part of the community," according to chemist, senior research investigator and Oro Valley resident John Okonya.

Through community service, the company and its associates support "areas of common need and common good," with emphasis on health and wellness, education and the environment.

"It's solidarity with the community," Okonya said.

Sanofi-aventis associates have helped build Habitat for Humanity housing, raised money to fight skin cancer, participated in the Northwest's Relay for Life breast cancer awareness walks, cleaned a stretch of Shannon Road for nearly 10 years, judged science fairs, ridden in and supported El Tour de Tucson, and been a major supporter of the University of Arizona's Undergraduate Biology Research Program.

"We are constantly looking around and finding areas we could be of service to the community," said chemist Jacques Mauger, a lead research investigator.

As an example, Mauger has encouraged associate participation and company support for Habitat for Humanity, the volunteer effort to help people build homes. He assisted on a Habitat project, enjoyed it, learned, and encouraged associates to join him. "We're looking to put funds toward it," said Beth Koch, Sanofi-aventis site director.

Ideas for community service come from the associates. Sanofi-aventis associates wanted to keep Oro Valley looking good, so they have cleaned a stretch of Shannon between Lambert and Sumter twice a year for nearly a decade. "It's one of the cleanest roadways in Oro Valley," Okonya said. While it's not an expensive undertaking, the company has encouraged its associates to help if they are interested.

Sanofi-aventis doesn't make donations "to just do a donation," Koch said. "The individuals here are already involved, they have interests, things that really excite them that are outside the company."

"You like to be aware of what is around you, what's happening," Okonya said.

"We tend to be problem-solvers," said biologist Teri Suzuki, a principal research investigator. "Each of us has a topic where the company has contributed."

Dozens of UA students have come to Sanofi-aventis to experience how research is done through the Undergraduate Biology Research Program. The company assists with grant funding as well as employee time.

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