It takes a lot of courage to change. For most of us, it's so much easier to stay in our comfort zone in work and life. But the only true way to make your life, workplace and the world better is to take that big step. Afterall, unless things change, they remain the same.
Ushering in change is exactly what seven extraordinary TD colleagues brought about across North America, and why TD Bank is recognizing them as our TD Bank Disability Inclusion Changemakers for 2023 – a recognition launched in the U.S. in 2022 and expanded into Canada this year. These colleagues helped promote significant advances in disability inclusion through their actions at the workplace and beyond. The seven colleagues were honored at recent colleague townhall events across North America for their leadership and contributions.
"There are heroes among us who make enormous contributions but seek no reward or recognition for it, only the satisfaction of knowing that they lent a hand to someone when it was needed most," said, John Pluhowski, Chief Communications Officer, TD Bank, N.A. and Co-executive sponsor of the company's disability area of focus. "Our Changemakers are selfless, dedicated colleagues who have through their actions and good deeds broken down stubborn societal misperceptions surrounding disability. They have single handedly advanced a noble cause that truly makes our world a better place, not for some but for all."
Our Changemaker colleagues exemplify TD Bank's culture of care and inclusive workplace where all employees are encouraged to bring their authentic selves to work, including fostering conversation and actionable outcomes that drive a more inclusive, equitable workplace. TD Bank has long been recognized for its achievements in disability inclusion including top rankings in DiversityInc, Forbes list of Best Employers for Diversity 2023 and the Disability Equality Index (DEI0, the benchmark of excellence within the disability community.
Read more below to learn more about the individual story of each the four TD Bank Changemakers recipients for the U.S.
Creating meaningful employment for young adults with disabilities
When Carolyn Guerra, a TD Bank Relationship Manager in Florida, first heard about the de Moya Foundation , she knew right away that she wanted to support the organization, which helps young adults with disabilities.
The foundation received a grant from the TD Charitable Foundation for its exceptional community work and shortly thereafter became a TD Bank customer.
Carolyn started by attending fundraising events and joining forces with TD Bank Store Manager, Emily Arcia, to teach financial literacy skills to the young adults at the de Moya Foundation, but she wanted to go even further and provide career opportunities at TD Bank.
"Supporting the de Moya Foundation financially was an important step but finding a way to support their mission which is to match young adults with special needs with meaningful employment from local employers was far more impactful," Carolyn said.
The strong support from a team of bank colleagues paid off when TD Bank approved a position for a de Moya Foundation participant. Manny Finale, a young man diagnosed with Asperger's, was selected for the position.
Among the many colleagues who advocated for the position were Carolyn, Paul Raun, TD Bank Store Manager, who is also a recipient of the TD Bank Changemakers honor, Casey Crist, TD Bank Regional Vice President for Miami-Dade County, Pablo Pino, TD Bank South Florida Market President for Commercial and Felipe Basulto, TD Bank South Florida Market President for Retail.
“Customers universally love Manny. He has had nothing but success,” Carolyn said. She never had doubts that her colleagues would embrace Manny, who is very “proud that he is a part of the team."
When it comes to fully integrating young adults with disabilities into TD Bank, “Manny has proven that it can be done” Carolyn said. She is looking forward to expanding the program she spearheaded and providing a viable career path for more young adults with disabilities.
"By creating a position for one young adult, TD Bank joins hands with de Moya Foundation in making the world better for one individual, one family at the time," she said.
Work at TD Bank changed two lives
Paul Raun, TD Bank Store Manager, also played a crucial role in Manny’s success.
When Paul first learned that Manny would be joining his team, he educated himself about Asperger's and learned about how he could best support Manny. “I thought a lot about how I could have the most impact and create the best environment for him to thrive,” Paul said.
Paul found Manny's talents and enthusiasm so compelling that his first meeting wound up lasting two hours. He immediately honed in on Manny’s many strengths and decided to hire him on the spot as a bank teller.
Under Paul’s guidance, and with the support of his other TD Bank colleagues, Manny has grown even more skilled and confident in the role. Paul has helped Manny set a trajectory for further growth at TD Bank. Manny has proven, repeatedly, that he is a strong contributor to the workplace, noting that Manny is attentive to customer’s needs and always has a cheerful outlook.
“I am excited to see where Manny goes. He is very much in charge of his own development” Paul says.
Paul has benefited from working with Manny too. Because of Manny, Paul realized that “we all have different skill sets and a different way of learning.” He says that Manny has made him “a more well-rounded leader.”
After seeing how much Manny has contributed to the workplace, Paul says that he is “100% committed” to working with other young adults with disabilities in the future.
“TD Bank helped Manny change his life, but he changed mine, too” Paul said.
Sometimes all it takes is one trusted person
Christine Rumpf, Brand Insights Manager for TD, hid her bipolar and generalized anxiety disorders from her colleagues for over a decade.
She worried there would be repercussions if she let her colleagues know about it. But when Christine started struggling, she decided to share her diagnosis with colleagues. They responded with “empathy and kindness” and were “very, very understanding,” she said.
Christine immediately felt as though a “heavy weight” had been lifted from her shoulders and says that the “natural, organic support system at TD Bank” meant that she was supported every step of the way.
With the support of her colleagues, Christine flourished and so did her career.
Once Christine shared her diagnosis “so many employees at every professional level,” reached out to her for support for their mental health situations.
Christine soon realized that there was an unmet need and reached out to executives at TD Bank to create a formal support program.
The result is TD’s disability-focused Lean-In Program, successfully piloted and expanded in the U.S. in 2023. The program connects people facing similar challenges related to a disability for support.
“It’s a safe space,” Christine says, “Sometimes all it takes is one trusted person” to feel supported and “it gets easier from there,” Christine says. The program is now available throughout the bank.
Thanks to Christine, every TD Bank colleague, no matter where they are, what position they hold, or what type of issue they are facing, can find that one person who will help.
Being more inclusive
For the past seven years, Travis Harper, Assistant Vice President, Distribution and Logistics Support, has worked with interns for Project SEARCH, a one-year transition program for high school seniors with cognitive disabilities. TD Bank’s program has interns participates in three 11-week rotations in different business lines during the 10-month program at TD’s Mount Laurel, New Jersey campus.
Travis is always willing to take a Project SEARCH intern into the mailroom. He treats his interns the same way he treats all new employees, by taking them under his wing, making sure they feel welcome, and ensuring that they are fully integrated into the team.
It takes time, but Travis invests in each intern so that he can build a relationship with them and get to their individual needs. Travis wants Project SEARCH interns to have a meaningful experience and tailors the experience according to each intern’s strengths.
He does an exceptional job at making sure the entire team knows what a new intern’s needs are and how to best support them.
“My goal is to be inclusive and treat every intern just like I would any employee,” Travis says.
At the same time, he thinks “it’s important to keep it light and fun” and he invites Project SEARCH interns to his department’s many pizza pirates and trivia games.
According to Travis, his team has benefited “tremendously” from their Project SEARCH interns. They have made him a better leader by teaching him patience and the importance of making sure that he understands how everyone in his department learns and works best.
The pearls of wisdom from the 2023 TD Changemakers and the future
"We have many people that stand tall and make a difference in the organization to create a more inclusive environment," said Patricia Foley, Assistant Vice President, TD Insurance/TD Disability Inclusion Network Executive Pillar Lead, TD Bank Group. "For many of them it's not their 'day job,' they do it with passion because they know it's the right thing to do and they put their all into it and look for ways to think differently to truly move the dial and create a space where everyone can feel included. This year's Disability Changemakers didn't just THINK about what we could do better, they ACTED on it and made things happen. I'm so proud of each and every one of them and I'm grateful to work amongst people that want to create an environment for everyone."
Each TD Changemaker inspires us with their spirit and hard work to make the world a better place, a place where everyone is encouraged to participate and express their talents and ideas within a supportive environment. It's a future that we at TD believe is possible, and one that the bank will advance through the words and actions of its amazing colleagues.