Shining a Spotlight on our Employee Volunteers

National Volunteer Month

From neighborhood cleanups and tree plantings to clothing drives and more, we’re proud that our employees join us in supporting our communities throughout the year. This National Volunteer Month in the United States, we are pleased to spotlight some of our employees who spend their free time strengthening their communities through meaningful volunteer work. 

Henry Nurse
Sr. Security Manager, Yonkers Refinery

Henry has a longstanding passion for mentoring youth in his community and helping them discover that opportunities for rewarding careers are within their reach. This passion began through his work as a Community Affairs Officer with the New York City Police Department and continues today. Henry regularly talks to youth and student groups through various organizations in Yonkers, through his church, and at events held by the American Society for Industrial Security. Through this volunteer work, Henry teaches students how the right education and training can help open doors for a better future.

In recent years, Henry has brought this passion to the workplace by partnering with The South Bronx Job Corps, a free education and vocational training program that helps students pursue careers without a college degree. He has led Job Corps students on tours of our Yonkers Refinery and taught them about the diverse career opportunities available in manufacturing. He also set up a work-based learning program for students interested in pursuing careers in Security. 

“I find it rewarding to help young people in my community discover food manufacturing opportunities and understand the skills they need to secure brighter futures,” said Henry. “We all have benefited from mentors in our lives, and it is meaningful for me to pay it forward.” 

Steve Schroyer
Health & Safety Representative, Baltimore Refinery

First Fruits Farm in northern Baltimore County, Maryland, is committed to combatting hunger by providing nutritious produce to those in need. Since 1998, its volunteers, including Steve, have helped the ministry grow and distribute more than 27 million pounds of fresh vegetables and fruits to hunger-relief organizations, schools and churches not only in Maryland but across the Mid-Atlantic and much of the country.

As a field coordinator, Steve drives a tractor wagon on the organization’s 70-acre farm and leads groups of other volunteers as they collect produce and put it into bins on the wagon.  

“I’m passionate about farming, and I love sharing my passion with others while serving my community,” said Steve. “It’s spiritually enriching work, and I find it very fulfilling to see our volunteers come together and collect foods that sustain so many families and individuals. I’ve brought numerous coworkers here over the years who’ve really enjoyed giving back through this unique operation.”

Steve is also proud to support First Fruits Farm’s educational programming for school children. Students especially love learning about the farm’s honeybee population, which we recently supported through a donation of Domino® granulated sugar.

“Honeybees are an important part of the operation,” said Steve. “They go dormant in the winter, and just before spring, we feed them a mix of sugar and water, which they bring back to the hive. This informs the queen bee it’s time to start laying more eggs so she can produce a full force of worker bees by the time spring arrives to help pollinate the farm’s fruits and vegetables.”

Debbie Valentin
Human Resources Assistant, Crockett Refinery

Debbie has volunteered for the California Academic Decathlon (AcaDeca) for 15 years. The annual high school competition – which consists of 10 academic events in areas ranging from math and economics to social sciences and music – engages students to become active learners and helps them develop confidence and strengthen their leadership and social skills. 

Debbie first volunteered for AcaDeca as a proctor for qualifying tests and has since been a judge in the interview and speech categories at the statewide competition each spring.  

“It’s such a great program, and I really enjoy seeing how enthusiastic and passionate the students are,” said Debbie. “They spend all school year preparing for the competition, and it’s rewarding to see them have fun and get recognition for all of their hard work. I also really like that AcaDeca is open and inclusive of students of all academic levels, not just A students.” 

Debbie’s longtime support for AcaDeca took on a special meaning for her this year, as her grandson participated for the first time.

“I was ecstatic for him,” said Debbie. “It really meant a lot to me to see him challenge himself, compete and have fun through this wonderful program.”  
AcaDeca is a nationwide program that relies on volunteers to judge, interview students, read essays and provide support at competitions. 

“I would encourage my coworkers to seek out opportunities in their local area and volunteer,” said Debbie. “You will not regret it!”

Eric and Andre Sponholz
Maintenance Technicians, Buffalo Plant

In Newstead, New York, a small town located about 40 minutes outside of Buffalo, Eric and his son Andre carry on a proud family tradition as volunteer firefighters. Both Eric's father and brother served as fire chiefs. Andre began volunteering as a firefighter seven years ago, followed by Eric a year later. They received around 200 hours of rigorous training and have been volunteering together for the same fire company ever since.

As interior firefighters, they tackle blazes within homes and other structures, and Eric also serves as engine driver and pump operator.

“It was important for me to help out the community and our local fire department,” said Eric. “I love the work we do helping members of our community. It means a lot to me.”

Andre and Eric are on call 24/7 and each volunteer around 30 to 40 hours a week.

“It’s a good feeling knowing that you can help somebody,” said Andre. “It’s usually the worst day of their life when they call us, and it’s rewarding to be able to show up and support them in their time of need.”

Ronald Hayes
Production Lead, Nashville Plant

Since 2010, Ronald has performed ministry work at prisons throughout the state of Tennessee. He volunteers each weekend visiting prisoners to provide them with hope and guidance, in part by sharing how he overcame challenges to improve his life more than 20 years ago.

“I was shown the path to start over and reunite with God,” said Ronald. “It’s been meaningful to give back and share my experience with others who want to improve their lives, too.” 

In addition to his ministry work, Ronald supports prisoners after their release to help them get back on their feet, connecting them with programs to help them find homes and jobs.
“The Nashville Plant gave me a chance at a fresh start more than two decades ago, and I’ve been here ever since,” said Ronald. “I want to help others find stability and good opportunities, just like I have.” 

Maricela Torres
Legal Executive Assistant, Corporate Headquarters, West Palm Beach

Maricela is passionate about literacy and helping others. In 2019, she co-founded the Esperanza Community Center located in the Northwood community of West Palm Beach. The Center is dedicated to empowering day laborers and families, offering programs and services to all in the area seeking assistance. Maricela both runs the center and volunteers her time to teach adult literacy classes.

As a child, Maricela saw firsthand the importance of literacy. 

“For me, adult literacy is very important,” said Maricela. “My own father was illiterate. He never learned how to read or write. He didn’t have the opportunity to go to school when he was a kid. When I was a kid, I saw my mother working two jobs and enrolled in literacy classes so she would be ready to take the written test to become a citizen and gain better employment. I am motivated because there’s still a need in the community for these services.”

The City of West Palm Beach recognized Maricela for her leadership and contributions through the Esperanza Community Center. She encourages others to get involved by volunteering where they are passionate. 

Jermal Callio
Bulk Loading & Bulk Finishing Supervisor, Chalmette Refinery

As someone who used to work in the school system, Jermal has long had an interest in supporting local students. He was recently presented with an opportunity to give back by volunteering at a Career Day at Phoenix High School, around 35 miles from our Chalmette Refinery. 
“The school is about as far south as you can go in Louisiana, and they were looking for more volunteers to teach students about the kinds of family-sustaining jobs that are out there and within their reach,” said Jermal. “It was a no-brainer for me to drive down there and share my experience and knowledge.”

Jermal taught students about our Chalmette Refinery’s operations and the wide-ranging careers available in manufacturing – including good-paying, entry-level, union jobs – just up the Mississippi River from them. 

“One of the best parts of interacting with the students was letting them know the Chalmette Refinery is the King of Sugar,” said Jermal. “We produce more than 70 types, grades and package sizes of sugar products, and we have rewarding careers available to them practically right in their backyard.”

Jermal also told the students about his own experience at our refinery, where he started as a finishing operator and has since been promoted to a supervisor. 

“There are a lot of opportunities for career growth in manufacturing, including here at our plant,” said Jermal. “I found it really rewarding to give the students that information, to see their eyes light up as they took notes, and to watch them really take an interest in their futures. I’d absolutely love to do it again.”  

Lucía Murlá
Manager of Innovation & Commercialization, Boca Raton Innovation Center (BRIC)

In 2021, Lucía co-founded Ayuda a Educar, a nonprofit that supports nine underprivileged schools in Venezuela, and she currently volunteers as the organization’s president.  

“Our organization was founded to offer struggling teachers a badly needed helping hand in the midst of a major economic crisis that has prompted many of their peers to abandon their profession, and often to leave their country for an uncertain future abroad,” said Lucía. “In the past three years, this migratory wave has only grown.”
Ayuda a Educar's monthly deliveries of food packages for teachers have had an immediate and visible impact. Most of the more than 360 teachers and school workers who have received this support since 2021 have been able to continue teaching and supporting the next generation of Venezuelans – more than 4,500 students in total.

“I feel that the only way I can support a change for the country I was born in, and for the new generations, is through education with positive values,” said Lucía. “The schools we are supporting are in truly underprivileged areas with low economic support, but we have a team of school directors who inspire me with their highest level of vocation and love for our students. They really need our help to put food monthly on the tables of the teachers. I am a proud alumna of Marist schools, and it is my way to give back for the education I received.”

Lucía invites anyone interested in supporting Ayuda a Educar to learn more at

Cleveland Plant Team

Throughout the year, the Cleveland Plant leadership team volunteers their time to support the Cleveland City Mission, a vital resource that provides city residents in crisis with food, shelter and essential services in their time of need. 

Every few months, the team prepares and serves meals to women and children at the Mission’s Laura’s Home Women’s Crisis Center. 

“Our volunteer group consists of leadership and other members of our team in Operations, Plant Management, Maintenance, Finance, Safety and Human Resources,” said Cleveland Plant Manager Cathy McGeehan. “It's been really encouraging to see everyone’s enthusiasm to volunteer, and I’m proud that we’ve continued to support the Mission for years.”