In its early days Telephone Express supported its community the old-fashioned way: the owners chose a charity and made a donation. But employees didn't merely ignore such altruism; they resented it, wondering why the money hadn't gone into their paychecks instead.

The $23-million Colorado Springs, Colo., regional long-distance carrier got the message: employees won't share the spirit if they aren't invited to. Now six employee volunteers disburse donations -- $35,000 last year. And Telephone Express tries to involve all employees -- for instance, allowing them to volunteer at United Way organizations on company time. Cofounder Mary Beazley says community volunteer work raises a small company's profile and instills pride in employees.

Organizations in many cities help companies like Telephone Express to volunteer. City Cares of America (CCA) is a network of more than a dozen such organizations, including L.A. Works, Hands On Atlanta, and New York Cares.

CCA volunteers attend an orientation session, and then get a monthly calendar of local community-service projects. They sign up whenever it's convenient; there's no minimum participation. Projects include food-bank staffing, park cleanup, and assisting at-risk youth. CCA can put you in touch with local organizations; to contact it call 202-887-0500. Or call Hands On Atlanta, 404-872-2252, which is well connected with its counterparts across the country.

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