Community Connection: Google Links With Mercy Home’s March for Kids
Mercy Home Alum, Volunteer Discover Career Paths at Tech Giant
For Google account manager Maura Carr, St. Patrick’s Day in Chicago is more than just a holiday—it’s a celebratory peak where the things and people she cares about most in her life intersect in a cloverleaf of family, tradition, career, and charity.
“I grew up in a big Irish Catholic family, always going to the downtown parade,” said Maura. “And every year, we’d stop on our way to the parade and get our Mercy Home shamrock. It was exactly the kind of guerilla marketing that worked. It’s a charity that I’ve been familiar with my entire life.”
With the return of the Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Parade this year after a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Mercy Home also stepped out with our annual March for Kids campaign, presented by Google, to help our young people build brighter futures.
It’s always a welcome sight for Maura and other revelers to see our March for Kids volunteers collecting donations and handing out Mercy Home shamrocks to give at-risk children a safe place to live and heal from the trauma of abuse and neglect.
Maura and her family started the day like they’ve always done—at the cross streets of Columbus and Balbo, where the parade kicks off with the Shannon Rovers Irish Pipe Band leading the way.
“I have siblings in the band,” Maura explained. “We would always watch the parade for a little while, and then head right on over to the Mercy Home party, knowing that was going to be the bagpipe band’s next stop. It was our little natural progression for all those years.”
This year also marked the welcome return of Mercy Home’s family-friendly downtown party following the Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Parade. After a two-year delay because of the pandemic, this year’s party at Venue SIX10 featured live Irish music, Irish dancers, Irish-themed food, and a special children’s section with carnival games, prizes, and more.
As co-chair of the social committee on Mercy Home’s Associate Board, which is made up of young professionals, Maura delighted in emceeing this year’s event. Having such fond memories of Mercy Home’s previous post-parade parties, Maura said it was an honor and pleasure to host this year’s festivities.
I grew up in a big Irish Catholic family, always going to the downtown parade. And every year, we’d stop on our way to the parade and get our Mercy Home shamrock.
– Maura Carr, Account Manager at Google
With such a longtime family connection to Mercy Home and our March for Kids campaign, Maura knew that when she graduated college she wanted to get involved with Mercy Home. She began volunteering with our Home as a tutor, and then joined the Associate Board four years ago after participating in parade activities.
“I just absolutely love everything going on at Mercy Home,” she said.
Maura, a cantor at Old St. Patrick’s Church who also plays the fiddle, says she was lucky to grow up with a very strong nuclear family. When she got older and learned how the world worked, she realized how many people were not as fortunate; how her family really helped her achieve her goals in her professional life and as a musician. When she learned more about Mercy Home and our mission to help children in need, she realized that our young people have the same goals and dreams that she did, but had a harder time achieving them because of various roadblocks and challenges in their life.
“I knew then that Mercy Home was a place where I wanted to assist and give back,” said Maura. “To make sure that these young kids with these big dreams had the same availability and opportunity to live the life of their dreams that I always did.”
As fate would have it, when she joined Google four years ago, she found her new employer felt the same way about Mercy Home. When Google moved its Chicago office to Fulton Market in 2015, its new location provided even more incentive to support the West Loop community, which includes Mercy Home.
“Knowing what a fantastic reputation Mercy Home had in the West Loop and with Google wanting to give back to the community that we were joining, it was a perfect fit,” Maura said.
From the Associate Board members from Google who preceded her to those who will come after, Maura sees a strong future for the partnership between Google and Mercy Home and wants to keep it going.
“It’s so incredible to see Mercy Home taking the wellbeing of our Chicago youth so seriously and giving them all of those resources in school, therapy, and housing—to ensure that they live the lives that they’ve always dreamed of,” said Maura. “At Google, we want to continue to support people that are doing great things around us and continue to lift up the neighborhood. And no one does that better than Mercy Home.”
Knowing what a fantastic reputation Mercy Home had in the West Loop and with Google wanting to give back to the community that we were joining, it was a perfect fit.
– Maura Carr
Raffi Rincon, a Google software engineer, couldn’t agree more with Maura’s assessment of Google and Mercy Home. After all, he’s more than qualified to speak on behalf of both subjects. Besides working at the tech company’s headquarters in Mountain View, California, he’s also a former resident of Mercy Home, where he took full advantage of our therapeutic and academic resources. Thanks to the generous support of our March for Kids donors, he learned to be proactive about his mental health challenges, which changed the trajectory of his life and helped launch his career in the tech industry.
By all accounts, Raffi is living the California dream in Silicon Valley. His social calendar is booked solid with friendly meet ups for karaoke, board games, and philosophy clubs, and even a group that gets together for the fantasy tabletop role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons. Raffi feels a kinship with his friends and housemates, he belongs to a men’s support group, and he gives back to those in need—like when he recently donated his personal laptop to a young man he met online who expressed interest in learning to code, but lacked resources or a degree.
Recently, Raffi also fulfilled a life-long dream and purchased a new Tesla, the de rigueur electric car of many a tech worker. Most importantly, he feels fulfilled by his work—none of which he can talk about due to non-disclosure agreements—and says working at Google is “awesome,” thanks to their proactive approach to self-care and mental health. While, yes, that includes the office nap pods, the on-staff masseuses, and the music rooms where Raffi likes to jam on percussion with his coworkers, the self-care initiatives that Raffi finds most helpful at Google have more to do with mentorship and the open door he has to ask for help.
Prior to his move to the Bay Area in June 2021, Raffi worked for Google remotely while living in Texas. Things were going well until he went through a breakup of sorts. The relationship trouble caused insecurities and depression to surface, and his productivity dipped at work. Raffi’s manager grew concerned, but instead of penalizing him, he encouraged Raffi to take a short-term leave to concentrate on his mental health, which was a total game changer.
“It was great because they lowered my hours by 50 percent, but kept my pay at 100 percent,” Raffi said. “For three months, I focused on my mental health and worked as hard as I could. I made a lot of progress after that.”
Drawing on the proactive coping skills he learned at Mercy Home, Raffi said he “threw everything at it” to manage his depression and take control of his mental health. He checked in with his clinical support network, including his psychiatrist, to adjust his medication and try new therapeutic approaches. He confided in a life coach with whom he still meets regularly to talk about big life issues. To maximize his energy and focus, he monitored and adjusted his sleep levels. Now, his work-life balance is back on track, thanks to Google’s holistic relationship with employees, which Raffi says is bolstered by a culture of mentorship and support.
“There are some great people who are more senior who’ve helped me a lot,” Raffi said. “There’s a guy on my team named Andres who’s been super helpful with all my questions. He’s guided me and made sure that I’m doing things right.”
Google is such a supporter of their employees and their employees’ dreams, whether it’s supporting the charities that they stand up for, like Mercy Home, or allowing them to pursue passion projects on the side.
– Maura Carr
A true believer in paying generosity forward, Raffi knows the positive impact that a mentor can make, which is why he’s become one to the boys and girls at Mercy Home. On March 12th, as Mercy Home’s March for Kids festivities were in full swing, Raffi hosted a virtual discussion with our young people. He spoke about his journey from Mercy Home to Google, then remotely guided everyone through an Hour of Code exercise, a one-hour introduction to computer science designed to demystify “code” and show that anybody can learn the basics.
This culture of mentorship and support, Maura says, is indicative of Google’s company-wide ethos of being there for one’s coworkers and having their back—especially during the pandemic. But what truly resonates with Maura is Google’s ability to transcend the workplace and genuinely tap into what motivates and inspires their community of coworkers.
“Google is such a supporter of their employees and their employees’ dreams, whether it’s supporting the charities that they stand up for, like Mercy Home, or allowing them to pursue passion projects on the side,” she said. “They’ve been so supportive and I just feel so blessed that Mercy Home and Google have made this connection because this is one of my passion projects outside of work.”