2017 Affinity Group Events and Celebrations

Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey’s Diversity Council and Affinity Groups sponsor events on topics of interest to employees, provide opportunities for networking, raise awareness of our diverse employee population and foster a culture of respect and understanding in our workplace.

As the largest and most experienced health insurer in New Jersey, our diverse group of employees reflects the diverse members we serve.

The following are the accomplishments of Horizon BCBSNJ’s Diversity Council and Affinity Groups during 2017.

Asian-American Affinity Group (AAAG)
Mission: To promote the unique blend of the Asian cultural heritage and traditions by educating and supporting this population, while recognizing and celebrating accomplishments of personal and professional growth and development of our community.

During 2017, the AAAG accomplished the following:

January Distributed over 500 red envelopes with inspirational messages to employees in Penn Plaza, Trenton, Mt. Laurel and Wall locations commemorating the Chinese New Year.
May Hosted the annual celebratory luncheon with the theme of “Colors,” an exploration of the physical, emotional, social, mental and spiritual elements of color. The proceeds from the ticket sales were donated to two special needs classes at the Ridge Street School in Newark, New Jersey.

A keynote address was given by Kevin Conlin, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer. Remarks were also made by:

  • Vince Alonge, Vice President, Service and Executive Sponsor, AAAG
  • Daisy Chan, Director, Enterprise Communications
  • Ed Lara, Vice President, Marketing and Product Development
  • Kala Ramkhelawan, Sales Training Analyst III and President, AAAG
September Held a Lunch and Learn session for members of Horizon BCBSNJ’s Affinity Groups and the Diversity Council to provide information and perspectives about the cultures and traditions of Asian Americans.
December Organized a winter clothing drive with other Affinity Groups to donate over
300 sets of winter hats, gloves, scarves and socks to the residents of:

  • Renaissance House, a specialized therapeutic community located in Newark, New Jersey. Renaissance House is designed to meet the unique needs of the most vulnerable members of society (i.e., adolescents, pregnant women and women with children) who are suffering from the effects of substance abuse.
  • Apostle House, an organization devoted to providing comprehensive social services to homeless women and children, and individuals and families at risk of homelessness, in Newark and Essex County.

The men, women and children who are homeless and who had taken shelter at Newark Penn Station also received donated items.

Latin American Cultural Organization (LACO)
Mission: To promote the rich Latin-American culture, heritage and history, celebrate our many accomplishments, educate others about our people and help all Latin-Americans at Horizon BCBSNJ in their endeavors toward success.

During 2017, LACO accomplished the following:

March Participated in the Junior Achievement BizTown event at First Avenue Elementary School, Newark, New Jersey. Junior Achievement BizTown is a standards-based 21st century experiential learning curriculum designed for fifth and sixth grade students across New Jersey to learn the importance of work readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy.
  • Distributed 300 blue Puzzle Piece ribbons to Horizon BCBSNJ employees to support National Autism Awareness Day. LACO members and other employees also wore blue to support Autism Awareness.
  • Led activities for the children participating in Take Your Daughters and Sons to Work Day.
  • Participated in raising funds for financial literacy for schools through Junior Achievement at its Annual Bowl-A-Thon and day of teaching at First Avenue Elementary School in Newark, New Jersey.
  • Participated in the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Health and Wellness Fair at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey.
May Participated in the “Autism Speaks” Walk at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
June Participated in the Blue to You’s “Life with Benefits” event by distributing information to visitors about Horizon BCBSNJ’s health care products and services at the Dominican and Cuban Series June baseball games at Montclair State University’s Yogi Berra Stadium in Little Falls, New Jersey.
September Hosted the Annual Hispanic Heritage Month Luncheon with keynote speaker Johnny Torres, Executive Director of Save Latin America, Inc. Proceeds were donated to CancerCare, which provides counseling, support groups, education and financial assistance to individuals and families affected by cancer.
October Distributed 300 blue Puzzle Piece ribbons to Horizon BCBSNJ employees to support National Autism Awareness Day. LACO members and other employees also wore blue to support Autism Awareness.

  • Participated in the Blue to You’s “Life with Benefits” Fright Fest Member Appreciation Event at Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, New Jersey.
  • Sponsored the Drum Fusion Workout Session with Journey to Health in
    Penn Plaza.
  • Partnered with Compass Catering onsite at Penn Plaza to host Latino cuisine in the cafeteria.
  • Collected items to support relief efforts following the hurricanes that affected the Caribbean/U.S. and the earthquakes in Mexico. Over 20 boxes of items were collected. A portion of the donations were sent to Puerto Rico in connection with a Newark-based fundraiser spearheaded by Minnesota Twins baseball player Hector Santiago. The remaining donations were sent to the Boys and Girls Club of Puerto Rico in partnership with JetBlue.
Muslim Affinity Group
Mission: To promote a better understanding of Al-Islam within the Horizon BCBSNJ community in an environment that is open and inclusive, fostering positive relationships built upon our commonalities and respecting our differences.

During 2017, the Muslim Affinity Group accomplished the following:

January Organized a coat drive in which approximately 75 coats were donated to The Building Blocks of New Jersey, a non-profit organization located in Jersey City, New Jersey that provides support and relief to economically disadvantaged individuals and families, regardless of gender, race or religion.
February Partnered with the Enlightenment and Empowerment Enterprise (EEE) Affinity Group in volunteering for the Celebrity Read Program with the United Way of Essex and West Hudson at Schuyler School located in Kearny, New Jersey. Participants read books to elementary school students and shared their personal stories.
July Hosted the annual Eid Luncheon. The theme of the luncheon, “This is Us,” provided insight into the positive influences and contributions Muslims have made in the community. The proceeds of $1,350 were donated to the New Jersey
All-Stars After School Development Program, which was created to support economically disadvantaged youth throughout Essex County.
Enlightenment and Empowerment Enterprise (EEE)
Mission: To provide a forum to communicate and exchange information for the purpose of cultivating, both professionally and personally, the knowledge and experiences of Horizon BCBSNJ’s employees of African ancestry and their community, as well as to add value to Horizon BCBSNJ in support of its corporate strategies and goals, while enhancing the image of the Company through a collaborative partnership of community service.

During 2017, the EEE accomplished the following:

January Participated in the Camden Street School Martin Luther King Jr. celebration in collaboration with Horizon NJ Health and Walgreens. EEE members read books to the children and helped with food distribution.
February EEE hosted the annual Black History Month celebration. The guest speaker was Dr. George C. Wright, President at Prairie View A & M University in Texas. At the luncheon, the group presented two laptops and a printer to FP YOUTHOUTCRY Foundation, Inc.’s founder, Mr. Al-Tariq Best. The Foundation offers assistance to the Newark community and surrounding areas by providing an afterschool haven for children, a summer camp during July and August and other events in connection with Jersey Cares, a nonprofit organization that recruits and engages volunteers across New Jersey.
April Participated in an Earth Day Celebration with the Ironbound Community Corporation at Downs Bottom Farms on Ferry Street in Newark, New Jersey.
May – December Published EEE monthly newsletter series:

  • May 2017: Tips for Career Improvement
  • June 2017: In the Driver’s Seat: Personal and Professional Development
  • July 2017: Developing Your Personal Brand
  • August 2017: Leadership: Lead from Wherever You Are
  • September 2017: Are You Financially Fit?
  • October 2017: To Your Health: Breast Cancer Awareness and National Disability Employment Awareness Month
  • November 2017: Maintain Don’t Gain
  • December 2017: Holiday Theft: What’s In Your Wallet?
  • Hosted a Tuition Reimbursement Lunch and Learn with James Lee, Manager, Compensation.
  • Fifteen EEE members volunteered to participate in the Experience Makers Insight Panel to share their experiences as consumers wearing their “member hats.” As panelists, EEE members participated in focus groups, short surveys and/or brainstorming sessions to help shape business decisions that will impact Horizon BCBSNJ’s members.
August Hosted sessions of “Know The Business” – a Conversation Series with Horizon BCBSNJ Leaders:

  • August – Vince Alonge, Vice President, Service: Overview of Member Services
  • August – Sidney Holland, Director, Finance Discovery and Recovery: Financial Impact of Member Services
  • November – Ed Lara, Vice President, Marketing and Product Development and Timothy Donald, Director, Analytics Business Partner: Part I: Analytics Partnership: MBU and Analytics
  • November – Jeffrey Vernice, Director, Analytics Business Partner: Part II: Translating Data Science Modeling
September Hosted Lunch and Learn on “Steering Your Career” with Natalie Gahrmann, Career Development Consultant.
  • Delivered opioid awareness sessions with the Kipp Newark Collegiate Academy. The team supported six sessions deployed over the course of two days.
  • Conducted student/parent opioid awareness sessions at Christ the King High School on five dates in November and December.
  • Hosted a Q&A session on opioids with the Marion P. Thomas Charter Schools, a charter program that consists of four different schools (high school, middle school, select and elementary).
  • Engaged over 1,200 students, parents, and school faculty members in opioid awareness sessions throughout the city of Newark by December 31, 2017. This work will continue into 2018.
Military Affinity Group (MAG)
MAG’s mission is to:

  • To provide a forum for a unified committee to represent, communicate, organize events, champion corporate policy changes and exchange information for the purpose of enhancing, both professionally and personally, the advancement and recognition of employees with direct (active reserve component, retired and prior service) and indirect military affiliations within Horizon BCBSNJ and the community,
  • To add value to the Company through support of corporate strategies and goals, and
  • To enhance the corporate image as a corporate citizen through a partnership of community service.

During 2017, MAG accomplished the following:

March Volunteered to support fourth to seventh grade students who role-played as leaders running a micro-economy known as “BizTown” through Junior Achievement. The operation consisted of 14 mini storefronts where volunteers helped a team of student leaders in the role(s) of CEOs, CFOs, bank tellers, newspaper reporters and a mayor, to foster a working economy.
April Led activities for the children participating in Take Your Daughters and Sons To Work Day.
May Distributed American flags at Horizon BCBSNJ’s Penn Plaza, Wall, Trenton and Mt. Laurel locations for Memorial Day and performed a flag folding exercise at Penn Plaza.
September Held a POW/MIA flag raising ceremony in front of the Penn Plaza location in honor of American soldiers who were Prisoners of War (POW) or were Missing in Action (MIA).
November Published EEE monthly newsletter series:

  • Distributed remembrance cards in the lobbies of three office locations in honor of Veterans Day while in uniform.
  • Hosted the Annual MAG Luncheon with guest speaker Michael A. Mason who served in the United States Marine Corp (USMC) and the FBI where he rose to the position of Executive Assistant Director in charge of the FBI’s Criminal, Cyber, Response and Services Branch before retiring in 2007. Proceeds were donated to American Legion Post 152 whose building was completely destroyed by a fire in January 2017. Post 152 consists of over 140 veterans who honorably served in World War II, Vietnam, Korea, Beirut, Desert Storm, Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as other engagements.
Women LEAD
Mission: The primary mission of the network is twofold: to provide a forum in which employees can connect with each other and with other professionals to identify, develop and enhance their knowledge, interests, skills and experience in order to more fully achieve their potential here at Horizon BCBSNJ, as well as to harness the talents of a dedicated and diverse group of employees to deliver tangible business benefits to the Company as a whole.

During 2017, Women LEAD accomplished the following:

March Hosted the annual Women’s History Month event with a panel discussion on the theme of “Trailblazers – Women on the Move.” The panel featured:

  • Alison Banks-Moore, Chief Diversity Officer
  • Michelle Machemer, Vice President, Information Technology
  • Mary Ann Christopher, Vice President, Clinical Operations and Transformation
  • Kelly Watson, Managing Director, KPMG Proceeds were donated to Renaissance House in Newark, New Jersey.
August Participated in the Experience Makers Insight Panel to share their experiences as consumers wearing their “member hats.” Women LEAD members participated in focus groups, short surveys and/or brainstorming sessions to help shape business decisions that will impact Horizon BCBSNJ’s members.
October Hosted two interactive and informative Movie Café discussions regarding clips from “The Blind Side” and “Hidden Figures.” Both discussions were centered on issues in the movies such as personal challenges, gender equality, power and courage, and how leadership, relationship building, trust and communication influences outcomes.

  • Tim Price, Director, EPMO and Process Officer, was the featured guest speaker during the discussion regarding “The Blind Side.”
  • Sandra Bellomo, Director, Service Operations and William Wolfe, Director, A/R Enrollment and Account Installation, were the featured guest speakers for the “Hidden Figures” discussion.
  • Held networking mixers for Women LEAD and other Affinity Group members in the Penn Plaza and Wall locations.
  • Sponsored “Diapers to Dreams” fundraiser at Horizon BCBSNJ for the collection of toiletries and supplies for the women and children at Renaissance House.
Spectrum Affinity Group
Mission: To create a positive and inclusive work environment for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) employees and their allies, promote educational awareness of LGBTQ issues, make impactful community contributions, and harness the talents of a dedicated and diverse group of employees to deliver tangible business benefits to the organization as a whole. Spectrum supports the values and core competencies of the business, and is committed to furthering its mission, vision and business goals.

During 2017, Spectrum Affinity Group accomplished the following:

  • Participated in the North Jersey Community Outreach Initiative’s New Jersey AIDS Walk in Branch Brook Park in Newark, New Jersey and raised $1,000 for the cause.
  • Honored at the Hetrick-Martin Institute (HMI) New Jersey’s Spring Soiree for their work supporting HMI.
  • Participated in the New Jersey Pride Parade in Asbury Park, New Jersey in partnership with The Horizon Foundation and donated $5,000 to support Jersey Pride Inc.
  • Hosted the Annual Pride Luncheon at Penn Plaza. The theme was “Strength and Progress in Diversity.” Anthony V. Cava, President and Chief Executive Officer of Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in Somerset, New Jersey gave the keynote address.
  • Donated $5,000 to the Hetrick-Martin Institute’s Summer Solstice held in Asbury Park, New Jersey in partnership with The Horizon Foundation. Hetrick-Martin Institute fosters healthy youth development of LGBTQ youth between the ages of 13 and 24 and offers support to their families.
  • Hosted students from the Hetrick-Martin Institute at Horizon BCBSNJ for insights on potential career paths. A donation of $750 was presented to the Hetrick-Martin Institute during the event.

In May 2017, the Company’s eighth Affinity Group, Shalom, was established. Shalom’s mission is to promote educational interests, inside and outside of Horizon, that is informed by Jewish Culture, Ethics and Spirit.