[Noozhawk’s note: One in a series on Santa Barbara Partners in Education volunteers. This article is sponsored by McGowan Guntermann, a Partners in Education President’s Council member.]

Santa Barbara Partners in Education’s best asset, other than its unique relationship with the K-12 public-school system, is its vast network of impressive business partners who use their power for good. McGowan Guntermann is no exception among local influential business leaders who have gotten involved in Partners in Education.

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A nonprofit organization run under the administration of the Santa Barbara County Education Office, Partners in Education collects and tracks school needs (someone to help third-graders with reading, for example), and then connects those needs with volunteers who can help.

Partners in Education encourages its volunteers to address school needs according to their personal passions and expertise. For example, if you happen to be really good at soccer and you also like children, you could be a great fit for a lunchtime volunteer activity at an elementary school. Someone else might be excellent at both public speaking and describing his or her career in a language junior high school students can grasp. In that case, Career Day all the way!

McGowan Guntermann, in its second year on the Partners in Education President’s Council, has followed the lead of local volunteers and has offered support to Partners in Education by doing what it does best: accounting.

Founded in 1945, McGowan Guntermann is one of the longest-running CPA firms on the Central Coast. It prides itself on delivering quality-driven service and exceeding client expectations. You won’t be surprised then by the enormous sense of relief Partners in Education staff feel each year knowing that a McGowan Guntermann CPA will be guiding them through tax season. The firm has been working with the organization for more than 10 years consulting on Form 990 tax preparation.

Partners in Education executive director Michelle Magnusson voiced her appreciation.

“I am personally very grateful to have McGowan Guntermann staff, especially Steve Smith, support our organization with 990 tax preparation each year,” she said.

“On top of that, Chris Reed invited a group of interested and engaged staff to learn more about the specific ways to fulfill the requests of local teachers. I wish I could have filmed the meeting to show other companies how fun it can be to involve your staff in selecting a corporation’s philanthropic agenda.”

Chris Reed, who became a McGown Guntermann partner in 1999, says the opportunity was a natural extension of the firm’s work.

“We are more than a CPA firm that prepares income tax returns,” he said. “We are a team dedicated to helping our clients, many of which are nonprofits that we offer discounted rates, in many different ways.”

In addition to offering discounted rates, the firm has donated more than $125,000 to local charities over the last few years, including $2,500 to Partners in Education as a member of the President’s Council. Employees help choose the charities, a conscious decision on behalf of the partners to help the team feel more invested in local efforts.

“Community is important and can only continue to develop and grow with everyone’s help, whether it’s through volunteering your time or donating funds and resources,” Reed said.

“But donations alone aren’t enough, and that’s why what Partners in Education is doing through its Volunteer Program is so important,” he continued. “Time and hands-on effort are needed for real growth. The Volunteer Program creates ways for people to help students during the school day, where the learning environment is and where there’s a great opportunity to enhance it.”

Reed is also a firm believer in the power of internships, and he applauds the efforts of the Partners in Education Internship Program.

While attending UC Santa Barbara, an internship with a local accounting firm gave Reed the unique access into the industry he needed and is the reason he is where he is today.

“It’s one thing to read about accounting theory, but it’s another to apply what is learned in the classroom to real situations,” he said.

Reed believes it’s important for businesses to recognize the role they have in shaping young people’s futures, whether it’s through hiring interns or volunteering in their classrooms. He sees any job as an avenue to give back to the community.

“If you have fun at work you will be successful in so many ways,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed working at McGowan Guntermann since the day I started in December 1989. Working in the public accounting realm or in any field can be really rewarding, once you find a way to help others become more successful themselves through your work.

“Simply put, it feels good to help others.”

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Santa Barbara Partners in Education is a nonprofit 501(c)3 administered by the Santa Barbara County Education Office. Partners programs include a Volunteer Recruitment program serving K-12 public schools and nonprofit organizations; a Paid Job Readiness Training & Internship program for deserving high school students; and Computers for Families, a program working to close the digital divide.

» Click here to volunteer with Partners in Education, or call 805.964.4710 x4401.

» Connect with Partners in Education on Facebook. Follow Partners in Education on Twitter: @sbpartnersined.

» For other inquiries, contact internship program and communications coordinator Chelsea Duffy at cpduffy@sbceo.org.

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— Chelsea Duffy is a program coordinator for Santa Barbara Partners in Education.