Vernel Goff

Goff_Vernel.United Healthcare

Honoree: Vernel Goff

Honored by: UnitedHealthcare

Cause Area: Healthcare

A life-affirming experience in volunteer work last year has motivated Vernel Goff to commit himself even more to community service in 2016. It’s a commitment that stems from a life-shattering experience that happened many years ago. Vernel is a pharmacy technician for UnitedHealth Group’s Optum in Cypress. This past fall, through an employer-sponsored volunteer program, he had the chance to visit a local elementary school that was in bad need of landscaping repairs and other campus clean-up assistance. He gained inspiration for the day-long event by persistently recruiting a handful of co-workers to join him in the venture. It was, as he describes it, an “awesome” first-time experience as a volunteer. In addition to working with school staff and students, he was part of a volunteer crew that included former Dodgers outfielder Lee Lacy, who was contributing time for the project. As it turned, after the work was finished, Vernel and Lee bonded when they teamed up with another volunteer to take on a group of students in a friendly pick-up basketball game on the playground. “Just seeing the smiles on the kids’ faces and everything, and me knowing that I did something to help the community – it just felt really good to me,” recalls Vernel, a father of three young children, about the experience. Vernel says he has previously volunteered helping others. He served as a lead coach for a youth baseball team. And he has made it a regular practice to hand out a few bucks here and there to needy people he meets outside of stores. But the opportunity to help out at the school has made him a believer in the power of doing the right thing, serving as an example to others and showing kids that someone cares. Vernel knows that a caring approach can make a world of difference, especially in tough communities where gangs are prevalent. He was lovingly raised by his grandparents starting at age four after his father drifted away and his young mother was murdered. “I vowed to live on and make my mother proud,” he says about how his life turned. “I knew if I got into gangs or if I got into drugs or anything like that, anything negative, then it wouldn’t make her proud. So I live every day trying to please her and also trying to be a role model for my kids.” “It’s wonderful to know that Vernel is contributing so much and using the challenges of his past to help others in need and assist in giving them a better future,” states Alex Uhm, chief operating officer for UnitedHealthcare of California, and 2015 co-chair of the organization’s California Social Responsibility Committee. “It’s easy to see that he has character and strength.” Vernel is ready to continue his evolution in community service. He has already taken to heart UnitedHealth Group’s mission of helping people live healthier lives and the spirit of volunteerism.

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