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MREF’s 2024 Month of Service

By Alana Gates, MREF Administrator


In January, the MREF held its second annual Month of Service to encourage marketing researchers to organize service groups and do good in their communities.


As the MREF administrator, I was fortunate to participate in two service projects with grantees from the 2023 Race Around the World for Education. I was excited to be able to see how donations from the MREF were being put to use!


Start Lighthouse, a New York City-based nonprofit


My first stop was New York City to participate in a special visit to one of Start Lighthouse's two Literacy Hubs in the Bronx. Start Lighthouse is dedicated to advancing childhood literacy and its focus is reviving defunct library spaces within Title I schools in New York City.  An expanded network of Start Lighthouse’s Literacy Hubs provides high quality materials and a safe space to gather during the day, after school, on Saturdays, and in the summer.


This visit offered a unique opportunity for MREF board members to engage directly with primary school students through read-aloud and interactive literacy activities, providing a firsthand experience of the impact and importance of Start Lighthouse programs.



We were able to spend two school periods with some of the children who utilize this literacy hub as part of their weekly curriculum. First, we read “Fireflies!” and did a worksheet activity with a quizzical group of second graders. (Did you know that firefly species can be distinguished by the pattern of their flashes?)



Next up, the kindergartners came in for a smelly object game and we read “I Stink” to our groups. We recreated the sounds of the garbage truck in the story and their laughter was infectious! I was so happy to have this opportunity to visit with the students and hope to go back to volunteer again. If you’d like to learn more about Start Lighthouse, check out our 2023 Q&A with co-founder Rina Madhani.


Thanks to some of our NYC-based board members who participated in this wonderful day: Steve Schlesinger, Dana Kim, Anne Brown, Belinda Brown, and Michael Hess.


Hogar Montiel Girls Association, Costa Rica


The second trip was a bit farther away and took me to San Jose, Costa Rica to visit the Hogar Montiel Girls Association. After missing the 2023 Vision Trip last October, I was excited to be able to attend the January Vision Trip along with MREF board members Brad Larson, Michael Hess, and Steve Quirk. Our local board member, Stephanie Vincent, helped coordinate the trip’s daily schedule with the administration of the Hogar Montiel. We had a great mix of learning and social activities during our visit.



We played games, did crafts, went roller skating, and got to fly kites in a nearby park with the 21 girls who currently live there. A very big treat for them was our trip to the beach on the last day. As children who are orphaned or abandoned by their parents, they were so happy to have some new friends and special adventures during our visit!


My favorite activity of the trip was working in the girl’s newly renovated computer lab. We set the older girls up with accounts in Duolingo to work on their English language skills and spent time walking them through how to use it. I was nervous they wouldn’t be excited about a learning activity since they were on summer break in Costa Rica, but I was so wrong! To watch their faces light up as we helped them through several lessons of the translation program was so heartwarming. One of the girls taught me to count to 100 in Spanish, while I helped her count to 100 in English. She was so happy to be helping me in exchange for helping her with her language skills. <3



This trip to Costa Rica was very special and one I will likely never forget. These girls were put in situations out of their control, yet they are such a happy group of children and were constantly putting a smile on my face during our time together. I hope to return and visit them again as part of a future MREF Vision Trip.


Marketing Researchers doing good around the world


I want to also say a big thank you to the researchers who hosted and participated in days of service during MREF’s Month of Service, including:


Sarah Kotva, Fieldwork – Sarah organized a fun service day at Lowcountry Food Bank in Charleston, South Carolina. The Lowcountry Food Bank serves the 10 coastal counties of South Carolina by distributing food to nearly 300 partner agencies including soup kitchens, homeless shelters, and emergency food pantries. 


Quirk’s Media – Staff from Quirk’s spent an afternoon at The Kids In Need Foundation in Minnesota. Kids In Need Foundation is committed to creating equitable learning environments for teachers and students in under-resourced communities. The team was able to make 1,000 bundles of pens for teachers to pick up from the Teacher Resource Center.


Thank you to all the researchers who participated in the 2024 Month of Service. Together, we made an impact!



Special thanks to Ironwood Insights and Harmon Research for allowing some of their local staff to join us as interpreters with the girls during the Vision Trip. And to Steve Quirk for covering the cost of my travel, making it possible for me to visit both locations!


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