Imagine how valuable employees might feel if they were paid to make a difference in the lives of a hungry family, a sick child, a scared refugee or an adult recovering from addiction?

It’s happening every day at the handful of Utah charities and nonprofits that earned spots on The Salt Lake Tribune’s Top Workplaces list. The 2019 philanthropic rookies included the Utah Food Bank, Ronald McDonald House Charities, Catholic Community Services and Odyssey House of Utah.

These first-timers joined three nonprofit Top Workplaces veterans — Shriners’ Hospital, Rowland Hall and First Step House — on the annual list, compiled by Energage, a Philadelphia-based research and consulting firm.

Bob Helbig, the firm’s media partnerships director, couldn’t explain why the number of charities increased in 2019 but was happy to see it.

“We love to see a wide variety of employers of all types participating in the survey process,” he wrote in an email, “because it reflects the diversity of employers in the marketplace.”

Employees who work at nonprofits tend to rate the “meaningfulness” of their work very high, he said. They often give their employers high marks in the areas of values, leadership and management.

(Photo courtesy of Utah Food Bank) Utah Food Bank distributed 36.1 million meals in 2018.

The Ronald McDonald House in Salt Lake City serves as a home away from home for families whose children are getting treatment at area pediatric hospitals, explained CEO Carrie Romano.

“We see some of the best parts of humanity,” she said. ‘Kids with serious illnesses who are courageous beyond their years; warrior moms and dads who stand beside them; volunteers giving their time and donors giving away their own treasures."

The charity can’t deliver on its mission, however, without also having an engaged and dedicated staff, she said, “We make sure staff feels healthy and supported, so they can in turn support children and their families.”

The facility offers its 41 employees a range of employee benefits from competitive salaries to medical and life insurance and retirement with an employer match. It also invests in employee training covering topics such as compassion fatigue and cultural awareness.

The Ronald McDonald House employees who answered the Top Workplaces survey said they loved their job because “it makes a positive impact in the world every day” and “allows me to be part of a meaningful mission.”

“I feel like I am making a difference in this world,” wrote one worker. “And I LOVE the people I work with. Just like the families that stay here, we all come from different places and backgrounds, yet we still work together, respect each other and get along really well. Even a really hard day here is a pretty good day.”

(Photo courtesy of Odyssey House of Utah) The mission of Odyssey House is to help clients to become productive, sober, happy members of society.

Many of the 290 employees at Odyssey House of Utah have similar things to say about their employer. As the largest — and one of the oldest — treatment centers in the state, Odyssey touts its mission: to help clients become "productive, sober, happy members of society.”

In recent years, the centers have been an integral partner in Operation Rio Grande, a multipronged plan to tackle homelessness in Salt Lake City.

Thousands were arrested and a special drug court was set up to provide treatment for those dealing with substance-use disorders. Odyssey more than doubled its residential bed capacity to help several hundred more people.

But rather than feeling overwhelmed, employees were energized.

“I feel like I really help people, our community, and make a difference,” wrote one Odyssey House employee. “People make dramatic change at Odyssey, and I am proud to be a part of that."

Added another. “I can make a difference — a real difference in the lives of people I work with. My co-workers are supportive, caring and passionate. We share a vision and values that I love and have dedicated my life to. It’s very satisfying to have all these things in my work.”