Local company connects volunteers with community projects
Photo by Sophia Thomas
With hard times hitting lower-income local families, it can be a challenge to allocate money to spend on birthday celebrations.
One organization, HandsOn Greater Phoenix, is trying to take that burden from families and ease it with the help of ASU student volunteers. In addition to throwing birthday parties once a month for local children, HandsOn organizes 60 to 70 service projects a month and has their hands in all areas of the community, making a difference wherever and however they can.
Todd Byard is the project manager at HandsOn and a graduate of ASU. His job requires that he be a jack-of-all-trades. He organizes large-scale service days, responds to various disasters, works on the administrative side of the company’s website and establishes relationships with community partners.
“It’s a perfect balance for me to be able to spend time working on programs in our office as well as being ‘Hands On’ in the community,” Byard writes in an email.
Byard got involved with HandsOn through his desire to help his community. In his senior year at ASU, Byard completed a service learning program where he taught sustainable science to local elementary school third graders. Following that experience, he wanted to continue serving the Phoenix community after he graduated.
He found HandsOn, the way most people find things nowadays: via Google.
“I became involved with HandsOn Greater Phoenix simply by typing "Volunteer Phoenix” into a Google search,” Byard says. He enjoyed the simplicity of the HandsOn Greater Phoenix website and loved the ability to choose volunteer projects that fit into his schedule.
Byard remarks that the biggest reward in his involvement is having the chance to serve the most vulnerable populations in the community, such as wounded veterans who need help with home modifications for accessibility.
"It’s amazing to see the transition and impact the projects have on the veterans and their families," Byard says. "Through the support of skilled volunteers we are able to create new outdoor spaces and landscaping, interior and exterior painting, fixture enhancement and whatever else they have always been wanting but haven’t had the ability to do because of their disabilities.”
Byard spoke candidly about one of his favorite projects that he's been a part of with HandsOn. In an event on Roosevelt Row in March of 2012, 1,000 Citibank employees came to the neighborhood and worked in the community garden, planted trees, built picnic tables in the arts market, painted murals and collected litter.
"I’m always amazed at how much can be accomplished with a force of volunteers and detailed planning," he says of the project.
His bachelor's degree in communication proves to be a helpful asset in helping his community on a daily basis.
“My degree in communication definitely enhances my ability to do my job," he says. "Through building interpersonal relationships with community members, volunteers, schools and organizations, I’m able to identify the gaps we have in our community and develop ways we can utilize volunteers and corporate resources to fill them.”
Rhonda Oliver, CEO of HandsOn Greater Phoenix, says Byard is a great help to their program.
Oliver encourages students to take some time and volunteer with HandsOn.
“Our model is a great model for students as most events take place during the evenings or on the weekends and it is easy for a student to plug-in when they are available,” she says.
HandsOn sends volunteers to various pain points of the community to help out or just to lift spirits. Volunteers can also participate in HandsOn's "Read-to-Me" events, where volunteers spend educational time with children in shelters and read to them an assortment of books.
Both Oliver and Byard encourage students to visit their website at handsonphoenix.org to find opportunities in the area and sign up.
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