Volunteers Give LES Preschool a Back-to-School Makeover

by Amanda Hoffman

FORT LAUDERDALE, FL (August 18th, 2012)- The hum of electric drills, the echoes of

Lakita Foster helps paint LES preschool

instructions being called out, and, thanks to a radio, the sounds of Beyoncé and Michael Jackson made up the official volunteer soundtrack at the LES-Liberia Economic and Social Development- preschool makeover on Saturday, August 18th, 2012.

The cleanup project, which took place in the Liberia neighborhood of Hollywood, Florida, attracted 36 volunteers who spent the day putting up a privacy screening around the playground, building a garden for the preschool and applying a fresh coat of paint to the walls.

Nineteen St. Thomas University law students, alumni and staff also joined HandsOn Broward Saturday as part of their pro bono service requirement.

“Part of being an attorney is giving back,” says Jennifer Portwood-Gordon, Director of the pro bono program at St. Thomas. “This is the first of many projects we hope to work on with HandsOn Broward.”

Director of pro bono at St. Thomas University Jennifer Portwood-Gordon lends a hand.

The event kicked off at 9:00 am and finished at noon. Seeking refuge from the scorching Florida sun, volunteers took breaks in the shade of trees and tents and cooled off with bottled water provided by HandsOn Broward.

Law student Lakita Foster explained the progress of the makeover project. “We’ve prepped the walls for paint and put up a privacy screen for the kids.”

Volunteer Laura Lindenfeld was happy to be back volunteering with HandsOn Broward after taking a break from volunteering this summer to get married. She recalls her most memorable HandsOn Broward event: the 9/11 Day of Service last year. “It was pretty amazing to see everyone-corporations and individuals- working together.”

When the LES preschoolers return to school this fall, they will be in for some surprises. A blossoming garden, a fresh coat of paint and something else, something brighter than the shiny new fence.  While the hard-working volunteers were building the garden in the sweltering summer heat, they weren’t just planting seeds: they were planting hope for a brighter future.

Volunteers Nicholas Herheletzis, Jesse Hoffman and Deandre Pommells put together a raised garden bed for the preschool.

To view more photos of the LES Makeover project on our Facebook page, CLICK HERE!

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August Project Leader Spotlight: Natalie Gooden

Image This month’s Project Leader Spotlight belongs to Natalie Gooden. Natalie is our Project Leader for the Cooperative Feeding Program. She has been volunteering since she was a child.  “Thankfully, since I was a child, I have had the importance of helping and serving others taught to me. Personally, volunteering has always been important to me, and I think it’s such a privilege to volunteer. Professionally, volunteering allows you to learn and develop many social and professional skills,” she said.

Natalie has worked on several volunteer opportunities in the past, including The Mental Health Association of Southeast Florida, The Broward Outreach Center, and the Cooperative Feeding Program. She decided to take the next step and become a Project Leader because of the positive experience she had in college as part of her university’s leadership program. “I have prior experience as a Project Leader from an organization I was a part of when I lived in Orlando, UCF’s LEAD Scholar Program. I really enjoyed it, and since the opportunity was available [with HandsOn Broward] I took it,” she said.  “I believe HandsOn Broward is such a great organization, so I think of it as an extra privilege to help HandsOn Broward assist one of their partner organizations and also help the partner organization help the population they serve.”

For those interested in volunteering, Natalie believes the key is finding the project that interests you and having fun while serving the community. She said, “Have fun! Find out what areas of focus/impact really appeal to you and interest you. When you volunteer for projects that interest you and that you have a passion for, you really care about the outcome and get personally invested in them. That’s how you have fun with them. Don’t be afraid to talk with the people who work for the partner organizations and the people being served too; you can learn a lot from them. “

To sum up her volunteering experience, Natalie said, “Volunteering with HandsOn Broward has been awesome! There are so many opportunities available that serve many different impact areas/ populations, so in other words, there is something for everyone. Out of the many organizations I have volunteered for, I must say that HandsOn Broward has some of the friendliest and helpful staff. I also love the ease of signing up for opportunities online and tracking your service hours and events.”  

Natalie will continue to be our Project Leader for the Cooperative Feeding Program. Hopefully her story will inspire others and encourage them to get involved as Project Leaders.  Thank you, Natalie!  We appreciate all that you do.

August Volunteer Spotlight: Nancy & Dylan Sexton

This month’s Volunteer Spotlight belongs to two of our newest volunteers, Nancy and Dylan Sexton.  This mother/son duo enjoys volunteering and making a difference in their community together.  They make it a family experience.

While doing some online research about volunteering in Broward County, Dylan found out about HandsOn Broward. “I was trying to find some volunteer opportunities online.  HandsOn Broward makes it easy to find opportunities in different areas like cleaning up the environment, working with children, helping the homeless, working with animals, and helping senior citizens. HandsOn Broward helps you find an activity that is right for you,” Dylan said.

Nancy and Dylan wasted no time getting involved.  Within two days of attending their New Volunteer Orientation, they began volunteering for Feeding South Florida. They were immediately impressed with the organization, and enjoyed the fun and positive atmosphere created there.  Nancy said, “When we first signed up to volunteer at Feeding South Florida, we didn’t realize that it used to be The Daily Bread Food Bank, a respected organization that has been around for over 30 years in South Florida. Volunteering there is easy. They are very organized. On your first day there, you learn exactly what is expected of you as a volunteer. Volunteers sort the food that has been collected to get it ready for distribution to those in the community who really need it.  You get to know the other volunteers. Music blasts through the speakers, everyone has fun.  It’s a very positive environment.”

Dylan, a sophomore at St. Thomas Aquinas, was motivated by more than his required high school service hours. Volunteering is something that makes him feel good about himself, and it’s something he enjoys. “Many teens start doing community service because they have to for high school, and because that is what colleges want to see on the college applications.  But once you find a volunteer opportunity that you like, you look forward to going on a regular basis.  You get to meet a lot of new people.  It’s a lot of fun and you feel good about helping others. I am a sophomore at St. Thomas Aquinas High School and volunteering in the community is something we do on a regular basis,” he said.

 Nancy encourages other families to get involved in their communities together. “Volunteering as a family is a shared experience that brings you closer together,” she said.  “If contributing in a positive way to the community is important to you as a parent, then ‘practice what you preach’ and ‘walk the talk’.  Get out there and volunteer with your kids and have fun. Children learn to model their parents’ behavior.”

When it comes to getting involved in volunteering, Nancy believes one should “start off by trying as many different volunteer opportunities as you can, then chose one that really interests you, something that is close to your heart.”

Nancy and Dylan will continue to volunteer for Feeding South Florida, and stay involved in their community as a mother/son team. We love to see families enjoy the volunteering experience together.  Hopefully their story will motivate and inspire others to get involved. Thank you for all that you do, Nancy and Dylan!