September Project Leader Spotlight: Concheita McKenzie

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By Amanda Hoffman

September’s Project Leader Spotlight belongs to Concheita McKenzie. Concheita and her daughter joined HandsOn Broward in 2007 because they were looking, “for a program that would keep track of our hours and keep it organized.”

Since attending her first volunteer orientation five years ago, Concheita can’t get enough of volunteering. “I love giving back to people. However I can help. It impacts me because it gives me the joy that I’m doing something for someone else: giving them my knowledge and my experience.”

After participating in a variety of volunteer projects, from the feeding programs of the First Congregational Church to walk-a-thons, Concheita has learned that no two volunteering experiences are the same. “Sometimes it’s a learning experience for me because I might learn something new. [I love] the joy of meeting people and making new friends.”

Concheita suggests that new volunteers, “do as much as you can for others, but have fun with it at the same time. If you’re enjoying yourself, than you can feel the joy from helping others. And don’t just do it for the hours; do it so that you’re able to give something back and to realize the legacy you’re leaving. As you look back on your life you can say, ‘I did something worthwhile. I did something that impacted my life.’”

After volunteering at numerous events, Concheita’s love of organization caused her to become a project leader. “I’m kind of OCD in a way,” she jokes. “I love to see things organized—I’m an organize-freak, a clean-freak. I love to see organized things, but I also love seeing when things are going right. When everyone is benefiting from a project. Maybe it’s my OCD but I think I can use my experience of leading so that everyone gets something out of it.”

For other volunteers that might be interested in taking the next step and becoming project leaders, Concheita recommends that, “If you have a desire [to lead] and you have patience, you should go out there and use it because it helps others. If you feel that urge to lead and you’re confident and strong, go for it because somebody’s got to do it. And not everybody wants to do it, because it does take time. It will take time to organize and make sure that everyone is taken care of.”

Concheita recalls one of her favorite volunteer memories from working with the Tranquil Manor Adult Literacy Program. “I love seeing [the students] learn something new. The excitement they feel when they learn how to get on the internet and how use a computer. A lot of them are afraid. Some of them have never even used a mouse. Some have never even used a keyboard. Some have no idea about the features on their phone. Some people say, ‘Can you teach me how to pay my bills online?’ Others want to be able to communicate with family and friends. For them, starting out on the computer is a big step. It’s a joy to see them pick it up. We take [computer knowledge] for granted but for them, it’s so exciting. I enjoy that because I feel like I’m giving them my knowledge and I’m giving back.”

Concheita is currently the project leader for the monthly Broward Outreach Center feeding project. Thank you for sharing your story, Concheita, and thank you for all that you do.

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September Volunteer Spotlight: Leisa Saltzman

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by Amanda Hoffman

September’s volunteer spotlight is on Leisa Saltzman (pictured above). Leisa’s energetic personality helped her find HandsOn Broward two years ago. “I had been laid off from a company and was having a hard time finding a job. I am not the type of person to just sit around. So I wanted to go out and do something. I found a few events by word of mouth or from different web sites, but when I found the [HandsOn  Broward] website, it made the whole process so much easier. You have so many options to choose from and schedule at times that are convenient for you.”

Since she began volunteering with HandsOn Broward, Leisa has worked on hundreds of events. “I try to do at least one project a week,” she says. “But there have been weekends when I have done up to five to six projects.”

In fact, Leisa has been involved with so many HandsOn Broward projects that she has trouble choosing her favorite event. “I’m not sure I could pick just one. I find different aspects of each project that I love. I always enjoy working with other volunteers and have met some great friends. I try not to stick to one specific type of organization or event, so that I can learn new skills and ‘mix things up’.”

Volunteering with HandsOn Broward has helped Leisa discover the importance of giving back. She recommends that new volunteers, “just get involved. There are so many people in the world that need help and you could be the one that makes a difference in their lives. There is not a better feeling!”

It’s that very feeling that has kept Leisa coming back to volunteer for more events. “I love being able to work with so many wonderful organizations. Learning new skills, Meeting new people. It really gives you a sense of purpose. And I get to attend some really cool events!”

After two years of volunteering, Leisa considers herself to be a different person than she was before she came across HandsOn Broward.  “[Volunteering] has made me grateful for all I have, but it has also opened my eyes to the kindness of strangers. There are so many people that are willing to give of themselves to help out in whatever way they can. It is a true testament to the compassion of the human spirit.”

Leisa does so much for the HandsOn Broward community—you might even spot her at one of your own projects. We really appreciate her generosity and hard work. Thank you for all that you do, Leisa!