March Project Leader Spotlight: Nicolas Ulloa

Nico Ulloa

This month’s Project Leader Spotlight belongs to one of our newest Project Leaders, Nicolas Ulloa. Nico, now 14, began volunteering with HandsOn Broward in 2012. “I first heard about HandsOn Broward at a convention for youth volunteering in 6th grade. In middle school I was required to collect community hours, something I’d never dealt with before, so I looked everywhere and working with HandsOn Broward was an amazing option,” he said.

Since November 2012, Nico has been attending the monthly project Movies, Muffins & Beyond at the Ronald McDonald House, formerly led by Youth Project Leader Jonathan Howard. In December, when Jonathan decided to begin leading a new HandsOn Broward project, Nico was the perfect person to step in and take over as Project Leader. He was trained as a Project Leader in December, and has been leading the project monthly since January.

“The main reason why I’ve become a Project Leader is because the opportunity was handed to me by the previous leader, Jonathan Howard. I’d been volunteering every month for the past two and a half years at Movies, Muffins & Beyond and had become close with the Howard family. He asked me to take the reigns on the project and I gratefully accepted,” Nico said.

Nico is involved in other volunteer efforts outside of HandsOn Broward as well. “At first I did community service for hours for my school, but I soon came to love doing it. Now I’m running a project with HandsOn Broward, and one with Habitat for Humanity, as well as other projects within my school,” he said. “As of right now I lead Movies, Muffins & Beyond with HandsOn Broward and co-lead a “Lunches for Volunteers” project with my sister. I’m also trying to set-up a “Video Games for Charity” project at my school.”

Nico’s learned the best way for him to get the most enjoyable and meaningful experience out of volunteering is to combine it with things he is interested in. “As I’ve come to love volunteering, I’ve tried to combine the things I love with it,” he said. “Whether it be fundraising or rallying, I believe service that’s fun is more effective than service that’s not, therefore I’ve tried to combine things I like with volunteer opportunities, just like the Anime Club I created at school.”

When asked whether or not he recommends volunteers should take the leap to become a Project Leader, Nico said, “I’d recommend being a Project Leader to anyone because it makes you exactly that — a leader. I believe leading is always better than following. It is extremely rewarding to know that you’re doing something no one else is doing and that it’s helping the community.”

Nico also has some advice for new volunteers when it comes to selecting volunteer projects. “Don’t just grab quantity over quality. Find a couple of projects you like and are meaningful and stick to them.”

Thank you, Nico, for all of the meaningful things you do in our community! We hope other volunteers and Project Leaders are inspired by the impact he has in Broward County.

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March Volunteer Spotlight: Jessica Massengale

Jessica

This month’s Volunteer Spotlight belongs to Jessica Massengale. Jessica is a student in her final semester at FAU and is required to complete an internship, which she is currently doing at HandsOn Broward. Through an online search, she discovered HOB and connected with our Director of Marketing, Kristina DaSilva.

Jessica began as our marketing intern in January. She is using her creativity to develop and design inspiring graphics and marketing materials that enhance our visibility and promote HOB’s valuable programs. She’s also working to promote our upcoming 5K event, The Human Race.

“The experience has been creatively awesome. I like the fact that they allow me to explore my wacky ideas for their social media page,” Jessica said. “The few times I’ve gone into the office, I feel welcomed and comfortable in their democratic environment. I mostly work from home due to a physical disability, but that didn’t stop them from taking me onboard their team.”

Jessica discovered her desire to help others after she was diagnosed with a rare disease called Scleroderma. “It ignited a passion within me. The awareness is severely lacking, and although it is rare, I feel as though the whole world should know about it. I want to be the voice for all those out there who suffer daily,” Jessica said. “I’m only 27 and I’m completely dependent on others to perform simple tasks for me, due to the fact that the disease has destroyed my hands. If I can raise enough awareness, others will want to get involved and donate to research to potentially find a cure.”

The majority of Jessica’s volunteering is dedicated to her work with Scleroderma. “I enjoy supporting others with advice or motivation on Facebook, or speaking in the community about the disease. It’s inspiring when others message me and say that I’m the reason they got out of bed that day or I’m the reason they have faith in their fight,” she said. “It’s so important to stop and take a moment to learn from those around you. You learn life’s best lessons from someone going through a struggle. And that’s what volunteering is all about; humility and passion.”

Jessica believes it’s important for people to volunteer so they can expose themselves to new things and issues they may not have been aware of in their community. “It’s important for others to get involved so they can view a different side of life. Giving back is one of the best ways to humble your heart. The psychological reward can be even greater than that of working a paid job,” she said. “Volunteers are the glue to the majority of nonprofits. They go together like Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen.”

When asked what advice Jessica has for new volunteers, she said, “The number one thing I would recommend is to get involved with something that pulls at your heart strings. If you’re passionate about animals, volunteer at an animal shelter. If you’re passionate about art, volunteer at a local art museum. This way you will be connected with the cause on a deeper level, and it will benefit both ends of the spectrum. Keep an open mind and an open heart.”

Thank you for all that you do, Jessica! We hope other volunteers are inspired by the impact she has had on our community.