As many CSR experts will tell you, the best employee volunteering and corporate responsibility programs are also closely aligned with the work of the company as a whole. Choice Hotels, a member of the VolunteerMatch client community, is a great example of this.
As a lodging company, Choice’s core mission is to provide shelter to guests who are traveling away from home. The Choice Hotels International Foundation follows this lead with projects that provide food, clothing, shelter, education and employment access. This includes the Room to Rebuild program in partnership with Rebuilding Together, which involves Choice employees in home renovation and rehabilitation projects all over the country.
Danielle Paxton works in the Choice Hotels Phoenix corporate office. She’s always been drawn to find ways to do good, and for the past couple of years she’s served as the co-chair on the Community Involvement Committee in Phoenix. This means she’s been right up front at all of the volunteer projects Choice has had in Phoenix.
One of the first projects she worked on through Choice was the Room to Rebuild Phoenix project in 2009. A group of more than 120 Choice associates renovated the Casa Linda Lodge, a shelter for teenage refugee mothers that is associated with Catholic Charities Community Services.
Danielle describes the day of the event as an exciting but exciting experience. “We painted, planted, constructed shelves and shoveled gravel all day,” she explains. She was so focused on her task that when she finally finished and took a look around, she was shocked. The improvement was so significant, it felt like a different place.
Danielle thought about how the residents would react when they saw the changes. “A warm, beautiful sensation filled me,” she says, “knowing that we have the power to make such a huge positive impact in people’s lives with (relatively) little time and effort.”
After the event Danielle and the rest of the participants received a thank you letter from the teenage mothers. It included photos of them and their children enjoying their newly renovated home, as well as handwritten notes with messages such as “because of you we feel loved,” and “because of you we feel safe.”
The following year, Danielle once again participated in the Room to Rebuild Project. This time they renovated the courtyard of the Hacienda Healthcare facility in South Phoenix, which provides 24-hour care and medical services for medically fragile and chronically ill infants, children and young adults.
Approximately 100 volunteers painted the walls bright colors, trimmed trees, planted, moved huge planter pots and installed a shade screen. A small group of people even volunteered inside to interact with the residents, reading to them and rocking the babies.
At the end when everyone was leaving, Danielle was putting the last touches on a tiled art piece they had put up on a block wall. It consisted of dozens of photos of the residents, each super-imposed on a large ceramic tile. She had the privilege at that moment to meet the parents of a baby girl who was being cared for at Hacienda. They were thrilled with the piece and began to count how many tiles their little girl was featured on.
Once again, Danielle was overwhelmed as she watched their faces light up with love and pride seeing their daughter’s face up on the wall. “This is why I love to volunteer for these projects,” Danielle explains. “It connects people and helps us to remember we are not alone.”
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