Posted by guest blogger: Roxana Sanchez
Somewhere in the swirl of senior year, a former teacher turned mentor, posted a link on my Facebook wall. The link read: Bank of America Student Leaders Program.
Though Bank of America was on my radar, I didn’t know they performed other functions outside of banking. In the Student Leaders Program, Bank of America sponsors students who are involved in their communities, to work an 8-week paid internship at a local non-profit.
Also as part of the internship, Student Leaders are required to participate in an all-expense-paid trip to Washington D.C. for a week-long leadership summit. So in January 2014, I submitted my application and continued on with my life. Months after, when I least expected, I got an email from Bank of America congratulating me.
A few days later I was informed of my assigned local non-profit: Habitat for Humanity of Greater Los Angeles (Habitat LA). Though the name Habitat for Humanity rang a bell, I have to say that before spending eight weeks here, I didn’t have the slightest clue of what Habitat for Humanity did.
The first thing that I learned when coming to Habitat LA was that everything has an acronym—I mean EVERYTHING. Whether it’s a department like EMC (Entertainment, Marketing and Communications) or events such as PWPT (Power Women Power Tools) or HFHFH (Hollywood for Habitat for Humanity) to simple things like RE (Raiser’s Edge—an organizational database) people here at Habitat LA have created their own language of acronyms, and it works!
During my time here I have gotten to experience a little bit of everything. I have gotten to shadow different department heads, gone out with the trucks all day and helped them pick up ReStore donations all over Los Angeles, and of course gone out to a build site to help frame a Habitat home.
I have been truly inspired by Habitat’s employees and volunteers alike. What everyone has in common is passion. I have witnessed how hard employees work. People wear many different hats outside of their role, and they wear them gracefully.
Habitat employees don’t need an incentive other than their passion to help people and make an impact on the community. Volunteers come out to donate hard, sweaty hours of labor and they do it with the biggest smile on their faces. Volunteers are present in every aspect of the organization, not just building; just ask Lolita, Habitat’s own Superstar volunteer.
I thought I knew the importance of volunteering, but it didn’t really hit me until I met Habitat Partner Homeowners.
During the PWTP event (acronyms remember?), I was able to meet and speak with Habitat Homeowners and their children. I remember having a conversation with the eldest daughter of Nikki Payton, a Habitat LA Partner Homeowner.
We talked about what sports she liked and how she would practice and play in her backyard. Though she was shy throughout the entire conversation, her eyes lit up when she told me that part.
One of the most important things I took away from this was learning that the word “non-profit” can be misleading. There is a certain stigma that accompanies the word non-profit. Non-profits aren’t considered real companies by the public eye.
There is a myth that non-profits don’t have to hold high expectations because they are not seeking to make any money. Well, in reality just because an organization is a non-profit—that doesn’t mean that they don’t perform just like any other business would.
In terms of profit, the only difference is that instead of seeking to make profit for shareholders, organizations like Habitat seek to find funds and use their profit towards their mission and cause.
Mark Van Lue, COO, shed some light on the expectation held at Habitat LA. He explained to me that running a successful organization is all about efficiency. Habitat LA has high profile members on their Board of Directors, members who are used to working with the best teams.
In order for Habitat LA to keep its reach and thus continue making a bigger impact, they must perform at the expected level.
From the thousands of volunteers eagerly coming out every year, to the many events and projects all running simultaneously, to the hundreds of acronyms spoken all day, Habitat LA is a working machine that is fighting high living costs and bringing affordable housing to people living in substandard housing.
I feel so privileged and lucky to have been able to associate with Habitat for Humanity so early in my life. I am really happy that Habitat LA has an upcoming project in my hometown of Inglewood. You will definitely see me out on the build site proudly wearing my pink PWPT hard hat.
About the Author
Roxana Sanchez is an avid Disney fan. She is a first-generation Mexican-American and lives in Inglewood, California with her family. She recently graduated from Crossroads School for Arts & Sciences in Santa Monica and will attend Brown University in the fall.