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When There’s Not Enough Hand-Outs, Sometimes All It Takes is a Hand-Up


I liked the idea of helping others and volunteering, but was never short of excuses as to why I couldn’t. I remember saying things like, ‘I’m too busy’, or ‘I have to get home to my kids’. I’m even ashamed to say I’ve used the tried-and-true ‘I have a headache’ excuse to get out of volunteering. But last April, my company MST Solutions, had a mandatory volunteer day. Dang it! 30-something years of getting out of it all down the drain. There’s no escaping a mandatory volunteer day, especially when the owner of the company finds time to attend.

Reluctantly, at first, I spent a few hours with my team packaging food to ship to kids overseas. These two hours literally changed my life. As a team, we packaged enough food to feed 94 kids for an entire year. It had such an impact on me that I ran home and told my family about all the amazing work we did that day. I, very passionately, rambled on about how good it felt to help fill the bellies of hungry children, (and even more passionately) about how sad it was that in today’s world we needed to and that if more people volunteered we could make sure no child is ever hungry again. I’m pretty sure I exhausted (or annoyed) them with my excitement, because my kids and husband chose to go to bed early that night.

So, not only do I have a game-changer of a day, but I also get the one thing I ask for (and never receive) every Mother’s Day… a night where my boys aren’t physically acting out their new Power Ranger ninja skills on me, or where my daughter isn’t asking me to analyze the weird blink her latest crush did while talking to her or even worse where I have to pretend I understand (or care) about the numbers my Accountant husband had to crunch that day. Sorry babe, I have no idea why your ‘insert super smart accounting words here’ is less than your ‘insert other super smart accounting words here too’.

Later that night, as I’m fully enjoying my aforementioned best day and even better night in the history of my adulthood it hits me… what happens to those 94 kids next year when the food we packaged runs out? The answer I came up with was simple. More people volunteer, more grain and protein powder are sent, and the cycle continues year-after-year-after-year. Don’t get me wrong, organizations like the one we volunteered at are nothing short of amazing and necessary right now, but every day these kids are reliant on the kindness and generosity of others… and nothing changes, because nothing changes.

But what if… what if we offered a hand-up instead of a hand-out.

What if we create a chain of change in the underserved mothers of children like the ones we helped last April, right here in Arizona. What if we tackled the root of the issue to break the cycle of generational poverty. And what if we do that by offering free interactive skill-based workshops to help develop their technical and business skills to earn and retain stable and sustainable employment.

The next morning, I found myself searching for statistics about poverty. I was blown away. According to talkpoverty.org, 16.4% of our fellow Arizonians live at or below the poverty line. And while it appears that poverty levels are on a slow decline and great legislation has been put into place like the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families that Governor Doug Ducey signed, there is still so much more work to be done and I had caught the ‘volunteering bug’. Now, there are a ton of volunteer opportunities but anyone who knows me knows I am an ‘all-in’ type of person and volunteering just wasn’t enough.

A few weeks later, The KIND Project was born. KIND, stands for Knowledge Inspiring New Direction and it is our mission to provide a new direction inspired by actionable knowledge. After several months of hard work from an amazing group of people, we came up with four core sessions. Our sessions, titled Deserve It, Earn It, Grow It and Celebrate It, focus on taking the women we reach through a journey of being ready for the job, getting the job, keeping the job, and then celebrating their hard work and the amazing, determined women they are.

Deserve It

Our KIND facilitators will show participants how to navigate their way around Microsoft Office Word, Outlook, PowerPoint, and Excel by using a real-life scenario. In this session, participants will plan a birthday party by creating invites in Word, emailing the invites to their peers in Outlook, building a party budget in Excel and creating a photo slideshow in PowerPoint, all while learning best practices along the way.

Earn It

No matter your skill level, not having a properly prepared resume or (eek) being unprepared to answer interview questions is a job seeker’s (and hiring managers) worst nightmare. This session is designed to teach the do’s and don’ts of building a professional resume that stands out. Participants will also learn how to interview through mock interviews with our KIND staff. They walk away with a draft resume to finish as homework and confidence to ace any interview.

Grow It

Congrats, you’ve got the job! Now what? Believe it or not, maintaining and growing in your job or within a new role can be just as challenging as earning it in the first place. In this session, we teach the importance of Emotional Intelligence, perception and how to build the skills to not only be a top contributor in a new role, but also how to prepare for advancement.

Celebrate It

The women who commit to attending all four sessions of our program are those who show the grit and determination to redefine their futures, and that is worth celebrating. In this session, we show our appreciation for their efforts with a fun ‘graduation’ party.

I am so excited to announce that in February we are partnering with Maggie’s Place, a local non-profit that provides housing for pregnant and parenting women, to start our first round of sessions.

I am fortunate enough to work at the best company in Arizona, and in my very biased opinion, quite possibly the best place in the world, MST Solutions, which is a Chandler-based company that believes our work should be reflected in our community. The KIND Project is fully supported by MST Solutions and has become an entity under the MST umbrella. For the first round of sessions, MST has offered to donate laptops as incentive to any participant who attends all four sessions. I am so grateful to MST and Thiru Thangarathinam, our leader, for supporting and believing in KIND’s mission.

There are 13 other members of my MST family who have dedicated countless hours to making sure these sessions provide the most benefit for participants. Without them, KIND would still be a big idea that never grew its legs.

Leslie EdmondsTiffany BeersMichael VeinotDylan EbersoleNicole AcevedoCatherine YackshawKarri MolzenDavid GruenbergKevin ClarkeJessica HipskindAsif KhanKen Costello and Ryan (Tiberius) Smith you have my sincerest gratitude.

I believe the direction you take in life is directly defined by the amount of effort you are willing to invest, and it is my hope that The KIND Project inspires the women we reach to make an investment in themselves.

For more information or to schedule a round of sessions email me at KIND@mstsolutions.com.