HandsOn Greater Phoenix commemorates 21 years of service with about 400 partners

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(left to right) - Melissa Lewis, owner of Table Tops, Etc. and one of HandsOn's founding board members, (middle) Alison Rapping, former HandsOn CEO and Albin Halquist, President of Halquist Construction and one of HandsOn’s founding board members. They are taking a picture in our 21st birthday “photo booth” which utilized some of the great murals that are a part of the lot/pop up park. (Photo Courtesy of Chris Helmuth)
(left to right) – Melissa Lewis, owner of Table Tops, Etc. and one of HandsOn’s founding board members, (middle) Alison Rapping, former HandsOn CEO and Albin Halquist, President of Halquist Construction and one of HandsOn’s founding board members. They are taking a picture in our 21st birthday “photo booth” which utilized some of the great murals that are a part of the lot/pop up park. (Photo Courtesy of Chris Helmuth)

HandsOn Greater Phoenix, a local nonprofit organization that manages volunteers, celebrated 21 years of service to the city Friday.

The organization, which serves the entire Phoenix metropolitan area, helps local communities by connecting volunteers with opportunities to serve whatever needs the community may have.

“Our goal is to make it easier for people and to break down any barriers to getting involved,” said Rhonda Oliver, CEO of HandsOn Greater Phoenix. “We offer a wide variety of opportunities that meet people’s interests and busy schedules.”

Oliver has been with the organization for 15 years and has witnessed its growth firsthand. She said that when it first started, it had little more than 300 volunteers. Now, it works with about 24,000 volunteers annually.

HandsOn Phoenix works with about 400 nonprofit partners, service agencies, schools and neighborhoods, Oliver said.

“Depending on what their needs are, drives (what) our volunteer opportunities are,” Oliver said. “So we have a little bit of everything.”

Theresa Martinez, director of community programs, said that the organization offers something for every type of volunteer and makes it easy for people to get involved where they’re needed most. She said that the organization offers training and leadership development, so people can take on more committed volunteer roles in the community.

“Each community partner, volunteer and client we work with is unique,” Martinez said, “yet each one is a part of the bigger picture of helping to make Maricopa County a better place and move the needle on pressing community needs.”

The organization hosted an event to celebrate their anniversary at the “What Should Go Here” lot located at 1005 N. Second Street. Chris Helmuth, Vice President of HandsOn Greater Phoenix, said that the lot, located on Roosevelt Row, was a perfect location to celebrate the organization’s success.

“We have a good relationship with Roosevelt Row and have done a lot of work in the neighborhood,” Helmuth said. “The space really reflects on the work we’ve done well.”

Two people spoke at the event about how the organization has impacted their lives, Helmuth said. Debbie Coleman, an army veteran and cancer survivor, spoke about how the organization impacted her.

The organization helped Coleman, who was suffering from side effects of treatments and surgeries, to renovate her home so that everyday activities could be easier. Volunteers helped build storage cabinets around her entire house that Coleman can now reach, painted, fixed her security door and gate and installed new lighting.

However, Coleman’s favorite part of the renovation was the work done to her backyard, she said. Since she got cancer, she’s been trying to change her lifestyle and focus on eating healthier. Volunteers helped her build a new garden where she can grow her own herbs and vegetables, as well as have a place to relax.

“So now when I’m sitting in my beautiful new backyard or in my house, I look around and I feel so overwhelmingly thankful, and appreciative,” Coleman said in her speech. “All of the effort and hard work that HandsOn Greater Phoenix and the volunteers put into improving my home and my life continues to give me faith in people.”

Patty Tate, the superintendent of Osborn School District One, also spoke at the celebration. She discussed the difference the organization has made in the lives of students.

Whether volunteers have painted a mural, cleaned a neighborhood, supported a school or helped in numerous other ways, there are few neighborhoods that the organization hasn’t served in some capacity, Oliver said.

“I think over the 21 years, what’s powerful is to look around and see that as a community we’re all better together,” Oliver said. “If we’d all pitch in and do a little bit more, it makes for a better community for everybody to live in.”

Contact the reporter at Rebecca.Brisley@asu.edu

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