Contest Winner – Rachel Nixon
I had the wonderful opportunity to volunteer in Haiti. I have gone to Haiti every year for the past 5 years but the trip I remember most was the first year I went in May of 2010. It was just a few months after the 7.0 earthquake hit Haiti and the country was devastated. I went with an organization called Voice of Children. Voice of Children houses orphans and provides food, shelter, clothing, and education to the children. The first year I went we brought a lot of wood and we built several bunk beds for the children and we also built benches for the school’s they go to. We also had a 3 day medical clinic for the public. We had 2 doctors and 2 nurses on our team and we cleaned out ears, flushed out eyes, and did open wound care. A lot of the people in Haiti sleep on the dirt and there is a small mite that gets under the skin and causes a rash and itching. I made a salve out of Vaseline and sulfur powder and applied it to the rash and it would suffocate the mites and cause them to die. At the clinic we also gave away shoes, clothes, toys, toothbrushes, combs, and food. We served over 1500 people during the 3 day medical clinic! I consider it an honor to go and volunteer and help serve the people in Haiti and can’t wait to go back this year.
I have had a lot of really inspiring stories of volunteering. I love to work with children and those with special needs. I would have to say that my all-time favorite moment was when I was in CSCC and I had the privilege of volunteering with Junior Achievement. I was able to go into a classroom of third graders and teach them about how the world works. One particular lesson was about business. The lesson taught the kids about setting up and managing a business and to hear their creative ideas for what they would like to do was great. One child wanted to run a veterinary clinic next to a coffee shop. This would allow her could take care of animals and the owners had a place to relax while they wait. For a third grader to think about taking care of animals and their owners at the same time was brilliant. This girl’s idea was so great that when it came time to let them play both roles of owner and customer, her shop was very busy. She won a prize for having successfully created her business, running it and be the most profitable. After it was all said and done, she was exhausted from taking care of all the animals and people, but she also had fun. These are the reasons I like to volunteer. It is not how it makes me feel, but how the people that I am helping feel.
Junior Achievement – JA in a Day Program
In October of 2014 I was invited to attend a Junior Achievement breakfast. While at the breakfast I learned what Junior Achievement stood for and the goals of the program – at that point I was sold. I have always felt that financial literacy is paramount for a child’s understanding of the importance of money and how it affects their lives. I felt so strongly that I made a donation at the breakfast and offered up my services to teach.
A few months later I received an e-mail from Junior Achievement requesting volunteers and I jumped at the opportunity. I taught my first class with TFSB colleagues on January 14th. After working with a classroom of third graders, I realized that this was something that I was missing. After that class I spoke with the Junior Achievement director and offered up my services. I recently taught my second class and will be teaching at least one more in May. I hope to make Junior Achievement part of my giving back for years to come.
I am grateful for TFS and giving associates the opportunity to give back. The good feelings and appreciation that I get from the students cannot be quantified.
Remaining Top Submissions:
I love being a Toyota Volunteer at the monthly Outreach/Giving Day sponsored by my church. After living a long and good life, my mom passed away on May 31, 2014. Her passing left us with such deep sorrow. My sister and I went through mom’s clothing and shoes. My Rav4 was loaded with her worldly possessions for the June 20 Giving Day. I cried as I unloaded her clothing, but these tears dried quickly as I witness the joy when the ladies found clothing that they couldn’t afford to buy. Mom would have been so happy to see these lovely ladies receiving her clothing.
Each month my spirit is renewed as we serve 300+ families and Veterans. Our sorrows or everyday stress is put into perspective when you see people who really have a hard life. They sometimes have to stand a few hours waiting for the volunteers to set up the little mini-grocery/department store.
I am grateful for Toyota/Lexus Finance for encouraging their employees to give back to the community. The community benefits and so do the employees.
I had a great experience with the High School youth at the Detroit Boys and Girls Club. At the end of the school year, the Detroit DSSO Ambassador, Karita Bell, asked me to volunteer in mock interviews for the students. The students were very serious as they were interviewed. I asked them similar behavioral questions that we at Toyota Financial Services ask during interviews. – “Tell me about a time when you had to give negative feedback to a team mate” and “Tell me about a time you were asked to lead a group to accomplish a goal or project”. From an employer’s point of view, I then gave them feedback on their answers.
I was extremely impressed with the initiative and desire of these young adults. They were all striving for success and using the opportunities they were given to develop themselves for life after Boys and Girls Club.
For me, it was a chance to use the skills Toyota Financial has helped develop in me to give back. I was able to hear about the life experience of the students and encourage them. I helped them see that many of their life experiences can prepare them for exciting jobs with great companies.
I would have to say my favorite story regarding volunteering was when I was able to take my team to volunteer at Feed My Starving Children. My team asked if they would be able to adjust their hours so they could meet after work and volunteer as a team. My Manager approved the adjustment to the schedules and we all met in our parking lot after work. We carpooled to the location and we spent an hour and a half with other volunteers of all ages to pack food boxes for Feed My Starving Children. This was inspiring as it created teamwork and gave everyone involved a feeling of satisfaction that they really made a difference in people’s lives. It was also a topic of discussion amongst other teams for several weeks.
I volunteered to help at a children’s safe home. These were homes that were set up to house a handful of children that were in care of Child Protective Services. I thought it was a great idea to have these children live in an actual house and not a building that would feel more like a boarding school. I went with a couple of co-workers, and we spent the day with these kids. Immediately they touched all of our hearts as they wanted to go play outside, draw, anything really…they just wanted to have fun! It was a beautiful site to see these kids with such bright uplifting spirits- under circumstances that are not choice…(what child would not rather be with their families?). I don’t know all of their stories as to how they ended up there…but it didn’t really matter because they were in a positive environment surrounded by love. It was a great feel good day…didn’t even feel like I was volunteering, rather that I spent the day being a kid again.
I have had many awesome volunteer experiences, but the one that I reflect back on with the most pride and enthusiasm revolves around a mini financial workshop TFS organized for our local Boys and Girls Club teens. The teens were given a financial profile and had to visit stations to learn and experience real life scenarios of choosing how they wanted to spend their income. They had to make choices for housing, cars, groceries, insurance, and clothes. It was great teaching them how to manage their money and make the best choices based on their scenarios. At the end of the exercise, I felt like they truly learned about income and spending and they will carry those skills as they mature into adults with real responsibilities.
I find it personally rewarding volunteering at the Boys and Girls club. I think back to my very first experience which was a kick-off dance to start the Diploma to Degrees program. The dance was held in the Boys and Girls Club gymnasium complete with a DJ, pizza and Toyota swag. What more could a kid want?
Like every dance starts off, the kids were shy and students and team members we separated in groups. Once the music started, the kids started dancing and the Toyota team members quickly joined in – everything changed from there. The kids quickly loosened up and were not shy anymore, there were smiles and laughter everywhere and everyone was clearly having a good time.
A memorable moment came at the end of the night with a raffle for an iPod. The kids all had their tickets in hand hoping their ticket number would be called. The winner was one of the younger students who had danced all evening with us and was very excited that he had won. The DJ topped it off by saying she would personally load music on the iPod. What I saw next was a big smile from one happy student who had a good time at the dance and left as a winner with a new iPod and music.
That student was not the only winner that evening, I was a winner too by spending the evening with a great group kids. I left that night with gratitude in my heart from everyone’s abundant generosity: from the kids who spent the night dancing with us, the DJ who gave away music to the joy of the young student who won the iPod. It’s those special moments that I find rewarding volunteering at the Boys and Girls Club.
Growing up I was involved in Girl Scouting. I hadn’t given much thought to my Girl Scout experience until my own daughter became old enough to get involved with the organization. As I began researching, I discovered that in the Los Angeles area there are thousands of girls on waiting lists who are interested in being part of a Girl Scout troop. Unfortunately, there are not enough volunteers to meet the demand for troop leaders. I quickly realized that in order for my daughter to participate in Scouts, I would need to volunteer my time.
As a result, this past year, I volunteered to start a brownie troop and be the troop leader. It has been a lot of work but very rewarding to spend time with 14 enthusiastic second graders! Part of the reason I have enjoyed it so much is because it has reminded me of all of the fun I used to have in Girl Scouts. The brownie program has changed a lot since I was a brownie, but there are also many aspects that are the same. I have enjoyed learning with the girls as well as teaching them Girl Scout traditions and songs. The experience has also allowed me to spend a lot of time with my daughter, which has been wonderful. It is definitely difficult to balance working full time, family, and volunteering, but it has been very worthwhile and fulfilling to me.
I love being a volunteer for Toyota. With team members from our office, I have sorted and labeled food for distribution by local food pantries, painted and repaired and landscaped homes for the elderly and removed invasive species from forest preserves, collected seeds and planted trees. I have manned a booth for a hospital at a local health fair, collected coats and toys, participated in food drives for veteran’s families and collected supplies for a no-kill animal shelter.
We are truly a part of our community and this kind of sweat equity, giving of myself, means so much more to me than just donating money. TFS has given me so many opportunities to support the organizations that I care about!
I volunteer at the Arizona Animal Welfare League, which is a privately run no-kill shelter. I started off with the idea of walking dogs in cool weather and sitting with cats when it is too hot to walk. I do not have any animals of my own, so I thought this would be a good outlet for me.
Through my volunteering, I became interested in observing dog behavior and working with “problem” cases. Even though most of my time is spent helping the scared and aggressive dogs, it gives me more appreciation for the happy go lucky ones that manage to keep a good attitude despite the confines of a shelter (as nice as AAWL is, a shelter is a tough environment for any animal).
My favorite memory is meeting a female pit bull named Mara. When I first saw her, she spoke to me in the most polite dog language by sitting and putting on a friendly face. I spent lots of time with Mara during her time at the shelter, even taking her home on occasion to give her a little parole from the shelter. I have to admit that it was a very conflicting feeling when I visited the shelter one day to find that she had been adopted. Obviously I am glad for her, and I know her family is getting a great dog. Still – I miss her.
I think this is the essence of volunteering – giving of yourself for a greater good. It would always be easier to sleep in on Saturday, but volunteering answers a call within ourselves to be selfless – a lesson that this world can always use.
Helping others is very dear to my heart. The Macaroni Kids is an organization that gets children involved in fun activities while keeping them safe. Several times a year, they sponsor Cookies for Kids Cancer which is a bake sale to raise funds for the organization which supports finding cures and helping families going through a very stressful time. I have volunteered in several roles during bake sales.
It especially touched my heart when an elderly woman told me she cannot eat the items but wanted to do her part. She dug in her purse for a handful of coins to donate. Then there’s the father and child that take one cookie and drops $20.00 into the can. These experiences revive my faith in the kindness of others.
I have been personally touched by cancer which motivates me to fundraise for a cure. I know from personal experience that Cookies for Kids Cancer and the Macaroni Kids have contributed to helping my family and assisted in the treatment of my nephew Scott.
Today, he is in remission, Praise the Lord. I want to be a blessing for someone else’s nephew, or niece, grandchild, son or daughter. I am looking forward to the next opportunity I will be given to volunteer to help for a very worthy cause.
Recently I was given an opportunity that was truly inspiring. TFS and the CSCC were hosting a Holiday Party for our local Boys and Girls Club and at the last minute we lost our volunteer for the big man in the red suit. I was identified by a Team Impact member as a suitable replacement and I accepted the call – not knowing what I was getting myself into. With only a few days to prepare, I searched the internet to help me find tips on what makes a good Santa.
We entertained approximately 60 wonderful children ranging in age from 6-16. There were games, food and a truly festive atmosphere all thanks to a team of volunteers that shopped and prepared unique, individual gifs so that each boy or girl got exactly what they wanted. In costume I got to sit in the big chair and hand out gifts and it was this part of the experience that inspired me to recognize that no matter your volunteer role, every task is important and volunteers should be appreciated.
Santa was asked some really tough questions that day: why were my arms are so hairy, where were my reindeer and was I really Santa? One younger boy was watching but being careful not to get to close when a space opened up he moved in. “If I was really Santa” he asked, “what was him his mother’s name?” Quick as a wink my mouth said, “as long as you call her mom that is all that matters”. He looked at me, thought about my answer and then smiled and went on his way. I really think he believes again.
The most inspiring moment was watching the happiness and pride experienced by a teenage boy who received watch, yes a watch. The next day in getting dressed (for work not as Santa) I went to put my watch on. You know what I found; that I had been blessed to have been awarded 2 different watches from our great company – TFS – and here was a young man who had so little that all he wanted was a starter watch. Since that day I look at my watch frequently and I think about those kids and how they inspired me to do just a little bit more for others.
As part of the Diplomas to Degrees program implemented by TFS we volunteer at the Boys & Girls club of Westminster where we mentor and encourage the kids to begin considering and preparing for college as young as the 6th grade! We have held workshops for and taken several college campus tours.
On 4/11/15 we had the opportunity to visit the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD. Our Tour Guide was Chip Seymour Graduating class 1965 who was the Admissions Director of the Naval Academy before he retired. We learned about the traditions of the Naval Academy, explored the dorms and lunched on campus.
It’s pretty awesome how Toyota & Boys & Girls clubs of America are able to expose the youth to different experiences outside of their neighborhoods which will help to inspire their futures.
I’m a mentor at the Baltimore City Juvenile Justice Center (BCJJC). After every session the young men and the staff members state how proud and thankful they are to have a partnership with Toyota and to have great mentors for the young men that are detained. These young me will eventually have an opportunity to rejoin their families and most of them will never forget the time, effort and life skills taught by their Toyota mentors.
I ‘m proud to work for a company which gives back to the community and eager to help teach these young men to be responsible and productive once they are released. The BCJJC staff often states that the Toyota impact has been helpful and rewarding. I would like to thank all of mentors who help out with the program and the management for providing the opportunity to be mentors at BCJJC.
I recently had the honor of representing Toyota by serving as a judge for the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, Illinois State Youth of the Year Competition. It was one of the most rewarding volunteer experiences of my life. I helped judge twenty speeches, interview eight finalists and ultimately select 2 candidates to represent Illinois at the Midwest Regional competition.
All the candidates, the challenges they have overcome and their accomplishments are an inspiration. No person, especially our children, should ever have to experience what most of these candidates had: abuse, homelessness, bullying, drugs and gangs to name a few. The positive impact the Boys and Girls Clubs have had on these youth speaks volumes to the importance of the clubs in our communities.
I am proud to work for a company that values and supports the mission of this amazing organization.
I had the opportunity to be one of the judges to pick the Youth of Year to represent San Diego County in the California State YOY competition. Prior to meeting the candidates we were given a binder which included the top 7 kids picked from the area with their applications and essays.
After a week of reviewing applications and essays the judges, including myself, met to interview each candidate individually during a rigorous 6 hour session. Each interview was 30 minutes and included 3 minute speeches on topics such as how the Boys & Girls Club influenced their lives and their personal brand and a series of interview questions. Upon completion of the interviews the judges selected a candidate as the San Diego County Youth of the Year. The winner a $1000 scholarship and moved on to the state competition held in Northern California.
This entire process was an incredible experience including the difficult task of choosing just one winner. Every story was truly inspiring! Listening to the kids’ backgrounds and the obstacles they overcame at such a young age was heart breaking but it was inspiring to hear the positive impact of the Boys and Girls Club and staff members on the candidate’s lives.
I felt honored to be part of this event and I feel fortunate and proud to work for a company that sponsors these types of programs. I can’t wait to volunteer more of my time and represent TFS in the community.
“Independent City” is a mock city where teen youth in foster care in the Orange County area learn basic life skills. Just like it sounds, it’s an entire pretend city with a grocery store, post office, voter registration office, apartment complex, employment office, etc. The youth are encouraged to go from station to station and perform certain tasks.
After volunteering at my first “Independent City” I was so impressed with Orangewood that I joined the mentor program and now volunteer at many events throughout the year. Orangewood events include an annual Career Fair, the “Belle of the Ball” event and the “Athletes First Gala” fund-raising event. I was even named “Volunteer of the Year” in 2006!
Seeing that light come on in a young person’s eyes when they learn something new or realize that they can be successful is so rewarding. There is no other feeling like it for me. Working with the youth in this program helps put things in perspective for me too. Especially with the career changes I’m about to face. I may have some challenges coming down the road but they are nothing like what some of these children go through on a regular basis.
Who knows, after Toyota I may make Orangewood my second career!
As a Community Ambassador, I have had the privilege to work with the Jerry Gamble Boys and Girls Club in North Minneapolis for 3 years. I have had countless great experiences at the club. My most memorable experience was taking a member of our Diplomas to Degrees program on a college visit. The group had taken 2 other college visits to larger schools earlier in the year. This particular student was looking into graphic and design for a possible major.
Our prior college tours where more of a broad overview of all majors. He mentioned he was looking into some smaller schools that were located in downtown Minneapolis. I offered to take him on a Saturday and not with the whole group; just the 2 of us. We had a great time on the visit and he had the opportunity to speak with professors and students that were in the graphic design major.
It felt great to give this student the opportunity to explore his specific career options and help him envision what his future could look like in his specific field.
I first began volunteering when my co-worker and friend became the Middletown DSSO’s first Community Ambassador. She asked if I would like to volunteer with her and I was more than willing to get involved. Kristin was so good at motivating me and my other co-workers to get involved and made all the arrangements for us with our local Boys and Girls Club and the kids are so excited to see “Toyota!!!” and we are just as excited to see them. Kristin made it so easy for us to volunteer!
When Kristin relocated to the Eastern Regional office, I was asked to attend our Ambassador conference and take over her position. I was so nervous but Kristin gave me the confidence to do it and I received continuous support from the other Ambassadors that I had met at the conference. With Kristin’s head start and the continued support from my co-workers, the DSSO became involved as much as possible with the Newburgh Boys and Girls Club and have continued to support them any way we can.
Yesterday our club asked our office if we would like to help volunteer in handing out fresh vegetables in the community at a food market. Kristin even drove up from the Eastern Regional Office to help out with the event and our D2D Session! We had such a great time helping out the community, we didn’t want to leave. When we got back to the Club, the kids were eager to learn about our lesson in Financial Empowerment. They sat and listened after volunteering for 2 hours in the sun and asked lots of questions.
The feeling I get when the kids learn something from us, when they are excited to see us and their appreciation for us is all the reward I need after working hard to help them out.
Thank you to everyone that submitted such amazing and inspiring volunteer stories – TFS team member passion is incredible!