Michelle Hathenbruck, a tech supervisor with Comcast, described the atmosphere as “contagious.”
Hathenbruck supervised nearly 400 local Comcast employees and family members as they supported The Road Home, a network of three community shelters in the greater Salt Lake City area (two community shelters and several permanent supportive housing facilities), for the 17th annual Comcast Cares Day on April 21.
Volunteers helped with painting, landscaping, improving dorms, gardens, play areas and facility campuses that provide a sense of home for hundreds of short term and long term residents as well as visitors who are experiencing or transitioning out of homelessness.
Alexa Black, the organization’s volunteer coordinator, said that Comcast Cares Day helps all of these facilities kick off their spring cleaning and better serve the thousands of residents that interact with the facilities each week.
We sat down with Hathenbruck and Black to get a firsthand account of the service day.
Comcast: Describe the atmosphere and the work of volunteers at The Road Home.
Hathenbruck: We did a lot of cleaning and maintenance in the open courtyard, including yard work, picking up the playground and painting curbs. It’s those little things that make a big difference and contribute to the atmosphere. We are helping to keep it a place where people can feel safe and get the help they need to become successful and productive members of society.
I think it is remarkable that we take time to help people in real need, making a way for homeless people to get back on their feet. What is cool about this partnership is that we are helping people who are not typically our customers, but could be in the future.
Although current residents of The Road Home couldn’t work on projects, there were a lot of former residents that came. It was cool to serve alongside them as they gave back to an organization that had helped them.
This is something you can be proud of, and I would suggest everyone participate in Comcast Cares Day at least once. It helps with your leadership abilities, and when you see the good that’s being done, it’s a great feeling. It’s contagious.
Black: We had almost 400 volunteers across the different locations, and it made a huge difference to have that level of support. We look forward to it. We don’t have any other service projects on this scale that have these many volunteers committing to help with whatever is needed. Comcast employees and partners were so enthusiastic and willing to pivot between projects, no matter what needed to be done.
Did this project have personal meaning for you?
Hathenbruck: This is really close to my heart because I hate to see people go without, and I hate seeing people that don’t have anything. I’ve been really fortunate to not have to worry about that. I brought my son and some of his football friends, so they had a chance to see community service in action and see how people live in different life circumstances. My coworker Marc brought his 3-year-old because he wanted her to have a chance to observe. Comcast is great about inviting families into these experiences, and you’re never too young to start.
Black: It makes a huge difference when volunteers are willing to come on-site to our facilities, meet residents, and see how things run. It helps the volunteers understand the scope of the homelessness problem in our communities, and understand the stories of people who are experiencing it. Volunteers who have that knowledge are super important to our organization because they will spread the word, become donors, and act as partners, getting other people involved as well.
In your words, how would you describe the impact of nonprofit/corporate partnerships like the one between Comcast and organizations like The Road Home?
Hathenbruck: I’ve been with Comcast 12 years this June, and I think our company is truly a leader in successful giving. Whether it’s Comcast Cares Day, Big Brothers Big Sisters, or other programs, we do a lot of good things in our communities. I’m proud to work here. I think we do the right thing and get involved in the community because the people who get involved genuinely care.
Black: When a partnership can spotlight issues like homelessness, that is a good thing. A partnership like this tells the story behind the issue and gives people a chance to empathize and enter into those stories. Comcast Cares Day is one way that Comcast demonstrates that they’re not just out to give money, but give their time and talent toward making a difference as well.
I think my favorite part of the day was seeing people unified around one purpose. Comcast Cares Day was a sea of green t-shirts – you couldn’t tell who were employees, who were residents of our facilities, or otherwise. Everyone was working together.