Paul Smith, a Comcast Construction Specialist, supervised more than 80 local Comcast employees and family members as they supported Lantern House, a local community shelter, for the 17th annual Comcast Cares Day on April 21.
Bill Schuffenhauer, the development director at Lantern House, worked alongside Paul to organize the service day. We sat down with both of them in order to get a sense of the atmosphere and impact of the day.
Comcast: Describe the atmosphere and the work of volunteers at Lantern House on Comcast Cares Day.
Schuffenhauer: We had a variety of projects going throughout the day. Volunteers helped improve the homeless shelter playground for kids and families by weeding, cleaning out the wood chips and removing broken toys. Comcast does so much in Utah and nationwide, it was cool to have a piece of that in action on our campus. Even the love and attention given to our spaces by weeding and picking up garbage makes a difference in the long run.
Paul and his team were very energetic. What I thought was most impressive is that they go out and pay for things needed for projects. They paid for and left behind shovels, rakes, gloves, and wheelbarrows that we can use throughout the year to keep our campus clean and maintained. Having working tools is a huge help as we maintain our large campus.
Smith: Our groups were mixed with clients from Lantern House while we helped with the playground and general grounds cleanup. I saw a lot of personal interactions, even embraces, as people interacted and got to know each other throughout the day. I think that folks were really grateful to join hands and work hard for a joint task. And the Lantern House clients were even tearful at times, grateful that others were choosing to be there to help the less fortunate.
Seeing those interactions reminded me that you can come from any walk of life and still support those in need. It was a moment when status and backgrounds faded for a greater cause, and that was very touching.
How does the atmosphere of Lantern House contribute to the success of your programs and the people you serve?
Schuffenhauer: Our facility is fairly new, and we are proud to say how clean the campus and building are.
That matters. Cleanup matters. Just because you’re homeless doesn’t mean you need to feel homeless. Our clients take a lot of pride in the cleanliness of the area and are eager to help glean garbage once in a while. Having the swell of support on Comcast Cares Day was huge. It makes our residents feel that they reside in a place that’s clean and healthy.
In your words, what is the most successful part of Comcast Cares Day and service days like this?
Schuffenhauer: Because we work in human services, we are always in need of dollars. But when we have a partnership like we do with Comcast, where they’re willing to give financially and collaborate on other solutions as well, that’s a win-win.
Smith: I’ve been involved in Comcast Cares Day for 15 years straight, and this one came about because I met a mutual friend of Bill’s at an event at the Olympic Training Center in Park City, Utah that Comcast was sponsoring. That tells me that our network is strong, and can be a force for good. Once we were introduced to Lantern House, we were able to collaborate and put a great project together. The more you can collaborate, the better it is for nonprofits, Comcast, clients, and partners.
I also think that projects like this are successful because of the people that participate. Everyone was enthusiastic and motivated. We even had a Comcast employee from across the country who happened to be in Salt Lake City on Comcast Cares Day and reached out so that he could get involved in a project, even though he wasn’t in his home city. That shows we have people who genuinely want to give back and are in this for the right reasons.
Did this project have personal significance for you?
Smith: I have a particular concern for homelessness in the state of Utah and worldwide, and when you’re in the middle of it, it softens your heart.
I’ve been with Comcast for 29 years, and I have been able to raise my family while working for Comcast. I’m so grateful for the life we’ve been able to build, and also to be in a company that gives back to its community for the right reasons.
I feel a sense of emotional attachment to my job. As Comcast employees, we’re in and out of people’s homes every day, supporting their quality of life by providing video service, enabling them to do homework by connecting to the internet or giving communication with loved ones. We help people connect to what’s important to them. So it’s important for us to take Comcast Cares Day as an opportunity to make ourselves vulnerable to the needs of others.