“After a great experience, we wanted to keep volunteering with Alvis.”
Lori Robinson-Terry, Insurance/Risk Manager at M/I Homes, has been a volunteer at Alvis for about five years. She first came to know the agency when, as a new employee at M/I Homes, she was part of a group planning to participate in United Way of Central Ohio’s “Community Care Day,” (now called the Columbus Volunteer Challenge). Lori and her group came across a project at Alvis to help paint the interior of one of our supported living homes for individuals with developmental disabilities (DD). None of them had heard of Alvis before but the project sounded interesting and like a good group project.
After meeting some Alvis clients and hearing about the agency’s work to turn lives around, Lori and other members of the M/I team decided they wanted to do more with Alvis. During that same year, M/I was looking for a new “Holiday Cheer” recipient and decided to sponsor the holiday events for all of Alvis’ clients in our DD Services Division. Working with individual gift lists that included such items a CD player alongside of less traditional items like an unabridged dictionary, the group purchased gifts, helped to fill stockings and volunteered at the party.
In January, a group of DD clients came to M/I to personally thank all of the staff who had contributed to such a great holiday. The client’s energy and enthusiasm was contagious and from that day on, M/I was hooked on helping Alvis clients and began looking for additional ways to become involved.
As the new head of the Employee Activity Committee at M/I Homes, Lori wanted to make the Holiday Cheer program an even bigger event. Lori also was looking for opportunities that provided a personal connection to the people in the program. “Alvis isn’t a big name,” said Lori. “It’s not an agency that you see on billboard and know is getting a lot of stuff, so for us, it provides a more desirable experience to work with a nonprofit that we can touch and feel.”
In 2014, Alvis began a new program to help parents and children rebuild relationships that have been broken apart by addiction and justice involvement. Lori and the rest of the M/I team wanted to get in on the ground floor of working with this new program, so they decided to make the Alvis Family and Children’s Program the annual beneficiary of their Holiday Cheer program. Each year, M/I’s involvement in the Family and Children’s Program has grown. For Holiday Cheer, Alvis families are sponsored by one of M/I’s departments. This helps to build the personal connection between one department and one family. Kids are asked to make a list of one need, one book and one want and mothers also make a list of needs.
In 2017, 52 kids and their families in the Alvis Family and Children’s program were overwhelmed with gifts that surpassed their lists and even their dreams. But the Holiday Cheer program is more than just gifts – it also provides hope and a second chance to become a family again. Each year, M/I volunteers also came to the party to celebrate with families and bring a professional photographer so families will have a happy holiday memory keepsake.
M/I staff get a lot out of the experience, too. “I can still remember a little girl who met Santa for the first time. I will always remember her smile, her excitement, and the hugs for bringing Santa,” said Emily Smith, formerly with M/I and now the Communications Manager for Pelotonia. “At that moment I knew we were truly doing something to better the lives of others and helping them to make memories with their moms.”
“Every year gets better and better and the kids are so appreciative. The joy that comes from seeing the look on a child’s face when she gets what she had hoped for can’t be beat,” said Lori. “The personal connection and the fact that Alvis works with people that have kind of been run over by society keep me volunteering at Alvis. I share the story of working with the families at Alvis with my family and friends – I love sharing this experience and I could look at the pictures of the kids at the holiday party for hours.”
“Volunteer work is important to everyone,” continued Lori. “There’s just too much hate and anger around us these days and I think volunteering is a great way to feel better.” In addition to her volunteer work at Alvis, Lori is also President of the PTA at her daughter’s school. “Parents should be involved in their child’s life and making their community better,” said Lori. “Children learn by watching what their parents do.” Lori also brings her daughter with her to volunteer at Alvis so she can see people who have different circumstances and be part of reaching out with a helping hand.
Giving back to those in need, seeing appreciation radiate through their body, and coming to know that all of us are more alike than different is an incredible experience. It allows people from all walks of life to come together and help to turn lives around. Pelotonia Communications Manager Emily Smith summed it up, saying, “I think we all have times in our lives where we do things we regret, and for these women [at Alvis] to acknowledge that and work to better themselves - I think that speaks volumes.”
At Alvis, we’re so grateful to people like Lori Robinson-Terry and to companies like M/I Homes, who regularly demonstrate their commitment to turning lives around – by 180 degrees.
For more information about volunteering at Alvis, please contact Margaret “Molly” Seguin by phone at 614.252.8402 or by email here: Margaret.Seguin@alvis180.org.