Monday, October 29, 2007

Giving Feels So Good

I've just returned from IFMA's annual convention and exposition, WorldWorkplace which was held in New Orleans this year. A lot could be said about the event, another impressive effort by IFMA staff, but what I really want to share is the Saturday experience. Out of the thousands who attended the week's events and toured the French Quarter, only 120 stayed for the volunteer work effort on Saturday. It may have been a small group, but we were a hard working bunch!

We took on four NOFD stations. Each team had eight hours to paint the interior of their station from head to toe, including the high bay "apparatus floor" where the equipment is parked. These stations were all in functioning neighborhoods which, I suspect, you would equate to second or third world country status. Their equipment is old, the protective turn out suits they wear when fire fighting are literally rotting, and the conditions they live and work in at the station houses are deplorable. Want to see mold? They can show you mold.

So what did we do? What did we accomplish? What difference did we make?
  • We painted and sweated for nine hours and were exhausted at the end of the day. Some of us spent a good portion of the day on top of scaffolding painting the high bay ceiling, some of us "cut in" around doors and moldy window frames, and others cleaned and painted.
  • We talked with the fire fighters. Heard their stories, their dreams, their frustrations...and shared ours with them.
  • We laughed, hugged, and cried...and they did the same.
  • Grainger and Bank of the West donated $35,000 to the FD's recovery fund, on top of the materials that were provided by donation.
For my money, that was the real event. Want to talk about a Value Add experience?
  • I got acquainted with people in IFMA from all over the country (and one wanderer from Australia) that I didn't know before.
  • I helped make a difference. At the end of the day this fire station was a different place, it had a different feel. We didn't solve all of their problems by a long shot, but we did something, it was important, and it was appreciated.
Kudo's to Will Rub, Bill Black, Francis Kuhn and the IFMA Foundation staff for putting this day together and giving us the opportunity to give back. It is two years since Katrina devastated the region and there is still much to do. It felt good to help out.

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