I met Alan Graham seven years ago in Wooldridge Square Park, and I immediately knew this man had the vision to change the lives of the homeless community in Austin, Texas. Looking back on that freezing January night, I watched Graham greet dozens of appreciative men and women. I could see the impact he had on the community right in front of me, but it’s hard to imagine he was only just getting started.
It was that night that made me realize that Mobile Loaves & Fishes (MLF) would be a cause I would dedicate my time to for years to come. Since then, I’ve spent countless hours in the MLF kitchen preparing sandwiches and riding around Austin in the truck. And I think I’ve handed out more bologna sandwiches than I could ever count. But most importantly, I’ve met thousands of men, women, and children who have had their lives changed by Alan Graham.
Community First! Village – a 27-acre community that provides “affordable, sustainable housing and a supportive community for the disabled, chronically homeless in Central Texas” – is the latest of Graham’s visions. Graham’s vision features a community garden featuring fruit, nut-bearing trees, and vegetables; a chicken coop, beehives providing fresh honey, and aquaponics; a medical facility for physical and mental health screenings; an outdoor theater, and much much more. Last year during the company’s annual b:generous week – a company initiative that allows all global employees to take time from their work day to give back to their local communities – a group of Bazaarvoice employees got to be a part of the project to build a micro-home. This past weekend, the rest of the Austin community got to check out Community First! Village, and the Bazaarvoice home during an open house hosted by MLF and it was a great way to see how the commitment of a few individuals can come to life.
Content Integrity and Insights Manager Lindsey Fivecoat had the opportunity to organize b:generous week last year for the entire company, and she believes “we all get the most when we give the most, so companies that prioritize charitable giving are actually prioritizing the happiness of their employees.” Fivecoat encourages employees everywhere to speak up and get their companies involved in volunteering. “If there is a cause you believe in, ask to organize something as simple as a team volunteer outing. It will change your outlook, your day, your life!”
Client Success Director James Miller got involved in the project during b:generous week after hearing from Graham that “the number one cause of chronic homelessness is the catastrophic loss of community.” Miller reflects, “That deeply resonated with me. It says a lot about the important role we play in each others lives.”
Bazaarvoice CEO Gene Austin on getting involved in the project, “I love being associated with an organization that is innovating on age-old problems.”
Thinking back to the day, Austin says, “We changed someone’s life that day. A homeless person will call the Bazaarvoice home their home and start their journey back.” As with all Community First! residents, the individual living in the Bazaarvoice home will need to pay a small rent, which will require they are employed, but Austin feels confident that through this, “slowly but surely they will transition out of homelessness and helplessness.”
On the importance of giving back at Bazaarvoice, Austin responds, “giving back is so ingrained in our culture that Community First! was a perfect place for Bazaarvoice to go to work.”
Guidelines Analyst Emelda Hankins was drawn to the MLF project because “[MLF] treats everyone they help with dignity, kindness, and respect.” After participating in the project, Hankins came to the realization “that this world is filled with good people, and when they get together they can do great things for others.”
On the company prioritizing giving back Hankins says, “I gained so much more respect and love for Bazaarvoice after this experience.”
Lead Training Specialist Philip Lawrence felt that his involvement in the project helped boost morale, and create a positive change when he got back to Bazaarvoice.
It’s clear that b:generous made a lasting impact on the company and the way we look at giving back to our local communities, and everyone at Bazaarvoice is excited to see someone call the Bazaarvoice home at Community First! Village their home.