by Alan Cassinelli
This January, Opal observed Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a public holiday for our employees in recognition of the life and legacy of one of the most influential leaders of our time. Dr. King often asked “What are you doing for others?” which is a question that resonates at Opal because of our company value to ‘Be Helpful – Lend a Hand.’
The Inclusion & Diversity committee at Opal decided to embrace this value and join the national movement of making MLK Day ‘A Day On, Not Off.’
The MLK Day of Service is intended to empower individuals, strengthen communities, bridge barriers, create solutions to social problems, and move us closer to Dr. King’s vision of a “Beloved Community.”– NationalService.org
The Inclusion & Diversity committee is an employee-led organization within Opal with a mission to promote an inclusive and diverse (gender, race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability, etc.) workforce in the tech community using Opal as an advocate, in addition to the goal of increasing diversity at Opal. As a committee, we identified MLK Day as a great opportunity to contribute our resources, passions, and values to serve an underrepresented population in Portland.
A Day Of Service
For our MLK service project, we chose to work with New Avenues For Youth, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the prevention and intervention of youth homelessness. Since 1997, their programs and services have impacted more than 20,000 young people as they work to overcome barriers, pursue their goals, and realize their potential.
New Avenues For Youth identified the restrooms at their Drop-in Day Services Center as in need of a makeover and Opal was happy to step in and help. The Drop-in Center is a safe space where youth experiencing homelessness can receive three meals a day, six days a week, as well as access to necessities like showers, laundry facilities, clothing, counseling, and other services to help lift them up.
Restoring Dignity to Restrooms
Our undertaking for the day was a bay of restrooms just off the main common area that were in serious need of attention. The Inclusion & Diversity team used donations collected from Opal employees to purchase paint and supplies, in addition to donated brushes, rollers, drop cloths, and more. Our team got to work, prepping our workspaces, cleaning graffiti off mirrors, and painting the walls and ceilings in these heavily-trafficked restrooms.
With Led Zeppelin in the background while we painted, this service project was also a chance for our employees to hang out and get to know others in the company that they might not work with on a day-to-day basis. We bonded over our previous painting experiences, Blue Star donuts, and a shared sense of caring about community.
“What else can I do to help?” was often asked by nearly everyone and we frequently had to remind people to take breaks. It was inspiring to witness how genuinely passionate people were about the big and little details of our assignment and treated the space with the same care and respect of their own home.
The Finished Result
The staff at New Avenues For Youth were extremely appreciative of our helping hands and truly amazed at the transformation. With freshly painted walls, cleaned mirrors, newly purchased shower curtains, sparkling towel racks, new soap dispensers, and outlet covers, the restrooms are now a cleaner, more respectable environment.
As a special touch for the youth who visit the Drop-in Center, we painted one wall in each restroom with whiteboard paint to provide a suitable (and cleanable) canvas for their artistic endeavors.
“I really appreciate how Opal values giving back to the local community. By choosing a smaller organization to work with, I know our time and donations made a significant impact for people in need. It was a meaningful way to honor Dr. King.”– Allison Park, Customer Experience Manager
The Opal team walked away from our day of service feeling grateful that we could bring some dignity back to the restrooms at the Drop-in Center – something that the homeless youth visiting don’t experience that much.
“It really warmed my heart that so many people at Opal donated their money, supplies, and time to help us with this project. It shows how special Opal is that we attract people who truly care about their community.”– Emma Paul, Back End Developer and Inclusion & Diversity Chair