This week’s spotlight on the women of CultureIQ doing good for their communities features Aria Walfrand, who’s strengthening clients’ workplace cultures as a Program Manager. During the weekends, she spends her time volunteering her time and energy to serve another population of clients.
Aria volunteers at Housing Works, a New York City-based non-profit organization dedicated to helping clients who are experiencing homelessness and affected by HIV/AIDS, in their bookstore café location. Housing Works has multiple thrift stores throughout NYC and one bookstore. Everything in the stores is donated, and the money from the retail business help to fund critical services for Housing Works’ clients, including: medical care, housing, job training, and legal services. Housing Works also participates in advocacy work, pushing for legal action that supports its clients.
I’d say passion is the number 1 driver of the culture we have at Housing Works. Without a group of people that truly care about the mission of serving our clients, we would have a very hard time moving forward. Trust me, nothing but passion is going to drag you out of bed early on a Saturday morning to open the store, help bring in boxes and boxes of donations (so heavy!), and make sure that everything is generally running smoothly. I have been volunteering for years, and people always comment that it’s so nice I “give up my time” to come volunteer, but to me, I’m not giving up anything – I love what I do there and I care about the clients, so I’m honored to be there. I think a lot of the volunteers and staff would say the same, which is why the bookstore is a really special and welcoming place to be.
“Be open to change and maintain flexibility” – not only is it one of CultureIQ’s values, but it is a critical piece of how Housing Works has developed into such a strong non-profit affecting change in New York City. Factors such as housing and health regulations constantly change, and without being flexible to pivot our approach based on what is going on, we would be behind the 8-ball and unable to serve our clients as effectively as we could be. Having a culture of flexibility there allows us to change with the times and make sure we keep our mission top of mind at all times.
Celebrate the Wins!
Having such goals as ending the dual crisis of homelessness and AIDS in New York City can seem insurmountable, and it can be easy to feel overwhelmed when there are events that make it feel like we’re moving backwards. Being able to celebrate hard-fought victories, however small, is crucial in keeping momentum. Despite being in different buildings throughout the city doing very different work, we feel very united in our efforts to do the best work we can for our clients, and always keep in touch through Email and social channels to celebrate when there is good news to celebrate! Our community feels very much connected Housing Works’ mission – there’s been many times I’ve been on the subway and someone had a Housing Works bag or is reading a book using a Housing Works bookmark and I’ve always thanked them for their business, which leads to a conversation about all the great work that Housing Works does for its clients. Being able to celebrate wins with each other and the community helps to strengthen our sense of togetherness and gets people motivated to support our cause.