From the Ground Up

August 17, 2017

by Mandy Shold

This month, Habitat for Humanity welcomed 10 well-deserving families to its first development in Marin County, handing out comically over-sized keys to new homeowners with not a dry eye in the crowd. These families were the likes of teachers, nurses and even a longtime Habitat volunteer named Francisco Galindo Hernandez – who, once he completed his mandatory volunteer hours, put in time on behalf of all of his new neighbors to ensure they too could move in on time. Or Ryan and Heather Camp, who depleted their life savings while paying for their son’s Leukemia treatments and now, more than ever, needed somewhere to call home. As new homeowners, all of these families are finally able to have the stability to live, grow and ultimately thrive in their home community.

On the day of the dedication, these 10 families looked up at their new homes beaming with pride. Not only were they all first-time homeowners, but they felt an otherwise unparalleled sense of attachment for these homes. You see, all Habitat homeowners must put in “sweat equity” during the building process – meaning they came out with their neighbors and fellow volunteers, and actually helped build the homes themselves. They sported hard hats and swung hammers. They laid foundation and hung dry wall. They, quite literally, built something from the ground up.

I’m proud to say that this year interns in FleishmanHillard’s San Francisco office did the same thing.

They supported the event from the ground up – from providing local vendor recommendations to vigorously pitching media to traveling out to Marin for day-of event support. They learned how to create a media list, draft a pitch and call down reporters in a single project – and not without result. Check out the Patch’s article Habitat Homes a Dream Come True for Marin Families or the Novato Advance’s Habitat for Humanity Makes Sure Home Ownership is Still in Reach. We were even able to secure a front-page Sunday placement in the client’s dream local publication – the Marin Independent Journal – in addition to a byline that ran the next day. In the same way that the Habitat homeowners looked on at their new homes in pride, our class of interns had every reason to be proud. They might not have swung a hammer, but they yielded a pen – and then yielded results. The dedication might have been full of proud volunteers and homeowners, but no one was more proud than I was.

Fresh out of college, I landed my dream internship with fellow Omnicom agency Ketchum. There were a lot of things that made the experience worthwhile – the talent of my coworkers, the nature of the work, the city of San Francisco – but looking back, the thing that stuck out was the internship program itself. There I was, barely out of school, helping lead a campaign for an amazing client. That summer, four interns and I lead PR efforts around the monumental groundbreaking of Habitat for Humanity’s first build in Marin County. Little did I know that project was just the beginning.

Fast forward three years, and I am a Senior Account Executive at sister agency FleishmanHillard, leading our internship project with, you guessed it, Habitat for Humanity. The best part? This summer’s internship project was to support the dedication ceremony for Habitat’s first build in Marin – the very same site they broke ground on when I was an intern just three years ago.

Saying I was proud of this summer’s interns and the internship project itself doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt. Honestly, I just felt fulfilled. Because some years ago, I was one of those interns. Not just because I worked the first leg of the same project that they pushed across the finish line, but because I too was lost and confused and constantly overwhelmed. Hell, sometimes I still feel that way! But they found their way – and, somehow, so have I.

This project isn’t just indicative of what FH4Inclusion is all about – it’s what FleishmanHillard is all about. Every day we toil to grow and ultimately strive to tell strong, moving narratives. Sometimes this means you push your clients out of their comfort zone, other times this means you push yourself outside of that same comfort zone.

What it all comes down to is impact. Every day, it’s what we strive for, what we live for.

At Habitat, they continually push boundaries on what affordable homeownership means and strive to change people’s perception on who Habitat homeowners really are. They fight, day in and day out, to make a lasting impact on the communities and lives they touch.

Our interns actively seek out new opportunities and ways to add value to their teams and clients. Likewise at FleishmanHillard, we spend our days having courageous conversations and boldly empowering the truth. As for me, I’m both honored and humbled to think I’ve added a little value and impact along the way too – to Habitat, to our internship program and to FleishmanHillard.