A Miami fundraiser that asks attendees to dress down instead of up, that replaces dining and dancing with digging and planting? That's so wacky it just might work. And, in fact, it does. Last year 2500 corporate and individual volunteers pitched in at 25 sites for the sixth annual Hands On Miami Day, raising nearly $150,000.
This year organizers hope several hundred more, age eight and up, will join this buffet of beautification and tackle tasks like repainting homes for the elderly, creating decorative murals at schools, sorting produce and clothes for families in need, and building butterfly gardens for educational purposes -- all within ten miles of downtown's Bayfront Park. In addition to brightening areas around town, Hands On Miami Day generates the financial support its parent nonprofit, Hands On Miami, needs for year-round programming.
An affiliate of the CityCares programs found in other urban centers and a partner of United Way of Miami-Dade, Hands On Miami coordinates flexible community-service opportunities for individuals, families, groups, and businesses. According to the agency, its volunteers collectively serve 50,000 hours annually, addressing issues such as literacy, homelessness, hunger, HIV/AIDS, and the environment.
"We don't charge anything for any of our other volunteering throughout the year for individuals," explains the organization's president and CEO, Julie Moxley, sounding somewhat apologetic, "so this is kind of the one day that we do ask people to come out and pay money; and they do get lunch, breakfast, and a T-shirt, and transportation to and from the volunteer projects." Besides, the group believes renewing the physical landscape leads to improving our social landscape. Moxley offers some proof -- a "cool story" about what happened at a school after one Hands On Miami Day: "[The next year when we called] they said, “Well, thanks a lot, but because of the event last year, we do this now once a month, so we don't need your help this year.'"
So think of this as the un-fundraiser, where espousing social action over the crystal rim of a champagne flute is out, and dripping sweat on the ground of the community you claim to cherish (and seeing firsthand what grows) is in. Talk about liquid assets.