Making an IMPACT
Connex Foundation members will help homeless mothers and children at the ConnexFM | 2022 National Conference.
By: Kevin Beese
Members of the multi-site facilities management industry will use their talents and resources this spring to help homeless women and their children. The Connex Foundation’s IMPACT Charity Project this year will fund improvements at New Life Beginnings, a nonprofit organization in Long Beach, California, that provides shelter in a structured home environment for women and their children. During the April ConnexFM | 2022 National Conference in Long Beach, the Foundation will organize a workday at New Life Beginnings with participants doing everything from building dressers and beds to installing smoke detectors and doing landscaping work.
The April 25 workday will be the culmination of improvements at the women and children’s shelter that have been ongoing since October 2021. Foundation-sponsored work at the facility includes installing energy-efficient windows and providing electrical panel upgrades.
“We never have a problem getting people to volunteer their time, money or products,” said Bill Ackerman, Chair of the Connex Foundation Board of Directors.
Ackerman, who co-created the Foundation in 2015, marvels at what the organization has accomplished. “I still get emotional about it,” he said. “I had the vision, and my passion oozed out to everybody I’ve known over 25 years. It takes hundreds of volunteers to make it happen.”
A History of Giving
Every year the Foundation does at least one IMPACT project. Ackerman, Director of National Accounts for Springwise, said the most rewarding project for him was in 2019 when the Foundation helped Volunteers of America with repairs at a family hotel serving homeless individuals in Denver.
The Foundation workday crew went to the site with the intention of painting hotel rooms, cleaning windows and making floor repairs. However, once at the site, crew members saw that the kids staying there had no place to play except in the parking lot. At that point, crew members went to the local Walmart and came back with a load of sports equipment — everything from basketball hoops to whiffle balls.
“After the project was finished, about a month went by, and we got a letter from a single dad at the hotel telling me how important the sports equipment was to him and his kids,” Ackerman said. “I knew we were doing the right thing.”
He credits Natalie Walchonski with coordinating the different facets of the IMPACT projects. “We could easily get overwhelmed, but she is steady as a rock,” Ackerman said.
Helping Women in Need
Rebecca Younger, Founder of the New Life Beginnings shelter, has been assisting homeless women for more than 35 years. She started the work after her son, Joseph, noticed homeless women living in tents along the route to his school.
“He gave up his bed, and a mother moved in there,” Younger said in a video on the New Life Beginnings website.
“There is a lot to be said about these people and their heart of giving; and they do it all on donations,” said Brooke Cowart, Executive Director of the Connex Foundation. They take no government money. If they did, they would need to limit the number of kids a mom could bring in.”
Throughout the ConnexFM | 2022 National Conference, the Connex Foundation will hold a book and DVD drive for children and women at the New Life Beginnings shelter. Foundation members said only family-friendly books and magazines without drug or violence references will be accepted.
Other Ways to Help
The New Life Beginnings efforts are not the only Foundation events on tap during ConnexFM | 2022. On April 24, the Foundation will have a charity event at a sustainable brewery. The site of the Foundation charity event, Trademark Brewing, is the first craft brewery in Long Beach and one of the only sustainability-focused breweries in California.
“[The event] is a way to raise money for the Foundation initiatives,” Cowart said. “The brewery provides a casual setting for kicking off the conference. People can mingle in a comfortable environment with their peers.”
The Foundation fundraiser will feature brewery tours; Switch-holio, a round-robin cornhole tournament; food trucks; and entertainment.
Cowart noted that the philanthropic arm of ConnexFM used to have a golf outing as its charity event. “It was not inclusive; people had to be grouped in fours,” she said, adding that the golf course was more than 35 minutes away.
Courtesy of the Foundation, a professional headshot lounge will also take place during the conference. For a donation, participants can have a professional photographer take their picture for use on social media and other avenues.
During the conference, the Foundation will also announce its 2022 scholarship winners, each receiving up to $5,000.
Ackerman said the scholarship program helps everyone from high school students to veterans pursuing a career in the building trades or facilities management.
“We are looking to make a positive impact on people’s education journey and their career journey,” Cowart said.
Start Giving Back
For more information on how to volunteer with or donate to the Connex Foundation, visit connexfoundation.org.