Employees of The Autism Project were joined by an unlikely crew of temporary coworkers last Thursday, as staff from the Home Depot and Behr paints volunteered their time to give the non-profit a makeover.
The project started weeks ago when Autism Project Development Director Mary Farhoumand stopped in to the Johnston Home Depot store for some paint. The organization had acquired additional office space at 1516 Atwood Avenue, as Gateway Healthcare has pared back its presence in the building, and Farhoumand hoped to liven up the space to make it suitable for teaching space.
Farhoumand was out of her depth, though, and when Home Depot representatives fielding her questions discovered what she was working on, they volunteered to help.
“They said, ‘We’d be happy to do it for you.’ We’re really grateful,” Farhoumand said, adding that The Autism Project has consistently been taken care of by the community. “We love being in Johnston. It’s really nice being in a community that notices you and gives back.”
In the past, Jacavone Garden Center has donated mums for the front of the building, and the Johnston Police and Fire Departments have donated proceeds from a touch football game to the non-profit, which supports children with autism and their families. In September, the Home Depot provided orchids and palm trees to the Project at a discount so they could decorate for their annual gala.
Home Depot Assistant Manager Maryanne McBroom said these are the types of projects that the company seeks out.
“Home Depot is already very involved in the community. It’s great when we can reach out into Johnston,” she said.
Nine Home Depot employees volunteered on their days off to paint the three offices. James DiMarzio from Behr paint also volunteered for the day, and donated the remaining paint needed to complete the project.
“We like to donate our time as well,” DiMarzio said.
Marketing Associate Nancy Merrill says this type of support can’t be found just anywhere.
“I spent my life in the corporate world, and it’s so overwhelmingly positive to work in an environment like this and see a community like Johnston come out to support an organization like The Autism Project,” she said. “It’s so heartwarming, really.”
Farhoumand said outreach from local businesses like Home Depot is refreshing, and certainly encourages her to shop in her local community.
“I don’t know if we would have gotten the work done if not for them,” Merrill added.
The spaces being painted last week will be utilized by the Project’s social skills groups. Merrill said the facility “comes alive” at 4 p.m., when after-school programming begins, both for young people with autism and also for their families, who can access support groups and connect with resources.
“The Autism Project serves the entire state, and when you consider that one in 88 births will receive an autism diagnosis somewhere on the spectrum, the audience is huge,” Merrill said.
The time and services of Home Depot and Behr staff, she said, will help The Autism Project deliver those services. More than that, she says it is a boost for staff and families to see that they aren’t alone.
“When people in non-profits spend so much time working so very hard to help a population, to have someone give back to you to make things easier for you is just a benefit,” she said.