When Kristian Toimil, 28, signed up to volunteer with HandsOn Miami in 2009, he wasn’t sure how he would apply his passion for service and giving back. Toimil took advantage of the organization’s flexible volunteering model to “hop” between opportunities and try a multitude of projects on for size. Over the years, he has stepped up his leadership role and continues to provide hundreds of hours of service to organizations including The Ronald McDonald House Charities of South Florida, the Bruce W. Carter VA Hospital, the Vizcaya Museum & Gardens, History Miami, Miami-Dade County Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces, the Miami Rescue Mission, Chapman Partnership for the Homeless and Miami Bridge Youth & Family Services, Inc.
Describe your volunteer role with Hands on Miami.
I’m currently the volunteer community engagement manager. In this role, I meet with nonprofits, and find out their needs, and act as a bridge between volunteers. Each month we post 20 projects that offer volunteer opportunities of all sizes, some just needing a few volunteers, others might call for 50 or 100 people to help. It’s kind of like being a traffic manager.
Why is it important to you to support your community in this way?
I grew up with a lot of privilege in my life. My parents are immigrants from Cuba, exiles really, and they always stressed how fortunate we are to live in this country and that it’s our duty to give back.
What’s the most challenging aspect of your volunteer service?
I guess the most challenging thing is turning people from just casual volunteering into a more serious commitment. We make it as easy as possible, and hope to ignite a passion in our volunteers. In our society, we are catered to in so many ways. Volunteering is a way to break free from putting ourselves first.
What’s been the most rewarding part of your work?
I am rewarded by appreciation coming to me from all sides. The nonprofits are so happy we are able to help them, and volunteers benefit from feeling good about what they are doing. It’s really a win/win and I can share in that.
What have you learned through your experiences as a volunteer?
I think the thing I’ve learned the most from volunteering is to listen to people. Don’t go in thinking you know what needs to be done or how it needs to be done. Listen to both sides and hear what the nonprofits actually need, and what the volunteers think might be the most effective way to do that. I didn’t have those listening skills before.
Are there any future partnerships, programs, or events that you are excited about?
We are always trying to reach out to new nonprofits. One I’m excited about is a group called Shake A Leg, an excellent organization that gets people with disabilities out on the water in specially outfitted sailboats. I think that’s fantastic.
Do you want to make a difference in your community like Kristian? Visit All For Good to find local volunteer opportunties.