Local non-profit receives tools for growth from Georgian students
April 30, 2020

The winter 2020 semester presented its fair share of trials and uncertainty. That didn’t stop Georgian students from not only exceeding academic expectations, but creating positive social change. Three student teams, each pursuing different career pathways and academic programs, collaborated with Redwood Park Communities, a local community partner, on several transformative projects.

Redwood is a charity and social enterprise that provides safe, affordable and hopeful housing for vulnerable individuals and families. Charities and non-profits like Redwood experience unique challenges. While their work is meeting a huge need in the community, as an organization they have very real needs of their own – needs these students took upon themselves to creatively address.

Human resource planning

In February, Rhonda Kent, Jeanette Heywood and Jenna Stevenato from Redwood Park Communities made a presentation to students in the Human Resources Management graduate certificate program about the challenges local charities experience establishing and maintaining effective HR practices. With the non-profit’s recent growth and ever-increasing demand for services, Redwood recognized the need for more consistent HR policies and procedures.

Students in a classroom

A team of six students from Kelly Duggan’s class signed up to take on the challenge. By the end of the semester, they delivered a comprehensive HR toolkit, including sample policies, procedures, checklists and resources to address Redwood’s HR priorities.

“Our HR students have expertise that’s urgently needed in the social sector and they were eager to help,” says Kelly. “The students were inspired by Redwood’s mission and vision, and this became more than a school project for them. They loved having the opportunity to create something meaningful that will help a great non-profit in our community.”

Redwood deeply appreciated the students’ work and is turning their recommendations into action.

“Not only have you provided a starting point for Redwood as a present-day organization, but you’ve also provided the tools for our growth ahead,” Jeanette, Director of Philanthropy and Donor Relations, told the class. “This is a huge win for us! Thank you for your hard work. Well done!”

Management and leadership

Two of Kelly’s students in the Bachelor of Business Administration (Management and Leadership) program committed to tackling Redwood’s most pressing organizational challenges as part of their capstone project. One student explored Redwood Furniture Bank’s online platform and presence, and the other filled gaps in Redwood’s volunteer management system.

“Both students came up with innovative, elegant solutions that will allow Redwood to continue doing amazing work in a more streamlined, efficient way,” notes Jenna Stevenato, Social Enterprise and Project Advisor.

Interior decorating

Mary Dobson led seven teams of her second-year Interior Decorating students through an impactful community services capstone project in the Selling and Merchandise course. Each team created different design concepts for Redwood Furniture Bank. Their project included a site visit, several client interviews, the development and presentation of a full design concept, and feedback via a Webex meeting. As part of the project, the students also researched homelessness in the local community and wrote reflection papers on their experience.  

Space plan for Redwood Furniture Bank

“Our students are so empathetic by nature and in an industry that can be seen as materialistic, that can be a struggle at times,” says Mary. “In reality, interior decorators are often asked to help beautify a space for a number of charitable causes and this project solidifies for our students the unique contribution they can make.”

The projects were another hit with Redwood.

“The decorators really captured the essence and ethos of Redwood and have shown insight, understanding and compassion,” says Rhonda, Co-Founder and Director of Housing and Supportive Community. “They’ve given us some great ideas for our space.”

Interior Decorating students design concepts for Redwood Furniture Bank

For the students, not only was it an opportunity to apply what they’d learned in class, but a chance to give back.

“Getting to work with Redwood was an amazing learning opportunity,” says student Makenna Bondy. “It was also a rewarding experience to help an organization that supports so many people in need.”

Did you know?

Georgian is Canada’s first – and only – changemaker college, recognized by Ashoka U for our leadership in social innovation and changemaking in higher education.

Our students believe they can change the world – and we do too!

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