It’s early on a Saturday morning and Nick Rivera is painting a stranger’s house. No, he isn’t moonlighting as a graffiti artist. Nick is part of Paint the Town (PTT)—an annual Cincinnati event where volunteers donate time and resources each summer to paint houses in need of some TLC.
They get permission, of course.
“You’re joking, right? You’re really going to paint my house?”
That’s the kind of reaction most Paint the Towners get when they approach homeowners about a fresh coat of paint. But as the brushes start sweeping their colors back and forth, incredulity changes to amazement and then gratitude. Nick remembers one woman so grateful that she embraced every volunteer, smiling through tears all the while.
“It’s an image you don’t forget,” says Nick, a senior audit associate in BKD’s Cincinnati office. “Those memories remind me of the importance of what I’m doing and why I keep doing it.”
That passion led Nick to serve on the executive team and as board treasurer for Give Back Cincinnati (GBC), the not-for-profit that hosts the PTT event each year.
Nick was an intern in the Cincinnati office when he first learned about PTT, a program he’s volunteered with now for more than five years. As an annual house sponsor, BKD provides support for painting supplies and volunteers needed to paint one of the houses. Every summer, 15 to 20 Cincinnati BKDers—including family and friends—help paint. BKD PTT House Lead Sean Cockrell says the office can paint an entire house in five hours.
“It always surprises people at the amazing difference a simple layer of paint can make,” says Sean, who’s also a senior audit associate. “The homes that are revitalized every year encourage other residents in the area to spruce up their lawns, trim their trees, power wash and paint their homes. This domino effect brightens up the entire community.”
BKD’s commitment to community service is a natural draw for Nick. He appreciates working at a socially conscious firm.
“We’re a very community-minded office,” Nick says. “Everyone from the top down is involved with various nonprofits, and we all try to support each other.” Sean agrees: “It’s a good opportunity for those involved to get to know each other outside the office environment. The team can walk away at the end of the day with a feeling of accomplishment and ownership.”
An Extended Reach
Nick’s community involvement isn’t limited to Cincinnati. Another of GBC’s initiatives, Give Back Beyond Cincinnati (GBBC), organizes service trips around the U.S. and the globe. For the past two years, Nick has helped with GBBC’s efforts in New Orleans, where the organization partnered with Habitat for Humanity to help rebuild the devastated city in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. On the storm’s 10th anniversary, New Orleans recognized GBBC as one of the few organizations still contributing to renewal efforts.
One week at a time, Nick has built walls, placed windows, laid insulation, raised trusses and nailed shingles in formerly drowned and demolished neighborhoods. One week may not seem like much time to build a house, but a week of hard work can make a huge difference. Habitat bumped up the move-in date a month and half for one house after seeing how much ground Nick and his team covered in just seven days.
“Knowing we were able to progress this house so far that the owner could move in six weeks ahead of schedule—seeing her face, hearing her gratitude—that’s something I’ll never forget,” Nick says.
Hand in Hand
Nick sees similarities in serving both his community and his clients.
“When we’re out there [volunteering], we do it wholeheartedly,” he says. “We’re dedicated to getting the job done. And we do whatever it takes. With BKD as well, if we have to go out and get our hands dirty—no matter if you’re a partner or an intern—we’re in it together.”
Scott Golan, managing partner of BKD’s Cincinnati office, agrees.
“When our professionals go to clients, they deliver unmatched client service,” he says. “And when they serve the community, they bring the same passion and commitment. Paint the Town and our other community endeavors are a symbol of the great teamwork we embrace every day.”
For Nick, there’s no downside to community involvement.
“The friends, connections and memories I’ve made through community service will last a lifetime,” he says. “If you have an opportunity, get involved. It’s an interesting, eye-opening experience that makes a difference.”