You need to know: Paul Agrillo -

Friends & Neighbors

You need to know: Paul Agrillo

Paul Agrillo

Paul Agrillo

Housing Families First board member Paul Agrillo knows exactly how to convince others to make a commitment to stay involved—first, you just get them to show up.

He’s used his simple tactic on employees, bosses, friends, and family members, but really, he’ll be the first to admit, it’s not a tactic at all. It’s a testament to how perfectly addicting it is to do something so worthwhile for other people with such a meaningful return on your time investment.

For whatever reason, many embrace the idea of volunteering but balk at the face-to-face aspect when it comes down to it. Paul brings to the board a conviction that the work that Housing Families First does speaks for itself. An organization that makes a direct impact on the lives of families, makes the most of every dollar raised, and embraces an infectious team spirit is irresistible…once someone’s given them the nudge.

And Paul’s prepared to provide many, many nudges.

We sat down with one of our newest board members to learn more about what drew him to Housing Families First:

How did you get into the idea of giving back to your community?

I am a Regional Manager for a portable storage company. At Region 7, we’ve always done something volunteer-oriented once a year, but I told my general manager I wanted to get more involved in the community more regularly, maybe quarterly, and dig deeper into one area so we could continue to help and see it grow.

We interviewed with a couple of other nonprofits to see if we were a good fit, but their skepticism at the outset really surprised us. They were very concerned we would be all about us and not about them, which just was not our plan at all. Then we came across Housing Families First. We had the whole branch come in and serve dinner and play bingo, and it was just an awesome night.

So we set it up for our managers to come for Housing Families First’s Day of Service. I was so determined to make something like that happen because it was very difficult for them to see what giving back can do in your life and others. When we got to Hilliard House, Terri Iguina, Housing Families First’s Operations and Volunteer Manager, was telling us what she needed, and I kept walking around adding other things to the list. And she laughed as if to say, “Sure you will.” But we were determined. There were 17 of us and we did the entire place in one day. We had fun with it, and at the end we got to move a family into a apartment from the Hilliard House shelter.

One of my colleagues, who came from Charlotte, North Carolina, put it a great way, saying “I didn’t know I needed a day like this until I had a day like this.”

It was during that experience that Housing Families First and I started talking about me getting more involved.

What appeals to you about Housing Families First’s mission? 

Paul Agrillo

Paul Agrillo

Tackling homelessness goes so far beyond what many people see as the stereotypical homeless person sitting on a park bench, standing on a street corner, selling papers, or washing your windshield for change. When you walk into the Housing Families First shelter, it’s kids, dads, whole families down on their luck. You start to realize, it could be you one day.

I’ve got kids, my team has kids or brothers and sisters, people that they support. At some point it hits home that it very well could just be a couple bad breaks standing between me and homelessness. It opens your eyes a little bit to the fact that, wow, these are normal people that lived normal lives and ended up homeless.

During that Day of Service, when a little daughter was leaving the shelter to go to the new house, she asked, “Are we going home, mom?” And it was hard for all of us not to cry. They’re stronger than their parents, probably…in every aspect.

Why choose Housing Families First?

I value a good team. My team at work are professionals in every aspect, they play hard, they work hard, they commit 100% to doing their best. We’re a bunch of misfits but we work together so well—a true team. And Housing Families First feels that way as well.

Everyone at Housing Families First is all about the people they serve. There’s no ulterior motives, it’s about making lives better, raising money to help people in the community, and help more lives matter. It’s eye-opening to see all different walks of life come together to better the community and better the facility and build upon what’s there already.

They take a family who’s homeless and they don’t just stop at getting them a house. They place them in housing, help them find a job, give them assistance in getting clothing, food, and furniture. They give people a fresh start.

What do you tell people you meet about Housing Families First?

The biggest thing for me is the fact that they truly put almost every penny back into the families that they serve. I could not believe the number—when I first heard how far they can stretch a dollar, it was hard for me to believe until I saw it in action. Everything they get they take it and strip it down and give it back to the people. It’s helping the people it’s intended to help. If you want to invest time in something that gives the most back and makes a difference in people’s lives, this organization is doing it.

They need you—anything of value you can give, anything you can provide, whether it’s a shirt or a penny or a dollar or some furniture or your time. Literally we try to use anything you’re willing to devote and give. We will find a way to take it and give it to the family.

Want to get involved? Find out how you can help move Richmond families out of homelessness today.

Paul Agrillo and his team volunteering at Housing Families First.

Paul Agrillo and his team volunteering at Housing Families First.