updated 04/23/2014 AT 5:00 PM ET
•originally published 04/24/2014 AT 5:30 PM ET
Sometimes a broken down car or leaky faucet are just added stressors in the lives of already struggling single working mothers. But Matthew Nalywaiko is doing something about that – times more than a hundred.
His organization, Serve A Little, has helped more than 200 women, including those whose husbands are away serving in the military, by matching volunteer handymen, mechanics and construction workers to complete “honey-do” projects like minor home and car repairs.
“The name, Serve A Little, comes from the idea that you don’t have to do much to make a major impact in someone’s life,” Nalywaiko says. “It might only take a few hours for a mechanic to fix the car or for someone to fix the door in a house, but for that person it can mean the world.”
For Nalywaiko, 32, of Sonoma, Calif., giving back has been life changing. A severe case of dyslexia, coupled with ADD, had him wondering if he would ever have a purpose in life.
“I could barely read, so I couldn’t imagine how I was going to make a living or find someone who would want to marry me or accomplish anything,” says the high-energy Nalywaiko, a videographer.
But he did just that. He managed to get a job in construction after graduation, “building million-dollar staircases in multimillion dollar homes,” and married Amanda, a social worker.
Then in 2009 he launched Serve A Little.
“We all have the ability to impact somebody’s life,” Nalywaiko says. “It’s just a matter of looking outside your own world and realizing there are needs right next door.”
Helping single working moms, including those trying to get an education, is something Nalywaiko says has an immediate positive impact.
“It’s not a population that gets a lot of respect,” says Amy Ethington, a Santa Rosa College student advisor who refers student single moms in need of assistance to the Serve A Little program. “And here is Matthew giving them respect for what they’re trying to accomplish.”
Nalywaiko doesn’t just help out his own community. He discovered a Haitian village of about 10,000 where more than a dozen kids had drowned trying to cross the treacherous river to attend a school nearby. Nalywaiko has raised money through 80 for Haiti, an effort connected to Serve A Little, to build a closer school, using local labor and materials to boost the the economy.
“Children shouldn’t have to die just to get an education,” Nalywaiko says.
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