Founding Volunteer (FV):
Jeffrey “J” Prothero
Founding Volunteer (FV): Jeffrey “J” Prothero
Born and raised outside of Pittsburgh, I was blessed to have a dad who required of my having a hard work ethic and the know-how to do things right. On this foundation, my summers were spent working my way through college painting houses. From fall through spring, I studied Finance for the sole purpose of knowing what to do with my paycheck once I entered ‘the real world’. After dabbling in post-graduate studies in MIS and Computer Science, I became bored and restless. It was time for me to go to work and find a company whose opportunities matched my career objectives.
Five years of boot camp with AT&T in hardware sales prepared me for having my own business again, coincidentally in the Finance space. Some 25 years later, I left that company so I could explore my longing to teach and work with kids. By then, it was late 2014 and finding myself perfectly situated at Roswell High School as a parent volunteer in their new Construction Technology program. It was here that I fell in love with the opportunity to be a part of something truly great which had the potential to impact hundreds of kids, many of whom lacked a ‘personal connection’ to public school. So, here I am… never before happier… and a member of an awesome team of Toolbox volunteers who pour themselves into the lives of elementary and middle school kids, so that they might discover more about who they actually are when they get to build with their hands. It is my belief that all the while they are building with their hands, so too are they building that ‘personal connection’ and so too are they building confidence and pride, two things that are imperative to our overarching hope for all children. And, that hope is for them to simply be happy.
Chief Volunteer of Strategy (CVS):
Chief Volunteer of Strategy (CVS): Rusty Gordon
Rusty is an Atlanta technology entrepreneur and executive having led numerous successful Atlanta High Tech startups and turnarounds, including Peachtree Software, Choice Software, Ads Nettools, GTE Interactive Services, iFleet, Knowlagent, Intradiem, and others. He currently is the Chairman of QuickVault Inc and CEO of Bluechip Athletic Solutions.
Rusty’s primary passion is for the advancement of Servant Leadership in work and faith organizations and as such he has provided strategic leadership and board service to High Tech Ministry, The Methodist Children’s Home, Worklife Ministries, Roswell United Methodist Church and many others.
Rusty, an active mentor of entrepreneurs, as the founding Director of the Ambassador Leadership Program that prepares high potential rising leaders in the technology field with the passion and skills to integrate their faith in the workplace and community.
He is an Auburn University graduate, where he was recognized in 2002 as the outstanding Alumnus of the IE School. As an unrelenting advocate for youth, Rusty developed and led a senior high Sunday school program called Senior Experience for over 20 years as well as coached numerous major league baseball players.
He has been married to his college sweetheart, Ann, for 41 years and has three adult children and 3 grandchildren.
Chief Volunteer of Administration (CVA):
Chief Volunteer of Administration (CVA): Jim Dowland
Jim grew up in a small farming community in central Illinois. He attended the University of Illinois and earned the BS and MS degrees in Civil Engineering. From school, he headed south to a Houston-based engineering firm to work in project management throughout the world for seven years. During that period in Houston, Jim became fond of warm weather, developed new friends, and learned to love BBQ, all of which have kept him in the southern states since. He earned an MBA degree at the University of Houston and then transitioned from the engineering world into the waste business. Jim worked in various management roles for 19 years for Browning Ferris Industries (BFI) and then 19 additional years for Waste Management. In the last 10 years, he served as the corporate VP for US disposal operations, headquartered in Houston. He is a Registered Professional Engineer and is a Fellow in the American Society of Civil Engineers. Retiring from full-time work in 2018, Jim now consults and serves on various boards in the waste industry. In 2018 and 2019 he chaired the board of the Environmental Research and Education Foundation.
In between various stints in Houston, Atlanta became home for Jim. He married his high school sweetheart and he has enjoyed 45 years of marriage together. They have two children and four grandchildren. They love to travel and experience the activities of their grandchildren. Jim enjoys all sports and has been an avid golfer since childhood.
Growing up in the Midwest, he learned first hand about “giving back more than you took”. Over the years his family has tried to live up to that belief through generosity and service. Jim has been a member of Roswell United Methodist Church for 35 years, during which he has served in various board roles, as a youth counselor, Sunday School teacher, in mission outreach, and in other leadership roles. He enjoys working with his hands but also loves to watch and admire the work of those skilled in carpentry and other trades. Seeing the potential for imparting those skills to the generations to come, Toolbox became a natural organization for Jim to support and serve.
Chief Volunteer of Elementary Education (CVEE):
Chief Volunteer of Elementary Education (CVEE): Marcia Mika
I always wanted to teach. I graduated from Boston University with a degree in Elementary Education. I began my teaching career in third grade in Montgomery County, Maryland. While teaching, I attended Western Maryland College and received my Master’s Degree in Reading. This began a 43-year love of teaching. During that time, I taught grades 2-6, when the sixth grade was still in elementary school. I taught 31 years in Montgomery County, and 12 years in Fulton County. I retired in 2013. I then substituted for two years in Fulton County. I began to look for volunteer opportunities. When J Prothero called and told me about a vision he had for teaching children construction skills, I was doubtful I could be of any help. I told him that I knew nothing about woodworking and he responded, “True, but you know kids.” While building and constructing, the children are not only learning with their hands, but with their minds. It is amazing to see the growth and skills that these students achieve. And…..I have learned a thing or two myself!
Chief Volunteer of Media Relations (CVMR):
Chief Volunteer Webmaster (CVWM): Effie White
I am Media and Marketing Manager with almost two decades of experience writing, engaging, building and designing in the online space. Although my tools are digital, I am no less dedicated to my craft than those who build in the physical world.
My primary expertise is helping companies establish and grow their digital platform. I have worked with both startups and long-standing firms and learned that every organization has a message, regardless of its size or purposes. I have found that if you want your message to be heard, you have to reach out to your audience where they are.
I first learned about Toolbox when I signed up my son for the Young Apprentice Construction Club. As a parent volunteer, I got to see firsthand the joy and pride of the children as they built their projects with their own hands.
I believe that education should be adaptive and accessible to students regardless of income or zip code. I am excited to be a part of the Toolbox team because it offers free, hands-on, real-world education and experience to children, many of whom may otherwise not have such an opportunity.
Chief Volunteer of Relations for The Home Depot (CVR):
Chief Volunteer of Relations for The Home Depot (CVR): John Gordon
John is a native of Chicago and has been involved in the Home Improvement Industry since his first summer job as a Carpenter’s Helper in 1976. John earned a scholastic scholarship to Villanova University and helped to pay for Room and Board and living expenses doing “Handyman” work in the Villanova, PA area.
John Gordon is currently Director of National Accounts for The Home Depot. John has been with The Home Depot since 1992 in a variety of positions including assistant manager, store manager, District Manager, Divisional Pro Sales Manager, Director of Pro Business Operations, Director of Pro Marketing and Director of Strategic Accounts. Prior to joining The Home Depot, John spent 12 years with Eighty-Four Lumber in positions ranging from Salesperson to Vice President of Regional Purchasing.
John has been active in the Home Improvement Industry beyond his responsibilities at The Home Depot. He is a past National President of NARI (The National Association of the Remodeling Industry). He is also a Past President of the National Remodeling Foundation. Twice per year, John represents The Home Depot at the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies Remodeling Futures Committee.
John has hosted a number of television and radio spots. He hosts a home improvement radio show that recently celebrated 25 years on the air. The show feeds John’s passion for sharing knowledge, especially Home Improvement knowledge. For John, to be able to have a young person engaged and interested in Home Improvement skills and to watch their mind work out solutions is a most rewarding experience. Given the choice between a game of golf and a home improvement project, John will take the latter every time and boasts the golf score to prove it. John holds a bachelor’s degree from Villanova University. He and Barbara, his wife of 40 years, have three grown children and one grandson.
Chief Volunteer of Technology (CVT):
Chief Volunteer of Technology (CVT): Tony Pizi
While growing up in a small town outside of Huntington, WV I developed a curiosity of tools while building tree houses and go-karts. During a college internship, I was attracted to one of the early personal computers at Exxon Corporation and discovered that the tools to work on these were very different. This newfound interest led to an exciting career in software technology where I continue to work today. I’ve founded two high-tech start-ups, served as Chief Technology Officer at UBS, Deutsche Bank, and Merrill Lynch, and had teams that have twice won the Windows World Open. None of this would have been possible if not for those early years spent working with hand tools, for this is what provided the required confidence for me to tackle ever more challenging projects in the world of technology.