Community Service

It is not enough to be a profitable remodeler today. Increasingly, society expects businesses to contribute to the communities in which they thrive. Those in the post-X generations — future clients — are are taught concepts such as connectedness and giving back, so if you’re not yet involved in community service, it could be smart to begin. For inspiration, take a look at what these remodelers are doing.

Howard Chermak

Chermak Construction

Edmonds, Wash.

Each year, Chermak Construction participates in the Edmonds, Wash., Fourth of July parade. The remodeling firm’s goal has always been to be patriotic while fostering a sense of community. In 2012, the goal was expanded to include building a custom dog house used as a mini-float. Employees and their families marched with the dog house waving flags, after which it was donated to the local community college’s scholarship auction.

“One would think that a construction company could build a simple dog house in an afternoon, but that was not the case,” says Kathy Hashbarger, who works with Chermak. “It took time for us to agree on the floor plan — the design of the entry pillars was a major point of differing opinion. Gathering our team on time off was another obstacle.

“Howard donated his meticulously clean garage for the build, gathered the materials and rallied the team. After the canine residence was constructed, moving it became the challenge. We fortified an underlying support system and had all hands on deck to move the structure to a trailer. One lucky dog now lives in splendor; his new home has a green roof, a gutter system that provides rainwater to his dog dish, and a covered deck to enjoy the great outdoors,” Hashbarger says.

The Chermak Construction crew is most proud of the team-bonding and sense of community resulting from the effort. “A community partner donated the custom metal work, community members laughed and smiled as we joined together in celebrating this great nation, and lucky students benefited from the proceeds through the scholarship program,” Hashbarger says. “This year, we are building a custom chicken coop that will be donated to an organization that fosters urban agriculture.”


Melissa Irons

Irons Brothers Construction

Shoreline, Wash.

The owners of Irons Brothers Construction would rather spend money on what it calls “cause marketing” that gives back to those in need in its community and to organizations they believe in, rather than paying for advertisements in directories, print ads and other media outlets. The challenges with executing the company’s “cause marketing” efforts boil down to time and money, says Joseph Irons, CGR, GMB, CAPS, CGP, president and general manager.

“We annually participate in the same community and philanthropic events — Rampathon, Painting a Better Tomorrow, Seattle Aids Walk and North Helpline fund raisers and similar events,” says Irons, who singled out Melissa Irons, CGR, CGP, CFO and office manager, for her efforts. “Melissa is the driving force behind all these efforts. She makes things work by coordinating material donations, reminder calls, scheduling, and all of it. She makes it happen,” Joseph says.

“Each year it is a challenge finding enough money to make these programs successful for our team. We also struggle at times finding enough skilled volunteers to complete the philanthropic and community projects. To help, we recently have partnered with businesses in our community, past employees, colleagues and vendors to team up and make successful events happen, and again, Melissa is a big part of all of it,” he adds.

Beyond company recognition and brand awareness, Irons Brothers Construction is viewed as a well-respected and involved company. “We have received awards and acknowledgement for our services, including the 2012 Shoreline Rotary Community Service Award, the 2008 Puget Sound Rental Housing Association’s Community Service Award and annual acknowledgement since 2005 as a builder captain for our local Master Builders Association’s free wheel-chair ramp program, Rampathon. It is a great reward to be able to use our skills and knowledge to benefit others, our community, and in turn the reputation of remodeling,” Joseph says.


Kevin Knox

K.J. Knox Contractor

Tallula, Ill.

Employees of K.J. Knox Contractor in Tallula, Ill., have been working with a nonprofit group for 25 years to restore a neighborhood known as Enos Park in Springfield, lll., once known as the jewel of the city. The neighborhood since has fallen into urban blight.

“We’ve been doing this with minimal profit to the company, but it has been beneficial to the employees and helpers,” says Kevin Knox, owner and sole proprietor. “We have taken magnificent homes that have been transformed into slum apartments and restored them to their former glory. We have included Victorian embellishments to scale inside and out, and we have provided skills to temporary laborers who have remained with us.”

For many years, K.J. Knox Contractor was the only company successfully doing this work. Today, Knox says, several groups are contributing to this difficult process. “What motivates me is the opportunity to share. I live alone. I graduated trade school taught by monks of The Order of St. Francis. I have been training young men dying trades most of my life so they can become craftsmen, as I was taught the skills and discipline with the emphasis on pride in workmanship,” Knox says.

“My contribution to the neighborhood revival effort is that I pay for the project and am reimbursed the cost only, with a very modest 5 percent of the project at the end. I carry all required licenses, fees, insurances. The homes are sold by the owners (Old Neighborhood Rehab Inc.) to buyers. We have worked off and on for 30 years. And now that I have grown old, I stay in the shop and fabricate house parts or whatever the men need for projects. I replicate missing stair parts and millwork from rough lumber, hand carve them, machine them or cast them with the required embellishments. The road less traveled is my chosen path to a full life.”


Erick Fletcher

MidAtlantic Contracting

Woodbridge, Va.

For years, a kiosk has stood on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, to welcome all U.S. military veterans and their families to the Mall and Vietnam Memorial. Military pins are sold from the kiosk to tourists, and the funds raised go to the Aleethia Foundation. This foundation uses the money to support the Friday Dinners for the wounded troops recovering at Walter Reed Army and Bethesda Naval Hospital.

The original kiosk caught fire and was destroyed in 2010, so Erick Fletcher, owner and operator of MidAtlantic Contracting in Woodbridge, Va., coordinated with Dow Corp., Barron’s Lumber, Solar World, EuroStone Craft, Roof Center, Laticrete and Delmarva Design to create a state-of-the-art kiosk powered by solar panels, which meet requirements of the National Park Service. “Erick’s leadership both in his company and community set the example of paying it forward to our nation’s heroes,” says David Corbin, Fletcher’s colleague.

A commission ceremony for the kiosk was held in September 2012 on National POW/MIA Day as declared by President Barack Obama. Local TV, radio and international press coverage followed the event. The kiosk is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to meet troops and their loved ones at all times.

“To those who have contributed to this structure go our most heartfelt thanks,” Corbin continues. “We recognize the efforts and support of Stephen Wagner, Delmarva Design, Dow Chemical Corp., The Roof Center, Azek Corp., Euro Stone Craft, Laticrete and SS&T Cabinetry. We give special thanks to Barrons Lumber for all their support and assistance during the building of the new kiosk. Our most gracious appreciation goes to Solar World for a self-powered kiosk.”


Chris Stebnitz

Stebnitz Builders

Delavan, Wis.

Stebnitz Builders in Delavan, Wis., has been an integral part of the Delavan area for three generations. “Helping neighbors has not only been a business thing, it has been a personal thing,” says Chris Stebnitz. “My grandfather, father and uncles held the belief that giving back to your neighbors is the responsibility of a business. As I have continued to lead the business forward, I feel that history behind me, supporting my choices on the ways in which the business, and my family and I, choose to give back to our community, making it a better place than when we started.”

The challenges to a philanthropic venture for any business are the resources available. The most valuable of these resources is time, Stebnitz says. “Carving out the right amount of time from running a business and raising a family for being an effective addition to an organization’s cause is the biggest hurdle I face. Allocating that time and/or funds to organizations that so desperately need it is not always fun. Saying ‘No’ is one of the toughest things I do. But, in order to be an effective partner in our community’s future, knowing your limitations and sticking to them is essential,” he says.

The effectiveness of Stebnitz Builders’ involvement in its community has always been a source of personal and professional pride for its team. Recognition also is a benefit to the company as so many of the company’s neighbors recognize the builder by what it has done in the community, rather than its projects or advertising.