Helping Hands

Remodelers remember where they came from, share lessons learned along the way and speak to the motivation that comes from giving back. Community service isn’t just a trend or resume builder for many remodelers; it’s something they believe in and strive to exemplify. Read on as four remodelers share their community service experiences.

 

Nicole Donnelly, Miramar Kitchen & Bath, San Diego, miramarkitchenandbath.com

Back in 2000, Miramar owner Nicole Donnelly approached 10 years in business. Her company was moving its showroom and the economy was a bit crazy, but Donnelly decided it was time to look beyond herself and her company.

“At some point, I decided I couldn’t keep complaining about being so busy or things being tough, and I decided I wanted to give back,” she says. “I realized I need to give back for my own sanity; I needed to feel like I was doing something, especially when I have been so blessed to be part of this great community.”

Donnelly adopted her first dog around 1993, which inspired her to get involved in charities for animal shelters. Attending and sponsoring the Fur Ball by the San Diego Humane Society, placed Donnelly in a room with like-minded people, inspiring her to begin contributing to bigger animal shelters in the area. Around 2005, she shifted focus to the smaller, grassroots efforts that are helping the animals unlikely to be adopted at normal shelters.

Connections made through her efforts to help animals reached out to Donnelly and the San Diego chapter of NARI, of which she is currently president, about helping revamp an animal shelter so it could be used by several local animal shelters to offer pet care to low-income people. Local contractors and NARI members donated their time, skills and materials.

“When it came to the [animal hospital] project, my skills scheduling residential remodels came into play since it was my job to get the volunteers together,” she says. “I’ve definitely learned a lot about larger projects doing these charity remodels because the scale is so much bigger than my usual work, and it’s helped me because I get to work with subcontractors I wouldn’t normally use.”

This passion for animals extends to the Miramar Kitchen & Bath offices, which Donnelly describes as “pet-friendly.” Her showroom has a wall of animals and supported causes, which also extends to the company’s Facebook page where upcoming events often are promoted.

“To know that we’re actually doing some good in the community makes me feel like everything I do is worthwhile,” Donnelly says. “Every bathroom I sell, every kitchen I sell I know that a part of that is going to help an animal and that really keeps me motivated.”

 

Spencer Shaw, Idaho Bath Solutions, a Re-Bath and 5 Day Kitchens franchisee,  Meridian, Idaho rebathnw.com

Spencer Shaw, president and owner, believes that his company’s community service efforts can be broken into two categories: causes that are a natural fit for the company or causes that the company’s owners feel passionate about, like charities that support children.

Occasionally, opportunities will come up that allow Shaw to combine those categories. Shaw was contacted by a fellow business owner about an auction he was putting together to benefit the Boys & Girls Club. The company donated a tub-to-shower conversion to the silent auction. However, the winner was unable to use it.

“From time to time, someone will buy something in an auction atmosphere and then realize it’s not a good fit for what they need in their home. Then they have to find a new individual to take it over, which we kind of had to do with that one but it ended up working out well,” he explains. “At the end of the day, the Boys & Girls Club still got the money generated from the auction.”

The company has also monetarily supported the Strong Kids Campaign with the YMCA, which pools money for less privileged children to be able to use the YMCA facilities and participate in programs they couldn’t otherwise afford. Another fit for the company is its work with Habitat for Humanity. “Doing bathroom and kitchen remodeling, we occasionally have materials that don’t get used on jobs but can’t necessarily be returned, so we do quite a few product donations to Habitat for Humanity through their Re-Store,” Shaw says.

Looking ahead, Shaw would like his company to get involved in the Susan G. Komen foundation by possibly becoming a sponsor of the organization’s Run for a Cure in the Boise, Idaho, market. From a business standpoint, he appreciates the opportunity to get his company’s name out in the community by supporting causes he and his company are passionate about.

“I think community service is an important characteristic of a company for customers to consider because it shows that the company is vested in the community,” Shaw says. “They’re in tune with their surroundings, which I think makes them a stronger company and will ultimately result in the customer feeling more confident in the business that they’re choosing.”

 

Zak Fleming, Fleming Construction, Des Moines, Iowa, flemingconstructionllc.com

After a heart attack took his brother, Zak Fleming, owner, set out to make their talks about starting a fund for the hockey community a reality. Money wasn’t available for them to play competitively when they were kids, so neither played in leagues until they were adults and could pay for their own equipment.

“Years ago, my brother and I were sitting around trying to figure out a way that we could help young hockey players play and nobody really had a program to offer player assistance,” he explains. “Since my brother was playing hockey and was well known in the hockey community, people wanted to put together money for a memorial. My brother was a successful entrepreneur, so we didn’t need the cash for the memorial. We ended up using the money to create the Gabe Fleming Memorial Hockey Scholarship fund.”

Applications go out in the fall as teams get ready for hockey season. Coaches, officials and league board members are encouraged to spread the word that financial assistance is available to parents so their kids can play hockey. Parents are asked to fill out an application to prove financial need, and their kids are asked to include a brief essay response. “Part of receiving their scholarship is that the kids come out and help promote the fund,” Fleming explains. “They come out to one of our events and throw T-shirts out to the fans, so we don’t ask a lot of them but we do want the kids to show they’re committed to the program.”

The scholarship fund hosts three fundraising events per year. An annual golf outing brings people together for fun, prizes and to raise money for kids. A silent auction the week of Thanksgiving features donations from local businesses and items from private collectors of hockey paraphernalia. Professional sports figures and teams have also become involved, donating signed jerseys, sticks, helmets, gloves and more. The largest event is the annual three-on-three men’s league tournament. Ten teams participated in the 2013 tournament, and sponsorship from approximately 15 local businesses meant all the team registration fees went directly toward funding the kids.

“The coolest thing about doing this is that the kids send in thank-you notes and their hockey cards. I just love that!” Fleming says. “It just really makes the whole thing worthwhile to see how happy they are. We’re not curing cancer here; we’re just helping kids have fun.”

 

Greg Banig, LeafFilter North, Hudson, Ohio, leaffilter.com

Although LeafFilter has locations nationwide, the company focuses its philanthropy work near its corporate headquarters near Akron, Ohio. Greg Banig, digital director, shares that many employees participate in their own charities, but the company supports four groups through various means.

Employees in the company’s corporate call center spearhead a collection effort for the Good Neighbors program. Collection bins are set up at the office around Thanksgiving for donations of new or gently used hats, gloves and scarves. Employees annually contribute to a small, internal fundraiser for the Akron Children’s Hospital. Recipes were collected for the Haven of Rest Ministries, a service organization that provides meals, shelter and clothing to those in need. The group compiled recipes into a cookbook that was then sold to raise funds. “We probably had at least 25 percent staff involvement submitting recipes,” Banig says. “We submitted content, and most of the people that submitted a recipe ended up buying a cookbook, too.”

Due to the company owner’s connection to the school, the company also supports the University of Akron football team by sponsoring an annual golf tournament with the team’s coach, Terry Bowden. “The owner of the company is a former quarterback for the University of Akron, and he met his wife there when she was a cheerleader,” Banig explains. “We support the football program as a way for the owner to support college athletics and give back to where he started.” Kickoff luncheons and other events are attended by many employees.

The LeafFilter office strives to create a culture of community service by generating buzz around the building. Common areas are prime places for fliers and promotional information on community service events. Office camaraderie also drums up involvement, Banig says, as people will occasionally seek participants throughout the office.

“We do a lot of things, but we try to fly under the radar,” he says. “We don’t do things looking for name recognition or to get our logo plastered somewhere. It’s just, especially when you get into the holiday season, we’re usually pretty grateful about where we finished as a company, and it’s nice to try to recognize and help other people in need.”

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