Banking and lending institutions have government requirements mandating that they give back to the community. Remodelers have enough laws to conform to that they don't need to be told to give back, but they should be setting the pace for other organizations.
Whether as contractors or suppliers, we in the home improvement industry have skills and resources that can help many people. It makes me feel good to share and help others, and I have been able to involve many local and national suppliers, NARI (National Association of the Remodeling Industry) members, friends, and youth groups in helping others as well. It is possible to run a business, give back to the community, and still make a profit.
Rebuilding Together My staff and I volunteer our time and skills for many organizations and local community events each year, including building theater sets for a middle school, sponsoring youth baseball, and organizing and sponsoring a youth fishing derby.
But my primary volunteer position is with Rebuilding Together Boston ( www.rtboston.org), where, after six years of volunteering, I am chairman of the board as well as the site selection chair and site supervisor. Rebuilding Together ( www.rebuildingtogether.org) is a national organization that helps elderly and low-income homeowners live safe and warm in their own homes with help from volunteers and in-kind donations from contractors and suppliers.
The work being done by RTB volunteers is extremely important. Consider having to live in a home where the windows don't close and cold air seeps in; or you must turn off your toilet after using it because it leaks into the basement; or the kitchen cabinets are falling off the walls; or you can't safely enter your home because the stairs are rotting and the door won't close or lock. These are all situations I deal with each day at RTB.
After 32 years as a business owner, I bring the construction skills and estimating experience — as well as the ability to gather a pool of competent contractors and building material suppliers — to complete the work required for a one-day volunteer event. And I'm always looking — at work, seminars, NARI meetings, or through reading trade magazines — for new contractors and suppliers to enlist. Because projects involve both large and small repairs, there is always a job for someone interested in helping to make a home safe and sturdy again.
Sharing and Mentoring Opportunities Along with the feeling of satisfaction you get from using your skills to help someone, these projects also provide natural situations for sharing construction knowledge with skilled contractors and mentoring interested but unskilled volunteers. Networking with other contractors and materials suppliers often provides opportunities that assist a small-business owner in learning more detailed skills and growing their company.
The varied list of things needed to run a successful RTB project brings together all types of companies, even those not directly associated with the construction industry, such as those providing food and office supplies. Each project gives volunteers the chance to meet and work with new people and their connections.
Through our volunteer efforts, my employees and I feel a sense of satisfaction because we are helping people. My company benefits because our name is made known to everyone involved in each RTB project. What a great way to increase your bottom line with little effort — it's like free advertising.
Please consider joining Rebuilding Together or another nonprofit to help those in need, not just to benefit your own community but the world we live in. — Tom Antonellis, a carpenter, contractor, and owner of Carpentry by Tom Antonellis, in Wayland, Mass., has been in business for 32 years. He recently returned from the United Republic of Tanzania where he participated in AIDS Walk Africa to support the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation.