Minneapolis-based Vujovich Inc. just won a National Contractor of the Year award from NARI for an over $1 million whole-house remodel. Intricately designed, high-end projects such as that are the rule, not the exception, at the $6 million company. But it's not even close to the most important work that Vujovich does.

For the past couple of years, Vujovich has been financially assisting a nonprofit organization in Nicaragua called the Association of Volunteers for the Development of Communities.

It's a bit like Habitat for Humanity, in that the projects are largely carried out by volunteers, and prospective homeowners are required to help build other homes before they get their own. Families sign an agreement with AVODEC, which in part states that if they do not assist in building six or seven other homes within their community group, they'll be dropped from the program.

Company president Peter Vujovich and his wife, Jill Lucas (a water quality expert), have each spent time in Nicaragua assisting AVODEC. But Vujovich helps from afar, too. Each quarter, his company contributes a fixed donation to the program. Vujovich declined to specify the exact amount but said that it's enough to build a minimum of two homes.

Vujovich's employees have gotten into the act, as well. The company has arranged for workers to donate a part of their biweekly paycheck or a part of their quarterly profit sharing money to AVODEC. Vujovich's business partner, Ed Roskowinski, says that more than half of the company's 22 employees take advantage of the opportunity, which can be written off on their taxes as a charitable donation. The total quarterly donation from the payroll and profit sharing (separate from the corporate contribution) is $4,000.

Vujovich Inc. has been involved with the nonprofit AVODEC for a couple of years now. In addition to helping with construction, families who receive houses must manufacture their own building materials, including roof tiles and concrete and adobe blocks. Courtesy Vujovich Inc. Vujovich says that he doesn't ever put his clients in a position where they have to decide whether to give money to AVODEC, but “if they're interested, we'll tell them” about it. Information about AVODEC is posted on the Vujovich Web site. One client sent AVODEC what Vujovich called a “quite amazing amount of money” —enough to build 20 homes.

Roskowinski is currently working out the logistics of a mission trip for company employees, which they hope to take in 2005. Funding the trip has proved to be the biggest obstacle.