These builders give their time, money, and love--and inspire the rest of us to do likewise. By Daniel Walker Guido
We'd probably all be surprised to know just how many home builders have a lifelong commitment to community service. But two builders in particular have shown incredible dedication to improving the lives of the less fortunate. Making a difference, not only in business but also in communities and individual lives is what such service is all about, say this year's winners, John Wieland and Bernard Drueding.
In 1999, Hearthstone Advisors, one of the nation's largest home building project financiers, and BUILDER created an annual awards program to reward builders who spend their lives engaged in community service--and in so doing inspire other builders to do the same. Sponsors of this award have pledged to give more than $1 million over five years to the winning builders' favorite charities--the largest philanthropic cash prize in the home building industry.
Hearthstone Advisors provided the program with a first-year gift of $100,000 and a four-year commitment to provide $50,000 annually in subsequent years. The Kohler Cos., a founding sponsor, agreed to provide $50,000 annually. Hanley-Wood, LLC (publisher of BUILDER), contributes financially as well as manages the awards program.
Additional sponsors supporting this year's effort include Therma-Tru as a platinum sponsor, Masco as the dinner sponsor, and GMAC-RFC and The William Shupper Family Foundation as the premier sponsors. Patrons include: Bank of America, Bank United, Deloitte & Touche, The Hanley Foundation, Heller Ehrman White & McAuliffe, Lockton, and Zurich Insurance.
This year, $250,000 will be given to grand award winner Wieland's charities, and $100,000 will be given to the charities chosen by first runner-up Drueding. Here are the stories of these generous souls:
Man With a Mission
John Wieland's boundless energy forges better lives for Atlanta's homeless and disadvantaged people (and a Macaw named Cortez).
In 2001, John Wieland was ranked the nation's 62nd-largest home builder on the BUILDER 100 list. He reached that pinnacle when his company, John Wieland Homes and Neighborhoods, sold 1,244 homes, had $1.2 billion in closings and $440 million in revenue, and employed 983 people.
You'd think with that sort of cash flow, Wieland would have a comfy high-backed leather chair for his office desk. But he doesn't. A one-man dynamo in nearly perpetual motion, Wieland has no time to sit around. In fact, he thinks best on his feet. His stand-behind desk is higher than his waist, although he's been known to occasionally lean on it while reading reports. Taking time to sit is reserved for meetings with staff, bankers, or developers.
Wieland, you see, is a man with a mission, racing to beat the clock as he strives to accomplish all he can in life to improve his company and build better lives for those less fortunate in metro Atlanta and beyond.
"In the Atlanta area, the name John Wieland is synonymous with community service," says Jack Guynn, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. Appointed by Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan, Wieland serves as chairman of the board of directors of the Atlanta Fed--the first home builder to ever serve at that rank.
Though a very influential position, service with the Fed is just one of many civic and charitable endeavors that take up a substantial portion of the high-octane, warp-speed life of this interesting, intellectually gifted man who examines life from many angles. "He attends every meeting and gives me great insight into one of America's largest industries," Guynn says. "This information has proved invaluable to help me deliver a good, grass-roots business report on the economy at meetings of the Federal Open Market Committee, which sets interest rates. You cannot imagine how invaluable having a home builder's input has proven to be."
When Wieland was interviewed after being selected as winner of the Hearthstone Builder Award, which recognized his nearly 30-year track record in community service, he was at Atlanta Hartsfield International Airport, hopping a flight to Spain with his wife, Sue, and 36-year-old son, Jack. Less than a week later, he was back home in Atlanta, preparing for his Jan. 8 solo excursion to the South Pole. "He's been to the North Pole, and it's just like him to determine that if he's seen one, he has to see both," says his wife, chuckling. "In 38 years of marriage, we have never had a dull moment. He is the most highenergy, on-the-go guy I have ever known. I often have to run to keep up."
Raised a Christian by his marketing executive father and his teacher mother, Wieland has come to believe that wasting time is sacrilege. His supercharged energy level is a by-product of watching his equally vibrant father "retire" at age 55 and pursue a Ph.D. in marketing, after which he taught marketing at the University of Arizona while his mother volunteered in the community.
John Wieland doesn't just give money to good causes, he likes to grab a hammer and help build Habitat homes. He is often seen giving advice to members like Jill Redmond of Habitat for Humanity. [Photo: Emmett Martin
His charitable work is an outgrowth of the deep faith that is intrinsic to his life. Having joined North Avenue Presbyterian Church in Atlanta 28 years ago, Wieland says his parents' example as hard workers who were devoted to God and community service led him to begin working in numerous church committees, many of which he later directed, including the World Missions Conference and the Board of Deacons. He also has served as an elder there since 1984.
Frankly my dear
While Rhett Butler may not have given a damn for Atlanta and its environs, Wieland could not care more. He is currently helping on a project to turn a former dry ice plant into 16 lofts and constructing 14 townhouses and six duplexes on the surrounding land in Reynoldstown, the oldest black neighborhood in Atlanta.
He has devoted himself wholeheartedly, serving as chair of the advisory council for the Emory University Center for Ethics in Public Policy and the Professions, trustee of the Woodruff Arts Center, member of the building committee for the High Museum of Art, member of Habitat for Humanity's International Advisory Board, and a board member of the Atlanta Neighborhood Development Partnership. And those are just his current positions.
His past leadership service includes serving as chair of the High Museum during its transformation into a world-class art center, chair of the Emory University Board of Visitors, and as a member of Habitat's International board.
He rescued animals used in school educational programs for Zoo Atlanta. These creatures were living in a termite-infested, leaky mobile home, and Wieland graciously agreed to build them a state-of-the-art habitat where kids can pet the reptiles and feed Cortez the Macaw.
In 1983, he created Second Mile, an in-house charitable organization that combines matching corporate contributions with employee payroll deductions. He adds to that with his personal funds and money from the family foundation he established to support good causes.
In the past 11 years, he has directed the donation of $5 million to 450 charities and self-help service organizations. The funds support work to improve education and literacy levels in the metro Atlanta community, improve and rebuild housing, provide assistance to the elderly and the homeless, fund public health initiatives, and provide employment training. Special needs adults and children also are helped, along with single mothers and at-risk youth.
"John Wieland is one of the finest men I know anywhere in the world," says Millard Fuller, founder and president of Habitat for Humanity International. "He is a man with a big heart and an awesome capability. He is a man on the move, determined to make this world a better place."
Unlike many other wealthy individuals, Wieland contributes more than just his company's funds or his own. Fuller says Wieland has been personally building homes with Habitat since he helped the Atlanta Habitat affiliate get started with the Jimmy Carter work project in 1988.
Wieland waves off such appreciation. "Gotta get my mind set for the next big adventure," he says, serious as always. "I'm heading 90 degrees south. We set up a base camp at the North Pole in May last year, so we're hoping to do the same on the Antarctic continent and wait there until the weather clears, and we can fly into the research station at the bottom of the world."
Since Wieland always has scheduled working vacations, checking out the floor plans and construction of new model homes wherever he goes, he'll probably do the same at the South Pole. "The U.S. station there is pretty plain, built for function, not comfort," he chuckles. "But, I guess I could scope out their techniques for building with block and steel roofs."
The $250,000 prize awarded to John Wieland will be given to the Homebuilding Industry Foundation. Created by home building philanthropists, the Foundation collects donations from individual home builders. The Foundation then establishes a tax-exempt fund in the builder's name and uses that fund to disburse contributions to the charities of the builder's choice. James Pugash, CEO of Hearthstone Advisors, serves as chairman of the foundation. Interested builders should contact Patrick Woods at 415-464-2517.