As the business press reports on home building executives taking home some of the biggest salaries in all of American business or buying lavish homes on the coast, it's refreshing to reflect on the achievements of the winners of this year's Hearthstone BUILDER Humanitarian Awards. Clearly, this bunch has a different set of priorities.
Giving to others seems like second nature to Ralph Drees, our grand winner this year. Though retired from the home building company he founded, The Drees Co., Drees finds time to give to more than 50 schools, museums, social service groups, charities, and civic organizations. He plans to use his award money, $150,000, to help renovate the Catholic high school he attended as a boy.
Like many builders who engage in philanthropic work, Drees is most at home sponsoring capital projects. He often seeds the project with capital, then goes to the community for contributions. Once the public sees completed projects, he reasons, people are more likely to give to the charity.
ON A NEW COURSE A life-altering event—his first grandchild was born with serious health problems—led to David Showers' involvement in the Akron Children's Hospital. “We credit [the hospital] with saving his life,” says Showers, the former CEO of Wayne Homes. Showers recently gave $3 million to open a center for childhood cancer and blood disorders at the hospital.
While he was running his home building company, Showers found it difficult to devote too much time to charitable endeavors. Now he's making up for lost time, leading campaigns to build a high school in Tanzania, raise money for his old high school, and send kids with disabilities to summer camp.
Spending time on association work is another way many builders give back during their business careers. J. Ronald Terwilliger, CEO and chairman of Trammel Crow Residential, exemplifies this spirit of volunteerism through his involvement with the Urban Land Institute, the NAHB, and Habitat for Humanity International, where he serves as vice chair of the group's board.
But Terwilliger gives money as well as time. He has donated millions over the last 25 years to support affordable housing. And he recently gave $5 million to the U.S. Naval Academy, his alma mater, to support the development of a new baseball stadium, saying he was tired of seeing the team lose to Army.
COMPANYWIDE SUPPORT One of the most effective ways for builders to give back is to mobilize their company. Pardee Homes, with an 80-year history of charitable giving, is a great example. Each division is given a budget and decides which causes it wants to support. Last year, the company donated more than $1.2 million to charitable causes, including the homeless, education, mentoring youth, and raising funds for medical research.
“Wonderful things can happen when you leverage the giving nature of an entire company,” says Michael McGee, Pardee president and CEO.
Giving out these annual awards is easily one of the most rewarding things we've done at BUILDER. In conjunction with our partner, Hearthstone, we've raised $4 million over the last seven years that we've given to builders, who have in turn used the money to support worthy charities.