Sleep-outs for Covenant House raised $10 million for 4 million 18-and-younger kids who may be living on the streets.
Sleep-outs for Covenant House raised $10 million for 4 million 18-and-younger kids who may be living on the streets.

A rare mid-November winter storm, with wind-chills in the 20s, snow, sleet, and then a cold, hard rain started up in the wee hours in the streets of Philadelphia, in the shadow of the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

To many on the East Coast, last week's icy weather in all its glory went down as a 12-hour source of conversational note, or maybe an inconvenience.

But if you happened to be camped out on a slush-layered sidewalk with no shelter, like too many of the 4.2 million American kids who face homelessness each year do, those wet, bone-chilling conditions mattered.

And last week, for one night only, the snow and ice and rain storm meant something, too, to men and women not at all accustomed to braving such elements. For one night only--and a bad one at that--nearly 4,800 men and women in cities across the country, making up almost 300 teams of people, put themselves literally in the shoes, and on the sidewalks, and cardboard boxes, garbage bags, grates, and soaking sleeping bags of young people who have no choice but to live that way.

They did it. They braved the heavy snow, the frozen rain, and the 3:30 a.m. downpour that made any notion of sleep an impossibility, even though exhaustion had gotten deep into their bones and coursed through their veins like there would be no tomorrow.

They--including a few people near and dear to us from out of the corner-office executive and strategic ranks of home building's top brass, joining nearly 1,800 executives--did it so that some of those 4 million-plus 18 year-olds or younger who find themselves homeless might find their way back to safety, to a shot at a life of purpose, or even prosperity.

Those men and women, who shivered and shook in the penetrating cold, and sat sleepless in the pelting freezing rain until dawn last Thursday night on a Cherry Street sidewalk in Philadelphia raised more than $360,000 for Covenant House, a night that meant more than $10 million in support of Covenant House's efforts to be there for American kids when social safety nets are not.

Not quite three years ago, the Hearthstone BUILDER Humanitarian Award, given each year to a home building leader whose life's work includes big, bold, all-in contributions of time, money, inspiration, motivation, and effort to help other people who need help, saluted Toll Brothers regional president Christopher Gaffney for his work on behalf of Covenant House.

Nominate a deserving leader for this coming year's Hearthstone BUILDER Humanitarian Award here. It's a win for giving, and it's a win for people who need your help, and it's a win for home building. Here's how.

Chris, one of those who slept out on the Philadelphia streets in last week's winter storm, wrote this to us recently about a way that Covenant House can work, which is also reflective of the ways all home building community charitable giving and efforts change lives, redeem souls, and help people who need your help.

A couple of years back in the Germantown area during out sleep out, there was a Philadelphia patrol car parked across the street from the area where we were sleeping. All night long you saw a dull light and a tiny little face sitting there watching over us. The next morning this lovely Philadelphia police officer came across the street as we were cleaning up. John Ducoff and I were the only ones left and the young lady asked us if there was anything else that we needed before she left. Without hesitation, we said absolutely not. Thank you so much for being here last night. She immediately cut us off and said no, THANK YOU. I have been a Philadelphia police officer for the past 6 years and am so lucky to have this position. I owe it all to Covenant House, as 7 years ago I was living on the second floor of the shelter here.

Subsequent, no less heartwarming honorees in the Hearthstone BUILDER Humanitarian Award's very recent past include Oakwood Homes' Pat Hamill and DeNova Homes' Dave and Lori Sanson.

The Hearthstone Award is the only one of its kind in home building. Last year, the $250,000 award--a gift of Hearthstone and a number of corporate donors--went as an infusion straight back into home building itself. Honoree Pat Hamill, CEO of Oakwood, reinvested the monies into an area home building sorely needs, training for men and women in the building trades at the Colorado Homebuilding Academy.

Over the years, Hearthstone, whose late CEO Jim Pugash co-founded the annual award with former Kohler ceo Herb Kohler and Hanley Wood vice chairman emeritus Frank Anton, has donated more than $1 million to the cause, to accord honor and call humble attention to men and women of home building whose professional lives and humanitarian commitments converge in wonderful stories like those of Chris, and Pat, and Dave and Lori, and those below:

2015: Dan Ryan, Dan Ryan Builders
2014: Bert Selva, president and CEO at Shea Homes
2013: Bryson Garbett, president and CEO of Garbett Homes and Betenbough Homes
2012: Dan Wallrath, Wallrath Custom Homes and Van Metre Companies
2011: Mori Hosseini, ICI Homes and Robert McLeod, Newland Communities
2010: Ira Fulton, Fulton Homes and Kevork Hovnanian, Hovnanian Enterprises, Inc.
2009: In celebration of BUILDER magazine’s 30th anniversary, 30 leaders and visionaries were honored.
2008: Jeff Rutt, Keystone Custom Homes and Thomas Gipson, Thomas Gipson Homes
2007: John Crosland, Jr., Crosland, Inc.; Robert M. Atack, Atack Properties; and James Z. Pugash, Hearthstone
2006: Ralph A. Drees, The Drees Company; David M. Showers, Strausser Investment; J. Ronald Terwilliger, Trammell Crow Residential; and Pardee Homes
2005: Larry Webb, John Laing Homes and Joseph Pusateri Jr., Elite Homes
2004: David K. Hill, Kimball Hill Homes and J. Roger Glunt, Glunt Development Co., Inc.
2003: Roger J. Strudler, Lennar Corporation and Lee Wetherington, Lee Wetherington Homes
2002: John Wieland, John Wieland Homes and Neighborhoods and Bernard J. Drueding III, B.J. Drueding Builders
2001: Keith Johnson, Fieldstone Communities and Antone Raymus, Raymus Development & Sales
2000: Don Ball, Ball Homes; David Weekley, David Weekley Homes; and George Pringle and John Pringle, Pringle Development