The senseless, tragic, horrible mass shooting that took 17 lives at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., happened--you can almost not forget--on Valentine's Day, Feb. 14.
You might not remember, though, that was a Wednesday. By Friday of that week, charitable funds that several organizations had set up for the victims, their families, friends, fellow students, and school staff had begun to swell with support. Americans reached out, sending money for grievance counseling, school safety programs, any way possible to add a tangible sign of the countless thoughts and prayers that poured in from everywhere.
Among the donations, it hardly needs saying, a materially large amount of money came from home builders. This is a nearly self-evident truth. It's what home builders do because it's who they are. They build homes; they build communities; they build companies; they build culture--and then they tend more often than not to give back. Whether it's a disaster, natural or otherwise, or a chronic scourge of society that leaves some humans unable to cope without help, builders make it their business to help. It's a given.
The source of the very big check in charitable support following the Parkland, Fla. mass killings will remain nameless here. That's partly because some very large percentage of what home builders give every day, who they give to everywhere, and how that matters beyond what words can express in the lives of people and communities never ever comes to light. That's how it works.
Once a year, though, we name names. We recognize someone--from among many heartrendingly worthy nominees--willing to pick up the mantle of the Hearthstone BUILDER Humanitarian Award, which invariably goes to an individual for whom it's impossible to tell the difference between the day job and the life of giving and service to others. It's one and the same.
Our honoree this year is Pat Hamill, founder, chairman, CEO and president of Oakwood Homes, which last year joined a growing portfolio of home builders purchased and owned by Berkshire Hathaway's Clayton Homes.
Pat proudly self-identifies under the soubriquet SOB. Son of a Builder. In his case, his dad built custom homes in the midwest, and he was interested a generation ago in panelization, and his son Pat spent quite a lot of time thinking he'd never be a builder.
Pat went off to University of Denver, imagining he could ski to his heart's desire, and thinking he was getting away from home building, but wouldn't you know, he'd wind up as teacher's assistant for one Chuck Shinn, the nationally renowned home building management guru?
"Chuck noted often that I loved skiing more than I loved school," says Pat. Apparently, more osmosed or rubbed off than anybody, including Pat, realized. "My dad kind of thought I'd wind up coming back to the midwest to work with him, but when I graduated, I got drawn into consulting."
What Hamill had emerged with from University of Denver was Chuck Shinn super immersion in home building intellectual pedigree to go along with his entrepreneurial fire-in-the-belly, and his computer-tech chops, and yes, his father's wish for him. That led to several years of consulting engagements that brought him into the direct wavelengths of home building systems icons--David Weekley, Tom Bradbury, John Wieland, and the like.
"Their mentorship and openness with me really gave me a unique education that became hugely important to me my whole career, and it's part of how Oakwood Homes works today," says Hamill. "They taught me that there are lots of ways to do things in home building. There are right ways to do things. And there are wrong ways. Eventually, I decided I too wanted to be a player, rather than just a coach, and with [American West Homes] Larry Canarelli's help, we founded Oakwood in 1991. Larry was one of the guys who did things the right way from a systems standpoint, and he was so important in our development as an operator."
Giving back was a non-negotiable in Hamill's mind; it came with the turf.
"I believe we come into all this with a debt to society," he says. "We are so fortunate to be able to be doing this business, and it's an obligation, I believe, for us to pave the way and work for people to help improve lives."
The efforts, the impact, the influence, and the immersion of giving in the Oakwood culture are a common fabric that ties Pat Hamill to 19 years of the Hearthstone BUILDER Humanitarian Award, which has given nearly $6 million to charity, making it the largest philanthropic award in the home building industry, to honor builders who have demonstrated a lifetime commitment to making their communities a better place to work and live. Hearthstone and BUILDER, together with founding sponsor Kohler Company, partners to recognize builders who go the extra mile to help others.
Builders like Pat Hamill, who founded the Colorado Home Building Academy to reinvest in the training and education of new talent in the home building community. The Academy offers hands-on learning, classroom teaching and real-life experience with the ultimate goal of job placement and ongoing support for its students.
Hamill also co-founded the Foundation for Educational Excellence and the 21st Century High-Tech Academy in the Green Valley Ranch/Montbello area of Denver. He serves on the board of the Colorado Concern to lead business enterprises in the region. His efforts to support leadership in education saw him appointed by the Governor to serve as co-chair for the Early Childhood Leadership Commission.
"There is so much pride behind honoring these individuals, year after year, who represent the best of the best in the builder industry,” said Mark Porath, CEO of Hearthstone. “And, what also makes me equally proud is that there are so many great submissions every year. I am always humbled by the self-sacrifice of the leaders in our industry, which inevitably makes it a difficult decision to just select one award recipient. This year, we will all learn from Pat Hamill of his selflessness, and his leadership, and be inspired by it. His charitable work is beyond admirable and we are proud to recognize his efforts and tireless generosity with the 2018 Hearthstone BUILDER Humanitarian Award."
His charitable efforts run on and on, and they run deep.
“Pat is very quiet about his philanthropic work, so to see him recognized by his peers for an initiative he took on to solve an industry problem feels really good,” says Amy Schwartz, executive director for BuildStrong Education. “After learning about this award, Pat started a fundraising campaign to build an endowment for the Colorado Homebuilding Academy so that it is sustainable for years to come. He's made a personal contribution and has also reached out to his industry network asking for additional contributions. So the Hearthstone award really started something for us! We really think this model can be replicated across the country and this funding will help us do that. It has been amazing to see the Academy grow from Pat's idea to a reality that is changing individual's lives as well as providing a new workforce pipeline to the Denver homebuilding community."
One of the things that gratify him, Hamill says, is seeing the effect that the Academy has on the lives and livelihoods of the individuals who enter and succeed in the program.
"We get a fair number of people who come in who are currently in fast-food service restaurants, where they're making maybe $11 an hour. After they finish their training they come back by, and report that they're making $19 an hour. That's a living wage; they can contribute to society and pay taxes and they're so grateful."
Like so many home builders, most of Hamill's charitable work happens off the radar, unnoticed. But he's willing to serve in the public eye as a Hearthstone honoree because he passionately hopes that more builders might try something like the Colorado Home Building Academy in their markets, because it looks like a model that can be replicated. Like his father hoped one day that his son, Pat, would know the unique joy of home building, Pat hopes other builders might see that they can do something, with a double- or triple-bottom line about the current shortage of skilled labor in construction.
"We've had some builders visit and take a look at what we're doing, and I think it would be really neat if it's a training model others can adopt."
In a way, Hamill's efforts are to give a gift to home building that will keep on giving, which is what home builders do, and who home builders are.
"We come into the world broke, and we die broke, and we just try to time it perfectly so that we've done something good in between."
We'll honor Pat and the Oakwood Homes team live and in person at the 2018 Housing Leadership Summit, taking place May 14-16 at the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel at Dana Point, Cal.