As home prices have soared, affordable housing has become a hot topic. But no one has to sell the recipients of this year's Hearthstone BUILDER Lifetime Public Service Awards on the need for reasonably priced shelter.

For years, David K. Hill of Kimball Hill Homes and J. Roger Glunt of Glunt Development Co. and Jayar Construction Co. have worked on affordable housing issues in their communities, devoting their energies to providing people with a decent place to live, whether that be a new home or a temporary shelter. They've also served as leaders, formal and informal, for housing-related organizations that support the industry, where they have advocated housing research and financial support for the next generation of builders.

The Hearthstone BUILDER Awards, established in 1999 by Hearthstone Advisers, a national home building financier, and BUILDER, are intended to honor builders just like Hill and Glunt, people who have dedicated time and money to improving their communities through charitable work. Many have noticed the passion and commitment of these two men, who have contributed to housing and non-housing causes.

David Hill is "a perfect Hearthstone BUILDER winner because of the roots and depth of his philanthropy," says Michael Lennon, who as president of HomeAid America has worked with Hill on expanding the number of homeless shelters HomeAid builds annually.

So is Glunt. "There's a saying that the best way to live your life is do things you believe in, and Roger certainly exhibits that," says Nicolas Retsinas, who directs the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard. "He has such a civility, grace, and a passion for helping people."

The two builders will now have the chance to extend their caring even further. Thanks to this year's 38 Hearthstone sponsors, Hill will receive $250,000 to donate to his favorite charities and Glunt will receive $150,000.

Problem Solver David K. Hill sees possibilities and transforms them into reality.

He is a catalyst, a problem solver, an angel. Those are the words that colleagues choose to describe David K. Hill, chairman and CEO of Kimball Hill Homes, a large private builder that will deliver close to 4,000 homes in 2003. But those colleagues, who come from the nonprofit world, aren't talking about Hill's business success. They're referring to his work on behalf of affordable housing, homeless shelters, and other charitable causes. "David is a proactive philanthropist," says Lennon, president of HomeAid America, which works with builders to construct and renovate homeless shelters across the country. "He goes out to find things that work and works to make them better."

It's something that Hill, 63, has been doing for years. As a Princeton University undergraduate, he responded to the Cuban refugee crisis by forming a club that raised $200,000 to sponsor refugees. But domestic issues proved even more compelling to this international affairs major, who eventually returned to Rolling Meadows, Ill., to start his own home building company, which he named after his father.

David K. Hill
Age: 63
Company: Kimball Hill Homes, Rolling Meadows, Ill.
Title: Chairman and CEO
Charitable work: HomeAid America, North West Housing Partnership, NAHB, William Rainey Harper College, Roosevelt University, Center for Housing Policy, All Saints Lutheran Church, and more
Award: $250,000

He took his values of volunteering with him. "Dave is a person who makes connections," says Diane Hill, David's wife of 31 years and a respected speech professor. "He is a problem solver. He sees possibilities and is ready to give his time to help people achieve their goals." Personally, Hill has given his time to his church, the Boy Scouts, the local hospital, and other causes. Professionally, he has joined numerous housing organizations, local and national. "It's a string of pearls," Hill says of his charitable commitments, "and the focus that holds it all together is affordable housing."

Hill takes a broader approach to the issue than many, advocating a variety of housing solutions. "He is persistent in making sure there are housing opportunities at all income levels," says Donna Thomas, executive director of the North West Housing Partnership in Palatine, Ill., which administers homeownership and single-family rehabilitation programs as well as constructs affordable multifamily seniors housing. Through his work with HomeAid America, Hill pushes his company and fellow builders to serve those who can afford to neither buy nor rent, raising money and buildings to shelter the homeless. In 2003, for example, Kimball Hill employees built a Chicago bungalow-style playhouse for HomeAid, which sold the tiny structure to the highest bidder for $7,500. Why work on so many fronts? Because Hill truly believes in housing's transformative power, both for builders and their beneficiaries. "Housing is a marvelous way to connect with people and help people improve their own lives," he explains.

David K. Hill, Chairman and CEO, Kimball Hill Homes
Compoa David K. Hill, Chairman and CEO, Kimball Hill Homes

Such words bring nods of agreement today, when homeownership is an explicit national goal. But the energetic Hill was an advocate for affordable housing and housing policy long before it was popular with politicians. As early as 1991, he helped found the Center for Housing Policy, an independent research group formed to counter the decade's negative sentiment toward housing efforts. "In the late '80s and early '90s, national housing policy had no priority in Congress or other circles. With no political weight, Congress started cutting back on all existing programs. As it cut back on funding, a pattern emerged of everyone thinking, 'Oh, there's nothing we can do about housing,'" says Hill, who obviously disagreed. As the center's president, he highlighted the situation of working families and their struggles to find safe, affordable housing--a cause that's recently made headlines in newspapers large and small.

Such attention is a new experience for Hill as an affordable housing advocate, but the builder is glad that people are finally listening--and doing something--about such an important issue. "Going from being one of the voices in the wilderness to being in an oasis of policy is a great thing," Hill says. It's also something he can feel pride in helping accomplish.

Personal Connection J. Roger Glunt concentrates on causes with special meaning.

In a busy world, J. Roger Glunt always makes time to help. "Philanthropy is like a hobby to me," the Pittsburgh builder explains. "You make time for the things you enjoy." In Glunt's case, that includes an eight-year tour as chairman of the NAHB-affiliated National Housing Endowment as well as involvements with state universities and local housing organizations.

It's a diverse collection of commitments, but each one holds special meaning for Glunt, 65, a small builder who does a handful of custom homes annually. A University of Pittsburgh graduate, he has served on various boards at the school and has also taken responsibility for two initiatives: an endowed scholarship honoring a university band director Glunt played for and an endowed chair of oncology nursing to honor Glunt's sister, who died of cancer. "I give to things I believe in," he says.

That certainly includes housing. After serving as the NAHB national president in 1993, he joined the National Housing Endowment as chairman in 1995, bringing his ambitious plans with him. "Roger thinks bigger," says Bruce Silver, the endowment's president and CEO. "He focuses on the future."

J. Roger Glunt
Age: 65
Company: Glunt Development Co. and Jayar Construction Co., Turtle Creek, Pa.
Title: President
Charitable work: National Housing Endowment, NAHB, Hosanna Industries, University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania State University, Beulah Presbyterian Church, and more
Award: $150,000

That future included more money for the endowment, founded only a few years before, in 1987. "It was a fledgling organization, with $4 million in assets," Glunt recalls. "I just believed it could do far better. I felt there was a lot more generosity out there that just needed to be cultivated."

And cultivate Glunt did, buoyed by one builder's challenge. When Glunt asked this builder to give $100,000, the builder refused--but offered a $1 million donation if three others would give the same. Glunt went to work. "I'd never asked anyone to give a million bucks before," he says, remembering that first million-dollar request ... and the "yes" that followed it. "I knew if I could get one, I could get three. To me, that was the turning point." Today, the endowment enjoys $15 million in assets, money that funds housing research, vocational and education programs, and more. "He breathed life into a nascent organization," says Retsinas, director of the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard.

J. Roger Glunt, President, Glunt Development Co. and Jayar Construction Co.
Compoa J. Roger Glunt, President, Glunt Development Co. and Jayar Construction Co.

For Glunt, it is the investment in students and their education that matters the most. "What did the most good are the student [scholarships]," notes Glunt, who says such grants "continue to give for years and years" as the industry benefits from fresh ideas and new leaders. That's certainly the case with Brennan Glantz, the first recipient of the J. Roger Glunt Fellowship in Residential Construction, a graduate scholarship at Pennsylvania State University established by Glunt's friends and colleagues. It was "a remarkable opportunity to attend graduate school sans tuition bills, but the total rewards of the Glunt fellowship greatly exceeded the direct financial aspects," says Glantz, now an engineer in Southern California, who says he got the chance to network with industry leaders, explore technical issues, and speak publicly about his research through the program.

Locally, Glunt shares his time and his expertise with Hosanna Industries, a Pittsburgh-area nonprofit that builds and rehabilitates homes for the needy. "He's objective enough to be constructive, intelligent enough to bring wisdom, and warm-hearted enough not to turn a blind eye to people in desperate poverty," says Donn Ed, Hosanna's founder and executive director. "For Roger, doing affordable housing is more than putting a feather in his cap. He really cares. You can see it in his eyes."

Honorable Mentions For the first time, Hearthstone and BUILDER are also designating six builders as honorable mentions for their charitable work and contributions. They are:

Edward Burr, president and CEO, LandMar Group in Jacksonville, Fla. Burr, who established a foundation to honor the memory of his wife, works for abused, neglected, and at-risk children in northeast Florida as well as other causes.

Alonzo Cantu, president, Cantu Construction and Development in McAllen, Texas. Cantu helps to provide educational opportunities for underprivileged minority students through Valley Alliance of Mentors for Opportunities and Scholarships (VAMOS) and contributes to other causes, including affordable housing.

Ralph Drees, chairman, The Drees Co., in Fort Mitchell, Ky. Drees supports the Boy Scouts of America; the Behringer-Crawford Museum, which honors Northern Kentucky history and culture; the United Way; and other organizations.

Thomas Gipson, president, Thomas Gipson Homes in Raleigh, N.C. Gipson works with numerous local charities, including Habitat for Humanity, Grace Lutheran Church, and the Muscular Dystrophy Association of Wake County.

David Lucas, chairman, The Bonita Bay Group in Bonita Springs, Fla. Lucas helps the local chapter of Habitat for Humanity; the United Way; Abuse and Counseling Treatment Center (ACT), a shelter and program for abused women; and other groups.

John Yeager, president, Ashley Development in Edgewood, Ky. Yeager donates money and building expertise to The Point, which serves developmentally disabled adults, and contributes to other community groups, including a local hospital.

Award Criteria The judges were asked to measure the nominees' charitable activities against these six criteria:

* Lifetime commitment: The builder demonstrates a lifetime of commitment to charitable work.

* Depth of commitment: The builder shows a significant commitment in terms of personal time and resources contributed to charitable activities.

* Significance of builder's contribution: The builder has made a significant difference both in the number of people affected and in the impact on those who have benefited from the builder's involvement.

* Inspirational value: The builder inspires many others to become more involved in community service activities.

* Significance of charity: Highest preference is given to charities that assist the unfortunate and underprivileged. After this, significant weight is given to charities that involve housing.

* Ability of charities to use the reward: The charity should be one that can readily use the award in a productive manner.

Hearthstone Judges Bernard Drueding III, president, a Wayne, Pa.-based home builder and a 2002 recipient of the Hearthstone Builder Lifetime Public Service Award

Jamie S. Gorelick, vice chair, Fannie Mae, the nation's largest source of funds for home mortgages

Keith Johnson, CEO, Fieldstone Communities, San Diego, and the 2001 grand award winner of the Hearthstone Builder Lifetime Public Service Award

Bob Mitchell, chairman and CEO, Mitchell & Best, a Rockville, Md.-based home builder

Lewis S. Ranieri, chairman and founder of Hyperion Partners, an investment partnership with funds backed by major institutional investors

Nicolas P. Retsinas, director of the Joint Center for Housing Studies, which conducts research to examine and address America's most critical housing and community development needs

Robert J. Strudler, COO, Lennar Corp., and the 2003 grand award winner of the Hearthstone Builder Lifetime Public Service Award

Lee Wetherington, president, Lee Wetherington Cos., and a 2003 recipient of the Hearthstone Builder Lifetime Public Service Award

John Wieland, CEO, Wieland Homes, Atlanta, and the 2002 grand award winner of the Hearthstone Builder Lifetime Public Service Award

Call for Nominations All for-profit builders or lot developers are eligible as either individuals or companies for the Hearthstone BUILDER Lifetime Public Service Award. Builders may nominate themselves or be nominated by other builders or by the charities, nonprofits, or government organizations they have helped.

BUILDER will begin accepting nominations starting March 5, 2004. To request a nomination form, contact Loretta Williams at 202-736-3455 or via e-mail at [email protected].

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Pittsburgh, PA.