I love history and art – not to mention a “feel good” story. Maybe that’s why I enjoyed writing a BizVoice® article last summer about restoration of Elkhart’s historic Lerner Theatre, one of many projects revolving around the city’s new downtown arts and entertainment district.
Renovation of the structure, built in 1924 as a vaudeville palace, was completed in June. It wasn’t transformation of the theatre alone that I found captivating. It was the “story within a story” – The Lerner’s rebirth revitalized Elkhart (helping to boost revenue and morale), one of those hit hardest during the economic downturn.
And the story continues.
Design firm Moody•Nolan and associate architect Cripe Design recently earned a Palladio Award (specifically the Sympathetic Addition Award) for their addition and façade restoration of the theater.
Jim Kienle, director of Moody•Nolan’s Historic Preservation Studio, was quoted in a 2010 BizVoice® story focusing on environmentally friendly preservation efforts involving restoration.
Looking forward to seeing what’s in store “in the next act” for The Lerner and other renovation projects.
Indianapolis has seen many changes in the past decade. But as old, beloved structures are torn down to make way for new ones, People for Urban Progress (PUP) believes that material need not be wasted. PUP drew attention from citizens and media alike for reusing the RCA Dome rooftop and fabric from Super Bowl promotions, and is now garnering recognition for repurposing seats from the old Bush Stadium. I sat down with PUP Development Innovator Amy Crook to discuss the non-profit organization — which considers itself a "do-tank" – and how it's working to change the capital city.
Chamber: Tell me about PUP. When and why did it start?
Amy: It was founded by Michael Bricker, our chief innovator, and his business partner in 2008. At the time, there was talk of imploding the RCA Dome and they had a natural curiosity about what would happen to that "white stuff" on the roof. They wondered, "Can it be used for something else?" They learned more about what could be done with it. So they salvaged it, and the plan at the time was to make 1,000 bags out of it and other products – wallets, clutches, messenger bags. They raised $70,000 in selling these goods. Half of that went to designers who made the products, and we partnered with RecycleForce … and then the rest of the money went toward projects. Through that project, we put up two shade structures in the community in partnership with Indianapolis Fabrications and Keep Indianapolis Beautiful.
Do any other major cities have similar organizations?
Not that are a not-for-profit model that we’re aware of. … We’re going through a strategic planning process right now, so we are looking at places like Goodwill and TOMS Shoes – and locally, you could say that we have a similar model as Freewheelin', which allows kids to work on repairing bikes, and when they work so many hours, they actually get a bike. The bikes they work on are purchased by the community to raise money for the organization.
How many people work here?
Jessica Bricker, our product designer, is closest to full-time, and she is Michael’s twin sister. Michael works 8-10 months for PUP, but he’s also a production designer for film projects and may be called away for a month or two. I work for PUP three days a week and also do freelance marketing on the side. All of our designers are contracted. There are five of them and they all have full-time jobs.
How are you funded? Do you work with government or via grants?
We’ve been predominantly funded by the sale of products. But this strategic planning is (supported by) the first official grant that we’ve gotten from the Lilly Endowment to help us go through the process. We’ve applied for other grants to help us with material processing. A lot of people are coming to us for these large-scale projects like we’ve already taken on, such as salvaging 13 acres of RCA Dome material, five miles of Super Bowl fabric and 9,000 Bush Stadium seats. There’s this space in the middle that you can’t take to the recycling center, but you can’t put in the landfill either, so we just want to be able to restructure to be able to say “yes” to accepting more materials and trust that we can get them back in the community in a unique way.
Is the city paying you to place some of these Bush Stadium seats at bus stops?
It’s a partnership with IndyGo. IndyGo has a budget per seat amenity, and we’re raising sponsorship dollars for the other half. During the Seat Salvage Phase of the project, we had raised $10,000 from (four) funders to help us get more seats out with the tight deadline: Lumina Foundation, Central Indiana Community Foundation, Eskenazi Health and a private funder.
What’s the greatest challenge facing Indy right now that you’re working to solve, big picture-wise?
Our mission is promoting public transit, environment and design, and based on our research and conversations in the community and with community leaders, urban design and aesthetics have come out of that – an educational effort about what is good design. Michael is also co-chair of the Indy Rezone steering committee.
Transit is also important, of course. Since 2008, we’ve been working on getting a car sharing program started. And then there’s an environmental component – just being good stewards to the earth. The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra is going to be replacing their seats in June, and this has been the first project where people really think of us and contact us in advance to create a plan. Whereas with the dome and other projects, we found out late and then had to figure it out. But now people are talking with us to come up with plans, so they don’t have to scrap this stuff or throw it in a landfill.
Tell us about this Make 5X5 contest you just held.
The 5X5 Indianapolis arts and innovation came out of the Central Indiana Community Foundation (CICF). The first one was hosted by Big Car, and we hosted the second one. The next one will be IndyHub. (CICF) came to us and gave us a budget to throw an event based on a theme, and we asked for five organizations to present a five-minute pitch on five slides, and the winner would get $10,000. So our theme was “Making.”
(The winner was the Cool Bus, which will serve as a literary center for children.)
What are some challenges in keeping an organization like this going, in accomplishing your goals?
We’re moving forward and there are some capacity issues, and if we had more people involved or more financial resources, we’d be able to get this stuff out in the community more quickly. But there is progress being made and we’ll be able to have a bigger impact.
Our strategic plan is called “Doing Things.” We took a risk and started this thing and we’re still here and making it happen; let’s take the next steps and create something other people can replicate. We’re keeping an eye on Minneapolis and Atlanta, where they have Teflon-coated fiberglass as their stadium rooftops. We don’t necessarily want to acquire that material, but we know what you can do with it so we want to have a seat at the table and help them find ways to use it in the community and process that material.
You support the mass transit initiative in Indianapolis. Why is that important?
All the articles I’ve been reading now about millenials and Gen Y, we aren’t all going to be homeowners and two-car families. Our salaries aren’t as grand, and our stability in our positions is different. But you’d be surprised, this generation is one of the smartest generations and they are spending within their means. They’re not buying fancy cars; they’d rather cut back and invest in their art, or having children – and invest in that versus things. A strong transit system would help foster that way of living. If you’re having children and you need two cars, and you don’t have a supplemental transit option, you’ll lose people and they’ll go somewhere where they don’t need a car. Our generation travels and experiences other cities, so when you see another city where travel is more efficient, you think about that.
For myself, in my first couple of jobs I was driving 45 minutes to work and back. Now I have a 1.5-mile walk to work. Once you try that, you don’t go back.
You think this type of organization would succeed in any other cities in Indiana?
We were just talking about Bloomington today and its new transit center, wondering how we could get some PUP seats there. While our mission statement is directly for Indianapolis, we’d like to see mini-PUPs, or people can come to us for a resource and we may have experience to help you do something in your community. Maybe it doesn’t have to be a full-time thing. We started with everyone doing this on the side. If there are seats being removed from a stadium or banners that need to be recycled, you can do that and we could consult about how to re-use those materials.
Headquartered in Fort Wayne, Do It Best Corp. employs over 1,400 full-time staffers and can boast over 4,000 member locations throughout the United States and 53 countries. The lumber/hardware/building materials distributor's web site explains why it was founded back in 1945:
Do it Best Corp., formerly known as Hardware Wholesalers, Inc. (HWI), began as the vision of Arnold Gerberding. Born in Fort Wayne, Indiana, in 1900, Gerberding worked in the hardware business from the time he graduated from high school in 1919. Working as a buyer, he faced many challenges and frustrations getting products at good prices to compete with the popular and rapidly growing catalog and retail chains like Sears, Roebuck and Co. and Montgomery Ward, Inc.
The company also believes in community service. Here are some examples of how Do It Best Corp. gives back to the communities it serves:
Big Brother, Big Sisters
Do it Best Corp. has been involved for many years with Big Brothers Big Sisters, particularly in the Lunch Buddy program. Do it Best Corp. president emeritus Don Wolf was a co-founder of the Northeast Indiana chapter of BBBS. Both Don Wolf and Do it Best Corp. president emeritus Mike McClelland have served on BBBS’s national board of directors, as has Bob Taylor, our current president and CEO.
Do it Best Corp. has long been a strong supporter of the United Way. Staff participate in annual pledge drives to help fund the organization’s endeavors. The United Way partners with community groups and volunteers to help children, families, seniors, and people with disabilities improve their lives by helping to meet their basic and emergency needs.
Junior Achievement helps young people understand the economics of life through hands-on experience. JA brings the real world to students, opening young minds to their potential. Many Do it Best Corp. employees donate time and effort to helping today’s youth better understand today’s business environment, either by serving on the local board or by working as volunteer teachers. Do it Best Corp. also sponsors the Do it Best® store in the Fort Wayne Exchange City program, a miniature town in which local youth elect a mayor and operate businesses.
In 1989, Do it Best Corp. president emeritus Don Wolf founded the Study Connection program, a volunteer-based effort that provides tutoring and mentoring for young people in need. This nationally acclaimed program is now being duplicated in communities across America. For one hour each week during the school year, Do it Best Corp. staff volunteers meet one-on-one with local elementary school students identified by their teachers as needing extra assistance. Each year, teachers and volunteers nominate outstanding student participants for Don Wolf awards. Do it Best Corp. has long supported the growth and development of this program, and offers its Fort Wayne facility for on-site education.
Start! Heart Walk
The Start! Heart Walk is a non-competitive walking event to benefit the American Heart Association. Participants in local walks around the country raise funds for heart disease and stroke research and education; 150 Do it Best Corp. staff, along with family members and friends, participate each year, raising tens of thousands of dollars in pledges.
Relay for Life
The American Cancer Society Relay for Life is a team event that raises money for the American Cancer Society’s research and education efforts. Do it Best Corp. employees from both corporate headquarters and the retail service centers have participated in local Relay for Life events for many years.
Habitat for Humanity
In 2004, Do it Best Corp. selected Habitat for Humanity as its cause of choice. Habitat’s mission is to eliminate substandard housing around the world by providing decent, affordable shelter for those in need.
Gregg Keesling may have dropped out of Earlham College at 19 years of age, but he soon gained a worldly education by landing in Jamaica. He then spent over two decades in the midst of civil unrest as the Caribbean nation fought for its identity in a changing world. With his adopted country at a tipping point in 1980, he saw the election of Ronald Reagan back home help to bring capitalism to the island.
He notes that he himself converted from a "hippie" to a capitalist, and began working on developing a hotel — and then public projects like helping eradicate polio from the country and working with the European Union to install a sewer system in the area, which ultimately helped gentrify the area around the hotel. His participation in Rotarian work eventually brought him back to Indianapolis, where he founded RecycleForce in 2003.
Not only does RecycleForce work to help the environment by providing an array of waste disposal services, but the 501(c)(3)'s staff is mostly made up of men and women who have spent time in Indiana's corrections system. Keesling is focused on helping them re-enter society by finding gainful employment.
"These (ex-offenders) are some of the best people on earth," he contends. "They’ve been tagged as if they’re not. Someone once said 'the arc of history bends toward justice' – and it’s hard to be openly racist anymore, like when I grew up in the 1970s … but you can certainly use the same sentiments and feelings and call the person an 'ex-offender.' And you can get away with it, and say 'I don’t want those criminals in my neighborhood. They should all be locked up.' But these are human beings with inherent worth; they’re fathers, brothers, uncles and they deserve a role in our world."
Keesling asserts that the liability employers are currently burdened with is the most significant barrier to employment for former prisoners.
"If a guy is doing a great job and a company wants to hire him directly (after using a staffing company), the liability would keep them from doing it … if companies want to reduce their liability insurance, they screen out ex-offenders."
He points to a study recently conducted by Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) indicating 70% of employers in Marion County have some type of barrier against hiring an ex-offender.
"Many will hire them, but you have to be out of prison for five or seven years," Keesling qualifies. "So the question is: What do you do for those years? How do you eat? You can’t get food stamps. You can’t get public housing. You can’t get any help and seven out of 10 employers won’t hire you. There are 135,000 to 150,000 felons and high misdemeanors in Marion County, according to the UC Berkeley Center for Employment Law."
He believes a solution could start at the Statehouse.
"If there’s one thing the Legislature could do, it would be smart tort reform around what is a negligent hire," Keesling offers. "If a guy committed a robbery, he can still drive a truck. Now I wouldn’t want to put a (recovering) drunk in a truck, or a sex offender in daycare, but there has to be some logical ways to get them in the workforce."
Keesling harkens back to his memories of Jamaica about the dangers and violence that ensue when a large percentage of the population is not employable — and the desperation that leads people to commit crimes in order to eat.
Yet success stories are evident at RecycleForce, which currently employs 128 workers, with 22 others in management.
"I'm thankful for my job at RecycleForce," explains Robby Wiker, a truck driver for the company. "Without the help or training they gave me, I don't know where I'd be or what I'd be doing. They provided great training to me and it was without cost to me. I'm also a forklift operator and am trained in many warehouse operations — and I'm a permanent employee there."
The company is also now the sixth largest recycler in the state.
"It proves they can work. That’s the biggest myth – that these guys don’t want to work," Keesling reinforces. "I think it’s the most important issue of our time – that nobody seems to care about."
It’s always a pleasure to see our members giving back to their communities. As we’ve documented here before, Tyson Foods makes it a point to aid those in need of food. Here is information on the company’s latest effort in partnership with Gleaners Food Bank:
Tyson Foods, Inc. donated a truckload of food to Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana today as part of an effort to feed people in need and promote public awareness of hunger in America.
“There are millions of hard-working adults, children and seniors who simply cannot make ends meet and are faced with the realities of hunger and malnourishment,” said John Tyson, chairman of Tyson Foods. “We’re trying to make a difference in their lives by providing nutrient-rich protein and by increasing understanding of hunger in our country.”
To date, Gleaners has distributed over 300 million pounds of food and critical grocery products. In the last fiscal year, the food bank distributed nearly 21 million pounds of food, or 16 million meals.
“We are thrilled to receive this very generous donation from Tyson Foods,” said Cindy Hubert, president and CEO of Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana. “It is a fantastic effort that will help to exceed the National FFA’s goal of feeding 1 million people.”
Last year Tyson launched the “KNOW Hunger” campaign to raise hunger awareness. As part of the campaign, the company released the results of a survey which found that one in four Americans is worried about having enough money to put food on the table and that many Americans are unaware of how serious hunger is in their own communities. Raising awareness that hunger exists in every community in the country reinforces the campaign’s imperative that “We should all KNOW Hunger.”
Since 2000, Tyson Foods has fought hunger in the U.S by donating nearly 90 million pounds of protein. The company partners with Food Research and Action Center, Feeding America, Share Our Strength, Lift Up America and the League of United Latin American Citizens to raise awareness and help feed the hungry across the nation.
The Indiana Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives recently announced that Subaru of Indiana Automotive (Lafayette) was honored for the company’s service to its community. We’re proud to call SIA a member and congratulate the company for giving back:
The Governor’s Service Awards honor the exemplary work of statewide nominees on behalf of their communities and the state. The 2012 awards were issued at an awards dinner on Monday, Oct. 1, 2012, at the Governor’s Residence in Indianapolis. At the awards ceremony, the Corporate Service Award for 2012 was presented to Subaru of Indiana Automotive Inc. (SIA) of Lafayette.
The good works of the employees of SIA, as encouraged by the company’s executive and management teams, are too numerous to list. Employees raise $40,000 annually to support 150 kids through the Lyn Treece Boys and Girls Club. They have also support teams for nearly a dozen annual charity walks, raising tens of thousands of dollars for medical research, hunger initiatives and more along the way.
Additionally, Subaru team members partnered with other organizations in 2012 to fund and build the 1,500-square-foot Safe Haven Home, an emergency shelter for families displaced by disaster. This December, employees will once again participate in Holiday of Hope to grant more than 1,000 Lafayette children their holiday wishes.
The awards ceremony where SIA was awarded for these great deeds was one of three events over two days that comprise the 2012 Governor’s Conference on Service and Nonprofit Capacity Building, co-sponsored by the Indiana Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives and the IUPUI Polis Center’s SAVI Community Information System.
More than 200 people attended the awards dinner, including winners, their families and supporters, faith and community service leaders, nonprofit professionals and representatives from state and local governments.
WFYI Indianapolis radio host Matthew Socey emceed the awards dinner, and videos created by Sonar Studios spotlighting each recipient were featured.
"When he took time to help the man up the mountain, lo, he scaled it himself." – Tibetan Proverb
I’ve been involved with Trusted Mentors in Indianapolis for about six months now. In that short period of time, I’ve built a relationship with someone and watched him make tremendous strides in finding employment, his own place to live and even gaining custody of his son. I’m sure our relationship has been as beneficial to me as it has to him, and I’d like to ask others in Central Indiana to consider becoming a mentor.
In Indianapolis, we are fortunate to have organizations like Horizon House to provide social services for those in need — and based on what I’ve seen, they do amazing work. But that support can only go so far and last so long. It’s up to members of our community to step up by donating time as well.
There are plenty of folks in the Indianapolis area who could use the help, and your support could just be the tipping point they need to stay on the right track and avoid the perilous trap of homelessness. The commitment is just a few hours per month, and there is currently a strong need for more mentors — and the largest need is for women over 30 years old (mentors and mentees are always the same sex, and often around the same age).
Here’s some more info on the organization:
Trusted Mentors provides volunteer mentors to adults at risk of homelessness. Building on its success, it has expanded its mission to include other populations at risk of becoming homeless, including low wage earners, ex-offenders and young adults aging out of foster care. It uses the power of mentoring to help adults establish stable lives by reducing the chaos brought about by poverty, homelessness, underemployment and the effects of incarceration. These person-to-person mentoring relationships improve lives by developing life skills and positive social networks that empower people to:
Make a positive contribution to the local community
Stay or become employed
Advance their education
Stay out of jail
Improve parenting skills
"The opportunity for mentoring at-risk adults in Central Indiana is significant," explains Trusted Mentors Match Director Craig Neef. "In Marion County, approximately 7,000 people are homeless sometime during the year. In excess of 5,000 ex-offenders are released and re-enter the community each year. Trusted Mentors works with partnering agencies that provide an array of services for low wage earners, ex-offenders and young adults who are aging out of foster care. We work closely with the case managers in these organizations to complement their efforts with mentoring services leading to more successful outcomes."
Gary Jet Center in Gary has once again been recognized by the U.S. Department of Defense for the company’s support and commitment to its employees who choose to serve their country. Well done!
Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR), a Department of Defense agency, announced Gary Jet Center of Gary, Ind., has been selected to receive the 2012 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award. Fifteen employers will be honored with this year’s Freedom Award, the DoD’s highest recognition given to employers for exceptional support of Guard and Reserve employees. These recipients distinguished themselves among the 3,236 nominations submitted earlier this year by Guardsmen and Reservists, or family members acting on their behalf.
Freedom Award recipients go above and beyond what the law requires of Guard and Reserve employers. Gary Jet Center was nominated by a member of the Air National Guard. The Guardsman reported that Gary Jet Center employs several members of the Guard and Reserve, actively seeks military applicants for new positions, and is involved with the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program. Gary Jet Center donates jet fuel for aircrafts carrying injured soldiers home from Walter Reed Medical Center, and military aircrews that land at Gary International Airport are provided free ground transportation and pilot services. The nominator is one of nine employees on the staff of 47 who is either a veteran or is currently serving in the Guard or Reserve.
"On behalf of the Secretary of Defense, I thank the 2012 Freedom Award recipients for taking such exceptional care of the Guard and Reserve members they employ," said Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs, Jessica L. Wright. "Our military could not meet today’s national security demands without the Guard and Reserve, who in turn could not provide such dedicated service without the cooperation of their employers at home. These Freedom Award recipients have distinguished themselves nationally for their remarkable efforts, and we greatly appreciate their unwavering support."
A selection board comprised of senior DoD officials, business leaders and prior awardees selected the 15 recipients. Since 1996, only 160 employers have received the Freedom Award. The 2012 honorees will be recognized at the 17th annual Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award Ceremony in Washington, D.C. on September 20th.
Three Indiana organizations are among 133 semifinalists for the prestigious Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award. The award is the highest honor given by the government to employers for providing exceptional support to their Guard and Reserve employees. There were more than 3,200 nominees nationally.
The Indiana employers named semifinalists are Toyota Motor Manufacturing Indiana, Inc., Princeton; U.S. Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Administration, Indianapolis; and Gary Jet Center, Gary. Freedom Award nominations come directly from Guard and Reserve members, or family members acting on their behalf. The Freedom Award provides service members with an opportunity to recognize employers for going above and beyond what is required by law.
Employers chosen as semifinalists support their Guard and Reserve employees through a variety of formal and informal initiatives, including developing internal military support networks, providing full benefits to employees fulfilling their military obligations, caring for the families of deployed employees, and granting additional leave to Guard and Reserve employees preparing to leave for or return from deployments.
ESGR will announce the 2012 Freedom Award finalists next month after a review board comprised of military and civilian leaders selects the 30 most supportive employers from among the 133 semifinalists. The 15 award recipients will be announced early this summer and honored in Washington, D.C. at the 17th annual Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award Ceremony on September 20, 2012.
Tyson Foods has been a long-time member of the Indiana Chamber, and the following report isn’t the first time its benevolence has been noted here. Kudos to the company for its ongoing support of American men and women in the military.
Two Tyson Foods team members – Russell Tooley, senior vice president of corporate and international human resources, and James David, pricing manager with the company’s consumer products division – were recognized as “Champions of Change” by the White House today. Each week, President Barack Obama’s Administration recognizes individuals and businesses that create jobs in the United States and make positive impacts in the communities where they operate. Different issues are highlighted each week and Tyson was chosen to participate in this week’s discussion about the benefits of hiring military veterans in the corporate world due to the company’s continued efforts to employ veterans, reservists and their family members.
“These are the leaders this country needs, people who are working to build in America and create jobs in America,” the White House states on its Champions of Change website. The event was broadcast live of online at 11:30 a.m. CST, but will be available for playback on the White House’s YouTube channel.
Tooley is instrumental in Tyson’s recruiting of military veterans for both the corporate headquarters and international teams. David was a United States Air Force Captain and now, in addition to his duties at Tyson, serves as an Executive Officer with the 22nd Air Force Detachment 1 Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Little Rock Air Force Base. Tooley is one of six individuals recognized as a Champion; David is one of five military veterans who participated in the roundtable.
“In my experience, current and former military personnel are quality hires for many positions at Tyson Foods,” Tooley said. “They’re well-trained and frequently have developed leadership skills. They also fit well with our culture, which places emphasis on honesty, accountability and dedication.”
Tyson employs about 3,000 military veterans and is a member of the American Logistics Association, which recently committed to hiring 25,000 veterans and their family members over the next two years. Tyson Foods also employs more than 500 military family members and veterans who help stock Tyson products at military commissaries. The company regularly makes a concerted effort to hire junior military officers who have received training from an outside agency on how to transition from the military to the business world.
Another way Tyson Foods supports the military is by providing differential pay for all employees called to active military duty, making up the difference between military compensation and pay they normally receive from Tyson. Since September 11, 2001, Tyson has provided $2 million in differential pay to almost 400 employees.
Other ways the company supports the U.S. military include:
Since 2009, Tyson Foods has been a major sponsor and coordinator for Northwest Arkansas Honor Flight, which flies World War II veterans free of charge to Washington D.C. to spend a day visiting the World War II Memorial and other military memorials.
Tyson Foods has a Veterans Business Resource Group for military veterans who work at the company’s corporate headquarters. The group gives the veterans employed by Tyson the opportunity to become active in community initiatives like Honor Flight, and it is also involved in sending holiday care packages to fellow employees, family members and friends serving the U.S. military in the Middle East.
Tyson has been a winner of the National Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve Freedom Award, primarily because of the company’s differential pay policy.
The company is one of the leading suppliers of food to the Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) and has been helping feed the U.S. military and their families for more than 50 years.
In recent years, Tyson Foods has also provided food for the Wounded Warrior Picnics at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and for certain welcome home parties for soldiers returning from overseas assignments.