The Story of Our American Dream, Part 17: Giving Back to the Community that Supports You

community-serviceOne of the core values of my American Dream has been that The Handyman Matters Business isn’t just about making a better life for my family, my employees and myself; it’s about looking at the community in which we make our living and raise our kids, and finding ways to share this dream with others.

One day we received a call from an elderly woman who was living alone in an older house falling into a state of disrepair.  Our brief conversation made it pretty clear that she didn’t have the finances to pay for our services.  Barely getting by, she had neither family nor close friends checking on her.

At best, she’d received indifferent attention from service people in the past; at worst, she’d been taken advantage of.  This was an actionable opportunity for us:  Understanding the situation and the degree of urgency involved, we made the decision to immediately send a craftsman to her place.  Among his discoveries was that a stack of pennies piled into her electrical service panel was standing in place of a fuse.  This and other jury-rigged devices had placed this woman’s life in real jeopardy.

Did she understand the extent of the efforts we went to on her behalf, and for no financial compensation?  It didn’t matter.  We did it as much for ourselves as for anyone else.  This was an opportunity to demonstrate the core values upon which we were building our company.

It was this experience that gave birth to another idea:  I decided to hold a “Super Event” we would eventually call The Battle of the Bathrooms.

This was a project designed to raise money for a brand-new endeavor, a direct outgrowth of our experience with this elderly woman, and countless others like her:  A not-for-profit organization, later called The Alliance For Holistic Aging, that would focus on assisting elderly citizens in order to remain in their own homes for 5 to 7 years longer than they would be able to otherwise before transitioning into some type of assisted living facility.

The Battle of the Bathrooms was an Olympian-style event held in a Denver municipal location, Civic Center Park.  The event was sponsored by Ace Hardware, which also provided the materials needed for the construction of fully-equipped bathrooms.  Ten teams of six members, consisting of local contractors, were assembled; each was tasked with building a complete bathroom from the ground up.  Cash prizes would be awarded to the winning teams, and subsequently, all the bathrooms would be donated to Habitat for Humanity.

The event gathered additional momentum when homeless individuals living in the park also became involved, enthusiastically volunteering to help out.  Even more unexpected, when the winners were announced, the participants agreed unanimously to donate all the money to the newly-formed Alliance For Holistic Aging.

It was a great example of the generosity of human spirit in action.  These were craftsmen with first-hand experience of the lack of dignity and respect that often accompanies the job-hunting process.  They understood that the value of what they were doing far transcended a mere cash prize.  These bathrooms were a small part of a process that would restore a sense of dignity and security to the very people that Habitat For Humanity—and our own newly formed Alliance for Holistic Aging organization—was helping to serve.

It takes years to pull together a successful team with members aligned and heading towards a common goal, and getting there is achieved through a series of small steps.

For me, for my American Dream, The Battle of the Bathrooms was one of the first of these steps, and its outcome served to reassure me we were on the right track.