Dan LaMore doesn't make rash decisions or idle promises. He is a man of his word, and as such, he makes decisions carefully, knowing that all his actions have consequences.
Fortunately for Habitat for Humanity of Kent County, Dan's decisions on the organization's behalf have had tremendously powerful consequences.
When approached to join the Habitat Board in 2003, Dan gave the request his full attention, diligently analyzing the organization and it's mission to ensure it met his criteria , and in harmony with that of his employer. Habitat needed to be:
- Christian value-based
- Environmentally focused
Dan wasn't just doing his homework. He is driven by his passion to have an impact on urban families, and in Dan's book that extends far beyond the boardroom.
Habitat Executive Director Mary Buikema couldn't agree more. "Dan certainly is true to his word. In the past three years, he has teamed with Habitat staff, volunteers, homebuyers, students, employees, construction colleagues, and other board members to truly make an impact on urban families in need of a hand up, not a hand out. Dan fully understands the power and magnitude of collaboration, and he embodies it in all he does."
Dan began his involvement with Habitat by spearheading the building of a spec home in Rockford. He personally contacted more than 50 colleagues in the construction industry and asked them to volunteer their time and resources toward building the home, which was then sold to raise money for future Habitat homebuilding efforts.
Absolutely no one said "no" to Dan's request, despite the fact that he readily admits, "this was very hard for me to do. I'm not good at asking people for things."
Dan's next challenge for Habitat pushed him further out of his comfort zone. This past year, he again approached his colleagues for help on Habitat's behalf, only this time he was asking for cash donations to build the first Habitat house with students from Grand Rapids Public Schools (GRPS).
"I had become involved with the students working at Blandford Nature Center. Like kids everywhere, these kids are searching for someone to reach out to them, take an interest in them, and give them direction for the future. Through my volunteer work in inner city schools, it was clearly apparent to me how little hope existed for a large number of these kids, particularly those in the most economically challenged circumstances. There is a clear gap between the guidance and mentoring they receive during the school day, and the support available to them otherwise. Learning to read and graduate are milestones; opportunities for learning a trade, getting a job, or going on to college weren't in the cards at all."
When Dan learned more about Habitat's partnership with the GRPS's School of Construction, he became involved on all levels: fundraising, construction, teaching, mentoring, volunteering, and employing a star student. Dan personally called on his colleagues and raised $33,000 toward the cost of the GRPS home. Grant money was raised for the balance.
With funding secured, Dan headed back to the classroom, where he found students eager to learn. "The questions they asked me clearly indicated how enthusiastic they were, and how much they appreciated this opportunity. They felt someone really cared about them, and that drove them to work harder and take ownership of their future."
When school ended for the summer, Dan helped form a special summer class at GRPS's Blandford Nature Center. Sixteen students were employed to use the skills they had learned in the School of Construction to tackle some badly needed cosmetic and maintenance tasks. The program also introduced the students to nature and fostered a greater appreciation for the environment.
Dan designated a member of his staff, Jamie Erbes, to oversee the project, prioritize the tasks required, develop a master operational plan, and coordinate the students' work schedules.
Not only was Dan's offer to have Jamie coordinate the project - on company time - generous, it clearly reflected how passionate and committed he is to Habitat, and how much he believes in leading his employees by example.
As for Jamie, she couldn't be happier to be involved. "I love volunteering and I am so lucky to be working with Dan and The Christman Company who encourage me to do so. These kids are so positive, and so much fun. Many of them show up on their own time. They've taken ownership in the project. Even my mom (Mary Lucas) has gotten involved as a volunteer painter."
While working with the students, Dan grew particularly impressed with one young man, Reggie Macon. Reggie's dad remodels homes and he has a strong interest in carpentry, but it was his enthusiasm, work ethic and questions on the job site that assured Dan all the long hours and phone calls were making an impact. "Watching Reggie and seeing the excitement in his eyes when learning a new skill made it all worth it. We decided this fall to hire Reggie as an intern and he is working 2 days-a-week on one of our job sites."
As for Reggie, he is thrilled with the opportunity and making the most of it. "Everyone on the job site treats me great. They've been in my place and they are good teachers. I am gaining lots of experience which is sure to help me find a job after graduation. I'm also showing my little brother and cousin what they can do if they work hard. They are in the School of Construction program too. I showed them the Habitat house that we built from the ground up and I was really proud of it. They want to do the same."
With active leaders like Dan LaMore in their corner, they will have the opportunity.