The Children’s Home Network non-profit is near and dear to the hearts of GS&P’s Tampa employees. The organization has been around for more than a century and provides compassionate services and programs to help at-risk children throughout Central Florida. Many of us have volunteered there, and one of our senior leaders is even on the Board of Directors. So when it was announced that each entry in this year’s GS&P Celebration contest would benefit a local non-profit, we knew exactly where our money would go.
Every April, GS&P holds a firmwide Celebration event that honors our staff and projects, and there’s a usually a Celebration-themed contest in the weeks prior. Entries are submitted by various groups throughout the company, and the Tampa office has established a reputation as a strong competitor. This year’s contest ties into GS&P’s 50th anniversary – it’s called the Golden Anniversary Giveback contest – and we worked hard to come up with a winning idea.
The Golden Anniversary Giveback allows GS&P to give back to the communities where we’ve had the opportunity to live and work over the years. Teams were challenged to design and construct a three-dimensional structure that commemorates the firm’s 50th anniversary and is made exclusively from reused or recycled materials. Every group that enters a structure in the contest receives $500 to donate to a charity of their choice, and winning entries receive even more: $2,000 for third place, $3,000 for second place and $5,000 for first! It’s exciting to know that every group will be able to make a donation to their favorite charity, but friendly rivalries have developed as we compete for the top prizes that will be determined by an internal vote and “likes” on Facebook.
In Tampa, we held a “design charrette” of sorts, like we do for client projects, to come up with a game plan for our structure. We knew we wanted to build something that would be used at the Children’s Home Network for a long time, so we ultimately decided on an herb garden for the organization’s lifestyles kitchen, where kids learn how to cook and eat healthy. We had to get creative with the materials used to build the structure. Employees brought in old plywood, reused cupola slats, empty two-liter bottles, leftover paint from garages, laminate samples from our interior design library, and other odds and ends.
We hauled all of our materials to the network’s Kids Village, where children who are victims of abuse, neglect and abandonment are provided housing and on-site treatment. Even though it was spring break, several of the kids were eager to get to work on building the structure. We spent a couple hours making sure the base of the garden was ready to go, then we scooped in the soil and planted and labeled the herbs: parsley, basil, thyme, oregano, cilantro and mint. For our finishing touches, we added GS&P’s logo and the Children’s Home Network logo in the center of the garden, and the kids helped us paint GS&P’s core values – commitment, integrity, respect and teamwork – on the garden’s four sides. To connect the project to GS&P’s 50th anniversary, we asked the kids to imagine where they’d like to be in 50 years and to write down those hopes and dreams as we worked.
We’re proud that the Children’s Home Network has now placed the garden by the entry to the lifestyles kitchen where everyone can see it and help take care of the herbs. It’s being used just the way we envisioned it, and the design and construction process was incredibly rewarding. The annual Celebration contest is always a chance to bond with co-workers on a fun, unconventional project, but my team felt that the community giveback element made this year’s contest extra special. We get to come to work every day because of the design and engineering projects awarded to our firm, and it feels good to give back to the communities that have kept GS&P in business for 50 years. I encourage you this week to take a look at all of the inspired creations submitted by employees across the firm and cast a vote for your favorite. I wish all of our entries could be winners, but I think my colleagues agree that the time spent together building the structures and connecting with our communities is the biggest reward of all.