A project that will benefit scores of underserved youth in Southern California is getting some much-needed help from DPR volunteers, who are leveraging their skills as builders and planners to help transform a former jail in San Pedro, California into Sharefest’s new Youth Development Center. Sharefest, a non-profit organization that aims to build strong communities by fostering volunteerism and preparing youth to lead positive change, will use the center as a year-round safe space for Los Angeles youth.
Over the past two years, DPR teams have stepped up to lend their preconstruction expertise and time to help get the project off the drawing board and into construction. After participating in past rebuilding projects and developing a strong connection with the organization, DPR saw a prime opportunity to make a difference when Sharefest announced its plans to convert roughly 3,500 sq. ft. on the seventh floor of a century-old, historic building in San Pedro into its flagship youth center. The organization has received a long-term, low-cost lease with the city of San Pedro for the space.
Sharefest’s new Youth Development Center is envisioned as a safe place for under-resourced youth to positively engage with one another and in their communities. The organization has served over 3,100 at-risk youths through its Youth Development Academy alone.
“DPR’s volunteer efforts are saving Sharefest hundreds of thousands of dollars on construction costs by providing skilled labor we can trust. We can now use that money saved to invest in the programs we are creating to help youth break the cycles of poverty, find their purpose and become the people we know they can be,” said Chad Mayer, executive director of Sharefest.
Recognizing there was an unfilled need for subcontractors on the project, the DPR team set to work enlisting the help of five major trades, including plumbing, mechanical, electrical and fire protection subcontractors. To assist with outreach efforts, DPR employed 360-degree photo technology to capture the existing space, allowing subcontractors to conduct virtual job walks before committing their resources.
While the team has contributed significant hours during the preconstruction phase, DPR will continue to be involved, and will be self-performing concrete work on the project to help Sharefest turn the vision for its new youth development center into reality. Construction work began earlier this month, and the project is slated to be completed later this year.
Recent high school graduate Jessica Reynoso and DPR project manager Irma Jauregui might be at decidedly different stages in their professional lives–but they still have plenty in common. Both grew up in East Los Angeles. Both graduated from the same high school, albeit 20 years apart. Most importantly, they both share a strong determination to make a better life for themselves.
This summer, their journeys intersected on a 73-acre corporate campus project in Irvine, California, where Jauregui is DPR’s project manager in charge of cost control and Reynoso recently completed an eight-week internship through the company’s new Build Up high school internship program.
A DPR Community Initiatives program, this year’s pilot internships offered four high schoolers the opportunity to work and learn on DPR jobsites. The goal: provide under-resourced yet highly qualified youth (rising juniors, seniors and May grads) interested in STEM careers with real-life professional experience, while exposing them to career paths in the construction industry–all under the guidance of a DPR mentor or mentor team.
As Reynoso’s primary mentor, Jauregui was tasked with ensuring the teen worked on meaningful tasks, from helping with daily safety logs to creating a custom spreadsheet to assist with specific cost control issues that the team still uses today. Job shadowing allowed Reynoso to explore the different roles and technical skillsets that make up a team, and be exposed to what career paths were available to her.
Jauregui was happy to take on the role of mentor to Reynoso, as she herself never had anyone to guide her when she was younger. The reward? Seeing Jessica grow personally and professionally from the start of summer to the end, and knowing that she had a part in it.
“It was just a really good feeling to help someone have this opportunity to learn, and help them financially as they’re heading off to college,” Jauregui said. “Being able to impact someone at this level can be life-changing, career-changing.”
Reynoso gained a newfound appreciation for the construction process and the amount of effort that is put into aspects such as precise scheduling and cost control to efficiently deliver reliable outcomes for our customers.
“The personal growth I experienced was learning how to schedule my time, effectively communicate with colleagues, listen to feedback and correct my errors the next time a similar situation occurs,” she said.
Austin Intern Anais Arechiga A senior at Austin’s Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders, Anais Arechiga learned about the internship opportunity through the local ACE Mentor program, where board member and DPR project manager Diego Negrete encouraged students to apply.
While there were plenty of solid applicants, Arechiga stood out. She shares a love of art with project executive Andrea Weisheimer, and even competes in art competitions. She spent the summer immersed on DPR’s Third + Shoal jobsite, a 29-story, 345,000-sq.-ft. Class-AA corporate office space in downtown Austin.
Under the guidance of Negrete and Weisheimer, Arechiga exceeded her team’s expectations and became a valuable contributor. Initially quiet and hesitant to ask questions, she developed confidence as she helped with RFIs and submittals to the point where she stopped asking what she should work on, and created her own projects.
“Anais is a super bright individual who really absorbed everything at a phenomenal rate,” said Negrete. “Whether she was walking around with a project engineer or superintendent, she never stopped asking ‘what is that?’ or ‘why are you doing that?’ She had a unique passion to learn as much as she could about everything around here.”
Arechiga said that her experience was highly positive from the outset.
“It was amazing to let it sink in that I would be working on a commercial high-rise, then later find I won the lottery with such an amazing team. I expected to have to try really hard establishing myself, but was greeted with open arms and supported by my team the entire way through.” she said. “With their support, I grew my confidence, responsibility, communication and assertiveness.”
Arechiga learned that construction is the balance between complex, technical skills and relationships, communication and teamwork–all the pieces need to operate in tandem, like a finely tuned machine, to prevent injury, improve efficiency and successfully deliver a project. She loved how every day was different, and her experiences this summer inspired her to consider pursuing civil engineering or geoengineering as a college major and career path–and her mentors Negrete and Weisheimer will be there with her every step of the way.
For Service September, DPR challenges each of its local business units to take on at least one construction volunteer project. This year, every office used its construction skills to help local organizations improve facilities, and in turn help them work toward achieving their missions each and every day. In September, DPR renovated and repaired 15 community centers, seven single family residences and shared building and construction knowledge with youth during four workshops.
A few examples of projects completed by DPR around the country include:
Boys & Girls Club Placer County (Sacramento) In Sacramento, DPR teams “refreshed” the Boys & Girls Club of Placer County facility that serves over 300 local youth. The project involved sprucing up several bungalows the Club uses for its after-school programs at the Rock Creek Elementary School campus. DPR volunteers completed needed maintenance at the school, including prepping and painting exterior walls, doors and handrails.
The Club’s development director, Topher Matson, said the service project and DPR’s ongoing relationship with the Club make a significant impact.
“The Rock Creek School Site isn’t just a building; it’s the backdrop where youth development takes place,” he said. “With DPR’s help, club members see a partner in the community that places value on the club they love.”
Bay Area Tackles Four Projects in One Day In the Bay Area, DPR impacted an estimated 3,400 children, families and seniors in local Bay Area communities through its Service September projects at The Boys & Girls Club (South San Francisco), East Oakland Boxing Association, Casa Maria Recovery Home (San Mateo), and Antioch Baptist Church Senior Apartments (San Jose).
DPR volunteers completed repair projects at these four different facilities in a single day. Work involved an array of services including demolition, painting, pouring concrete and footings; building decks and ADA ramps, installing T-Bar ceilings, fencing, landscaping, lighting and handrails; building benches, planter boxes and a shed.
Center for Children & Young Adults (Atlanta) In Atlanta, DPR reached out to one of its key community partners, the Center for Children & Young Adults (CCYA), to perform a day of service at its Marietta, Georgia facility which houses up to 40 local youth ages 12 to 21. Volunteers from all peer groups in the region turned out for the service day. In the morning, they performed various needed improvement projects, including repainting three bathrooms in the main building, putting together five fire pit/planter beds for the outdoor space and constructing a storage shed.
“Places like the planter boxes and fire pit areas help us create home-like places for our kids to gather and create memories of their own to carry with them when they leave us. Thank you so much for having DPR help us,” said Maureen Lok, chair of CCYA’s board of directors.
Richmond, VA teenagers had the opportunity to learn about construction planning and safety and then test their leadership skills guiding younger children through a hands-on build project during DPR’s three-day School of Construction for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Richmond in May 2017.
DPR’s Mid-Atlantic office tailored their second annual School of Construction event in a way designed to better engage teen members of the local Boys & Girls Clubs. Around 25 members from the Northside and Southside clubs, including five older teens, participated. They joined together with 16 DPR employees to plan and run an event that shared DPR’s unique technical skillsets with the community while educating local youth.
“The goal was really expanding our partnership with the Boys & Girls Clubs and better engaging their teen population,” said Diane Rossini, community outreach coordinator for DPR’s Richmond office. “All of the teens were very excited to take ownership of the build. It was great to see the smiles on their faces when they succeeded in working through a problem.”
The School of Construction event kicked off with a planning day with the teen leaders. Teens partnered with DPR volunteers and discussed how they would be leading the hands-on building groups. DPR employees had the chance to share their various career paths and what DPR stands for as a company. The teens were also introduced to construction planning and Building Information Modeling (BIM) tools used in real-world scenarios including P6 scheduling, 3-D and 4-D modeling.
A follow-up pre-build and safety day with the teen leaders offered the teens an opportunity to work side-by-side with DPR volunteers, complete with a PPE safety gear demo and pre-task plan. The teens worked through the building process and gained the confidence they needed to lead the younger club members on build day.
During the actual School of Construction Day at DPR’s Richmond office, the youth were exposed to virtual and augmented reality tools used in construction and offered a chance to interact with a virtual construction site. Teen leaders guided groups of younger students to build five prefabricated planter boxes. Those boxes will be donated to Renew Richmond’s community garden education program at G.H. Reid Elementary School and installed by DPR volunteers in June.
Darricka Carter, director of corporate & foundation relations for Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Richmond, commented, “DPR’s School of Construction provided our club members a chance to learn new skills, be exposed to new career opportunities and instilled in them a sense of accomplishment. The skillsets they gained will help them set goals for their future and develop personally and professionally.”
Feedback from the teens themselves showed DPR succeeded in that goal–one that challenged them well beyond the typical role as student to take on a leadership role as a teacher instead.
“It was challenging to teach kids to want more,” said Tyreicq, one of the teen leaders. “I told them that if you want something you’ve never had in your life, you will have to do something you’ve never done.”
Teen leader Amira, a graduating senior who plans to major in mechanical engineering in college, had the chance to partner directly with DPR team members from engineering backgrounds who shared their experience with her. “It was cool to hear the perspectives of other individuals with similar interests and educational backgrounds,” she said.
David LeFebvre, director of development at Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Richmond added, “The School of Construction was a beautiful blend of service-learning, DPR employees’ expertise and team-building. It was such a well-designed program that allowed our kids to learn about what different kinds of jobs are out there, how they can contribute to their community, and how important it is to work as a team. This kind of activity is exactly what BGCMR is looking for to get our kids ready for life.”
Despite the diminutive size of a tiny house project that DPR recently completed for Community First! Village in Austin, more than 50 DPR volunteers brought big building skills and even bigger heart to the job.
The project is part of a 27-acre development owned by Mobile Loaves & Fishes that will ultimately offer around 275 disabled, chronically homeless people in central Texas a long-term living community.
“It’s been nothing short of phenomenal,” commented Alan Graham, director of Mobile Loaves and Fishes at Community First! Village. “The DPR team is just awesome. From a corporate culture point of view, that whole (DPR) team out there has been stellar and it blows me away that a company as large as DPR has such a big heart.”
The large volunteer workforce, including skilled craftspeople, self-perform drywallers, painters, carpenters and others, constructed the tiny house over about two and a half weeks in April. In true DPR style, crews willingly jumped in to help construct the 220-sq.-ft. tiny house with a 300-sq.-ft. rooftop deck, even though all are busy on DPR projects in the thriving Austin market. The volunteer workforce included the many other DPR employees on jobsites who covered their colleagues’ work while they were away building the tiny house.
Graham described the Community First! Village model as a “radical new movement” designed to provide a new start for the formerly homeless.
“It’s really centered around the idea that housing will never solve homelessness, but community will,” he said.
Record-Setting Build While the end product itself may be tiny, the challenges getting the tiny house completed on DPR’s self-imposed two-and-a-half-week schedule loomed large. That build schedule easily surpassed the speed that any of the other 130 or so tiny houses on site have gone up to date.
“DPR built this faster than Community First! has ever seen one of their tiny houses come together – ever,” said DPR’s Angie Weyant, one of the project’s organizers. The team also overcame challenges including inclement weather and design adjustments.
Taking Stock of Lessons Learned Although it has been challenging, in typical DPR fashion, volunteers “are already talking about when we do this the next time, how will we do it better?” Weyant said with a laugh. “What makes us different is the initiative and genuine desire of our teams to use our technical and self-perform work skills to make a positive impact in the communities in which we operate.”
For now, they are making plans for a ribbon-cutting or housewarming ceremony, perhaps with the lucky tenant who moves into the DPR-built tiny house. While the reward for the new tenant is a permanent home to live in while they pay rent and contribute to the community around them, for the DPR team, the payoff is simply knowing they made a difference to someone in need.
Earlier this year, 22 organizations around the country received nearly $800,000 in grants from the DPR Foundation. DPR employees volunteer thousands of hours annually with these organizations, helping with facility renovations, youth career guidance and board service. Hands-on volunteer service multiplies the impact of the financial gifts, and helps DPR’s partner organizations advance their missions.
The DPR Foundation is a central component of DPR’s philanthropic vision of supporting under-resourced communities through facility construction and renovation; career and education guidance for youth; and support of operational capabilities for nonprofits. Organizations supported by the DPR Foundation focus on working with under-resourced youth to help them maximize their potential.
Now in its ninth year of giving, the DPR Foundation has awarded $5.8 million to organizations across the country, with an average grant size of $35,000. The Foundation has developed lasting relationships with the organizations it serves, including the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Atlanta, Brookhaven. Since 2008, more than 75 DPR employees have volunteered at the Brookhaven Club, totaling over 4,000 hours. DPR volunteers have impacted over 3,800 young people who use the club’s after-school programs.
“It takes longtime partners like this to drive real change and, through our shared vision, we are working every day to help thousands of children reach their full potential,” said Missy Dugan, president and CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Atlanta. “DPR really cares about the future of our city and they show it at our clubs. Not only have they contributed significant funding over the years, but their leaders and employees have spent countless hours working with our kids and making our spaces more welcoming and inspiring.”
The DPR Foundation’s 2017 grants were awarded to the following organizations:
Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Atlanta, Brookhaven (Atlanta, GA)
LifeWorks (Austin, TX)
Girls Inc. of Orange County (Costa Mesa, CA)
Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Dallas, Oak Cliff (Dallas, TX)
Boys & Girls Clubs of Durham and Orange Counties (Durham, NC)
Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Houston, Holthouse (Houston, TX)
Girls Inc. of Alameda County (Oakland, CA)
Playworks Northern California (Oakland, CA)
Children's Home Society, Perinatal Program (Orlando, FL)
Peninsula Bridge (Palo Alto, CA)
Future For KIDS (Phoenix, AZ)
New Pathways for Youth (Phoenix, AZ)
Playworks Arizona (Phoenix, AZ)
UMOM Leaders in Training (Phoenix, AZ)
Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Richmond (Richmond, VA)
Boys & Girls Club of Placer County (Sacramento, CA)
WEAVE Charter School (Sacramento, CA)
Boys & Girls Clubs of San Dieguito, La Colonia (San Diego, CA)
Food 4 Kids Backpack Program (San Diego, CA)
Seven Tepees (San Francisco, CA)
Boys & Girls Clubs of Tampa, Wilbert Davis (Tampa, FL)
A drumbeat of change has swept over Kealing Middle School in the past year, ever since DPR teamed up with Spotify and Rebuilding Together to deliver a brand-new sound studio project to the magnet school located in an economically disadvantaged area of Austin, Texas.
In the wake of the annual South by Southwest (SXSW) festival held last spring, Spotify wanted to make a lasting, positive impact on the Austin community, and decided to donate the extensive sound equipment, furniture and art from its popular SXSW “Spotify House” to a local school’s music program. Spotify reached out to Rebuilding Together to help find the right school and team to deliver its vision.
DPR teamed up with Spotify and Rebuilding together to create a brand-new sound studio at Kealing Middle School. (Photo courtesy: Spotify)
Longtime partners, Rebuilding Together brought DPR on board to help design and build three brand new recording lab studios that would house the Spotify-donated equipment. Kealing Middle School, a magnet school and comprehensive academy in a diverse, under-resourced neighborhood, was the perfect fit. It already had a modern, organized music program in place and a strong vision for how it could grow.
Last March, DPR project manager Angie Weyant called the project a “major undertaking” involving DPR’s donation of approximately $25,000 in materials and labor to build the new sound studio over the school’s spring break.
“The best part was being able to use our core skills doing what we do every day to help youth in our local community,” she said. “That was pretty awesome.”
Kealing Middle School students are now able to create and record their own music. (Photo courtesy: Spotify)
Less than a year later, the project has already had a profound impact on the students and the programs offered at the school, according to Kealing Middle School Principal Kenisha Coburn. In addition to increasing the number of students who could be accommodated in existing music classes, the new sound studio space spurred the start of new after-school clubs for students who want to create and record music.
A new robotics program added this year is also tying into the production studio capabilities in an innovative way, with students able to program robots to perform pieces that they’ve created on their music production systems.
The school has seen some financial savings resulting from the project as well; students in the music production program now DJ school dances that they once hired an outside DJ to do. The enhanced collaboration by students in different classes, working together on diverse projects, has been another major, positive impact–enhancing the learning experience of all.
The studio space has created collaboration between music, video production and graphic design students. (Photo courtesy: Spotify)
“We are using the studio space to embed more of the work that happens on our campus into collaborative projects,” said Coburn. “A lot of groups are coming in from outside of the music production program, and they go in and collaborate with the music production students in a way that they couldn’t do here before. So, for example our news team that is charged with creating a weekly news story for campus is able to use studio space and work with music production students to record audio that is part of the weekly news now. And our music production students are learning to work with our graphic design students so they can provide soundtracks to some of the pieces they make in video production, which is a big undertaking.”
Overall, she adds, “the impact has been big. To be able to get studio-grade space that not only allows the students to grow inside of music production, but also allows them to bring in other groups and collaborate with them, has been pretty special.”
A group of DPR volunteers who helped construct a shade structure for REINS Therapeutic Horsemanship Program in Fallbrook, California brought much more than just their construction expertise to the project, which will benefit disabled individuals in their community.
They also brought plenty of heart.
The community initiative effort involved members of the Campus Point Building 2 project as well as HOK Architects, Hope-Amundson and several subcontractors. Collectively, they delivered a project to benefit the REINS program, which provides hundreds of disabled children and adults from Orange, Riverside and San Diego counties with physical, mental and emotional support through therapeutic equine-assisted activities.
The need for this particular project came to light earlier this year as the team was looking for an opportunity to tap their core expertise in a way that would have a lasting and positive impact on the local community. They had raised money for REINS through a cornhole event, but wanted to find a meaningful way to use their unique skillsets as builders–and found it when they discovered REINS needed a shading structure to protect children and families from weather when mounting and dismounting horses.
A DPR team gathered to build a shading structure for REINS Therapeutic Horsemanship Program in Fallbrook, California. (Photo courtesy: Debbie Shinner)
Last month, the team built the structure over the course of a day, with several following up at a later date to install the roof. Altogether, DPR volunteers put in an estimated nearly 120 volunteer hours, with the design team contributing an additional 40 hours or so to complete the job. The wood structure brings a highly functional, aesthetically pleasing new element to the REINS facility that has been met with widespread enthusiasm by the organization and its clients.
“I just can’t tell you all the wonderful comments we are getting on the project,” said Debbie Shinner, executive director at REINS. “The entire DPR team was so kind and considerate, and we are so very grateful for all the time and energy they put into the project.”
Building the structure in the midst of students who were passing by let volunteers truly see the positive impact the facility would have.
“It inspired us to do an even better job,” said DPR’s Dora Kaouki. “Everybody came together, and we not only put our expertise into the project, but we also put our hearts.”
Just one example of the “heart” that went in: project superintendent John McDougall came back after the first December build day and decorated the new structure with poinsettias and a wreath.
DPR’s Northbay Medical Center project team recently put its building skills to good use in Fairfield, California, delivering a much-needed flooring renovation at Mission Solano’s Bridge to Life Center, a holistic program that houses and assists homeless veterans and families.
The volunteer project infused a “breath of fresh air” into Mission Solano’s Matt Garcia Home for Women and Children, according to chief program officer Raymond Courtemanche. “There is new movement, energy and feeling valued (by our residents) by taking care of the place that they live in, where they receive compassionate care,” he said. “DPR helped start this movement of support for this building that will help us get to capacity. The DPR team was just amazing in their support, generosity and synergy, in partnering with us to complete this work.”
DPR installed new flooring throughout the Mission Solano women's and children's center.
The DPR team had been looking for a project that would use their unique skillset as builders to benefit the community when the center contacted them this fall for help installing new flooring throughout its women and children’s center. DPR project manager Stephanie Jones-Lee spearheaded the effort, bringing in subcontractors to assist with donating and installing new carpets and wood bases for the sleeping dorms, family lounges, family sleeping quarters and nursery areas. DPR donated approximately $5,000 in materials and labor, and four project team members spent several days installing the wood base.
The project’s completion enables Mission Solano to pursue its mission of providing not only transitional residential housing but also holistic care for up to 68 residents in the women and children’s shelter alone. The organization also provides services to veterans and others in need.
“We provide an economic and spiritual bridge so that people can strive to regain the basic necessities in their lives, and join the community as full and active participants,” said Courtemanche.
DPR volunteers infused a “breath of fresh air” into Mission Solano’s Matt Garcia Home for Women and Children.
Approximately 60 students at an under-resourced high school in Dallas got an inside look at the diverse opportunities in the construction industry, thanks to an effort led by DPR volunteers to engage youth through educational outreach both inside and outside the classroom.
Casey Cox, a concrete project engineer with DPR’s self-perform work group, helped spearhead the outreach effort geared toward students at Woodrow Wilson High School. Drawing from his own past experience working with a high school youth ministry, Cox worked to accomplish the effort’s overall goal: to apply one of DPR’s key tenets of making a difference and helping build the future workforce through career and education guidance to local youth.
DPR's Brendan Hastings teaches a class about construction innovation at Woodrow Wilson High School in Dallas. (Photo courtesy: Brendan Hastings)
“We wanted to partner with a strong STEM school to bring DPR’s work into the classroom, as well as give the students an opportunity to experience a day-in-the-life by taking them out to one of our actual jobsites,” said Cox. “Taking the time to expose these students to what it’s like working in the real world around industry professionals provided insight on a career in the construction business, and more importantly, spurred confidence as they consider life after graduation.”
Cox reached out to the Digital Realty Trust team to be part of this community initiative, which so far has included two in-class lessons and a jobsite tour. DPR project manager Brendan Hastings led the first classroom presentation on innovation and technology in the construction industry, where he spoke to about 60 students in Woodrow Wilson’s architecture and civil engineering class in early November.
Students from Woodrow Wilson High School tour a DPR project site in the Dallas area. (Photo courtesy: Brad Barton)
After the first classroom presentation, students visited the Digital Realty data center project in the Dallas area. They not only had the chance to experience an active construction project firsthand, but were also able to hear from various workers about their jobs and pathways into the industry. The DPR team enjoyed the students’ genuine curiosity and articulate questions.
DPR volunteers returned after Thanksgiving to deliver a second lesson focused on MEP (Mechanical, Electrical and Plumbing) coordination, and plan to keep coming back to spotlight different aspects of construction, as they use our work building great things to help educate the leaders of tomorrow.