DPR Community Initiatives Champions Focus on Vision, Drive Big Results

This article is included in the Great Things: Issue 4 edition of the DPR Newsletter.

While “Service September” looks different in 2020, DPR Construction’s Community Initiatives Champions and Task Forces continue to use the month – and the entire year – to embrace the company’s philanthropic commitment. That commitment, Building possibilities for the under-resourced, moves forward by supporting nonprofit partners’ missions through skills-based volunteering that DPR uniquely provides. Aligning DPR’s core business strengths with the needs of front-line nonprofits helps improve social outcomes and increases volunteer engagement within DPR.

Whitney Dorn, who serves as a project executive, president of the DPR Foundation and as a leader of DPR’s Community Initiatives Leadership Group (CILG), shared, “Like many companies, we have a defined philanthropic commitment. It’s smart business: greater focus equals greater impact and outcomes. We’ve worked with organizations who help under-resourced community members expand their possibilities to identify where their needs align with our skills. The business skills we bring to work every day are the same skills we want to offer to our nonprofit partners."

Whitney Dorn serves as a project executive, president of the DPR Foundation and as a leader of DPR’s Community Initiatives Leadership Group. Photo taken prior to COVID-19 protocols. Courtesy of DPR Construction

“Providing construction and renovation services are obvious,” Dorn added, "but we also lean on our teams in learning & development, innovation, team building, and other skills to provide much needed youth education modules and operational support for the administrative side of an organization.”

With assistance from nonprofit partners, DPR has identified three areas of skills-based volunteering where the company’s expertise best aligns with the needs of the organizations, referring to them as the Three Pillars.

Dorn dove into the importance of the Three Pillars when identifying which opportunities best represent DPR’s knowledge and various talents to better assist nonprofits achieve their goals.

“These Pillars allow us to zero in on what makes DPR an indispensable partner as we are able to provide volunteer service that is specific to what we are best at, and it is also what our non-profit partners have determined they are most in need of from volunteers. This differentiates us from others who may also be volunteering and donating to similar causes,” she said.

With assistance from nonprofit partners, DPR has identified three areas of skills-based volunteering where the company’s expertise best aligns with the needs of the organizations, referring to them as the Three Pillars. Courtesy of David Hardman

Pillar 1: Facility Construction & Renovation

After over 20 years of supporting community organizations, Dorn sees a great need here. “Organizations rarely have room in their budgets for facility renovations, repairs or upgrades,” she said. “We help our partners thrive by creating increased capacity, greater safety and accessibility, and a strengthened sense of pride of place for participants and staff.”

In 2019, DPR completed more than $2.1 million in construction projects for our partners across the country, ranging from complete interior renovations to security fencing to a fresh new coat of paint.

This past spring, nearly two dozen craft worker volunteers from DPR’s Dallas office completed a new basketball court for the YMCA of Metropolitan Dallas. The deep-rooted community partnership between DPR and the YMCA made it an easy decision when deciding to collaborate with other organizations to honor local basketball star, Andre Emmett, and deliver a state-of-the-art “Dream Court.” Keith Vinson, vice president of operations for the YMCA of Metropolitan Dallas, shared, “This court is huge for our organization; we appreciate DPR and all they’ve done for us.”

“What makes this Pillar a unique aspect of what we do is that DPR is a self-performing general contractor with our own craft workers to support these projects and employees who volunteer because they inherently love to build great things,” shares Dorn.

Last year, DPR transformed a facility over the course of four days for the Second Story Teen Center, a nonprofit in Dunn Loring, Virginia, dedicated to improving the lives of youth and families by providing safe havens. The Second Story staff shared, “Without DPR’s lead and execution on remodeling our Teen Center, our teens would not have a safe place to go after school to get food, homework help and positive mentorship. DPR’s remodel created a much more adequate and dignifying space to serve the youth.”

“By offering specialized services such as planning, scheduling, estimating and VDC, as well as construction, DPR not only demonstrates its core strength as a builder, but allows our core value of ‘enjoyment’ to shine through,” said Dorn.

DPR volunteers working on a renovation project for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Portland Metropolitan Area. Photo taken prior to COVID-19 protocols. Courtesy of DPR Construction

Pillar 2: Career & Education Guidance for Youth

DPR looks to support nonprofit organizations with education and career programming for under-resourced youth with its Pillar 2 offerings.

“Building the workforce is an acute need in our own industry, and introducing careers of all types can offer an opportunity not previously known,” Dorn said. “We have a unique expertise and people with a passion for sharing it. That can be as important, if not more, as a facility upgrade.”

These efforts range from high school internships to sharing construction industry career paths to learning the technical tools of a trade. DPR’s Build Up High School Internship has grown to more than 20 talented youths nationwide, with graduates moving on to pursue construction related work.

DPR's Build Up interns spend time on the front lines of construction, learning about the field while still in high school. Photo taken prior to COVID-19 protocols. Courtesy of Matt Pranzo

“Harnessing a wide range of skill sets with varied resources at our disposal, DPR has continued facilitating virtual trainings and events during the COVID-19 pandemic,” added Dorn. Two examples of this include DPR’s Seattle office hosting an online educational event for YouthCare’s YouthBuild program, where they held a Q&A and introduced the various career options within the construction industry, and a virtual course led by DPR’s virtual design and construction (VDC) leaders in South Florida for the students of The Milagro Center on how to use 3D modeling software called "SketchUp."

Like many of the partnerships between DPR and its nonprofit partners, organization leaders trust DPR employees to lead various educational events for the same organization. Last summer, The Milagro Center and DPR created an 8-week career-focused program, “Girls Go Build,” designed to encourage girls to expand their math and science-based learning and pique their interests in technical trades. Leaders at the Center shared, “DPR played a major role in structuring this program for us and leading several sessions. In fact, one of our students changed her [high school] major as a result of the Girls Go Build program and DPR’s influence.”

Through leading sessions and workshops, volunteers from the local DPR team worked with about 20 middle-school girls at the Milagro Center, hoping to inspire the next generation of Women Who Build to enter the construction industry. Photo taken prior to COVID-19 protocols. Courtesy of DPR Construction

Pillar 3: Operational Support for Nonprofit Partners

Finally, DPR builds lasting relationships with local nonprofits and helps strengthen their operational capacity. In some cases, these efforts deliver the most benefit for an organization.

“Professional development plays a pivotal role at DPR and its Ever Forward company culture,” Dorn said. “Within this Pillar, our employees use their administrative, professional and technical knowledge when extending operational support to their nonprofit partners."

This often takes the form of pro bono leadership and career development courses, strategic guidance, sitting on organization boards or committees, and preconstruction, planning and estimating services. The Future for Kids team in Tempe, Arizona, shared: “Through [DPR’s] board leadership, financial support and sharing of business expertise, we have been able to double our impact, now serving over 1,200 youths who face adversity each year.”

Similarly, Pendleton Place in Greenville, South Carolina, worked with DPR to secure a grant with a large, local philanthropic organization, assisting them with quotes and estimates, grant writing suggestions and letters of support.

The Smith House, a residential foster care facility in Greenville, SC, is run by Pendleton Place, a DPR- and DPR Foundation-supported community partner. Courtesy of Pendleton Place

“[DPR] remained beside us as a partner during grant finalist interviews and presentations,” said a Pendleton Place director. “As a result, we were awarded this significant grant, which directly impacts our community’s foster care children and improves the quality of their lives thanks to the expansion of our facilities.”

“Focusing on these pillars not only helps us deliver the most tangible results for our partners, it also helps ensure we’re focusing our resources in the right ways at a time when people feel overwhelmed,” said Dorn. “Even with the obstacles to in-person volunteering, our CI champions commitment to the organizations and their constituents allow us to continue to provide meaningful philanthropic support.”

Whitney Dorn presenting at the ACE Mentor San Diego Student Showcase. Photo taken prior to COVID-19 protocols. Courtesy of David Cox