MLK Service Day Reinforces DPR’s Connection with American YouthWorks in Austin

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day this Jan. 19, nearly a dozen DPR volunteers joined together with about 150 youth and other volunteers for a day of community service to revitalize a neglected and underdeveloped area of Austin, Texas.

The American YouthWorks trail maintenance day gave volunteers a chance to help improve their local community by cleaning and sprucing up the historic Burdett Prairie Cemetery and nearby greenbelt trail, which cuts through downtown Austin.

Andy Gabele, project engineer in DPR’s Austin office, orchestrated DPR’s involvement which included 11 volunteers who donated a collective 30 hours to the cleanup project. “We went out there with lawnmowers, clippers and all kinds of landscaping tools and basically just uncovered the cemetery again,” he commented. “From beginning to end it was almost unrecognizable. It was rewarding day for everyone involved, and it made the area safer for the families that live in that community.”

The project represents DPR’s ongoing relationship with American YouthWorks, a nonprofit organization based in Austin. The group offers programs for young people, ages 17 to 28, who want to change their lives through education, workforce training and service to their country. YouthWorks hosts a chapter of the national organization YouthBuild USA, which focuses on preparing young people for careers in the construction industry.

After completing the cemetery and greenbelt cleanup on the service day, volunteers gathered for a pizza lunch where they had the chance to discuss the event and what it meant to them.

“There was a lot of comradery, and it gave DPR a good opportunity to stand up and let them know who we are, why we are involved and to let them know that we are willing to help and be involved with them in the future,” Gabele said. DPR also presented the organization with a $25,000 donation that it had earmarked from the proceeds of its annual golf tournament.

Rachel Matvy, community engagement coordinator for American YouthWorks, reached out to DPR after the event. “Thank you for celebrating MLK Day with us and for all the work you put into making the event great,” she said, noting that the work not only made the neighborhood look nicer but made it a safer place to be as well.

The Austin office plans to pursue additional events and programs with the organization in the year ahead such as helping lead workshops to share best construction and safety practices in the construction industry. “We are looking forward to being involved with them in the future, and I think it’s a great opportunity for us to give back,” Gabele added.