Seattle-based commercial construction company Abbott Construction works with a lot of great community organizations, so when they arrived at Sand Point Elementary School’s Day of Service in 2013, nobody knew that it was, to borrow a phrase, the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Nearly 10 years and more than 15 Days of Service later, Abbott’s senior superintendent Brian Bernhoft says, “EarthGen Days of Service are probably the most looked-forward-to events for our company. We get to get out there and work with the kids and it’s just an overall great day.”
Abbott discovered EarthGen through the Green Sports Alliance.
“For me personally, and for Abbott, EarthGen is in line with our sustainability program and also our community involvement,” said Brian. “It became evident working with them year after year that seeing the education of our young kids about sustainability was just rewarding.” Over the years, dozens of Abbott employees have participated in Days of Service at schools all over the Puget Sound region. A core group of dedicated employee volunteers – and their families – have been to nearly all 16 Abbott-sponsored events.
“That first event was small and quaint by what we do with them today,” Brian remembers. From simple structures like benches and raised beds they’ve graduated to stonework and French drains to fulfill students’ visions for outdoor classrooms and more sustainable campuses. While Abbott’s contributions became more extensive, they also found ways to more fully engage the students.
“We could build garden boxes all day long and go out there and set them in place and be done and go home. We made a conscious effort that that’s not really engagement. So what we’ve done is we predrill the holes and we help the kids with driving the screws in. Getting their hands-on involvement really started to be more of our mission than just going in there and showing how well we can build and it’s all about Abbott. It’s all about the kids,” Brian explains.
But he adds that the kids aren’t the only ones who benefit.
“EarthGen is a terrific organization that changes the viewpoint of people who work with them,” says Brian. He credits EarthGen with opening his eyes to the hundreds of plastic water bottles that a large construction site goes through in a single day. Now, his worksites only allow reusable water bottles, and he has become more mindful of his water use at home, too.
Brian has a lot of favorite EarthGen projects but says one of the most memorable was the Day of Service he attended while wearing a cast on his wrist. He got so involved the cast cracked. An outcome he’s more proud of is the 20-foot round stone patio three volunteers built at Orca K-8 School in a single day. But Brian would rather look ahead. In the future, he’d love to get involved in the design and planning of service day projects. And now that EarthGen has as many service days in Eastern Washington as in the Puget Sound, he’s working on the logistics to join events East of the mountains.