Guest Post: Timberland PRO Team Leaves Service Footprint at Children’s Home in Puerto Rico
By: Jason Blades, Community Service Manager
I recently had the opportunity to visit Puerto Rico to help the Timberland PRO team plan and execute a two-day service event in conjunction with its spring sales meeting. Moved by the devastation caused by last fall’s Hurricane Maria and eager to make a difference, the PRO team decided to change its usual regional meetings and meet as one national team in Puerto Rico. Community service is core to Timberland’s DNA, so it’s not unusual for us to build service into key company events such as sales meetings, vendor summits, and more. But in this case, the PRO team went above and beyond a typical service event, and dedicated two ten-hour days of the three-day meeting to serve.
The destruction caused by the hurricane was vast and visible from above as our plane descended into the San Juan Airport. In the rural areas just outside of San Juan, there were many communities still without power, which is not expected to return until the end the summer. After seeing these struggles firsthand, the PRO team was ready to jump in and get to work.
Our local retail partner, TOMCAS, was instrumental in bringing the event and the meeting to life. When we arrived, Angel Castro, TOMCAS president, introduced us to our service partner, Hogar Forjadores de Esperanza (Home of Hope), a foster home for boys ages 5-21. Opened in 1993, the home offers doctors, nutritionists, medical support, psychologists, speech pathologists, and many other essential social services for the children. In the wake of Hurricane Maria, the home had no power and was in disrepair. The high winds had torn crucial sections off the roof and cracked the foundation, air conditioners hung from the windows, high winds had torn down the secure perimeter chain link fence and toppled the gazebo. While the roof and foundation required more specialized labor, we focused the PRO team’s efforts to improve the quality of the boys’ outdoor experience on the property and to repair the security fence for their safety.
More than 55 Timberland sales team members, staffers, and others volunteered for the two-day event. Together, we replaced over 400 feet of chain link perimeter fence, tiled an outdoor gazebo/eating space, landscaped the property, built a concrete storage shed and a shade structure next to the gym, pressure washed and re-painted the basketball court and playground, and more. In the process, we filled four dumpsters worth of hurricane debris. We also donated a trampoline and TOMCAS presented the home with a brand-new sign.
As someone who plans many service events, there is nothing more rewarding than seeing the fruits of your labor enjoyed by the audience for which they were intended. As such, a highlight of our time at the home was finishing up our tasks on the second day just as the boys came home from school. Some of us played a half-court game of basketball with the boys on the freshly painted basketball court, and others took turns jumping on the new trampoline.
As our flights took off on Friday morning, I couldn’t help but notice the view from above. While it didn’t look that different from the view when we landed, with visible damage all around, I felt different. I left with a sense of humility and hope, as did our entire team. While there is much rebuilding left to do, and our project was only a tiny blip on the radar of recovery, we left humbled by the resiliency of the people we met and hopeful that the rebuilding will continue and impacted communities will rebound.
Click here to view the video of our service events in Puerto Rico on YouTube.
*At the time this was written, we had just received word that Hogar Forjadores de Esperanza has been awarded a $10k grant to repair the foundation and roof.