In September 2008, Hurricane Ike slammed into the Texas coast, forever changing the landscape—and lives. Among the areas most impacted was Galveston, Texas, located on Galveston Island in an inlet of the Gulf of Mexico, about 50 miles southeast of Houston.
Alan Jones, an Account Executive for Timberland PRO, serves the Texas and Louisiana region and saw firsthand the devastation the storm had left behind in Galveston. And he decided to do something about it. Honoring Timberland’s GREEN Service Standard, which ensures that our commitment to protecting the environment shines through in every service project, he set in motion a plan to restore two parks in the city.
Of course, with Timberland’s New Hampshire headquarters roughly 1,600 miles away, the first thing he had to do was find support from the local community. So he began making phone calls. After he lined up the necessary support from the city’s Parks & Recreation Department, one of the first calls he made was to Academy Sports + Outdoors, a major southern retail partner. Academy agreed to pitch in, and from there, the project “took on a life of its own,” as Alan puts it.
The date set for the event was May 8, 2009, and, after months of planning, ten employees from Timberland PRO and the Timberland Service Corps flew down to Texas early, to spend three 14-hour days making the final preparations.
Then, May 8 arrived, and so did nearly 200 volunteers from Academy Sports + Outdoors. Together with the ten employees from Timberland, the volunteers were divided into two teams. The smaller team reported to Crockett Park, which needed only general repairs and improvements, while 70% of the crew was sent to Menard Park, the real focus of the event.
One of the projects at Menard involved building a garden from scratch, which included assembling a perimeter fence for the large community garden. More than 45,000 repurposed plastic milk jugs went into the fencing material, which served an example of using recycled materials—with the added benefit of never needing to be painted. Alan praises the generosity of Fibertech, which donated the fencing material. “After contacting every composite fencing company in the US, we were finally able to obtain a donation of product,” Alan reports. “Fibertech really deserves credit for that.”
Another generous contributor to the project was a sculptor Alan called on for support: Johnny Edwards of Dallas, Texas. “I made just one phone call, and he dedicated all this time to create a really cool sculpture,” Alan marvels. Titled “Garden Sprout,” the 10-foot-high sculpture represents a new beginning and new growth for Galveston. In addition to designing the sculpture, Johnny drove more than six hours each way to install the piece in the community garden in Menard Park, where it now stands. Now complete, the garden was named Valor Gardens and is dedicated to all those who, after the storm hit, were selfless in helping their neighbors.
Another prime focus of the service event was the McGuire-Dent Recreation Center in Menard Park, the city’s first LEED-certified* building. The center is open to the community and offers many amenities, such as a gym, computer room, game room, basketball court, and an outdoor skateboard park and playground. As it happened, the center had opened less than two months earlier—but because of financial setbacks caused by the storm, it lacked equipment and some of the finishing touches that had originally been planned for it. “The timing lined up perfectly,” says Alan. “We were really able to transform it.”
Transformation included installing roughly $40,000 worth of fitness equipment generously donated by Academy. “They really deserve to be recognized for what they gave to this whole event,” says Alan. “They don’t have a service culture in place the way Timberland does, but they saw a need and stepped up to fill the space with new equipment.” In addition, a beautiful mural was painted on the wall of the facility.
Working closely with Academy to serve a community in desperate need had a commercial benefit, as well, Alan discovered. As the two companies collaborated to “Make It Better” for Galveston, they also forged a bond that solidified their business partnership.
“It’s really fun to have an idea and knock on the door of the Parks and Recreation Department and say, ‘I work for a boot company, and I want to do something for you,” Alan concludes. “The great thing about Timberland is that, when we set lofty goals, we can always find a way to get things done. Everything is possible.”
*LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is an internationally-recognized green building certification system.