When Tim Reidy decided to pitch his office mates on the idea of responding to the Notre Dame Club of Pittsburgh’s Appalachian Gift Drive as a service project, he had no idea how big the demand for help would turn out to be or just how enthusiastically his colleagues at Hayes Design Group architectural firm would embrace the project.
At a recent strategic planning retreat, staff at The Hayes Design Group – Architects in Bridgeville decided to take on some service projects as a way of reflecting the company’s culture of responding to community needs. As a member of the Notre Dame Club of Pittsburgh, Reidy was aware of the annual gift drive the club does in partnership with St. Paul of the Cross Monastery in Pittsburgh.
The Passionist priests at the Monastery have provided gifts for years to a parish in Preston County, W.Va. – one of the poorest counties in the United States. The parish relies on the service agencies in the county to collect the names and needs of local families and then works with donors to provide for those families at Christmas. Typically, the requests are for a combination of basic needs items, such as clothing, along with some toys.
In the past, around 800 children’s names per year appeared on the master list and the needs are divided among the organizations who support St. Paul of the Cross Monastery in Pittsburgh, who in turn respond to those needs. One of those organizations is the Notre Dame Club of Pittsburgh, which usually takes between 90-100 names per year. This year, due to unprecedented demand, the club decided to take on 165 children.
This is where Reidy and Hayes Design Group came in. There is a special connection to Appalachian Gift Drive for Reidy’s boss, firm principal Kevin Hayes. He is also a member of the Notre Dame Club and good friends with Brother Matt Krawchyk at the Monastery. About 25 years ago, when Hayes was social concerns coordinator for the club, Krawchyk asked his help to take on some children for the gift drive. That effort has continued to grow over the years through the club.
“This was a great service project for our team to take on,” Hayes said. “Our employees want to infuse a sense of greater purpose into their day, and this includes working together for the benefit of the community. With my own connection to the beginnings of this Appalachian gift drive and Tim’s recent engagement with it, this was a natural first project for us to take on as a group.”
This year, on behalf of the Hayes Design Group, Reidy offered to take on five children. The Notre Dame Club asked him to consider taking seven, in order to meet their increased demand. When he took that request back to his colleagues at the office, Reidy was told that in support of the effort, the firm would match whatever its 14 employees were able to raise for money to buy the gifts. Reidy’s appeal garnered $400 and with the match, that meant $800 to spend on behalf of the children in Preston County.
To make those dollars go as far as possible, two Hayes Design Group employees who have family members working at retail stores used those employee discounts to stretch the donation, and made it possible to provide every wish on the children’s Christmas lists – not only for the original seven they took on, but also for three more children on the list as well.
“We had such a good time pulling this together,” Reidy said. “It was the first time we had done a toy drive as a firm and it’s really rewarding to know that Christmas morning is going to be a joy for a group of kids due to our efforts.”
After purchasing all of the requested items, Hayes employees gathered together over a special “gift wrapping lunch.” With pizza for energy and Christmas music to keep it festive, the gifts all got wrapped and ready to send to Preston County. Because each child’s gifts are bundled together for them to open without any indication of where the gifts came from, those children will never know that the architectural elves at Hayes Design Group made it possible for them to have a very merry Christmas.
And Reidy and his colleagues think that is exactly what the season is all about.