It isn’t often that construction workers are greeted in the early morning hours by a Native American in full traditional dress. But that’s exactly how members of Associated Builders and Contractors’ (ABC) Western Washington Chapter
began a day of volunteering at the Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center
Through a partnership with the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties (NAIOP
), ABC members and chapter staff lent their construction skills to NAIOP’s annual Community Enhancement Day.
With the Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center celebrating its 40th anniversary, it could not have been a better time for the organization to receive needed renovations and upkeep.
The cultural center offers a wide range of services for Native Americans from across the country. It provides a Head Start program for young children, elderly care for senior tribal members, separate homes and counseling for troubled teens, as well as a food bank.
These valuable programs were threatened by significant budget cuts following the economic downturn, and the center lost revenue from weddings and other hosted events because the grounds were falling into disrepair. One day of work by 350 volunteers made a world of difference.
“We have a very large number of active tribes, and this is a resource center for them,” says ABC Western Washington Chapter President Kathleen Garrity. “It needed a lot done, and they didn’t have many resources.”
In a 12-hour period, volunteers performed major structural repairs on the building and cleared the surrounding walking trails. They also created a memorial site around a statue honoring Bernie Whitebear, the center’s founder. They built storage sheds near the sweat lodge to hold blankets and firewood, and spruced up the area surrounding a fire pit where the Native American elders can gather. Several ABC subcontractors painted the exterior of the center.
ABC chapter staff coordinated the hundreds of volunteers, registering and dispatching the workers and providing meals, water and safety kits.
“It’s so important for an association to give back. It’s part of our mission. It’s even better if we can give back by getting involved in projects that we are uniquely qualified for. Not everyone has construction skills to offer,” Garrity says.
Particularly inspiring to Garrity and the other volunteers was the Native American elder who arrived at 6 a.m. to welcome each volunteer. His feelings of gratitude were shared by Marty Bluewater, a board member and former executive director of the Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center.
“For the NAIOP to devote this level of talent, expertise and effort to the United Indians seems a perfect example of what can result from personal involvement and volunteerism for the greater social and community benefit,” Bluewater says. “Everyone associated with NAIOP should be individually recognized for their role with the 2010 Community Enhancement Project.”