Workers in front of ambulance

First Things First

ABC Delaware came to the rescue on First Responders’ Day, providing nearly every fire department in the state with meals, swag and countless heartfelt thank-yous.
By Maggie Murphy
January 30, 2023

More than a trite statement or slogan, “ABC Cares” is the actual name of the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) Delaware chapter’s community outreach committee, created more than 17 years ago from a member-expressed desire to come together in the name of service to others. While members were involved in plenty of their own community efforts—walks, fundraisers, school supply drives and more—the goal of ABC Cares was to create a group that would gather on a regular basis outside the bounds of their own companies.

“The walks and drives and those things are really important, and we do a couple during the year,” says Jean Toman, director of public relations and events for ABC Delaware. “But the purpose of ABC Cares is to have our members come together at an actual event.” Each year in January, the committee meets to decide which organizations and events to support in the year ahead. Toward the beginning of the pandemic, ABC Cares members came to the same conclusion as to who their focus should be: first responders.

“We originally started discussing delivering goody trays to first responders in the height of COVID-19,” says Sallie Ann Connor, vice president of Newark, Delaware–based Schneider Trailer & Container Rental. “While many of us were quarantining, social distancing and conducting Zoom meetings, first responders were still answering calls, possibly exposing themselves ever day to the dangers of COVID-19. Many non-profits had stopped volunteer opportunities, and we were trying to find ways we could still make a difference.”

Adds Steve Lex, vice president of Pettinaro Construction: “First responders are out in front, day in and day out, no matter what. Coming through COVID-19 and everything our first responders had been through, we thought we would recognize them for their commitment and service to our community.”

ABC Cares formed a subcommittee headed by Lex to focus specifically on the effort, with a goal to serve every volunteer firehouse in the state of Delaware—and they just about did it. Of the state’s 63 volunteer fire departments, 60 were honored with visits, meals, gifts and more from ABC member companies on Oct. 28, 2022, which is National First Responders’ Day. “Our members are incredible and were so quick to say yes,” Conner says. “I can’t think of a better fit for our efforts than first responders who we always count on to answer the call.”

It was when Lex served as chair of ABC Delaware in 2017 that he “truly saw the impact that ABC Cares Delaware made on our community," he says. "I've been involved ever since, and enjoy helping make a difference, one person at a time.” To that end, the committee has done its share of additional outreach over the years— everything from backpack, food and clothing drives, to in-kind donations and volunteer labor on grounds improvements for Exceptional Care for Children, Delaware’s nonprofit pediatric skilled nursing facility. "ABC Cares Committee opens all meetings with our mission statement: ‘Providing opportunities for our members to make a difference by giving our time and effort, making a difference in the First State,’” says Toman. “It’s this mission that keeps us focused, and it’s the satisfaction of giving back that keeps us going.”

by Maggie Murphy
Maggie Murphy is managing editor of Construction Executive.

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