In Tijuana, Mexico, orphan boys are usually cared for only until their 12th birthday. Not yet teenagers, the boys are evicted from their orphanages and must fend for themselves within the dangerous neighborhoods of Tijuana. With no roofs over their heads, never enough to eat, and little education, some do not survive. Many join gangs, some become drug users and/or traffickers. Some become victims of child prostitution. A few lucky ones find their way to Project Mexico’s St. Innocent Orthodox Orphanage for teenage boys. St. Innocent Orthodox Orphanage is the only such refuge in Tijuana and one of only four orphanages for teenage boys in Mexico.

Project Mexico was founded in 1988 in Orange County, Calif., by Greg Yova. He wanted to provide young people an opportunity to look beyond themselves by helping others. Geographically close, Yova chose to help alleviate suffering in neighboring Mexico by building homes for the poor. In 1990, Project Mexico began working to establish an orphanage for teenage boys. Today, the orphanage is located on a 16-acre, palm-dotted ranch on the outskirts of Rosarito, Mexico. As many as 30 abused and abandoned boys, between the ages of 7 to 23, live at the orphanage. The boys attend school, learn vocational skills, receive spiritual guidance, participate in sports, and are showered with love and support from orphanage staff and visitors from the United States and Mexico.

Although the facilities at St. Innocent are resort-like for the boys compared to the teeming streets of Tijuana, the orphanage’s buildings require regular maintenance and often costly repairs. One recent repair was the re-roof of the boys’ dormitory that leaked when it rained. With only $5,000 available for a new roof, orphanage administrators and supporters sought donations to fill the financial shortfall.

Three roofing industry companies stepped up to heed the call and teamed up to provide the orphanage with the expertise, materials and labor needed to re-roof the 9,000-square-foot dorm: Eagle Roofing Products, ABC Supply Company Inc., and Canmark Roofing.

• Eagle Roofing Products, a division of Burlingame Industries, manufactures quality concrete roof tile and is one of the nation’s leading manufacturers. The company offers innovative products and service that provide the industry with green solutions that increase curb appeal and help the environment while reducing energy costs.

• ABC Supply Company Inc. has more than 450 branches in 45 states that serve professional building contractors. ABC Supply offers contractors a broad portfolio of products, including roofing, siding, windows, doors, gutters and rainware, decking and related tools, equipment, products and accessories from the industry’s leading manufacturers.

• Canmark Roofing is Alberta, Canada’s largest roofing tile installation company. The firm also installs asphalt laminates, cedar shakes, metal, synthetic slates and all roof materials for commercial, industrial and residential sloped roofing applications.


Out With the Old, in With the New

“The dorm roof was about 40 years old and in terrible condition,” said Geoffrey Bray, executive director for Project Mexico and St. Innocent Orphanage. “About 30 percent of the dorm tiles were broken and there were multiple leaks and several large holes where the decking disintegrated. And, if that wasn’t bad enough, some of the main support beams were broken and the decking was rotted on the entire perimeter of the roof.”

Brent Applegate, vice president of sales and marketing for Canmark Roofing, got the donation effort rolling after visiting the orphanage in 2007. Michael Applegate, Brent’s son, was a work trip coordinator at Project Mexico for five years.

“I noticed that the poor quality clay tile on the dormitory was deteriorating and leaking,” Brent Applegate recalled. “Orphanage administrators knew of the leaks, but they couldn’t finance such a large project at that time.”

One week after his 2007 visit to St. Innocent, Brent Applegate attended a meeting hosted by the Tile Roof Institute (TRI). Unable to dismiss the needs of the orphanage, he shared his experience with several TRI member representatives. Although there was general sympathy among the meeting attendees, Brent Applegate said it was Seamus Burlingame and Roger Thompson of Eagle Roofing Products who expressed the greatest desire to help.

Five years following that TRI meeting, Brent Applegate followed up with representatives of the three companies who had expressed interest in helping the orphanage. Burlingame responded immediately and enthusiastically to the call for help. “It sounded like a great cause,” Burlingame said. “I immediately told Brent to count us in.”

“Eagle’s generosity was far beyond my most optimistic hope for help,” Brent Applegate said. “Eagle not only donated the tile, but also provided all the roof components needed to complete the roof and then shipped it all to Rosarito.”

In addition to supplying the roofing products, Burlingame shared the orphanage’s plight with his staff. Lane Carroll, Eagle Roofing’s Southern California re-roof sales and distributor manager, responded by sharing the orphanage’s story with Ray Bell, Southern California district manager at ABC Supply Company. ABC’s National City, California branch in turn donated 90 rolls of No. 30 felt, enough for two layers of underlayment.

“One of Ken Hendricks’ (ABC’s founder) core values is to give back to the community,” said Bell. “The children at the orphanage needed help and we were happy to do so.”

Eagle’s technical team, Greg Peterson and Annette Sindar, provided the technical specifications for the underlayment, components, and coursing for the tiles. Eagle donated about 90 squares of tile and trim, and a variety of components including Valley Metal, Flex Vents, Bird Stop and Wind Clips.

While Lane was recruiting ABC Supply, Geoff recruited local volunteers to remove the old, deteriorating tiles. Construction professional Ben Machnee, a St. Innocent Orphanage supporter from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, recruited seven fellow Canadians to travel to Rosarito to prep the roof for the new tiles. Brent Applegate and Michael Applegate teamed up with Jorgen Ostergaard and Sasha Lazic — two of Canmark Roofing’s most experienced crew members — and other volunteers spent another week installing the tiles.

“We had only seven days to complete the roof, including installing a double felt membrane with a cold application asphalt, and eave, valley, and gable flashings and flex vent,” Brent Applegate said. “We were doubtful it was possible, but committed to it anyway. Fortunately, Geoff arranged for eight students from Holy Cross Seminary (Brookline, Mass.) to help for four days. The students did all of the tar work and loaded the entire roof for us, about 100,000 pounds of tile. “

St. Innocent’s resident priest, two sisters, other volunteers and some of the older orphan boys also pitched in to help. Completed in March 2012, the re-roof took two weeks to install and comprised about 950 volunteer hours. 

“The technical help we received from Greg and Annette at Eagle Roofing was invaluable” Brent Applegate added. “Our Canadian tile installations are all required to be double-strapped systems as regulated by the CSA A220 Series 06 Standard, and we seldom use wind clips. There was definitely a learning curve required by our Canadian crew, and Greg and Annette made sure we were guided through every step of the way. When it was all done, The Eagle Red Capistrano tile was beautiful, strong and fit perfectly.”

 In the end, Bray was also astonished by the financial and volunteer support the orphanage received from the three roofing supply companies. “If Eagle hadn’t come through, the boys would have had to endure another winter where it rained inside their bathroom from the massive holes in the roof,” he said. “The boys would have just lived with being cold and wet. Thankfully, Eagle, ABC and Canmark came through for us and gave our boys a safe roof over their heads where they can escape the rains and feel secure.”