Colorado residents like Judith Valez know winter can strike early, which is why one thought plagued her mind — how would she and her 91-year-old mother endure another Rocky Mountain winter with a damaged roof?

Paying for repairs was nearly impossible. Valez, 70, is retired, wheelchair-bound and living on a fixed income. Despite the damages being caused by a hailstorm, the insurance company categorized it as wear-and-tear.

With nowhere else to turn, she submitted her plight to the “Building It Forward” campaign started by Axe Roofing of Denver. In September, Valez received the surprise of her life — Axe Roofing not only repaired her roof, it provided a brand new coat of paint for her home’s exterior with Wright Choice Painting.

“I’m so grateful to Axe Roofing for this incredible gift,” said Valdez. “I was panicking about how my mother and I would have been able to get by if the roof started leaking, as there was no way I could afford to replace it on my fixed income. It’s truly been a blessing, without this gift I don’t know where we’d be.”

If the story causes your heart to swell, you’re not alone. Kristine Gahnstrom, who handles business development at Axe Roofing, said Valez’s submission brought tears to the eyes of her and her colleagues.

Axe Roofing is a neighborhood business, and we knew we needed to give back to the community that we all live and work in,” Gahnstrom said. “This campaign was the perfect way to show our appreciation and use our services to help one of our neighbors in a big way.”

This sentiment of giving back can be found at the heart of nearly every charitable act the roofing industry provides. While November tends to be when we think about what we’re most thankful for, roofing contractors go above and beyond by expressing their gratitude throughout the year.

Giving Thanks Through Projects

Nearly every week a news story pops up of a roofing contractor generously donating their time and resources. In case you missed them, here are just a few examples from earlier this year:

Collette Roofing Helps Woman Denied 6 Times by FEMA

Travis Collette, owner of Collette Roofing in Dayton, Ohio, heard the story of Tammie Helgeson, a Dayton resident who was denied FEMA assistance six times to repair her roof after a tornado damaged it on Memorial Day. Collette decided to show up with a crew and fix the roof.

“I just knew we had to help,” she said. “I could tell that she was really in need, she started crying, which definitely pulled on my heart strings.”

Rutter Roofing Donates Roof to Harleysville Army Veteran

Pennsylvania’s Rutter Roofing surprised retired U.S. Army Sgt. David Gardner with a new roof after being selected as the winner of the roofing company’s Memorial Day Giveaway. The giveaway is a part of the company’s Community/Service/Leadership pledge.

“This was a great opportunity for us to help someone who fought to protect our nation, and it will make all of us here feel proud to say we work for Rutter Roofing,” said Jackie Blinebury, director of business development at Rutter Roofing.

Owens Corning Platinum Contractors Replace Veteran’s Roof

ARAC Roof It Forward, an Owens Corning Platinum contractor, replaced the roof on the home of Paul Basal, a U.S. Navy veteran, in late August.

“We want Mr. Basal to know how thankful we are for his service and how much we appreciate all he’s done for our country,” said Matthew Howell, director of operations and COO at ARAC Roof It Forward.

Monetary Donations

Stories of someone receiving a new roof are amazing, but the roofing industry does so much more to give back. Contractors, distributors and associations provide scholarships to high school seniors to support their journeys into the construction industry, while others give generously to charitable organizations. Some examples from the past year include:

Roofing Alliance Provides Melvin Kruger Endowed Scholarships

The Roofing Alliance gave a total of $55,000 to students for the 2019-20 year, providing both new scholarships and renewals of $5,000 each.

“We are very honored to give back to the next generation of roofing professionals in this way,” said Roofing Alliance President Josh Kelly.

AVCO Donates to Five Texas Charities

AVCO Roofing donated $150,000 to five charitable causes as part of its #AVCOGIVESBACK initiative, including a veteran combat recovery group.

“We want to give back to the community so that’s what this program is all about,” said Heath Hicks, owner, AVCO Roofing, during a live Facebook feed.

TAMKO Provides $100,000 to Red Cross

David Humphreys, TAMKO Building Products’ president and CEO, presented a $100,000 check to the Red Cross Ozark Chapter earlier this summer for disaster relief efforts.

“We know firsthand the devastation these storms can bring, but we also know the difference that the Red Cross can make in helping people recover,” Humphreys said. “It’s not so distant a memory — we remember the outpouring of support after the Joplin tornado and we make this donation in the same spirit of kindness that our neighbors need so desperately right now.”

Making Philanthropy a Priority

So how does a roofing contractor become involved in giving back?

One roofing contractor that has made it a mission to give back is Charles Antis, founder and CEO of Antis Roofing & Waterproofing in California. Since its founding in 1989, Antis Roofing has dedicated itself to helping others, working with everything from Habitat for Humanity to Ronald McDonald Houses.

“It takes a long time to get real, true, living philanthropy, but to have real, true, living philanthropy it has to be true to your people and true with your stakeholders,” Antis said.

With that in mind, actions to consider when getting into giving include:

•   Check with legal and accounting professionals. Consulting your legal and accounting people will ensure you go about philanthropy the right way, but will also result in optimal tax advantages, which in turn can further fuel your efforts.

•   Create a written plan. Like any other part of the roofing business, having a plan of action will make everything go smoother. This will help keep charitable efforts limited and focused so that resources aren’t exhausted.

•   Work with charities that align with your mission. Choose a charity that can benefit from having a roofing contractor in their corner, but also speaks to your company’s mission and passion. For instance, Ken Kelly, President of Kelly Roofing in Florida, flies disaster relief missions as a pilot for the nonprofit Angel Flight Southeast.

•   Make it easy for employees. To properly execute your vision, you’ll need the support of your employees. After all, additional projects and donations will result in more work for crews and administrators. Consider providing vacation days that are dedicated to volunteering, or invest in giving cards — gift cards that can only be redeemed to benefit a charity of the cardholder’s choice — for your employees to hand out.

•   Try “maybe” instead of “yes.” When a charity solicits your business for a donation or project, Antis suggests you never say no, but don’t necessarily say yes. Giving an answer that is a “maybe” works better because it can allow for people and products to align prior to giving a final answer.

One piece of advice Antis gives is that roofing contractors should talk about the good they do. Some contractors don’t like to because they feel inauthentic or like they’re bragging, but Antis said this needs to change. Whether it’s a press release sent to local media or a post on social media, talking about doing good can lead to positive exposure and let your community know you care.

Jeff Richfield, owner of Music City Roofers in Tennessee, admits that it can feel awkward making philanthropy part of your business model. However, he has incorporated it into his business through efforts like his “Roofers On A Mission” campaign, posting videos on social media about charitable efforts. His company’s latest project is raising support to build a youth center to help care for the next generation.

“We get to touch the lives of all those people we serve, and it’s just such a good, blessed feeling,” Richfield said. “You can’t help but give back.”

There are other benefits to giving back that might not seem as apparent. Antis said his company’s retention rate was 93 percent in 2017 and 91 percent in 2018, and attributes this to his philanthropic efforts.

While giving back has the added benefits of providing publicity and retaining workers, there is another positive side effect to consider — inspiring others.

Peter Horch, president and owner of Horch Roofing in Maine, likes to “pay it forward” by providing scholarships to local students seeking careers in different trades. When reflecting on what he is grateful for this year, Horch said he is thankful that roofing contractors are setting examples for others in the industry to follow.

“As a roofing contractor I’m just thankful for the fact that there’s leadership in this industry that makes us proud of who we are,” Horch said. “We help our employees, we help our customers, we help buildings across America, it’s just so much fun to finally be part of an industry that appreciates how proud we can be of what we can do every day.”