Brick by Brick -- Arvon Mitcham, principal engineer in TMNA R&D's Powertrain Division, moves a load of bricks at one of the two Habitat for Humanity work sites.
Many of the more than 1,600 team members who work at Toyota Motor North America Research & Development (TMNA R&D) spend their weekdays focused on a possible future in technology that may not be realized for years.
So perhaps it’s fitting that, on their own time, some chose to ground themselves in the tangible present of building a home for people who can’t afford one.
That’s one explanation for TMNA R&D’s exceptional outpouring of time, talent and funds over the past 10 years in support of Habitat for Humanity of Huron Valley. Since 2007, Toyota’s Ann Arbor, Michigan, facility has donated nearly $400,000 and more than 17,000 volunteer hours to help build or renovate 11 homes in Ypsilanti, just a 20-minute drive to the east.
And, by the look of their most recent venture, they’re showing no signs of slowing down.
Floor It -- Team members rebuild one of the home's floor boards. Both projects required complete renovation work.
To commemorate the 10th
anniversary of the partnership with Habitat for Humanity and the 40th
year of Toyota’s presence in Michigan, some 300 TMNA R&D team members provided more than 1,800 hours of their time this summer to completely renovate homes for two single moms, Adriana Pence and Tiffany Cole. The company also wrote a check for $80,000 to help offset the hard costs.
It’s a huge commitment. Teams of 20-25 volunteers work on site 8-10 hours per day every weekend for 12 consecutive weeks.
“We’re not talking about a fresh coat of paint and some minor repairs,” says Community Relations Specialist Praveena Ramaswami. “It’s a full gut and go, all the way down to the studs of the frame. So it’s really helpful to have engineers on hand to do this work. They measure three times before they cut anything. They make sure everything lines up. When inspectors come back a year later, the Toyota houses are always right on the mark.”
The new homeowners also do their part. They put in a minimum of 250 hours of “sweat equity,” attend financial management and home maintenance classes and make a $1,000 down payment on their homes.
Executive Action -- TMNA R&D Executive Vice President Shinichi Yasui was among the 300 team members who volunteered their time and talents.
Meanwhile, team members not only create new places to live, they foster new relationships that continue to grow long after the last nail is hammered flush.
“It’s a great feeling to work on a home for someone who you know is deserving,” says Ramaswami. “Many of the homeowners keep in touch with us. They are extremely grateful.”
“And it means so much to us, too,” she continues. “You get to work outside with your fellow team members, both within and beyond your departments. You get to know one another in ways that just wouldn’t be possible in the office. There’s a benefit inside and outside of the company.”
Mission Accomplished -- TMNA R&D team members gather for a photo in front of one of the two homes they renovated this summer.
TMNA R&D maintains the connection throughout the year, with some team members taking it a step further and serving on the non-profit’s various committees. Charan Lota, executive manager of TMNA R&D, is a member of its board of directors.
“Toyota and Habitat Huron Valley have strengthened bonds between co-workers, made lasting friendships and picked up a new skill or two on build days,” says Lota. “We look forward to continuing this relationship for years to come.”
“The continued commitment of Toyota to help renovate homes is invaluable in our work toward creating affordable homeownership in Washtenaw County,” says Sarah Stanton, executive director of Habitat Huron Valley. “Toyota’s investment in our organization has made a tremendous impact on our communities.”
By Dan Miller