Interface flooring company brings volunteers to help around the Community
February 17, 2017
Gila River Indian News
Interface is an international flooring and modular commercial tile carpet company that is committed to environmental and social sustainability. Late last month, during a salesperson conference at the Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass, the company took a day to give back to the Gila River Indian Community.
On January 31, Interface employees spent time volunteering at schools and youth centers throughout the Gila River Indian Community, as well as in a community garden.
“From a sustainability standpoint, we just believe it’s the right thing to do,” said Interface President Matt Miller. “Frankly, the social aspect is a very clear follow-on from the broader definition of sustainability. How do we make areas and communities and the places we touch more sustainable themselves?”
Approximately 250 Interface salespeople visited two Boys & Girls Clubs, two Head Starts, the Casa Blanca Community School and the community garden at the Wellington Ranch.
The largest group, of about 115 staff, rolled into the Wellington property in two large buses.
There, some Interface staff played games with GRIC youth in adoptive and foster care in association with the non-profit Three Precious Miracles (TPM), while others lent a hand to the revitalization of the community garden.
Norman Wellington, owner of the ranch, thanked the guests for taking time away from their conference to contribute to the community.
“This past year I’ve been working with the Community Garden Project under a grant, and the grant kind of went away. So what I was wanting to do was to still be able to provide a service to the community,” he said. Wellington hopes the garden will continue to provide food for Community members and he intends to put the property to use as a venue for weddings or other celebratory events.
Interface painted a gazebo, built a chicken coop, tilled earth, weeded the garden, planted seeds, and put together wooden tables for displaying and selling garden produce.
On the other side of the property, dozens of families with foster and adoptive children played in a sun-splashed lawn.
Elisia Manuel, founder of TPM, used her network of foster and adoptive families to bring their children out to the Wellington Ranch. Kids made bracelets and other crafts, played games, had their faces painted, and met Gila River Police Department officers.
“A lot of the kids are placed in non-Native homes and they’re off the reservation, so they [rarely] get the opportunity to come back to the reservation,” said Manuel. “We want to be able to provide these type of events to them to say, ‘Come back to your community. You’re welcome here.’”
They also learned about the history and culture of Gila River and other Native American communities in Arizona. “I think when you have an event for our kids that are in the system, it’s important to keep that cultural connection,” she said.
Interface’s Jane Mahan coordinated the day of volunteerism.
“A big part of our culture is sustainability,” she said. “We really are concerned about what goes into our own products, but also how we affect the entire world.”
Interface holds an annual conference for its salespeople to learn about new products and get up-to-date with company sales goals. About 12 years ago, the company began measuring its impact on the communities they were visiting to host the conferences – how much water they would use, how much waste they would generate – and decided to find ways to give back to every community they visited.
“So instead of one day of recreation where all of us would go to the golf course or the spa, we started breaking into teams and doing projects to help the community,” said Mahan.
At the District 6 Head Start a small army of Interface volunteers placed potting soil into decorated pots they made with the children.
Mentor Teacher Minerva Salcido welcomed the guests. “I am speechless to see a group of caring people. [Our] children were anxious to get started on decorating their pots with [you] all,” she said to the Interface volunteers.
Inside the recreation room the tiny tots soon made friends with the visitors adorning the ceramic pots with color decorations.
Volunteers also put together garden boxes outside that will grow an assortment of flowers.
Once the garden boxes were completed the kids joined in by planting the flowers, covering their roots with the layer of soil.
Interface Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Dan Hendrix said the company is all about being sustainable and that the volunteer projects are one extension of that initiative.
“A number of years ago it was decided that [we] wanted to give back to the community where we are having our sales meetings,” said Hendrix.
The practice benefits the communities, but the Interface employees enjoy it as well.
“I think we get more out of it than we give,” said Miller. “This has a huge impact on this organization, but we will all, individually and collectively, walk away from this having received a pretty big benefit from it ourselves.”
Christopher Lomahquahu contributed to this article.