Doing what you can do

Sometimes making a difference means looking beyond your own backyard.

After Hurricane Katrina slammed into New Orleans in 2005, many builders from across the county jumped into action to rebuild the ruins of the city. But the city needed more than just manpower. Contractors needed suppliers to do their part.

Shortly after the hurricane hit the Gulf Coast area, Sheffield Metals decided to get involved. From its headquarters in Sheffield Village, Ohio, the metal processing company ships products nationwide primarily to the metal roofing industry.

One customer, Edward J. Laperouse Metal Works, is located in Houma, La., about an hour from New Orleans.
Mike Blake, president of Sheffield Metals, relates, “They told us about St. Mary Nativity Elementary School in Raceland, La., which had lost its roof. The company president, Jude Laperouse, wanted to do something for the school and the children. So he quickly contacted us and other suppliers and asked if we could help.”

After deciding to donate, Sheffield Metals contacted its raw materials suppliers — Precoat Metals of St. Louis and Arcelor Mittal Steel Company of Chicago — and invited them to get onboard.

“They gave us donations of metal, as well as coating and paint, and we did the processing,” Blake explains. “When the materials arrived in Louisiana, Laperouse formed and installed the panels.”

For its part in the project, Sheffield Metals received the National Roofing Contractors Association 2007 Gold Circle Award for Service to the community.

Not willing to rest on its laurels, Sheffield Metals knew that many areas of the Gulf Coast still needed help and reached out to one of the hardest-hit communities.

“St. Maurice Catholic Church is in the Lower Ninth Ward,” Blake says. To help the congregation rebuild and repair its roof, this time Sheffield enlisted the aid of two of its customers, Hy-Tech Roofing Services of St. Rose, La., and Ohio-based Commercial Siding & Maintenance, along with many other companies.

And it doesn’t end there

Helping where it is needed most is part of Sheffield’s corporate character. In fact, its latest act of charity started at home, in its own Ohio community. This time a customer’s wife alerted Blake and his team to the opportunity.

“Edge of Freedom Farms is a place for children with disabilities and others who have special needs. When it’s completed, it will serve families who want to experience the therapeutic effects of the horse-human relationship,” he relates.

Sheffield is providing building materials at a greatly reduced cost for the riding therapy center, which sits on 165 acres of farmland. The company was motivated, Blake relates, by its belief in community action that directly benefits people in need.

“It’s not just about being involved in a great cause. The projects are a demonstration of the strong relationships we have with our suppliers and contractor customers,” Blake explains.

As Sheffield Metals has garnered awards and recognition for its charitable efforts, contractors have sought out the company “when they need it most,” he adds. “And we know that we can count on great support from our suppliers.”

Overcoming obstacles

Helping others has both rewards and challenges.

“Our experiences have shown us how to cut through the red tape and get things done. In the case of the elementary school, we needed to react immediately,” relates Blake.

But although the company can ship product from four facilities across the country, he notes, “Timing can be a challenge when you’re donating or giving material at a reduced cost. It’s difficult to get the material out quickly when you’re still trying to meet the demands of your regular customers and give them the service they’ve come to expect.”

Whether a company has the resources to tackle a charitable project across town or across the country, the key is to “start by just doing what you can,” Blake believes.

“Be aware of what’s going on in your community and listen for opportunities where you might be able to chip in. But just get started, in whatever way you can.” n

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