For many years, we engaged in volunteer activities on an opportunistic, and often individual, basis. A lot of good things happened. But it seemed like we could have more impact if we got just a little bit more organized and if we concentrated our efforts. Our volunteer efforts are now centered on projects that connect people to the environment, support family-oriented activities, and develop our people intellectually and personally. You may recognize some of the places we've been as you see examples of our recent activities below.
We still hear about the opportunistic acts that people pursue, sometimes with their friends or with some help from the company. We want that spirit of giving and helping to thrive.
In 2012 we took some of the money we had been spending on traditional advertising and established an annual company volunteer day. In our first year, we repaired bridges and walkways at Mass Audubon's Broadmoor Sanctuary in Natick (massaudubon.org/get-outdoors/wildlife-sanctuaries/broadmoor). In 2013 half of us returned to Broadmoor to work on trails and brush clearing and the other half went south to build tent platforms, canoe racks and a trail kiosk at the Appalachian Mountain Club's Ponkapoag Campsite (ponkapoagcamp.org).
Apart from being a way to contribute to our community, we have discovered the volunteer day is a way for us all to recharge our batteries and re-connect with each other away from our projects. We are looking forward to future volunteer days and helping some great conservation-focused organizations further their missions
The Ski Shed
In 2013 the Eastern Mass Bill Koch Youth Ski Club hosted the New England Bill Koch Festival at the Weston Ski Track. It was the first time the festival, dubbed the "Boston Ski Party," had been held in eastern Massachusetts. Over 600 children signed up for the two-day event and volunteers were mobilized to handle everything from shuttle buses to food to race logistics. That's where thoughtforms helped out. A building was needed to house the timing equipment and to provide the race crew a perch for observing the starts and finishes.
Graham Grallert, Ben King and Larry Kellam from the shop collaborated with experienced race organizers to design and build a simple yet elegant timing shed, nicknamed the "taj ma-hut" by the race crew. Was the project a success? A few weeks after the festival, the NCAA contacted us to see if we would loan them the shed for 2013 NCAA National Championships at Middlebury College in Vermont. And the United States Ski Association contacted us in the summer of 2013 to ask if we would loan them the shed for 2014 Junior National Championships in Stowe, Vermont. Most important though: a bunch of kids and their families had a great time being active outdoors.
The Goat House
One Family (onefamilyinc.org) is dedicated to ending family homelessness in Massachusetts. They were looking to provide kids an opportunity to build something related to home at their annual event, scheduled for Belkin Lookout Farm in Natick. Graham Grallert brainstormed with the One Family team around ideas and decided that whatever was built should be built to endure. The conversation evolved and the idea of a goat house emerged. The shop built the structure and Dan Dagle helped the kids shingle the exterior under the watchful eye of the goats.
A Viking Ship
On a visit to Norway, one of our people was introduced to a non-profit group building a replica of the Oseberg Viking Ship (osebergvikingskip.no/eng). The ship was being built by volunteers using only traditional methods - no power tools. The opportunity for a thoughtforms carpenter to contribute and learn by joining the crew was irresistible. Pete Wood, an avid sailor who travelled to Norway as a child, spent a little more than a week making a ship, and making friends. And the stories and experiences he shared when he returned energized the entire crew.