Each year, the NALP Community Partnership Award recognizes companies who demonstrate leadership in helping restore or revive communities. NALP presents the award to companies actively engaged in community outreach. It also highlightes the aesthetic, environmental and quality of life benefits the landscape industry brings to communities across the country.
This year, the first award goes to Laytonsville, Maryland-headquartered Ruppert Landscape. The company has always believed in giving back throughout its 40-year history. In fact, over the years, Ruppert has helped thousands of deserving causes and given in excess of $5 million. The company typically commits more than 5,000 hours each year to community service projects—both big and small.
“The company has a strong commitment to giving back to the communities where we work and where our employees live,” says Amy Snyder, director of public relations for Ruppert Landscape. “We donate 5 percent of our profit to support charitable causes. More importantly, we involve our employees in charitable projects to ensure each of them experiences that feeling of goodwill that comes with giving to those in need. The company encourages employees to make their branches a part of charitable efforts that are dear to them. Their cause of choice can be a breast cancer walk or feeding the homeless or other ideas.”
The company’s branches directly manage 2 of the 5 percent slated for giving, Snyder says. This ensures employees directly involve themselves in choosing the charitable projects.
Value of Community: Field Day is an Outreach Highlight
One of Ruppert’s recent large-scale community service efforts was its Atlanta Field Day event. More than 100 employees from the company’s Lilburn and Mableton, Georgia and Raleigh and Charlotte, North Carolina branches worked together with parishioners to transform the grounds of Corpus Christi Catholic Church in Stone Mountain, Georgia. The company’s annual Field Day is a long-standing tradition that enables employees to give back to the community. It combines charitable giving, training and friendly competition among branches.
“About 70 percent of Corpus Christi’s congregation are immigrants and refugees from 47 different countries who speak over 14 different languages,” says Snyder. “When we began looking at potential sites to hold our next Field Day, we sought a site where there was great need and where we could provide great benefit. We felt it was important, now more than ever, to support our country’s immigrants. We were happy to use our landscaping skills to benefit an organization that serves such a diverse community.”
The church campus had a number of existing landscape issues Ruppert addressed. This included areas of vegetation overgrowth and eroded turf, drainage issues, unhealthy trees, and damaged concrete. The site also lacked visual appeal and did not create an inviting space for parishioners to enjoy the church’s outdoors.
Beyond fixing problems, a portion of the day was spent installing new plant material to give the campus a fresh feel. Nine caliper shade trees were planted in the parking islands and three ornamental trees in the front of the church. Over 500 shrubs and 135 perennials were also installed in four high-visibility locations throughout the site. Lastly, mulching of all the newly installed plant beds and existing beds totaled approximately 120 yards of mulch.
In total, over 800 man-hours and approximately $100,000 was involved in making this project a reality. Since its completion, the congregation has been spending more time outside worshipping, gathering and enjoying the benefits of feeling one with nature.
Value of Community: Help Spanning Many Miles
Field Day is just one of many ways Ruppert has partnered with communities both near its headquarters and its 23 branches. The company has performed clean-ups, enhancements and installation projects for many organizations and establishments. These include HeroHomes (a non-profit dedicated to providing housing for wounded veterans), the Ronald McDonald House, and the Armed Forces Retirement Home, among many others. The company has donated both landscaping skills, material and time.
For instance, in January 2019, several of the company’s Raleigh landscape management and North Carolina landscape construction branch members volunteered with the Special Olympics of North Carolina to help sort and package uniforms for the 300 U.S. athletes and coaches heading to the Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi.
In April of 2019, the Baltimore landscape management team participated in Pigtown Main Street’s “Bloom the Boulevard” event. Together with a team of community volunteers, they cleaned and “greened” a section of Washington Boulevard from MLK to Carroll Park. They removed trash and debris, installing 15 trees, mulching tree rings and cleaning and re-planting the planters. They also donated annuals for the flower sale and held two planting workshops for community residents.
This award encapsulates all of the many community efforts Ruppert team members have worked on.
“It is a great honor to receive this award as it helps raise visibility around the need that exists within our communities. It also highlights how the landscape industry is partnering with deserving people and charitable organizations to meet those needs,” says Phil Key, president of the company. “We feel very fortunate to be in a position that enables us to help.”
Value of Community: Budgeting for Outreach
Though Ruppert is a massive company, spanning multiple states, “giving back” is scalable to any level. As a result, it’s possible for any company. In the early years, once the company reached $2 million in sales, they started doing larger events like Field Day.
But Key says an event like this has multiple benefits. “We saw it as more than just an opportunity to give back to our community,” he says. “It was really an investment in our training and team building. It was a way for us to check our skills and identify areas where we needed improvement while creating competitive, yet fun environment and ultimately building morale and pride in our company.”
When the company grew, Key says budgeting for giving became more systematic and planned for over time.
“Once we grew, we set aside a percentage of our annual revenue for giving. We always look for causes that will enable us to not only help in our community but also to train, compete and hopefully continue to build our team and underscore what we value,” he says.
Value of Community: Getting More Involved
Key says charitable involvement and giving is ultimately a very individual decision that a company has to make. But the landscape industry has many ways in which it can offer its talents and skills to those in need.
“Deciding on dollar amounts, degree of involvement and what causes are deserving of assistance can be very personal. It must resonate with a company and its employees,” advises Key. “With the opportunities and successes with which we’ve been blessed comes an implicit obligation to help those who have not been as fortunate and perhaps haven’t had the same opportunities that mentoring, education and certain life experiences provide.”
Having a social conscience is “self-perpetuating,” Key adds. It helps the community, motivates employees and gives them pride in the company.
“Those employees work hard at keeping customers happy because they work for an organization they believe in. In turn, the company will continue to enjoy financial success, which enables more contributions to worthy causes,” Key explains. “Perhaps the most important takeaway for us is that by involving employees directly in the giving, many more people get to experience firsthand the kindness and feeling of goodwill that comes with giving to those in need.”