Chris White, Boak & Sons Inc. vice president of operations (right) with Johnny Rivers, Vietnam War veteran and recipient of the company's "Got You Covered" roof. Photo courtesy of Boak & Sons.
By Chris Gray
To say 2020 has been a difficult year would be a gross understatement, but it has helped illuminate the essential nature of the roofing industry and the importance of caring for others during tough times.
This is especially true for helping military veterans, many of whom have trouble keeping up with home repairs due to low income or disabilities. The good news is that there is no shortage of roofing professionals willing to lend a hand — even with the difficulties 2020 has caused — as a way of thanking veterans for their service.
In Youngstown, Ohio, Boak & Sons Inc. took this year’s tribulations as a sign to give back to others. The roofing contractor began its “Got You Covered” program, teaming up with the Mahoning Valley Veteran’s Service Commission to give veterans in need new roofs.
“Boak & Sons has always been about giving back, but it just seems to mean much more this year,” said Sam Boak, president and founder. “I hope other businesses like us take the time to open their eyes, take a look around and start addressing the help that is so direly needed right in our own backyard.”
Bryce Curtis of Yellowhammer Roofing in Athens, Ala., is among the contractors that partners with companies like Owens Corning and Beacon Building Products to donate roofs to veterans. He said, however, that the COVID-19 pandemic has taken its toll on participating, specifically due to supply shortages.
“This year there’s just been an uncertainty about anything,” Curtis said. “We love doing that, it’s great and we love helping out the community, but if we don’t have a product we can’t put on a roof.”
In this time of limited supplies and resources, roofing companies are teaming up to help others. Haven for Heroes, a nonprofit formed in December 2018 in Anoka, Minn., provides transitional housing to service members and veterans using a former state hospital campus originally built in the 1900s. One of the buildings on its campus desperately needed a new roof.
McGough Construction, Hoffman Weber Construction and A-Team Construction, all Minnesota-based companies, teamed up in the spring to do the tear-off and new roofing for the building. ABC Supply donated the metal materials while GAF donated a roofing system. In all, around 95% of the project’s price tag came from labor and material donations.
“This roof, when it’s completed, will be in way better shape than the very first day that these buildings were built, just because of the technology and technique and quality of the materials that were sent to us,” said Bart Ward, community leader and veterans advocate who has led development efforts for Haven for Heroes.
In fact, Ward said GAF sent an over-abundance of roofing materials, so it teamed up with the Minnesota Military Family Foundation and A-Team Construction to fix the roofs of two veterans living in the area.
“It’s been a cool project, a lot of people pulling together and working together in a time period when there’s not a lot of good going on in the country,” Ward said. “It’s pretty heartfelt and doing good things for U.S. veterans.”
Lon Smith Roofing donated a roof to Army veteran Fred Robinson, Jr., who is battling cancer. Photos courtesy of Lon Smith Roofing.
One of the most well-known programs supporting veterans is the Owens Corning Roof Deployment Project, a nationwide effort to show gratitude to veterans by giving them new roofs. Since its inception in 2016, the program has provided more than 200 military members with roofs.
Owens Corning partners with Purple Heart Homes to locate veterans in need, and then selects one of its Platinum Roofing Contractors to donate the labor. Signature Exteriors of Lake Saint Louis, Mo., participated in its first-ever project in August.
"It's nice to be able to team up with Owens Corning and provide this type of service, especially to our service people who fought for our country and may not be in a position to take on a large home improvement project that their home desperately needs," said Jeramie Beechler, Signature Exteriors co-owner.
Other companies are spreading the love as well. Beacon Building Products is holding its second annual Beacon of Hope contest, a nationwide contest awarding deserving veterans with new roofs. After sifting through dozens of submissions, the company selected 10 finalists. The three who receive the most votes will receive a new roof, while the remaining finalists receive $2,500 to assist with roof repairs.
“Too many of our veterans are facing PTSD, financial hardship and other health-related issues, all while working hard to provide a basic necessity for their families: a safe place to live,” said Jamie Samide, Beacon’s vice president of marketing. “Beacon of Hope was created as part of Beacon’s giving back to its communities, and we hope employees, customers, and communities come together to help us in our efforts to provide our vets with a ‘Beacon of Hope.’”
The SRS Distribution Raise the Roof Foundation stayed true to its name with a memorable fundraiser at the 2020 International Roofing Expo in Dallas featuring former President George W. Bush and rock legends Journey. The sold-out event and auction raised more than $500,000 for groups that help veterans in multiple ways across the country.
SRS President Dan Tinker and Foundation Board Chairman Ron Ross also returned the good will by presenting the former president with a $25,000 donation to the Bush Center Military Service Initiative, which helps veterans transition back to civilian life.
Roofing contractors create their own opportunities to give back as well. Veteran-owned Golden Hammer Roofing in Jacksonville, Fla., joined Home Depot and American Legion Post 137 to fix a roof belonging to an 87-year-old Navy veteran in September. In June, Lon Smith Roofing donated a roof through its “Roof for Vets” program to an Army veteran in Dallas battling cancer.
In Pennsylvania, Rutter Roofing and CertainTeed replaced the 30-year-old roof belonging to retired Army Sgt. Joe Oberholtzer and his family. Oberholtzer continues to serve as a lifelong member of the Sanatoga Fire Company.
“Here was an individual who not only served his country through military enlistment, but continues to face the challenges and dangers of protecting others in his community, all the while being an amazing husband and father,” said Jackie Daller, director of business development at Rutter Roofing.
MMI Roofing and Carpentry in Nova Scotia decorated one of its buildings with a beautiful tribute to veterans using layered shingles. Photos courtesy of MMI Roofing and Carpentry.
In Nova Scotia, Canada, MMI Roofing and Carpentry found a unique way to honor veterans. The company is renowned for its stunning shingle art, creating everything from company and sports logos to flags using colored shingles. For instance, one of the company’s buildings in Antigonish features the Nova Scotia flag on one half, including the intricate red and yellow lion emblem.
After the flag received a positive reaction from the province, MMI Roofing Owner Matthew MacInnis knew he had to decorate the other half of the roof with something special.
“After doing something like that, I couldn’t just put an armadillo or something on the backside, so what resonates with the world?” MacInnis said. “A tribute to the veterans would be the ultimate thing.”
The design features the silhouette of a soldier at a grave marker set against a hilly green background. On the right side is a stylized poppy used as a logo for the Legion in its Poppy Campaign to raise funds that support veterans and their families. On the bottom of the design in bold letters reads, “Lest We Forget.”
MacInnis and his crew needed at least six different colors and two full days to execute the design. The artwork holds special meaning for MacInnis aside from being a tribute, as his family history includes two World War II veterans.
“My grandparents actually met in the war,” MacInnis said. “My grandfather was a soldier and my grandmother was in operations, and they met, fell in love, got married, and here I am.”
Rutter Roofing in Pennsylvania gave the Oberholtzer family a brand new roof in July as part of its Memorial Day giveaway. Joe Oberholtzer is a retired Army sergeant. Photos and video courtesy of CertainTeed.