Who knew turning 75 would involve donating close to $1 million to nonprofit programs, many of which help veterans and the community’s disadvantaged citizens?
Workforce services provider Lee Company, founded in 1944, is celebrating its 75th anniversary in a special way. The company is making $10,000 donations to 75 different nonprofits.
In Columbia, the nonprofit Build and Learn Inc. was awarded one of the donations. Lee Company President and CEO Richard Perko presented the check Tuesday at the Maury County Veteran’s Service Office.
Build and Learn, which was founded in 2008 by director Quinton Jones, is a program which provides individuals with the opportunities to find a job through pre-apprentice job training, as well as building stronger professional and citizenship skills. Many individuals in the program are also veterans.
“I think this is just wonderful,” said Maury County Veterans Service Officer Jay Ramaswamy. “I love working with Quinton, and it’s a great opportunity. I’ve seen first hand how [Build and Learn] has benefited veterans and veteran families, and I’m glad to be affiliated with it.”
Jones, a U.S. Army vet himself, said he “was led to start the program” in Nashville in 2008. Jones, who at the time served as executive director for Nashville’s Minority Contractors Association, brought Build to Columbia and Maury County four years ago.
“Build and Learn, which we started at Pearl Cohn High School, was created to prepare people for a trade and for college,” Jones said. “We had to drop it for a while, but later I figured out that this was what I need to be doing in Columbia.”
Build and Learn also provides services to veterans and disadvantaged or disabled individuals, including performing house repairs. Jones said the $10,000 received will go toward helping three such individuals, although he has a list of several more who have applied.
“We have several projects in mind,” Jones said. “One is to repair the porch for a low-income lady who works at the nursing home, and another for a guy who is blind and needs roof repairs around his house, to re-do his gutters. We’ll also put a few new rails in his house, which will help him move around better.”
The third individual has not yet been selected, but will be chosen by Ward 4 Columbia City Councilman Mike Greene, Jones added.
Perko said it was Greene who initially reached out to him about Build and Learn. The nonprofit was chosen as one of the 75 recipients based on its core mission, which is to help those in need by teaching them the skills to find a proper trade and to lead better lives. Perko said programs like Build and Learn are a very important first step in that journey, and one that benefits not just the individual, but the community at large.
“Our mission is to honor God for our work, and one of the ways we do that is to give back to our communities … and Quinton’s mission really mirrors ours in respect to building tradespeople, but also education, helping people in need and definitely our veterans,” Perko said. “We have a huge need for tradespeople, but we need them to get that first step, develop life skills and get their hands dirty a little bit, and then we can train them from there. I think this is a great partnership for us.”
Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles commented that the donation is a great example of local businesses working together, especially when it is the citizens in need who are the greatest benefactors. He hopes Lee Company’s donation will also serve as an example for other businesses and industries to learn from, especially if they are in the market to give back and help veterans and those in the community most in need.
“This is a great example where local government, a nonprofit and a private industry are working together to help our community, and in this case it’s Lee Company. Government can’t provide all of the solutions, but we can certainly facilitate,” Ogles said. “If you are a business owner and want to get involved, want to help our veterans or our elderly, you can reach out to my office and we’ll connect you with the right organizations that are truly in the trenches doing the work day-to-day.”