"There’s more to business than profit and loss statements.”
That was the lesson Mike Mason, CEO, and Brodie Bruner, executive vice president of Weathermatic, took away when a colleague they had worked alongside for 20 years passed away in 2012. “It really brought a perspective to us on life and on the business,” Bruner said.
Giving back is a sentiment many in the industry believe in. There are quite a few larger corporations in our business that contribute major funds to a variety of charities and scholarships. There are also thousands of landscape professionals who volunteer their time. From those who travel once a year to Arlington National Cemetery to help maintain those hallowed grounds to those offering pro bono services to the less fortunate in their own neighborhoods, we see countless examples of charitable projects both large and small.
So if an owner of a small company wants to pay something forward, where does he start? Because Weathermatic is in the irrigation business, Mason and Bruner were inspired to create the “Save Water, Give Life” initiative, to help the billions of people across the world who don’t have access to clean water. “For the places we go to, it’s more than just water, it’s life,” Bruner said.
From the very beginning, they wanted their customers to be involved in this social cause. So “Save Water, Give Life,” which was launched in 2012, uses the water that customers conserve as the benchmark for their charitable donations. Weathermatic takes the total number of gallons a client saves, through conservation, and offers its own corporate funds to bring those gallons of clean water to countries in need. “It’s not an estimate, it’s the actual water bill reduction,” Bruner explained.
While the water can’t literally be brought to the countries in need, “Save Water, Give Life” partners with other charitable organizations such as “Living Water International.” They have embedded drilling crews that can dig wells for regions in need.
“We’re not able to be onsite for every well that we fund because we have day jobs running our water conservation business,” Bruner said. But he is able to fly out several times a year to drilling sites, bringing along customers to show them firsthand the work their conservation ef forts have made possible.
“The part that has been really important to us is engaging our customers in the drilling of the water wells,” he added. “That has been very fulfilling for us—to see our customers become engaged in the cause and make it their own.”
Another example of ‘paying it forward’ comes from a self-described ‘soccer mom’ of two young boys, Carla Wittstock. In 2008, a friend’s charitable work inspired her to form stock’s husband, Greg, is the the Aquascape Foundation. Witt- founder and chairman of the board of Aquascape, a manufacturer of water gardens and water features for pools and ponds.
Hearing that her friend had moved to the Dominican Republic to manufacture water filters for the got to be a way for us to incorporate poor, Wittstock thought, “There’s company’s resources and know-how what we do.” She wanted to use the to bring rainwater harvesting to countries in need.
Within a few weeks of launching the foundation, Wittstock got a call from the I.N. Network, which works in 36 countries around the globe, and other charitable services. The building schools and offering camps organization needed help bringing clean water to a neighborhood in Ghana, West Africa. They couldn’t dig a well in the area, so they were hoping Wittstock and the newly-formed Aquascape Foundation could install a rainwater harvesting system.
That call came in May and the system was installed the following January. “I stepped into it not knowing what I didn’t know,” Wittstock said. Even with the short timeframe and the steep learning curve, the project came together. “I was quite surprised by how smooth everything went,” she said.
Since that first project, the Aquascape Foundation has continued to team with the I.N. Network, which maintains the rainwater harvesting systems once they have been installed. Wittstock and everyone else involved volunteer their time and resources to these projects. One hundred percent of the donations the foundation receives goes directly to providing clean water.
Volunteers even purchase their own plane tickets when traveling to install the rainwater harvesting systems. Those volunteers include employees from her husband’s company. “They go there and work their butts off,” Wittstock said. “It’s really humbling.”
Wittstock is always onsite during the installations. However, because her two boys were so young when the foundation was formed, the family always had to stay behind. Now that her oldest is 16, he will be tagging along for the first time on the January trip. He will help with an installation in Uganda. “I’m extremely excited to have him see what we’ve been doing since he was a little boy,” Wittstock said.
Eventually, she would also like her other son and her husband to be able to go on one of these trips. “My 13-year-old isn’t ready,” she said. The family has done mission work together in the Dominican Republic, but she’s waiting for her 13-year-old son to get a little older for him to be prepared for the strenuous work required of her volunteers, who put in long days of manual labor in 115° heat.
Wittstock and her volunteers don’t mind the hard work. “It’s just something I do because I love it,” Wittstock said. “It’s just a great way for us to give thanks for all that’s been given to us.”