Rebuilding Neighborhoods | In the most disadvantaged neighborhoods of the Twin Cities, Urban Homeworks focuses the combined resources of individuals, churches, businesses, government entities and other nonprofits to transform foreclosed, condemned or boarded properties into dignified, quality places to live.
The following is a transcript of Ryan Companies CEO, Pat Ryan's inspiring story shared at Urban Homeworks' 2016 Perpetuate the Hope Luncheon:
I’m Pat Ryan from Ryan Companies and I’ve got a little bit of a spin on the story that David just told you. Coming from a different perspective, I think there are a lot of you that can maybe understand it a little differently. I was thinking about how I would title this and I think the best title is “Hell is Full of Good Intentions.”
I got a call one day from a good friend of mine, Terry Becker, who used to be the Board Chair of Urban Homeworks, and he said, “Ryan, I gotta introduce you to this organization.” I really didn’t know at that junction that Collin Barr (North Region President, Ryan Companies) had been involved and currently sits on the board. But, Terry asked us if we would come and help build a home on the North side, which is a great thing for a construction company, right?
It was a great bonding opportunity; I distinctly remember that warm, May day when we all gathered and David was there leading the team. I think his real job was to make sure we didn’t hurt ourselves on the job-site. We had fun, we bonded, but what I remember most vividly was: here’s this guy at Urban Homeworks, he had self-confidence, he had a smile from ear to ear, and he wasn’t afraid to give Terry Becker a little grief from time to time (he calls him the donut boy, actually). By the end of the day, I knew that I wanted to get to know David better and I didn’t know what that journey would hold.
So, we got together for lunch downtown and David told me a story. Out of that, he told me that he had been incarcerated; that he had (I think) one kid at the time, and he had relocated to the Twin Cities to build a better life not only for himself, but also for the child. Wow, who wouldn’t be moved by that story.
At the end of the lunch, I suggested that he join the union and become an apprentice - we would sponsor him. Jim Person, who runs our field operations, in fact did that and David became an apprentice in the union. I got reports about his job performance from time to time and they were good. He was a hard worker, he was punctual.
And then JP came in one day and said, “You know, David’s been tardy the last couple of times. What should we do?” I said, “You know, we gave him a chance. We need to deal with David the way we would deal with anybody else.”
One day, David didn’t show up for work. The first time I’ve seen him since then is right now.
You see, what I failed to recognize is that I wanted to give David an opportunity for a better life not only from an altruistic standpoint, but because we’re also looking for more diversity in our organization. He’s a bright, young, hard-working guy that could really make a contribution to the organization. But what he needed beyond this opportunity, was a community. And we didn’t give him that. He needed a support structure to show him what it was like to manage money, to show him what it was like to show up for work on time not just tomorrow, but every day. And we took that away from him when we coerced him to leave Urban Homeworks and join Ryan Companies. I think that what happened there is similar to how Urban Homeworks approaches its job. It doesn’t just build one home for a community on a block, it builds out the whole block so that there’s a community. When David was working for us as a laborer, as an apprentice carpenter, he was an island in and of himself.
So, David, I want to apologize.
I didn’t do my job. As I said, hell is filled with good intentions. I couldn’t be happier for you, I couldn’t be happier for the promotion you just received, and I think back…if you had stayed at Urban Homeworks, you’d probably have Chad’s job by now.
We are so thankful for Pat Ryan’s honesty and transparency. This, we believe, is what redemptive development is all about: creating a space for individuals from across the social and economic spectrum to really face each other. Thank you for the story that David just told you, investing your time, and for sharing your journey!