By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium
BENTON HARBOR — More than a dozen Whirlpool Corp. employees got out of the office and took advantage of the mild weather Tuesday.
Instead of the normal leisure activities, a few workers from the Benton Harbor Technology Center put in some hours on a couple Harbor Habitat for Humanity homes.
The first build was at a house along Agard Avenue in Benton Harbor.
From 8 a.m. through the early afternoon, Whirlpool engineers painted the house’s interior, replaced the foliage and landscaping, and found time to power wash the home’s siding. Among the group of volunteers were Diane Robinson and Kevin Chase.
Robinson, an advanced engineering senior director at Whirlpool, said this was her first time working with Habitat for Humanity through Whirlpool. However, she had done some volunteer work with a previous employer.
“It’s a nice way to get to know your coworkers. Sitting in a meeting together is not quite the same,” Robinson said. “It’s also a way to meet others in the community. It’s especially good for me since I’m new here.”
Chase, an advanced engineering technology and program leader for the kitchen at Whirlpool, said he’s volunteered for the last few years.
Because Chase does a lot of home improvement during the weekends, anyway, he said he had no problem bringing out his inner Tim Allen on Tuesday.
“It’s nice to do something hands-on and get out of the office,” he said. “There’s a lot of opportunities here. At the end of the day I feel great by giving something back and using some of the skills I have acquired over the years.”
Jessica-Rae McFall, a family services manager at Harbor Habitat for Humanity, said this was one of seven houses Whirlpool volunteers had worked on in 2016.
This included houses that were “recycled.”
“These houses come from families who for some unknown reason couldn’t hold the house anymore,” she said. “We choose other families to come in and these new owners put in the appropriate hours in fixing up the home alongside volunteers.” McFall said the new owner of the Agard Avenue home plans to move in by June 30.
Bringing it home
Harbor Habitat for Humanity has worked with Whirlpool since 1999. Whirlpool provides refrigerators and ranges for all Habitat houses around the country.
Because Whirlpool is based in Benton Harbor, McFall said, the company further provides Harbor Habitat houses with washers and dryers.
In the United States and Canada, the home appliance maker has donated more than 168,000 ranges and refrigerators to new Habitat homes, serving more than 85,000 families. Whirlpool has donated more than 41,000 products to Habitat ReStore retail outlets, helping raise nearly $5.7 million.
Whirlpool has engaged thousands of employee volunteers, sponsored nearly 150 homes and donated products to more than 75,000 Habitat families in Africa, Europe and the Middle East. Deb O’Connor, director of global corporate reputation and community relations, said Whirlpool plans to continue to support Habitat through product donations, financial contributions and volunteers.
“We’re committed to making moments that matter,” O’Connor said. “It’s not only important to our company, but also to our employees and communities.”