Gray Gives Back: Ringing in the Holiday Season in Eastern Kentucky
In the craziness of present wrapping and annual Christmas parties, it’s easy to forget what matters most in the holiday season. A series of storms hitting Eastern Kentucky this summer left thousands seeking shelter for their families. Gray has spent the past few months partnering with HOMES, Inc. to volunteer in the rebuilding of houses and communities in Eastern Kentucky.
“If it was easy, everyone would do it,” shares Seth Long, Executive Director of HOMES, Inc., a Whitesburg, KY, organization that has developed over 265 houses in the region.
With around 50 home repairs executed each year and a rental portfolio of 52 houses, HOMES, Inc. is working hard to revive the Eastern Kentucky community after floods in late July left thousands living in tents and trailers. In just a few months, HOMES has completed the renovations of more than 7 properties for dislocated families, largely in part to Gray’s continued support.
Since the 5th grade, Project Executive Josh Murtaugh has spent his summers volunteering with HOMES, Inc., an organization that his father, Jim Murtaugh, was passionate about supporting. Helping to renovate homes each summer was where Murtaugh first developed a love of construction and serving people, and was his father’s way of giving back to their hometown of Whitesburg, KY. So, when floods this summer sent the community into unimaginable distress, Murtaugh was connected with his first summer job once again.
Immediately following the floods, Gray leadership offered the opportunity for Gray team members to take paid time off for the initiative. Cameron Mueller, associate of regional service for the Gray Service Team, has volunteered twice—hanging drywall and fixing subfloors in a highly damaged home that would eventually become a shelter for a displaced family. “When Gray told us that not only would they let us go to help but would also pay for us to take the time away, it was a no brainer,” said Mueller.
On Mueller’s second trip, he was able to meet the family that would be moving into the house he helped renovate. “The woman we met was living in an area where the flooding was the worst; her entire family lived on the same street and lost everything. To me, hearing the personal story was such an important part.”
More than 50 Gray team members have taken time off work to travel to Whitesburg and volunteer in the renovations. “I’m amazed by how much everyone at Gray has helped, going out of your way as an organization to help us here in Eastern Kentucky. I’m so thankful and appreciative for this relationship,” said Long.
In the middle of executing one of Gray’s largest projects to date, a Gray project team came together to volunteer as a group. Project Executive Jeff Scott shared that ultimately it was what the team took away from volunteering that mattered the most.
“With team members and their families growing up in Eastern Kentucky, we were motivated to go and help. It’s a part of Gray’s values. What we did and how we helped was greatly appreciated, but what we took away—the appreciation that we could help someone that was desperately in need— was what mattered most.”
Senior Project Manager Mark Ruley also stepped up to the plate to help HOMES, Inc., whose teams were in desperate need of more tools. Taking advantage of his relationship with electrical supply house, Louisville Winletric, Ruley received thousands of dollars worth of donated tools from Milwaukee Tool, who also provided a significant discount on the remaining tools needed. Mechanical subcontractor, Mullins Mechanical, stepped in and wrote a check for the remaining amount.
None of the Eastern Kentucky volunteering could have been possible without a committee of 14 Gray team members who came together to organize the relief mission. Office Engineer Abby Sallee coordinated with volunteers to book hotels and travel accommodations. Project Controls Coordinator Hannah Biddle managed Gray team member donations, totaling almost $12,000, along with financials and expenses associated with the relief efforts.
And it wouldn’t be the holiday season without some presents under the tree! Project Engineer Lilly Duley-French partnered with Direct 2 Kids, a local organization providing gift bags for children, to sponsor 35 children in need in Whitesburg, KY. The gift bags provided basic necessities, as well as toys that were uniquely picked for each child. Lilly was able to hand deliver the holiday gift bags to the children in Whitesburg, volunteering countless hours to put a smile on children’s faces.
From August to November, there has been over 900 hours of volunteering across Gray. It’s efforts like these, as a Gray family and beyond, that make the holidays a little bit sweeter for families in need. With winter arriving and many people still in harsh living conditions, the plan for the rest of the year remains the same: getting as many people as possible into permanent housing. “If we can do anything to help them get back into a normal lifestyle, that’s more rewarding for me as an individual than anything else I could do the rest of the year professionally,” says Scott.
A special thank you to the Eastern Kentucky Relief Volunteer Committee:
- Abby Sallee
- Ale Walker
- Alex Hilliard
- Brandon Porter
- Cindy Rector
- Cole Tucker
- Dylan Lewis
- Gabe Fuson
- Hannah Biddle
- Joey Badgett
- Josh Murtaugh
- Lilly Duley-French
- Steve Higgins
- Travis Banks
- Huge help from Ned Brown & Patrick McCowan
For more information on HOMES, Inc. visit their website at https://www.homesincorporated.org/.
For more information on joining the Gray family, visit https://www.gray.com/careers/.