Daily Herald
When work dried up, contractor loans crews for service projects
By Eileen O. Daday | Daily Herald Columnist
Published: 7/6/2010 11:56 AM

Clearbrook, St. Peter Lutheran Church in Schaumburg and Lambs Farm in Libertyville all share something in common: They are among the recipients of renovation work done by a Lombard company, free of charge.

Adjustable Forms is a concrete frame contractor that specializes in laying cement and steel foundations for large-scale commercial buildings, typically high-rises in Chicago.

But over the past few months its union laborers installed bathroom tile in Clearbrook's group homes and new windows in its Schaumburg training center. They also installed cement ramps and driveways for the Lambs Farm residential facility in Libertyville.

At St. Peter's, crew members put a fresh red coat of paint on the church's 19th century schoolhouse, and installed a new backyard deck on another building.

The timing couldn't have been better, said Clearbrook President Carl La Mell.

"Your meticulously crafted handiwork that you performed pro bono has greatly enhanced these facilities during a time when we did not have the resources to do it on our own," La Mell wrote in a letter. "It is truly a gift that will keep on giving."

These projects came after the company was without work - for the first time in its 75-year history - the toll of the economic downturn.

Owner Jim Lindquist, a St. Charles resident, had to let go most of his employees, but he kept on a core of workers and needed to find them work.

"I was looking to bridge the gap between projects not yet started and those that had stopped," Lindquist says. "I had a nucleus of workers I wanted to keep occupied with productive work, and that, coupled with a need we perceived in the community, was how it started."

The company formed the GSB Campaign, or Give Something Back. To date, after working on projects for 14 city and suburban agencies, the company has donated nearly $500,000 worth of projects, officials say.

Other suburban recipients included Lazarus House in St. Charles, Home of the Sparrow in McHenry and Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Lombard.

Lindquist said he asked his workers to submit names of organizations or churches they supported to come up with the list. He moved Clearbrook and Lambs Farm at the top, because his sister-in-law has special needs.

"This has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my career," Lindquist says. "I can't believe the number of thank you notes and letters of appreciation that have come in."

An added bonus, he says, is seeing his employees reap the benefits of their work.

"Hopefully, it has opened their eyes to charitable giving," he adds. "A ripple effect has been for other contractors and vendors we work with, who have jumped on board."

Ultimately, he hopes other companies will pick up the idea and ride out the downturn with meaningful work donations.

"There certainly is a need out there," Lindquist says. "We sure learned that."

For now, their charitable work is on hold. Last week, the company resumed business as usual on a large scale project at Northwestern University.