When NBAA's Annual Meeting and Convention last made its appearance in Atlanta in 2007, the association inaugurated a new community benefit program that aimed to foster a bond with the local area and the host airport by building playgrounds for needy organizations.
"NBAA recognizes that the communities around the airport provide a lot of support to us on a host of different levels and we have chosen to give back to these same communities by organizing these community builds," said Maureen Cameron, NBAA's marketing director for convention, seminars and forums.
The program returned this year after a one-year hiatus and saw an army of volunteers tackle improvements and renovations to the Brookhaven Boys & Girls Club, located two miles from DeKalb-Peachtree Airport, home to this year's static display. According to Bill McBride, Home Depot's senior director of corporate aviation and a member of the NBAA show's local committee, the facility, which provides a safe place for working parents to send nearly 500 children every week after school, was in need of repair. After it was selected by the local committee as the site for this year's community build, the youth club's administrators presented the project organizers with a list of needs.
In addition to the construction of a $50,000 aviation-themed playground, the nearly 400 industry volunteers–some of whom pledged their services months in advance–also built an outdoor classroom, a garden and a 200-foot-long concrete retaining wall to divert rain runoff. A gym used by club patrons for indoor soccer, which had suffered wall damage from errant kicks, was repaired, and the volunteers also leveled and refurbished a group of outdoor volleyball courts, used not only by the children but by adult community leagues as well.
Another of the day's major accomplishments was the refurbishing of the teen center, an important part of the building, according to McBride, who was one of the project leaders. "The boys and girls club is about young adults helping children so you've got these teenagers who go out and work with the kids as part of their program, for a specific sporting event, a reading event or a mathematics event, then they go into what we call the teen center to relax and unwind." The room, which had falling ceiling tiles, offered the teens little space to do homework or socialize. The volunteers repaired the room and installed desks and study areas along with flat screen televisions, which share wall space with new aviation-themed artwork such as a cockpit and a runway view. A table converted from an aircraft elevator furthers the aviation connection.
The community "giveback" concept began three years ago when NBAA partnered with Home Depot on the construction of a playground at an elementary school near Fulton County Airport in honor of NBAA's 60th anniversary. While the program continued the following year in Orlando, with the building of a playground near an apartment complex, last year's build was eliminated due to the economic situation. "Last year it was very clear given everybody's budgets and the cuts we had to make not only at NBAA but also all of our members, that we couldn't expect them to send their folks in early to be on a project like this," said Cameron.
Faced with similar constraints this year, the Atlanta local committee took matters into their own hands. "This time our local committee decided that they wanted to do this because they see the value in giving back to the communities near the airport," said Cameron. "What they did was organize a grass roots effort to come up with all of the funding for this project from local companies as well as members."
That effort, led by McBride and Christine Ison, O'Gara Aviation's v-p of marketing, succeeded in raising more than $100,000 in donations and contributions from companies large and small to fund the project. They also partnered with the local non-profit charity organization Hands On Atlanta to handle the project logistics. The group worked with NBAA and the club to manage the program and decide which tasks the volunteers could reasonably complete during the one-day build.
In the days leading up the event, preparation such as delivery of supplies and building materials was done by local volunteers marshaled by the organization. Some of the group's volunteers returned on Sunday to work with those from the business aviation community. "This whole outreach program is about business aviation reaching out to the community and this is going to leave a lasting impression for hundreds of kids on a daily basis, year after year after year," said McBride.