The following is a preview from the April 2019 issue of The Scoop, the quarterly printed magazine for Dal-Tile team members. The issue will be mailed to team members’ home addresses and posted in PDF format to myMohawk next month.
For Erik Rapp, caring for elementary school kids growing up in tough economic situations is personal — because it’s something that he experienced himself.
The Dal-Tile Salt Lake City Countertop/Stone Center Manager lived in poverty during some of his own time growing up and said that the help he received changed his life.
“It showed me there’s always days that are challenging and things can be extremely hard … but if you look around, there are many people who care about you — and you can change your circumstances based on what you do with your life,” Rapp said. “I’ve always wanted to try to find ways to take action to help kids who are really in need.”
Rapp said that while meeting with Chantel Wolters (manager of the Salt Lake City Design Gallery) and Larry McCleary (manager of the Daltile and American Olean/Marazzi Salt Lake City SSCs) at the beginning of 2018, the team set big goals for their locations, which also included being even better collectively at their “giving back” efforts within the city where they operate.
“In past years, we had done some one-off philanthropic projects and events. This time, we decided to try take a more organized approach,” he said.
The Salt Lake City Sales team connected with the Granite Education Foundation, an non-profit group of engaged business and community leaders focused on improving educational outcomes for at-risk students of the Granite School District. Nearly two-thirds of district kids live below poverty-line standards. The foundation provides basic needs, programs and educational enhancement services to improve the chances of student academic success and wellbeing.
“The first time we met with the Foundation, they told us about one child who had no soles in his only pair of shoes. Another child had no underwear of his own, so he was coming to school wearing a pair of his dad’s, secured in the back with a hair tie that was chafing his back.” Rapp recalled. “It tears at you that first and second graders are growing up like this.”
Helping with basic needs and a surprise holiday experience
During the year, the team hosted a fundraising car show at the Design Gallery in the summer and raised donations to host two families (who wouldn’t normally have the means to join them) for a daylong outing at the nearby Lagoon Amusement Park with their own families. At their annual Thanksgiving customer appreciation event, they accepted donations to help them assemble “Santa Sacks” for the kids that included a bookbag, a toy and other useful items.
The culmination of their efforts was in December with a special day for around 50 of the most economically disadvantaged students of Magna Elementary School. With donations from their own families and Dal-Tile business partners, the team initially thought about going shopping for toys for the kids. “But when they were asked by their social workers what they would like for Christmas, the kids were unanimous in asking for clothes,” Rapp said. “For some of them, it would be the first new clothes they've ever had. We agreed that new outfits that they could wear to school would have a huge impact.”
At an assembly, the kids learned that they would be taking a special holiday-themed field trip that day. But first — to reaffirm that everyone can make a difference by helping others — they did their own service project, writing Christmas cards and decorating glazed arabesque mosaic tiles to give as ornaments to children being treated at a nearby children’s hospital.
“It was a chance for them to experience the value of doing something for someone else without expecting anything in return,” Rapp said. “The notes they wrote to those patients and the care they took in coloring the ornaments were just amazing.”
The kids then boarded buses and learned their destination: a wintertime ride on the Heber Valley Polar Express, a heritage railroad steam locomotive that offers a scenic 16-mile excursion between the Wasatch and Uinta mountain ranges. During the train ride, the kids opened their gift-wrapped new clothes, enjoyed hot chocolate and even had a visit from Santa Claus.
“It was a great day. Because of their circumstances, these kids may have never even left the town where they live,” Rapp said. “Our teammates in Salt Lake City care deeply about taking care of the customer and doing great things to help our neighbors — especially kids in need — within our community.”
Rapp spoke at the assembly to the kids of Magna Elementary about their special day ahead.
Hand-decorated tiles and cards were created by the kids for other children being treated at a nearby children’s hospital.
The Magna Elementary School kids posed for a photo in front of the Heber Valley Polar Express steam locomotive.