Chain reaction

Photo: ©iStock.com/BrianAJackson
Photo: ©iStock.com/BrianAJackson

Over the last three years, as I’ve been involved with the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP) Community Stewardship Awards program, one thing has remained constant: the committee members’ focus on inspiring others.

This awards program is an 
initiative of the association’s 
public relations committee. It was created to bring awareness to the good works done by many companies in the green industry. The goal is to share the message that companies of any size can make a difference. In fact, this supplement was initiated to do just that—get the word out and inspire others.

A few months ago, after we wrapped up judging for this year’s Community Stewardship Awards, I happened upon a tragic but inspiring story about the power of one company’s generosity.

In October 2012, Richard Specht and his wife, Samantha, lost their 22-month-old son, Rees, to a drowning accident in their backyard pond. The Spechts, who have three other children, live in Sound Beach, N.Y.

“It happened two days before Hurricane Sandy,” Specht, a teacher, told Yahoo Parenting in April. “Then we went through the storm and lost our power for two weeks and it was a nightmare on top of a nightmare.”

The shining light amid their 
sorrow were the people who came “from all over” to help them. One of those helpers was Bill Kelly of Kelly Brothers Landscaping in Coram, N.Y. The company fixed up the Specht’s yard—gratis—filling in the pond, removing a gazebo, and grading, seeding and sodding.

There were others who helped the Spechts who, like Kelly Brothers, wouldn’t accept repayment, so the family decided to “pay it forward.” They created a nonprofit called Rees Specht Life. The organization’s flagship program is the distribution of Rees Specht Life cards, which read: “Possession of this card is a solemn promise to pay it forward and perform a random act of kindness…”

To date, nearly a quarter million cards have been distributed by the organization and others. The hope is the cards’ recipients will, in turn, carry out a good deed and a chain reaction will occur.

Just one example of the power of Rees Specht Life’s mission and paying it forward is the story that caught Yahoo Parenting’s attention, and mine, in turn.

Specht received an email from a server at a Times Square restaurant with a photo of a receipt showing a $3,000 tip on a $43 tab. It was accompanied by a note to the server explaining the Rees Specht Life initiative. It turns out the big tipper is a former student of Specht’s. He’s also a Broadway performer and he wanted to “pay it forward” to a restaurant worker who’s always shown him kindness.

“We lose track of the fact that it’s the small things we do that cumulatively make a difference,” Specht told Yahoo Parenting. “I want people to focus on those small acts so we can regain that sense of community and compassion and respect.”

There’s no doubt Kelly Brothers Landscaping had no idea it would be one catalyst in a massive chain reaction of giving.

“I just wanted to do something,” Kelly told me. He was working for the Specht’s neighbors at the time of the accident and heard about what happened to Rees. “I was heartbroken. I just wanted them to feel good about their place.”

He didn’t do it for recognition or an award. He just did what he believed was the right thing to do.

That’s the most inspiring story there is.


Reach Palmieri at mpalmieri@northcoastmedia.net.

Photo: ©iStock.com/BrianAJackson

Marisa Palmieri

Marisa Palmieri

Marisa Palmieri is an experienced Green Industry editor who's won numerous awards for her coverage of the landscape and golf course markets from the Turf & Ornamental Communicators Association (TOCA), the Press Club of Cleveland and the American Society of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE). In 2007, ASBPE named her a Young Leader. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Journalism, cum laude, from Ohio University’s Scripps School of Journalism.

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