Hometown heart

July 13, 2015 -  By
Last summer, the LawnAmerica team sponsored and staffed a charity lemonade stand. Photo: LawnAmerica

Last summer, the LawnAmerica team sponsored and staffed a charity lemonade stand. Photo: LawnAmerica

For Tulsa-based LawnAmerica, no local need is too big or small to fill.

LawnAmerica’s impact is rooted in much more than the lawns of Tulsa, Okla.

The company’s altruism seeps into every crevice of the community, sustaining Tulsa’s disadvantaged in countless ways. Recipients of LawnAmerica’s generosity can be found in Habitat for Humanity homes. In shelters for the abused and homeless. At the Little Light House preschool for kids with special needs. And at the company’s farm, where it empowers local foster children with life skills.

And that’s just the start. LawnAmerica donates 3 percent of its gross sales annually to local nonprofits, schools, churches and families in need. It does so through cash, in-kind donations and donated services. In 2014, LawnAmerica had $6 million in sales and gave $180,000 back to its community.

“We have always believed that giving back to the community we live in is just part of why we exist as a company,” says LawnAmerica President Brad Johnson.

That philosophy stems from the influence of parents, friends, books and education.

“But having been a business owner for 30 years now, for me, my Christian faith has from day one been part of our values, and continues to be,” Johnson stresses. “The older I get, the more I see that business, and life, is not all about us. It’s more about 
others and serving them.”

Lemonade aid

For hours every Wednesday last summer, in the heat, in the rain, LawnAmerica employees were mad at work pitching lemonade. Theirs was no ordinary lemonade stand, either. It was a Keith’s Ice Cold Lemonade Stand, one of many across Tulsa raising funds and awareness for a $24 million building expansion at the Little Light House, a charity LawnAmerica has supported for more than 25 years.

When it was all over, LawnAmerica had raised more than $18,000 in contributions for the Little Light House and donated an additional $10,000 of its own.

“Construction on the expansion has begun,” Johnson says now of the impact the fundraiser had, “building more classrooms so that the hundreds of kids on the waiting list will soon have a school to go to.”

Working the lemonade stand was just one of LawnAmerica’s meaningful 2014 community service projects. For the National Association of Landscape Professionals’ Day of Service, the entire LawnAmerica staff—45 of them—went to work at Johnson’s alma mater, Will Rogers High School. LawnAmerica donated $6,000 in materials and 200 man-hours to renovate the school’s front lawn and install new landscaping.

“It’s now more of an inner-city school, so it was a meaningful project for me,” Johnson says. “The building itself is beautiful and on the National Register of Historic Places, but the grounds needed some work.”

Betting the farm

Lawn-America-info

Graphic: LM Staff

Three years ago, Johnson and his wife, Becky, moved to a 20-acre farm 30 minutes outside Tulsa, fulfilling a longtime dream of settling in the countryside.  The unique property was already set up for a horseman’s lifestyle, with a barn, riding arena and pasture. The problem was, the couple aren’t riders themselves.

“It wasn’t long before I started to ask myself how we could share this beautiful farm and outdoor setting with others,” Johnson says. “It leads back to the stewardship question, of using what God has blessed us with to help others and make a difference in our world.”

The Johnsons, drawing on their advocacy of kids over the years, began hosting foster children and youth in need at the farm, rallying volunteers from their church for help. But a visit to the nonprofit Crystal Peaks Youth Ranch in Oregon last June was the true catalyst for change, inspiring Johnson to make a nonprofit of the farm.

When 20 acres adjacent to the Johnsons’ farm came up for sale last year, LawnAmerica was quick to purchase them, naming it Oh Be Joyful Farm.

Currently, two families with kids from the foster system live on Oh Be Joyful Farm. And this summer, LawnAmerica began hosting kids from a local shelter for foster children there. Through horseback riding, goat milking, berry picking, woodworking, hiking and fishing, LawnAmerica intends to enrich the lives of the foster children.

“Our goal is to teach these kids some basic people and business skills they can take with them to the workplace in the future,” Johnson says. “Getting kids out in the country, working with animals and plants, getting dirty, all these things can be great tools in healing and building hope into children’s lives.”

Throughout the summer, Oh Be Joyful Farm volunteers will work with foster children on the farm. Such opportunities enrich volunteers’ lives just as they enhance the lives of the recipients, Johnson says.

“I think giving back helps 
cultivate the caring culture we try to build here at LawnAmerica,” Johnson says. “It’s not about us. It’s about helping others, in whatever we do.”

 

About the Author:

Geraci is a freelance writer based in Cleveland. She has worked as a professional journalist for more than 15 years, including six years as a writer for the Chicago Tribune. A graduate of Allegheny College and Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, Geraci began her career as an editor at a newswire service in Washington, D.C., where she edited and distributed press releases from the White House and congressional leaders. She went on to become the community news reporter at the Jackson Hole Guide newspaper, winning two national feature writing awards. Her other experience includes working as a book editor in Chicago and as a professor of business communications at Cleveland State University.

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