You can never have too much of a good thing – unless it’s an over-abundance of fresh produce coupled with a shortage of storage. That’s the dilemma faced by two New Roots for Refugees graduate farmers. Fortunately, JLL, a firm that specializes in real estate and investment management, stepped in to help out.

The JLL Kansas City office partnered with Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas, setting out to build a brand new cooling storage for the refugee farmers’ surplus produce. “I thought I had taken
on too large of a project with a $6,000 shed requiring about 100 hours of volunteer labor, but our staff donations, JLL’s matching fund program and generous service providers made it all work,” says project organizer Craig Cooper and JLL Senior Vice President of Property Management. “Everyone offered to pitch in and asked ‘what can we do to help?’”

They had 100% involvement from all local JLL employees. Some contributed financially, others in sweat equity building it, and some did both. JLL Chief Engineer Ersel Carr and Operating Engineer Ramiro Paton led the team in prepping the work site, installing the HVAC system and even went back after the volunteer day to repair one of the farming family’s home HVAC system.

They also had the support of three local business partners. Metro Air Conditioning purchased the HVAC equipment for the building; Nabholz Construction bought the insulation; and Unlimited Building Maintenance helped the JLL office reach their fundraising goal and buy the storage shed.

According to Cooper, one of the families had been harvesting crops until midnight or later the day before going to market because they lacked the necessary space to store them. Now, they can harvest on a schedule that works for their family and keep the produce cold and fresh for days at a time.

“Probably my favorite thing was seeing our staff and our service providers living out the role of the good Samaritan and helping those in need,” says Cooper. “It was a team effort, from start to finish; from planning in February, to fundraising in April to building it today. We saw a need and we just said, ‘let’s help them out,’ and that’s exactly what we did.”

To learn more about the New Roots for Refugees program, visit us online at:catholiccharitiesks.org/new-roots-for-refugees