Friday, December 05, 2008

Something positive for a change

Found on the NYT website, this article tells of a meeting nearly three years ago between Nancy Epstein, the chief executive of Artistic Tile, in Secaucus New Jersey and Nancy Biberman, the president of the Women’s Housing and Economic Development Corporation, a nonprofit group known as Whedco.

From the article

Epstein offered to donate 120 tons of older and discontinued ceramic, concrete and porcelain tiles to Ms. Biberman for her 128 apartments. Unlike many commercial developers, Ms. Biberman did not need large quantities of similar tiles and could use Artistic’s variety of small lots.

After Whedco placed tiles in bathrooms, kitchens and common areas this summer, 60 tons — worth about $250,000 — remained unused. Much of it sat outside Artistic’s warehouse on pallets, some in open boxes that exposed ceramic moldings, finished crowns and tiles costing up to $30 each. Another load sat so long in a trailer nearby that its legs had sunk into the asphalt.

Serendipity ensued in the form of Paul Eisemann, who refurbishes brownstones in Brooklyn and who volunteers in New Orleans, where he teaches home-building skills. With the hurricane debris largely cleared and the frames and walls of new homes going up, Mr. Eisemann and community leaders in New Orleans turned to outfitting bathrooms, kitchens and other rooms.

Mr. Eisemann learned from Artistic that more tile — enough to fill at least four tractor-trailers — was sitting in Secaucus.

Mr. Eisemann contacted Mary Croom-Fontenot, executive director of All Congregations Together, an alliance of religious groups in New Orleans that has rebuilt 142 homes with volunteer labor and donations. Her group, along with, another nonprofit group in New Orleans focused on rebuilding homes, was excited about the prospect of getting high-quality tile.

Rev. Scott Sammler-Michael, minister of the Accotink Unitarian Universalist Church in Burke, Va.,had taken some congregants to New Orleans to help in the rebuilding effort. His group offered $3,000 to pay for one tractor-trailer load of tile to be shipped to Louisiana. Before he could write a check, a New Jersey trucking company that did not want its name publicized agreed to haul the first load without charge. Two trailers picked up the tile in October.

To ready the tiles for shipping, three workers at Artistic’s distribution center spent three days repacking the first 47,600 pounds of tile. The tiles were sorted, crated and shrink-wrapped and filled a couple of dozen pallets. “We want to make sure it goes to a good place,” said Gerard Esmail, the operations manager of Artistic’s warehouse.

Mr. Eisemann and Mr. Cramer are now focused on making sure the remaining two-thirds of the tiles end up in New Orleans.

“It seems like it’s been a really long haul, making hundreds of phone calls and e-mails and putting details together,” Mr. Eisemann said. “But big dreams cost the same amount of money as small ones, so dream big.”

Thousands of thanks to these wonderful, caring people.

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