When Allentown, Pennsylvania (ABE) Ramp Agent Rob Tyler learned about a volunteer opportunity with American’s Military and Veteran Initiatives team for a playground build in Austin, Texas, he couldn’t wait to sign up. “I’m a member of the Black Professionals Network Employee Resource Group (BPN) and received an email from the group’s leader about the volunteer opportunity,” said Rob. “I immediately called my fellow ramp agent and military veteran Maurice Minnifield and told him about it. His response was ‘let’s go’ and off we went.”
The pair used their employee flight benefits to fly from ABE to Austin, Texas on Tuesday, April 27. Not knowing anyone when they arrived, they weren’t sure what to expect but were soon welcomed by Randy Stillinger, American’s Manager of Military and Veteran Initiatives and his team. American’s Community Relations team partnered with HGTV television personality Carter Oosterhouse’s organization Carter’s Kids for a two-day playground build at Blazier Elementary School.
When Rob and Maurice arrived for their shifts, all they saw was a level dirt area with holes dug. Along with 25 other volunteers, Rob and Maurice used hand tools and power tools to assemble the playground pieces, pour concrete and level the rubber softening material on the ground and by the end of the day, the playground was completed.
“We were overwhelmed that Rob and Maurice flew all the way down from Allentown and couldn’t have been luckier to have them volunteer,” said Randy Stillinger. “Their work ethic was phenomenal.”
The following day, a playground dedication and ribbon cutting ceremony was held, with Rob and Maurice front and center holding the ribbon. “I felt so much pride in working on this project,” said Rob. “It is great to know that I work for an amazing company that is still able to make invests in the community and not necessarily with dollars but with team members donating their time. It was an honor to work beside other colleagues from around the country who gave up their time to make an impact in the lives of others.”
Maurice reflects that it was mind-blowing to see the ground transform in one day to a completed playground the next day. “After the dedication and seeing the children play on the new equipment, it made my heart swell,” said Maurice. “Giving back to those who aren’t able to help themselves is what we are here to do.”
While signing up for the playground project, Rob noticed another Do Crew volunteer opportunity the following day and signed up himself, his wife and daughter. “I arrived home late Thursday night and flew back out the next day to Greensboro, North Carolina to support the Special Olympics of North Carolina,” said Rob. “We volunteered at the Law Enforcement Polar Plunge and as a retired Pennsylvania state trooper, I was happy to help. My family and I assisted with feeding the athletes and volunteers.” A long-standing group of active and retired American reservations team members helped to organize the event.
Rob also volunteers his time mentoring children and adults at the local National Association for Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and helps adults find employment through a partnership with the NAACP. In addition, he volunteers at the Prince Hall Masonic Lodge and is on a committee planning a Juneteenth celebration in the Lehigh Valley/Allentown area.
Rob and Maurice have already signed up for their next Do Crew activity in which they will help pack and deliver personal items to homeless veterans in Philadelphia. Rob is planning to attend American’s next playground build in Ft. Worth, Texas in September and volunteer at the Special Olympics event next year.
“I encourage fellow Piedmont team members to take the first step and seek opportunities to make a meaningful difference,” said Rob. “It feels great to see the positive impact we can have on the lives of others. I look forward to Piedmont’s BPN establishing a volunteer group to support our local communities with worthy projects.”