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November 30, 2016
Community involvement

It’s the time of year to give back and be thankful. At Pepper, we try to maintain this mindset throughout the year by volunteering with different organizations, but the holidays bring a special opportunity for reflection. Family and friends always seem to top the list, and equally important is a place to gather and call home. This year, Pepper contributed to the effort of helping one person find his way back home.

Veterans make up roughly 11 percent of the homeless population. Lewis Morris is one of those veterans. A retired Marine, Lewis has struggled with homelessness for years. That is, he used to struggle. Four months ago wheels were set in motion to help him find a place to call home. And not just any home, but one with which he was already quite familiar – his childhood home.

Even though it was rundown and dilapidated, Morris found himself returning to his childhood downtown home where he would sleep in the backyard. He simply wanted to be close to the only place that has ever felt like home.

In a combined effort between the city, local assistance programs and generous individuals, the Morris family home is now back in his own hands. The effort went beyond securing ownership to making the house habitable. That’s where we, along with Rebuilding Together, Fifth Third Bank and various other organizations and volunteers, came into the picture.

Pepper has long been involved with Rebuilding Together, from being a founding member of the local Indianapolis chapter to volunteering at community events.

Jason Johnson and I visited the home to identify the drywall work that needed to be done.  Jason worked with Tony to put a plan in place to have our carpenters help get the home ready in time for Lewis to move in. Yesterday, we were there when Mayor Hogsett handed over the keys to Lewis.

Through donations from Pepper, other individuals and organizations, the house received new flooring, plumbing, paint, carpentry, electrical, roofing, siding and lawn improvements.

And just like that, through the generosity of countless individuals, Lewis Morris is back home. Compared to the large commercial buildings we construct, it was a small project for us, but it still made a big impact.

Rebuilding Together preserves and revitalizes houses and communities, assuring that low-income homeowners, particularly the elderly, disabled and families with children, continue to live in warmth, safety and independence. Their goal is to make a sustainable impact in partnership with the community. The organization provides free assistance to people who own their own home but who, because of physical limitation or low income, are struggling to cover the costs of home repair. They also help renovate or improve one veteran's home every November and work with the Colts Playground project.

About the Author

Heather Siemers

Heather Siemers, CQMVice President, Operations Improvement Leader, Indiana

Heather Siemers began her career in project management and quality management, before being promoted to the position of operations improvement leader, where she oversees Pepper Indiana’s lean program. While serving as director of quality management, she became an advocate for lean construction, integrating the lean principals into the quality program and championing team education and training. Heather is Army Corps of Engineers Construction Quality Management (CQM) certified. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Building Construction Management from Purdue University, and she holds an ASHE Healthcare Construction certificate.

Heather's industry involvement includes serving as Vice Chair for the Core Group of the Lean Construction Institute (LCI) Central Indiana Communities of Practice group, where she has spoken about Lean Thinking & Technology. She serves on the steering committee for the Wabash Valley Lean Network, is a council member of the Top Notch Lafayette advisory board and serves on the board of Rebuilding Together Indianapolis. Heather is involved with the ACIG peer groups for lean and quality and with the Associated General Contractors (AGC). She is also involved with Purdue's Building Construction Management (CM) program, where she has served as a guest lecturer and advisor.