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OP-ED: Contractors give back this holiday season (and year-round)


Mike SalsgiverDuring the holiday season, we are reminded of the importance of giving back to our communities. The construction industry has a strong tradition of giving back by donating time, skills and resources.

As we look around our respective communities, many of the improvements that have taken place over this past year are often the result of a local construction company’s donation. These donations come in the form of covering 100 percent of the project costs, labor, equipment, materials, or the management of the project as a whole.

AGC leaders have recalled involvement in multiple projects over the years, including: donating time and equipment to add onto tracks at both Regis High School and Stayton High School; donating the turf baseball field at Stayton High School as well as installation of a new scoreboard on the football field; donating labor and management to Jared Allen’s Homes for Wounded Warriors to build a 2,800-square-foot ADA-compliant home for a double amputee Purple Heart recipient; and donating over 150 hours to help load, set up and tear down hundreds of trees during the Providence Health and Services Festival of Trees.

I’d like to highlight three impactful projects or organizations that especially exemplify the nature of contractors and the tradition of giving back now and year-round.

Schweiger Memorial Scholarship Fund

To honor the memory of the sudden passing of Forrest and Konrad Schweiger, Advanced American Construction formed the Schweiger Memorial Scholarship Fund in 1999. The fund is comprised of donations that come directly from industry peers – including contractors, insurance companies, banks and associations – and is led by industry great Hal Pritchett, the retired professor who began the Construction Engineering Management Program at Oregon State University.

The fund provides annual scholarships to applicants typically in their junior year of college looking to pursue careers in construction and construction-related fields. A majority of the recipients are from the Northwest and paying their own way through school, and have a genuine passion for the industry. A selection committee, which includes the donors, reviews applications and awards recipients at the annual Schweiger Memorial Scholarship Awards Banquet each spring.

The fund provides a networking opportunity for students who end up interning for a company and meeting people directly in the field, which often leads to a full-time job following graduation.

Perhaps the most moving part of the Schweiger Memorial Scholarship Fund is that recipients join a family and industry legacy. Construction is known for being a very close-knit industry with strong family values, and the fund carries on that tradition by recognizing exemplary individuals who will move on to great things in the industry.

If you or your company is interested in getting involved in the Schweiger Memorial Scholarship Fund, please email

Gales Creek Camp

When Perlo Construction owner Jeff Perala saw his 8- year-old daughter return from summer camp more educated than ever about her Type 1 diabetes and determined to give herself shots, he was impressed. Any experience that could make that much difference in a child’s life in just one week was obviously of great quality, and he wanted to get involved.

Soon he was volunteering at Gales Creek Camp, the only camp in Oregon dedicated to children and teens with Type 1 diabetes. He has now been on the Gales Creek Camp Foundation Board for 15 years and served as president for six years, stepping down only so he could take on presidency of AGC’s Oregon-Columbia chapter this year.

Jeff’s dedication to and involvement in the camp stems from its mission: to teach children they can have active, independent lives with diabetes. Campers also learn the importance of taking care of themselves so they remain healthy in their adult years. A lack of care can lead to severe problems later in life, including loss of sight and limbs. Unfortunately, some families are not as attentive to their diabetic children’s care, so it is extremely important that children learn to care for themselves early in life.

The camp also provides camaraderie. It is a place where children with diabetes can have fun and not feel singled out because of the injections they need to get through each day. That positive experience and critical education are what keeps Jeff volunteering and serving year in and year out.

To learn more about Gales Creek Camp, visit

North Santiam School District

The North Santiam School District has purchased property and started classes for students to build a house. The high school has always maintained a welding shop and a woodworking shop, and as students become more aware of vocational education opportunities, expanding the CTE program into construction was a natural fit. The community in Stayton is fortunate to be home to many commercial contractors, and several of these builders are at or near retirement and want to give back. Larry Gescher, president of HP Civil, helps out by participating on the advisory board of the house construction project. His company recently donated the tool belts and tools for 20 students to help them get up and running at the beginning of the school year.

There are countless other examples of contractors jumping in to help donate. Many Little League baseball teams and youth basketball teams sport the names of construction company sponsors. Construction offices all over the region contain thank you photos of Future Farmers of America participants with their prize pig, sheep or cow that contractors purchase to support our youth.

I could go on and on with examples of charitable construction projects around the state. Being the people who build our modern world, it is easy to say these companies, their leaders and their employees are “amazing.” But they are also shining examples of wonderful people giving back over and over again, without recognition, headlines or credit, to build better communities.

Merry Christmas and my heartfelt best wishes to everyone for a happy and peaceful holiday season.

Mike Salsgiver is the executive director of Associated General Contractors’ Oregon-Columbia chapter. Contact him at 503-685-8305 or

This article originally appeared in the DJC and can be found here (subscription required).

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