January 16, 2018

Service to the Community

Habitat for Humanity Project Site

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?" 

—Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in a speech given in 1957 to group in Montgomery, Alabama


As in Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s day, we live in a world where poverty, hunger, homelessness, poor living conditions, and insufficient health care and education systems still plague the country. All too often, the need for help can overwhelm potential volunteers.

“What’s important is that we do our part,” said Erinn Silva, a Senior Environmental Planner at GPA Consulting and the chairperson of the firm’s Service Committee. “It’s not up to us to save the world; it’s to do our part—whatever that is.”

GPA joins a growing list of firms around the country that value service to the community. For GPA, about to celebrate its 15th anniversary, giving back to the community figured early in the work culture. Richard Galvin, GPA’s Vice President since 2007, expressed a desire to support the efforts of Para Los Niños, a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising children out of poverty. “He had a real desire to reach out to the community, especially around the holidays,” Erinn said.

In February 2017, GPA formally established a Service Committee to organize projects for employee volunteers. In its first year, the committee organized employees to join a Habitat for Humanity project in Pasadena and quickly put together a donation drive to raise money for animal rescue groups in areas affected by the Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria.

As the firm continues to expand—GPA increased its staff by 35 percent and opened a new office in Sacramento—the committee wants to conduct three to four service projects every year, with tentative plans of having at least one dedicated to each office.

“The intent is for us to spread service projects around,” Erinn said. Each office has expressed interest in tackling issues in the community in which they work. For example, she added, homelessness is an issue in downtown Los Angeles and the staff would like to focus on those specific needs. As the committee plans for 2018, the goal is to have a location-based service project for each office. However, Erinn added, there will be projects that can include everyone in the firm.

One such company-wide project in the works will be focused on helping those affected by the Thomas Fire. The Thomas Fire, the largest wildfire in California’s history, burned nearly 282,000 acres in Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties and forced the evacuation of more than 104,000 residents, including two members of the GPA family.

Studies have shown that volunteering promotes happiness, health, and gratitude among those participating in service projects. “I think it’s about connection,” Erinn said. In a world that is technologically connected but lacks in face-to-face interaction, volunteering one’s time in the community brings people together for a common purpose, in turn, developing compassion and understanding. “It’s good for our hearts to have that connection,” Erinn said.