Feeding bodies and souls

Designscapes’ giving-focused culture makes for healthier communities and happier employees
Designscapes works with Clayton Early Learning and Denver Urban Gardens on educational projects. (Photo: Designscapes Colorado)

Community service has been a part of Designscapes Colorado’s mission since it was founded 25 years ago by Phil Steinhauer.

“I’m one of those firm believers in karma and paying it forward,” Steinhauer said. “We’ve been very fortunate to be in business 25 years and feel like we have the opportunity now to give back.”

About five years ago, Steinhauer said, he started to incorporate that mission to serve the community more purposefully into his company’s culture.

“We’ve always been open to giving back,” he said, but now “we do it in more of a major way.”

Designscapes has teamed up with Clayton Early Learning, a historic school in Denver. Many of the children enrolled at Clayton live in food deserts, Steinhauer said.

Last year, Designscapes helped students plant vegetables donated by Welby Gardens. Employees maintained the garden all summer and harvested at the end of the season. Food produced by the garden is used in students’ lunches, and additional produce is donated to families.

“It was kind of an education [program] as well as a food sharing program,” Steinhauer explained. Designscapes will continue the program this year.

Designscapes does similar work with Denver Urban Gardens. Employees build out the infrastructure, then work with the community on training and education. Steinhauer noted many of these gardens are on public school grounds.

“We’ll have all the parents out and they’ll be laying the sod, but we’ll be supervising and helping,” he said.

Last Christmas, Steinhauer combined his community service efforts with a team-building exercise. Employees spent half a day in leadership training, then split into groups to assemble bikes donated by Giant Denver. However, teams were only given the parts and tools—they had to assemble the bikes with no instructions.

Steinhauer worked with the Boys and Girls Club of Metro Denver to identify 17 kids to receive the bikes, which were selected and sized for a specific child.

Steinhauer said it’s easy for some people to lose perspective in their day-to-day responsibilities.

“We come to work everyday and complain about this and complain about that,” he said. Working in the community helps put things in perspective.

The purposeful drive to give back has helped Steinhauer create a culture and a company where employees want to work.

“I hear all the time when we’re hiring new employees that this generation is looking for a culture more than they are a paycheck,” he said. He noted that he gets asked all the time by potential employees about his company’s community service efforts.

“Our business is very stressful,” he added. “Trying to cram 12 months of work into eight months of the season, tensions are very high.”

However, “when we do this community service, everyone comes together,” Steinhauer said. “It’s rewarding to find that my staff really enjoys” getting involved in the community.

[Related: Give what you’re good at]

(Photo: Designscapes Colorado)

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