They spend most of their days in corporate board rooms, on telephones, sorting through reports or attending business meetings.
But Friday, some 70 executives of the Loews Hotels chain traded their workday clothes for white garb resembling lab suits and picked up paint brushes, rollers, shovels, screwdrivers, hammers, garbage bags, brooms and mops.
In an afternoon, they managed to put up a white picket fence, remove debris, build shelves and apply a few coats of paint to the wallsof The Helping Hand homeless shelter on Clay Street in Annapolis.
The executives, staying at the nearby Loews Annapolis Hotel for their annual meeting, helped put the finishing touches on a renovation ofthe shelter as part of the chain's 3-month-old "good neighbor" program.
The volunteer effort, conceived by Loews' president and chief executive officer, Jonathan M. Tisch, is designed to give something back to communities near Loews hotels.
To that end, Tisch sat on the ground Friday, painting the newly built wooden fence outside a townhouse used as an emergency shelter for up to three families at a time.
"We really feel we are a member of the Annapolis community, so we're out here doing something to help the community," Tisch said. "We don't want to be thought of as just interlopers who come from out of town, but as neighbors, as a part of the community."
The Loews executives, who came from the chain's 14 hotels in the United States and Canada, spent the afternoon sprucing up the shelter inside and out.
Some worked up a sweat in the blazing sun, constructing and painting the picket fence or cleaning the yard outside the home. Others cleaned and painted a row house that shelters up six men at a time andan adjoining pantry that provides food for the poor.
Ken Stumpf, a Loews marketing manager, stood in a stairway, using a roller to apply a much-needed coat of off-white paint to the walls.
"This is a great time, really, especially compared to sitting in a corporate office," he said.
"It gives us a chance to do something for our neighbors and, for me, a chance to work off a couple pounds. You can't do that behind a desk."
Tom Negri, general manager of the Loews Annapolis, said he hopes the volunteer effort helps bridge the gap betweenthe hotel and its neighbors on Clay Street, which has been beset by open drug dealing, robberies and sporadic violence.
"To us, there's no difference between Clay Street and Main Street," he said. "This place is right in our backyard, and these people are our neighbors.
Added Rebecca Sinn, general manager of the Loews in Teaneck, N.J.: "We don't want to cater to just rich people. This is our way of working to help people from the places where our employees live and where our hotels are."
As part of Loews' "good neighbor" program, the chain also supports literacy programs, helps launch recycling efforts and donates food, furniture and linens to charities.
Norman Brailey, a member of The Helping Hand board of directors, stood outside the shelter watching the executives labor.
"We've never seen anything like this around here," he said. "We consider ourselves really fortunate to have such good neighbors willing to come out and help us like this."