Competitors in business work together in charity Ellicott City agency gets new roof free

January 17, 1993|By Frank Langfitt | Frank Langfitt,Staff Writer

Mike Gaulin of Annapolis made his way across the long, flat roof yesterday morning popping in screws as though he were planting tulip bulbs. Gary Drennon of Baltimore followed behind, screwing in each one with an electric drill that pierced the cold air with a high-pitched whine.

"This is amazing," said John Callanan, standing in the driveway documenting the work with a camcorder. "These guys showed up today at 6:30 and they are just whipping through it."

"These guys" amounted to nearly 50 laborers who came from around the Baltimore area to put a new roof on the Ellicott Enterprises building in Ellicott City.

For free.

Ellicott Enterprises is a private, nonprofit vocational services and rehabilitation center for developmentally disabled people. It helps teach food preparation, wood fabrication and other skills to about 100 people with disabilities, including cerebral palsy, epilepsy and mental retardation.

The 12-year-old roof has leaked badly for quite some time. The cardboard panels of the building's dropped ceiling have buckled and employees have had to put out buckets during rainstorms.

Ellicott Enterprises recently tried to get public funds for a new roof, but never got very far because of budget constraints.

"The state wouldn't give us the money and the county wouldn't give us any money and everybody was standing around getting wet," said Mr. Callanan, the center's director.

Last month, Dale Todd, a roof consultant in Laurel, read about the problem in a local newspaper and went to visit.

"This is what really got us," said John Sinelli, pointing to a fire alarm system in the back of the building's kitchen. Mr. Sinelli, who works with Mr. Todd, said that the alarm system was covered with water when he first saw it.

Mr. Todd called some of his colleagues and soon had nine contractors willing to donate their time.

"It's fun because these people are competitors," said Mr. Todd, as he looked out across the roof at the mass of men and a few women. "They work against each other every day." But yesterday? "Absolute harmony," he said.

Mr. Todd, president of Roof Systems Design Inc., said he decided to organize the effort out of a sense of citizenship.

"My first job out of college was with the Rouse Co.," he said. "I like to think they taught me my civic ethics."

"This is a barn raising, essentially."

In additional to the nine contractors, roofing supply companies from Savage, Jessup and Linden, N.J., donated insulation and a man-made rubber lining for the 14,600-square-foot roof. Mr. Sinelli estimated the cost of the job at a minimum of $160,000.

Everyone was dressed for the weather and the occasion yesterday. Mr. Gaulin wore a blue University of Michigan sweat shirt and about a day's growth of beard. Mr. Drennon had on his black Oakland Raiders watch cap, a bright red sweat shirt and plastic kneepads.

Mr. Todd distributed about 100 gray, hooded sweat shirts that read: "We Raised The Roof At Ellicott Enterprises, January, 1993."

Amid the whine of drills and the chugging of gas generators, Peggy Shearn, president of Ellicott Enterprises board of directors, marveled at the effort.

L "It's just really" -- she struggled for the word -- "noble."

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