By Krista Gerber (Charlottesville, USA)
The Building Goodness Foundation was founded and brought to life in 1999 by several Virginia based builders. BGF is a non-profit construction organization that places value on long-term, well constructed buildings that benefit and aid communities and nations in need. Locally, BGF renovates and constructs buildings for non-profits in the community. Internationally, BGF partners with non-governmental organizations, and together they employ and train local workers to aid in the construction of buildings that impoverished communities are in need of medical and educational facilities.
Employing local workers allows for economic development within the country, and creates opportunities for the workers to gain skills that will enable them to obtain jobs in the future, once the projects have been completed. Local employment highlights BGF’s mission of long term sustainability for the construction projects as well as the communities in which they work and build.
BGF works domestically in Charlottesville, Colorado, and Mississippi. In addition, BGF has a strong international presence in countries such as Haiti, Liberia, and Costa Rica.
Over the past couple of years, BGF has done beneficial work around the Charlottesville area, including the renovation of the front gallery room of the Discovery Museum on the Downtown Mall. The Virginia Discovery Museum is a non-profit educational museum for children, focused on fostering intellectual curiosity and learning. The Museum closed for 5 weeks in 2016 to allow for The Building Goodness Foundation to renovate and revamp the front gallery. The VDM allows for children of all social and economic backgrounds to foster imagination and a love of learning, and the work done by BGF has resulted in an environment that emanates happiness and playfulness with the addition of a STEM Lab, Literacy Lounge, Construction Zone, and a life-sized Lite Brite.
Lindsay Jones, the Director of Operations for VDM, exclaimed that the response of the children, who have enjoyed playing and learning in the newly updated space, has been “overwhelmingly positive.” Beth Solak, Co-Director of VDM, described that they “are so grateful to Building Goodness and Martin Horn Construction for creating a safe, child-focused, educational space where VDM can inspire the next generation of lifelong learners,” and that they “could not deliver on [their] mission of serving all children in our community without the help of Building Goodness and its volunteers.”
The work done by the Building Goodness Foundation has resulted in a great deal of happiness, for not only the staff of the Virginia Discovery Museum, but for the children and families that visit the museum as well.
Internationally, BGF creates long lasting buildings with a focus on health, education, and community. BGF works to repair and construct schools and health clinics in countries such as Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Nicaragua, which are in critical need of such structures.
In 2013 BGF partnered with Family Health Ministries to build a Women’s Clinic and Birthing Center in Tom Gato, Haiti. The clinic was designed by Charlottesville architect, Candace Smith. Candace visited the job site in June of 2015. Candace explained that before the Women’s Clinic was constructed, “there was no medical facility within miles. So women would have their babies in their homes…in their kitchens.” While in Haiti, Candace had the chance to attend a Haitian wedding.
Michael Anello, the Field Manager of the Women’s Clinic and of several other international BGF projects, had developed a close friendship with one of the workers, Nixon, and his family. Nixon was getting married and had asked Michael to be his best man, and Candace was allowed the opportunity to attend. “They welcomed us,” Candace said, "even though we were complete strangers, as though we were part of their family.”
Despite the language barrier, Nixon and his family showed such great kindness and hospitality, even demanding that Candace and a couple of the volunteers come back to their home after a day of work on the jobsite to enjoy refreshments and wedding cake, an extremely generous act of kindness coming from a mere stranger. The people of Haiti have so little, and yet are willing to give so much for nothing in return. Michael detailed that, “Whatever they have, they will share with you, that’s the nature of them.”
Michael Anello was in Haiti when Hurricane Matthew struck in early October. “The winds were horrific, the rains were horrific…” Michael said in a telephone interview. “Knowing there were people living in tarp houses made it even scarier for me. I had good friends who were out there...the devastation was amazing.”
Candace Smith recalls, “When we traveled to Haiti we were able to take extra bags with us. We all had a backpack of almost exactly 43 lb. that were full of nails, fasteners, and hangers—metal pieces we needed to secure hurricane clips that would hold the roof of the building down to the structure during a storm because they didn’t have those sort of metal fasteners in Haiti.” The Women’s Clinic and Birthing Center remained unharmed through the destruction of Hurricane Matthew. Candace exclaimed,“It hung together, we are so grateful it was constructed so well.”
After the storm had run its course of destruction through Haiti, Michael immediately began working to do whatever he could to bring relief to the Haitian people. As a result of the storm, the drinking water of the country was greatly contaminated, so Michael bought 500 containers of water. He also brought rice and began to distribute the supplies to the Haitians.
The Building Goodness Foundation is not a disaster relief organization, but as Michael put it, “these are my friends...there was nothing I could do, but help.”
Everyone at BGF knows Michael Anello. When they hear his name, they can’t help but smile. Candace described Michael as, “generous, fiercely loyal, humorous, and brave, very brave...very caring and protective.” Michael Anello was not only greatly respected but greatly loved, by his crew in Haiti while working on the Women’s Clinic. He emanates a genuine warmth and kindness.
Michael Anello, when asked why he believes kindness to be so important, paused to think before responding. “It makes me feel complete...If I can make one person in Haiti smile each day I’ve accomplished my goal.”
Michael spoke of kindness as a revolving door, a never ending cycle in life. Demonstrating kindness, even in the smallest of ways, gets passed along from person to person, spreading happiness and joy with every act, no matter how small. The Building Goodness Foundation and Michael Anello spread kindness with every building they construct, and with every individual whose life they impact and improve.