Building stronger communities
Doing good feels great
If design is our soul, our philanthropic program, JLGives Back, is our heart. Some would say we’ve got an attitude for gratitude – always seeking new ways to use our talents to support our neighbors, partners, and area organizations. We do so by providing time and resources for our JLGers to engage in the community, and also by donating 1% of our billable hours to non-profits who need, but cannot afford, architectural services.
We are also deeply passionate about inspiring the next generation of architects and leaders, and regularly collaborate with school districts and collegiate architecture programs to provide learning and mentorship opportunities to their students.
JLG loves opening our offices, schedules, and hearts to make the world a better place for everyone. Here are a few of the ways we’ve been fortunate to give back:
The Tree House Project
In the pursuit of spreading our joy for the art of architecture and imagination to future designers in the community, JLG’s Sioux Falls team, led by Catherine Dekkenga, spent five weeks visiting the John Harris Elementary School in Sioux Falls, SD. Each week we sat down with a classroom of fifth-grade students and walked them through the wild and wonderful adventure of designing their very own dream tree house.
To do this, we worked directly with the teacher to lead students through design process activities that included learning the design and presentation process, and meeting individually with each of the groups to discuss their unique ideas. Working together, we helped the students learn to collaborate and think critically about the function and aesthetics of their tree house designs. As a grand finale, all three groups presented their tree house design to a panel of JLG jurors, Whitney Donohue, Karst Way, and Jacob Ricke of Sioux Falls. The students’ ideas were artfully demonstrated through storytelling, physical models, 3D models, and floorplan drawings.
Within the JLGives Back program, the JLG team, led by Jonathan Holth and Fawn Behrens-Smith, AIA, worked pro bono with school leadership, the Grand Forks Foundation for Education, and the PTO to support the district in re-envisioning the Phoenix Elementary School playground. With a new playground on land donated from the City, a second and more central neighborhood playground was envisioned for the community. JLG ensured the playground was large enough to ease recess scheduling and be equitably designed for after-school neighborhood use. This effort was a true labor of love with support from multiple companies with roots in the district.
“We were incredibly impressed with JLG’s leadership during this process,” said Kevin Ohnstad, Principal at Phoenix Elementary. “Several JLG employees joined their talents at no cost while providing us with design guidance, community outreach, and completion of this amazing project. JLG was also influential in assisting us with the submission of a community block grant and collaboration with the City of Grand Forks.”
With the final details completed over the summer of 2022, the playground infused vibrant new life into the neighborhood. The sites accommodate up to three classes at a time and bring amenities equitably aligned with other new parks across the City — a large bank of swings, a new multi-person teeter totter, webbed climbing, and a zip line. “This was not a typical project for us, but more so a passion project that touched on all the reasons why we love what we do. It’s never just about buildings, it’s about fulfilling a need and making life better,” said Behrens-Smith. “At Phoenix Elementary, we were able to help transform the way their school functions while joyfully impacting students, faculty, and the entire neighborhood.”
Hearts & Hammers
Hearts & Hammers is on a mission to keep people in the homes they love. The organization assists low-income homeowners who are struggling with deteriorating home exteriors to the point of facing the possibility of losing their house. Hearts & Hammers provides free exterior restorations to keep that from happening. JLG’s Minneapolis office was joined by Greiner Construction to clear homeowner Pauline’s overgrown brush, refresh the landscaping, paint the garage trim, and build a new deck.
Veterans Memorial Park – Al Palmer Visitor Center
Named in honor of Al Palmer, a retired brigadier general with the U.S. Air Force, the Visitor Center at Veterans Memorial Park is a necessary service and support structure for park management, expressed as a gateway/interpretive center for park visitors. The resulting design, donated by the JLG, creates a formal sense of arrival for the new and expansive Veterans Memorial Park. By optimizing the individual needs of City, Park Board, and Veterans groups, this small structure welcomes visitors, honors service members, supports park operations (with equipment storage and restrooms), recognizes sustaining contributors with a donor wall, and provides an interactive educational kiosk that connects visitors with the unique service stories of local veterans.
Children with Hair Loss
Since 2018, JLG’s Katelyn Crider has been making bi-annual donations to Children with Hair Loss (CWHL – childrenwithhairloss.us), an organization that provides human hair replacements at no cost to children and young adults facing medically-related hair loss. Katelyn’s fourth and most recent donation was in April 2022, when she shaved her head after her diagnosis with cancer. One of our JLGers put out a challenge to the firm to support Katelyn’s fundraising efforts, and we blew past the goal of $500 in about 10 minutes. Our JLGers have now donated $4,000 (and 4 expected hair donations!); please join us by visiting https://childrenwithhairloss.us/donate-21/.
Rock the Streets
JLG Rocks, and in 2006 we proved it with a summer concert series in downtown Grand Forks. This event eventually morphed into JLG’s Rock the Streets, a free, annual street dance featuring the Fabulous Armadillos. Follow JLG on Facebook for the latest info on this year’s Rock the Streets.
The 701 Co-working Space is all about collaboration and serving Grand Forks’ local entrepreneurs. The project was designed to give entrepreneurs an open, modern environment where they can work away from home and utilize all the business essentials without all the overhead expenses. The 3000 sf layout can seat 19 members and contains an open workspace, a lounge/stage area, a conference room, secure storage, kitchen, bathrooms, a local art display corridor and a collaborative wall. The 701 Co-working space is strategically located in the heart of Grand Forks’ downtown and will occasionally host local community events. This space has had a tremendous positive impact on local entrepreneurs, as well as the City of Grand Forks.
JLG has proudly partnered with a number of institutions to provide scholarships for emerging leaders, including:
JLG Architects UND SMHS Scholarship
UND Gorecki Alumni Center Scholarship
UND Gary Johnson Memorial Scholarship
UND Gino Gasparini Scholarship
UND Housing Scholarship Endowment
UND Sioux Impact Scholarship
NDSCS Alumni Foundation Scholarship
NDSU Capstone Scholarship
NDSU Endowment Scholarship
Sanford Health Foundation Endowment
Williston State College Housing Scholarship
BSC Honors Club Endowment Fund
Altru Health Foundation Endowment
Bismarck-Mandan Chamber Foundation Community Bowl Training Room Endowment
Lake Region Community College Foundation
University of Mary Scholarship
College Hockey Inc. Scholarship
Extra Life Game-a-Thon
Since 2020, a team of JLGers have spent 24 hours gaming in support of Sanford Children’s and the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. In 2021, the JLG Extra Life crew raised over $5,700 – almost double the team’s original goal, making them #6 in North Dakota and #275 in the nation for dollars raised.