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Getting Out of our Traditional Roles by Giving Back


By Andrew Nickerson, PE, QSP/QSD, ENV SP
Senior Project Manager, Psomas Engineering Team

The Psomas Paper Yacht Challenge

Every year at Psomas we host our Paper Yacht Challenge in Downtown Los Angeles. It’s an amazing charity event that takes us out of our traditional roles as surveyors, engineers and environmental scientists as we give something back to the community. We’ve been doing this for nine years now, and it’s definitely worth the time and effort.

First of all, the Paper Yacht Challenge is great for the community as a whole. It raises awareness about worthy local organizations in addition to raising money for them. The homeless crisis is a major issue in Los Angeles, especially in Downtown with Skid Row only a few blocks away. This year the beneficiary is the Skid Row Housing Trust, which provides a conduit for permanent housing for the homeless. We raised close to $60,000 for the Trust, a record-breaking year for us.

This event provides a way for our employees to get involved in a non-profit organization and really make an impact. It gives us pride in our company that we’re giving back to our local community. This is especially important for our younger engineers, scientist, planners, and surveyors who may not have had the opportunity to get involved in a charitable event before this.

Paper Yacht Challenge 2016 Winners (from left to right): Angie Perez (3rd), Paco Villavicencio (1st), and Anastasia Benavidez (2nd)

Of course the day is a way for us to promote the Psomas name and get recognition for some good works. We have seen that as the event has grown in popularity, the awareness of the Psomas name has grown across the Downtown community. But more importantly, sponsoring and organizing events like the Paper Yacht Challenge creates a more well-rounded company. You’re not viewed just in terms of the services that you provide. You’re also viewed as a valued member of the overall business community and the general community at large.

How do you decide what kind of event to put on? Tap into your local offices and ask your staff for ideas. The idea for the Paper Yacht Challenge came from one of our employees who was on vacation in England back in 2008 and saw kids sailing little paper boats across a lake in a small English village. The concept of a community event took root, inspired by the beautiful fountain right in front of our corporate headquarters.

In addition to raising money for a good cause, the Paper Yacht Challenge has turned into a carnival-like community event for people that live and work in the area. As an announcer calls the races, dozens of contestants (adults and kids alike!) race small decorated paper boats across the 60-foot central fountain in the plaza at the front of our building. Some yacht builders create pirate ships, or comical rafts, while others are very artistic. I have to say, a great paper yacht will put a smile on your face. And then there are the costumes. People take the opportunity to dress up as sailors, pirates and more. It’s a lively event, with a DJ, a silent auction, great food, including a local LA institution, Pink’s Hotdogs, and often a caricature artist or face painters.

Raising money for a worthy cause, getting your employees involved into the community and elevating awareness for your company, all good reasons for an undertaking of this nature.  And finally— it’s just fun.

 

Photo credit: Skid Row Housing Trust

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