Point of Beginning

Sight Lines: Giving Back

August 19, 2009
I’ve been encouraged lately by the number of stories I’ve seen about surveying and mapping professionals who have contributed their time and skills to assist their own communities as well as underdeveloped areas around the world.



According to a recent report released by the Corporation for National and Community Service, an independent federal agency headquartered in Washington, the economic recession hasn’t dampened the spirit of volunteerism in the United States.

The report, Volunteering in America 2009, found that a total of 61.8 million Americans volunteered through an organization in 2008, up one million from the previous year. America’s volunteers dedicated more than 8 billion hours of service in 2008, worth an estimated $162 billion.

Of course, these positive figures will likely come as no surprise to our readers. I’ve been encouraged lately by the number of stories I’ve seen about surveying and mapping professionals who have contributed their time and skills to assist underdeveloped areas around the world through organizations such as Engineering Ministries International (eMi) and Knowledge Well, as well as their own local communities.

One example is R.A. Smith National (formerly R.A. Smith & Associates and its National Survey & Engineering Division) in Brookfield, Wis., a full-service surveying, engineering and consulting firm that recently provided pro bono surveying and field layout services for the newly organized Junior Hilltoppers youth football program in Milwaukee. According to Donald C. Chaput, RLS, director of surveying, the firm supported the program because of its emphasis on youth; however, volunteering is part of the firm’s corporate culture in general. “We believe that providing pro bono services to civic and community groups is part of being a good corporate citizen, so we’ve made it a priority to do that on a regular basis,” Chaput said.

Fulfilling this initiative can become difficult when times are tough and resources are scarce. However, as Chaput noted, “It’s something that has to be consistent and ongoing. You can’t just volunteer when times are good-you have to make it part of your everyday life.”

In addition to volunteering on a corporate level, the firm also encourages its employees to get involved in nonprofit organizations and volunteer activities on their own. The result is a ripple effect that has a far-reaching impact on communities and individuals.

These types of stories aren’t always shared. Perhaps applauding such efforts seems contrary to the humility with which many of these services are rendered. But shedding light on these activities can serve as a valuable catalyst to encourage others to get involved in some type of outreach and can also help draw much-needed support for nonprofit organizations that have a positive impact.

If you or your firm has participated in a volunteer surveying or mapping project, either in your local community or on a larger scale, please e-mail me at pobeditor@bnpmedia.com. Look for stories of other volunteer projects in upcoming issues of POB.