The weather here in Michigan turns cold and gray, and the vibrant multicolored leaves that brightened October’s rainy days are now dull and scattered on the ground. Inevitably, I’m behind on my Christmas planning and already starting to feel some pre-holiday stress.

But then comes Thanksgiving--the day when many of us gather with friends and family and pause to count our blessings. In that moment, I am reminded of what is truly important. Indeed, I find every year that I have been blessed beyond measure.

This year has been especially difficult for many in the surveying profession. Widespread layoffs and cuts in pay and benefits due to the economy have left many feeling frustrated and discouraged. Yet I’m inspired by the stories of surveyors reaching out to help others during these challenging times. Just a few examples:

• Richard Smith, owner of Smith Surveying Inc. in Morristown, N.J., for years has donated all of the surveying services required by Morris Habitat for Humanity. “When I investigated Habitat for Humanity, I discovered it to be an organization that was more than worthy of my support,” Smith says. “The local impact of this group has been inspiring.” Last year, the firm surveyed 13 different sites, including providing boundary surveys, title research, topography, wetland location surveys, utility surveys and stakeout, and other related services. This year, the firm has been hit hard by the economy--yet it continues to make giving a priority. Smith Surveying recently prepared the final location survey for the Morris Habitat’s 37th home.

• John Wittneben of Wittneben Surveying in Estherville, Iowa, has donated his services in whole or in part to help create a disc golf course and two soccer fields for his local community. He’s also working on a pro bono boundary survey of the 251-acre Fort Defiance State Park in Estherville. He serves on the Estherville City Council and the Excel Estherville Steering Committee, is president of the local Chamber of Commerce and the Friends of Fort Defiance, and is a board member of the local Rotary Club. In fact, it was Wittneben’s involvement in the Rotary Club that inspired him to give back whenever possible. “The Rotary Club motto, ‘Service Above Self,’ gets you thinking about all the things nobody is doing, and then you say, ‘I could do that,’” Wittneben explains. “Volunteering makes you feel good about yourself and has the added benefit of improving the area where you live, work and play. It’s a win-win situation.”

• Thirteen surveying firms (and counting) recently joined with The Matthews Co. of Fountain Valley, Calif., to launch Surveyors Helping Surveyors 2009, a gift-card program designed to help bring Christmas to the families of surveyors who are out of work due to the economy. (More details on this story can be found

Countless other stories undoubtedly exist−individuals and sometimes entire firms quietly lending a hand. As I reflect on my blessings in this season of Thanksgiving, I’m grateful to be involved with a profession that does so much for others. Thank you for inspiring me.

Share your thoughts on this column at To contact the editor, send an e-mail to