I first met Jon Longo when he attended a Task Force Meeting I was running for Blitz Build, a first time effort of the Greater Springfield Habitat for Humanity Chapter to construct a home in 10 days. This had been accomplished in other chapters, but never in our small but growing chapter. At the time, I was a newly retired Corporate CEO jumping into my first big project with Habitat as Director of Blitz Build. My skills were in organizing but I knew little about building homes.
Our Task Force had met several times, was filled with enthusiasm and energy, but was clearly lacking anyone with real construction leadership that could direct a disparate group of over 300 volunteers on an extremely tight timetable. Jon had recently met the then Director of GSHFH who asked if he would sit in our meeting to see what we were doing. Jon listened and then made some suggestions at the end of the meeting. I was impressed with the substance of his input and sought him after the meeting. I asked about his work and learned about the amazing things he had done buying and fixing up distressed properties in our city on a quick turnaround basis. I listened to how he selected his tenants, helped them work through a budget to determine if the units were affordable, how he helped some through tough times, and about the affection he had for the people who worked for him. I knew Jon Longo was the person to make our ambitious project happen.
Fortunately Jon agreed to become Construction Manager for Blitz Build. His job on this project and the commitment he has made to our chapter since has touched everyone involved at all levels of our organization, including the needy families we serve.
The rules for the American Dream-Builder Award request that the Testimonial explain how the nominees' actions have serviced and impacted the community. In the simplest sense, over the past year Jon Longo has lead our chapter in learning how to build more houses faster to better serve our community.
It happened quickly as Jon earned the respect and admiration of our organization by becoming the “heart and soul” of Blitz Build. Although surrounded with many good hearted and committed people, Jon was the inspiration that led to an overwhelmingly successful project, one that excited and engaged over 300 volunteers and 40 suppliers, many potential new Habitat sponsors, the general public via the news media coverage, and the family moving in. The success of this project showed our chapter that we could build more houses faster using the Blitz Build approach and the construction template Jon Longo put in place. The success of the project led our chapter to commit to a significant increase in the number of homes we will build in the next 3 years to our national organization. This led to an $80,000 grant from the national organization to help fund additional staff. In fact Jon is leading the construction effort for Blitz Build 2, our plan to build 2 houses in 10 days that begins October 23rd.
Between Blitz Builds, Jon has devoted his time and talents to laying the foundation for more orderly and efficient construction on all of our projects. He outlined a Construction process, set up a materials warehouse, helped reorganize the efforts of our various volunteer groups in prioritizing projects and completing several that had lingered too long. He established the basis for longer term, on-going relationships with key contractor groups by committing multiple projects to them in which they would be paid, in return for their providing some work on a gratis basis. He played a major role in hiring and training a new Construction Manager, which was critical because the transition came at a time we also were hiring a new Executive Director.
Jon's ability to inspire our organization comes not only from his competence in construction but from his strong spirituality and his genuine caring about people. He has a quiet calm to him that inspires confidence and commitment. He is extremely organized so people know what is expected. He works with the team and becomes one with them. He finds time to get to know something about many of the volunteers, which goes a long way to cement their commitment to work on future Habitat projects. In fact, all the key members of the initial Blitz Build Task Force have committed to work on Blitz Build 2, in large part because Jon continues to provide the Construction leadership. His ability to attract new suppliers/contractors to our work reflects on the credibility he has earned with these groups over the years.
Lastly I would share one small story form last year's Blitz Build that says so much about Jon. There was a toothless, homeless man who was largely incoherent, named Charles Reilly who came by the site day one at lunchtime. Jon made an effort to greet him and invited him to have a sandwich and drink. He then told Charles that he was welcome any day for breakfast and lunch as long as he would work on the project. Jon found odd jobs every day for Charles and Charles became part of the team. He even came to the dedication(even though there was no “free lunch”). I had no doubt when the project was over that Charles Reilly enjoyed it more than any other volunteer we had.
Jon's input has touched us all, from the homeless man to yours truly, the Corporate CEO. A year later, our organization is prepared to double the number of homes we build each year for the needy in Springfield , in large part, because of the impact of Jon Longo.
Respectfully Submitted by,
Board of Directors, Greater Springfield Habitat for Humanity and Project Director of Blitz Build 1 and 2