Instead of throwing a party for its 50th anniversary, Blach Construction is giving back to the community. The San Jose-based company will perform pro bono work throughout the year for Sacred Heart Community Service, carrying on a tradition that was started by its founder Michael S. Blach.
Blach’s son Mike, the company’s current chairman, says his father made community service a core value for employees, something that has been passed down to the next generation.
“Our HR folks are attracted to people who want to do things bigger than themselves and help other people,” he adds. “The type of people who want to give of themselves really find a home in our company.”
“It’s a very philanthropic organization,” agrees project manager Katie Ellington. “Coming out of tech, that was extremely appealing to me.”
The construction company’s relationship with Sacred Heart dates back to the mid-’90s, when the nonprofit was initiating a move to a bigger space. The younger Blach says Sacred Heart’s old facility at 802 S. First St. in downtown San Jose “looked like it should have been an auto parts store.”
Once his company was contracted to build Sacred Heart’s new facility at 1381 S. First St., Blach asked his subcontractors to donate materials and time to the effort. By his recollection, the resulting donations shaved more the $250,000 off the project’s cost.
Blach credits Barbara Zahner, Sacred Heart’s then-executive director, with helping cement the nonprofit’s relationship with his company.
“Barbara has a magnetic personality,” he says. “Once you meet her, you’re drawn into what she’s doing.”
When the facility was finished in 1998, Blach says, Zahner was concerned that some clients might not be able to find the new location, so she organized a parade from the old location.
“She got the city to shut down First Street” for the event, he recalls.
The gambit seems to have worked, as Sacred Heart served about 1,500 clients in the new space in its first week, a marked increase from what Blach says the old facility could handle.
“It was super gratifying,” Blach says. “They took a risk in buying the property and making a huge investment in the place.”
Now, after more than two decades of use, Sacred Heart’s building is in need of some renovation.
“The flooring’s taken lots of wear and tear, and there’s work that needs to be done on the roof,” Blach says. “It’s at a point where it needs replacement of big-ticket items.”
Blach says his company will first take care of Sacred Heart’s “No. 1 priority” and build a permanent canopy in the parking lot to keep donations safe and shield volunteers who deal with them from inclement weather.
“The volume of donations is so far ahead of what was envisioned that it all pours out into the parking lot,” he adds.
In addition to making improvements to the nonprofit’s facility, Blach employees are set to volunteer at least 500 hours in 2020 to support Sacred Heart events and drives.The firm also kicked off an internal fundraising effort and will match all employee donations, with a goal of raising $50,000 for Sacred Heart.
Blach says these efforts aren’t company mandated but reflect the results of a survey that showed his employees “were overwhelmingly in favor of performing community service” in honor of the company’s golden anniversary.
“Sacred Heart was one organization that really resonated with everyone,” he adds, “not only because of who they serve but because everything they do is free.”
The company isn’t letting its anniversary pass completely unremarked. An exhibit is being installed at its San Jose headquarters at 2244 Blach Place, Suite 100, to showcase the firm’s first 50 years of achievements, newsworthy events and the people who made it happen.
Ellington says the exhibit is a fitting tribute to the company’s history.
“I’m extremely proud that we made it 50 years,” adds the project manager. “So many organizations don’t see their first or second anniversary.”