April 24/May 1, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 23
By Steven Feldman
New York—The floor covering industry came together en masse earlier this month to honor its own at the inaugural Footsteps to the Future Gala, held here at One World Trade Center. Honorees Jeff Lorberbaum, chairman and CEO of Mohawk Industries, and Howard Brodsky, co-founder, chairman and co-CEO, CCA Global Partners, along with Peter Dunn, president of CBS Television Stations, were feted for their extraordinary support of Building for America’s Bravest, a program of the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Endowment.
The foundation was started to honor the memory of Stephen Siller, a firefighter who laid down his life to save others on Sept. 11, 2001. Its goal is to continue Siller’s legacy through its programs that support our nation’s first responders and catastrophically injured service members.
In 2011, the foundation officially began Building for America’s Bravest, a program that constructs smart homes for our most catastrophically injured service members returning home. Each home is custom designed to address the unique needs of each individual. Energy efficient, automated and easily accessible—these homes use “adaptive technology” to help our most severely injured heroes live better, more independent lives. The first home was built for Army Specialist Brendan Marrocco, the first quadruple amputee to survive any war. Through October 2016, 56 smart homes have either been completed, are under construction or are in the design stage. The foundation hopes to build at least 200 smart homes throughout the country.
Both Mohawk Industries and Carpet One have been instrumental in the success of Building for America’s Bravest. Mohawk supplies the flooring for the smart homes, and Carpet One members supply the installation services while spreading the word of the organization. As such, Lorberbaum was honored with the Let Us Do Good Award, while Brodsky was given the Follow the Footsteps Award. Dunn received the Tunnel to Towers Legacy Award.
Mohawk was an early supporter of the Tunnel to Towers group and “proudly partners today with Building for America’s Bravest,” Lorberbaum said. “I wish every decision I had to make in life was as easy as this one to support this project and group. For all of us at Mohawk, it was just the right thing to do.”
Over the past few years Lorberbaum has met with and been inspired by a number of the veterans whose lives have been touched by Building for America’s Bravest. “While I respect the bravery it takes to go to war, I’m amazed at the bravery each of these men have shown since they came home. I’m always impressed with their determination and positive spirit by which they lead their lives every day.”
Lorberbaum humbly deflected the focus back to the veterans. “For me it’s about recognizing the tremendous spirit of these veterans and expressing our appreciation for the Siller family. While I am really proud of the role we have had in this, I’m more proud of the veterans and what they have been able to accomplish since they moved into these houses. [The homes] have given them a renewed sense of independence and freedom that has influenced all aspects of their lives. They are embracing life and reminding us that we should do the same.”
Lorberbaum reminded the audience that there are about 150 more seriously injured veterans waiting for smart homes. “As we celebrate how far we’ve come in Building for America’s Bravest, let’s all commit to doing whatever it takes to help those veterans as well.”
Brodsky, meanwhile, praised Mohawk for its involvement in the foundation. “No one could be a better partner to us than Mohawk and the team. When Theresa [Fisher] and Charlie [Dilks] went to visit the Mohawk executives, it took about three seconds for them to say they would provide all the flooring for all the smart homes.”
He also praised Frank Siller for the work he is doing. “Over the course of history, there have been people who make goodness out of tragedy. Frank, with the loss of his brother, had this passion for doing good. There are very few souls like Frank’s in the world who have that spirit, that charisma, that can take you in with his heart. Frank is one in a million to drive what is being done, and I don’t think anyone could do it like Frank.”
Brodsky then cited an article in the New York Times asking whether corporations have souls. “A company should be about more than doing business. It should be about doing good. I believe CCA and Mohawk are all doing the right thing because we do have souls. We are so proud to be part of the Siller Foundation and what’s being done.”
Brodsky has been driven by these veterans who put their lives on the line for this country. “We have seen these amazing veterans who have catastrophic disabilities come to our conventions and speak to us, dine with us, dance with us. And we see their hearts. And when you see their attitude and spirit, they don’t have disabilities. They’ve come back with something much stronger than anybody could have. I’m blessed to be part of this.”