Camcraft & Parkwood School: 20 Years of Building Community

Many companies will create a fund raising program for a “one off” disaster relief campaign or for a particular employee’s health emergency. It is less common to find an organization that sustains community outreach efforts for the long term.

screen-shot-2016-10-05-at-12-36-02-pmIn 1996, Bern Bertsche, currently Chairman of Camcraft, then serving as President, reached out to the students of Parkwood Elementary School. Mr. Bertsche’s vison was to bring these children into a successful work environment that would encourage them to continue in their education and help them realize there are no limits as to what they can aim to achieve in life.

“One of Camcraft’s fundamental mission imperatives is to invest in our community,” he said. “I saw this as an opportunity to get our employees engaged and the kids in the neighborhood engaged.”

Twenty years later, students and employees continue to meet at the Camcraft plant in Hanover Park, where the students are given the opportunity to learn teamwork, cooperation and creative thinking outside of the classroom and experience positive communication with adults who act as mentors.

screen-shot-2016-10-05-at-12-37-42-pm“The longevity of this program shows how much it means, not only to the students, but to the employees of Camcraft,” said Lori Ribaudo, Camcraft’s OCC coordinator. “Everyone who donates their time to the program receives a great sense of gratification and enjoyment in return.”

A previous student who was in the Camcraft-Parkwood program almost a decade ago, Israel Alvarez, still remembers his participation quite well. “The Camcraft employees were really nice,” he said. “They would work with us on whatever we were building and ask how we were doing in school.”

The experience obviously made an impression on Israel because he began to think about a career in manufacturing and later joined Camcraft as a full time employee.

When we arrived, they took us on a plant tour and talked about teamwork and a process on the production floor,” he recalls. “When we went upstairs and started our projects, we did it as a team following a process – just like the employees on the floor.” 

Israel certainly is a perfect example of Mr. Bertsche’s vison of the program as a way to encourage continuing education. In addition to being a full time Camcraft employee, Israel is currently pursuing a four-year college degree in Mechanical Engineering.

Read more on how Parkwood program began or watch the video “Laugher, Learning, Lego,”