treeIt all started with a tree.

The Catalayah Elementary librarian, Andrea James, snapped a photo and posted it on social media. It was an image of the tree that had just been donated to Catalayah by local company Pelco Structural.

This led to a series of conversations, with Mrs. James, Catalayah principal Kellye Shuck, and finally Pelco president, Phil Albert.

When Phil Albert decided to launch his business, Pelco Structural, LLC, in 2005, he was looking for a community in which his business could prosper. The central location of Claremore was a huge draw for Albert. The Port of Catoosa and the easy access to interstates would definitely keep the company in northeast Oklahoma, but why Claremore?

He and his partner opened their business on Industrial Boulevard. Mr. Albert soon realized that the community he had chosen had as much to offer him, as he did it. An active community partner, he has volunteered on many boards and foundations. He is currently the President of the CIEDA board, a member of the Will Rogers Memorial Commission, and then there’s education.

While serving on the board of the Claremore Public School Foundation, the truth about what our teachers and students go through became evident to Mr. Albert. The amount of their own hard-earned money that teachers spend on supplies for the kids at school was apparent. The teachers’ devotion and drive inspired him to give back.

A chance meeting with Mrs. Shuck at a business coalition luncheon two years ago started the wheels turning. A year went by before she approached Albert.

entranceWhy Catalayah? There are a lot of schools that need help. I asked both Mr. Albert and Mrs. Shuck this when I sat down with them separately.

Their answer was very simple, and the same.

“Because she asked.”

What a brave warrior principal, to stand up, day in and day out, and keep asking for things for the kids. This time it worked and the partnership has grown.

Pelco is not just a sponsor of Catalayah education; they are a Partner.

The kids at the school know Mr. Albert. They can recognize him in the hall, because he is there on a regular basis. He visits during the morning assemblies, and stops by to read to the younger classes. The school supply cabinet is bottomless. Pelco fills it up regularly with whatever the teachers need.

Pens, paper, glue sticks.

They have provided a bench to commemorate this year’s graduating class, have plans to build a dock on the school’s pond to enrich the outdoor learning area, and are a major donor for the electronic sign to be installed this summer. Pelco has donated music stands for the violin program, cases of bottled water for state testing, money for library books. Cork strips to display students’ work in the hallways. And of course, the infamous tree that started it all.

pelcoparadeIt’s not all about money, either. Pelco and Mr. Albert make a serious effort to ensure that the students and staff at Catalayah feel important and special. A catered staff breakfast was held at the beginning of the school year, T-shirts were made for the teachers, and sweatshirts were given to the 4th and 5th grade students for them to wear in the Veterans Day parade. Each month, a cake is delivered to celebrate the teachers’ birthdays. Pelco took all of the teachers to an RSU basketball game, gave them shirts and served them lunch. And on Valentine’s Day, Mr. Albert’s business partner wrote a poem, and a Valentine and Pelco candy bar was sent to every single student and teacher.

valentineAccording to Mrs. Shuck, it’s not a cookie-cutter partnership; Pelco makes sure that whatever the students need is what’s done. When asked how she feels about the partnership, all she could say was, “It’s an absolute blessing. An absolute blessing.” In the words of Mr. Albert, “Children are our future.”

Thank you to Mr. Albert and Pelco Structural for investing in our community and our children.

I encourage other companies to follow your lead.