Conrad Rensburg and his business partner, Drew Van Aarde, spent years building Absolute Dental Lab, the Durham, NC lab they co-own, but it only took one phone call in 2007 to throw all that hard work into harsh perspective: Rensburg was diagnosed with Stage III colorectal cancer.
After a long battle with the disease, Rensburg realized he had to stop living only for himself and start doing things for others. "We might not have another day to do good for somebody else. I want to leave a legacy of giving," he says. So, in 2012, Rensburg and Van Aarde founded the Absolute Care Foundation, a non-profit organization created to give back to the local community. The foundation is run entirely by the employees at Absolute Dental Lab.
In August, the foundation took on its first major project: a full-home renovation for Gwen Griffis, a local woman who had recently lost her mother, husband and 17-year-old son to cancer; she was struggling to pay medical bills and care for her two other children.
"Their house was literally disintegrating around them and they could do nothing about it," explains Ginny Mueller, Executive Administrator for Absolute Dental Lab and Project Manager for the Absolute Care Foundation. "They were broken financially and had mostly lost hope. Our goal was not only to restore their house, but also their faith and hope."
Mueller and Russ Davis, Absolute Dental Lab's Operations Manager, made a tremendous effort to generate grassroots support. After contacting 200 area businesses and residents by phone and email, almost 50 businesses and 95 volunteers, including some of Absolute Dental Lab's dentist-clients, helped create a new home for the Griffis family.
Renovation specialists from an area contracting company worked closely with Absolute Care Foundation to figure out what needed to be done, and there was a lot: broken windows; rotting floors; crooked walls and ceilings; and septic, electrical and plumbing systems in need of repair.
Everybody jumped in to help where they could. Larry Mancini, a fixed hybrid specialist at Absolute Dental Lab, had experience putting up tile and helped with the backsplash in the kitchen. Ready to get their hands dirty, too, Rensburg and Van Aarde went to work on the porch cleaning out leaves, mice and spiders.
Businesses and volunteers donated more than just time to the project, providing over $40,000 in cash and donations, including construction materials such as tools and sheetrock, appliances, clothes, food, gift cards, flooring, and even bushes and flowers for landscaping the yard.
With everyone pitching in, the project took about one week. Professional crews and community volunteers started work on the house on a Monday and Absolute Dental Lab closed its doors early on Friday so employees could head over to the house and help. Most employees worked into the night that Friday, returning Saturday from sunrise to midnight and Sunday from sunrise until noon, when the keys were handed over. Local news crews were there to capture the moment; the family was overwhelmed with gratitude.*
As the foundation's Co-Director, Rensburg, who today is cancer free, hopes the foundation shows other small businesses they can all do something for the community if each of them gives a little bit. "People just don't know where to start, but once you put the tools in their hands, they're willing to help," he says. "The foundation is a tool to bring everyone together."
The Absolute Care Foundation is currently planning more projects, including a full-mouth rehabilitation for a woman with breast cancer. To learn more or help, visit www.absolutecares.org.
Click the link below to see a news report of the Absolute Care Foundation's inaugural project and the Griffis family seeing their new home for the first time.