Jim Wheeler (Chairman Ayers Saint Gross, former UWCM chairman and former President of Ayers Saint Gross), Dana Perzynski (Women United Exec. Comm. member), Meghann Boosinger and Adam Ravestein.

Ayers Saint Gross employees volunteer at the United Way of Central Maryland.

Ayers Saint Gross employees gather at the United Way Women’s Forum.

Blueprints are just the beginning: Baltimore-based design firm shapes the communities it designs

“We engage people and places to create designs that enrich the world.”

It’s not just a statement. It’s a mission.

Ayers Saint Gross, a Baltimore-based design firm, has a portfolio ranging from Maryland’s most impressive university campuses to the Atturaif Living Museum in Old Diriyah, Saudi Arabia. Its most recent project, the Edward St. John Learning and Teching Center at UMCP, boasts multi-tiered technology-infused learning spaces, multi-curricular content delivery features, diverse and open learning floorplans, and even two green roofs.

While Ayers Saint Gross’ services range from architecture to landscape design, the firm’s community work is also complex and thoughtful. Through a 20-year relationship with Baltimore’s Beechfield Elementary School, the firm has devoted more than 500 hours to philanthropy and a longstanding commitment to the United Way of Central Maryland. Former Ayers Saint Gross President Jim Wheeler spent decades committing himself and the firm to the UWCM, serving as its chair from 2015 to 2017.

“Being involved with the United Way is not just about raising money, but also raising awareness and volunteering time,” said Dana Perzynski, associate principal at Ayers Saint Gross.

Perzynski also reflected on a moment of of synchronicity at the United Way’s Project Homeless Connect event.

“Last year, I got the chance to get to know the attendee I was working with, and had a ‘Smalltimore’ moment when I discovered that our firm is working with her church to lead a neighborhood revitalization planning effort for one of the most devastated neighborhoods in East Baltimore,” Perzynski recalled. “During her church services the previous Sunday, she heard about the revitalization plan and what it could do for the community, and she was thrilled that she got to meet someone from the architecture firm who was transforming her neighborhood. It was really wonderful for me, too. Seeing the excitement in her eyes was a defining moment.”

The firm prides itself in everything from the details of their design to their commitment to the community.

“Over the past 10 years, we have raised over $40,000 each year for the United Way during our in-house campaign,” Perzynski said. “During that time, the size of our firm has ranged from 120-170 people. For a smaller company to raise more than $400,000 over a decade is remarkable.

“People who may not normally know who are as a firm are aware of our name because of our involvement in the community. This just happens to be a nice side effect of our commitment.”

The firm engages its employees though office chili cook offs—which also raise money for the United Way— and bring-your-dog-to-work Fridays.

“There’s a morale boost that comes from knowing you’re working for a company that emphasizes community service, and that can create better relationships between leaders and staff,” Perzynski said.

For Ayers Saint Gross, she said, the mission becomes integrated.

“Commit your time, treasure, and talent,” she explained. “Time: allow your employees the time to attend volunteer events or outreach events during work hours. Treasure: host fundraising campaigns. Talent: find a way to use the mission of your company to contribute positively to the community.”

 

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