Turns out that Christina DeBono‘s sister was my neighbor for years. We watched Christina’s nephews speed up and down our road daily while shaking our fists and yelling “Get off my lawn!”
That alone would be interesting enough. Christina owns ClearTech AV, a very influential AV integration company in Southern CA. They are a fantastic customer and wonderful people. On top of that, her sister lived right up the street from me in my tiny little town in the foothills of the Sierras.
It gets more interesting. We found this out after Christina spent a magical day with our team presenting and teaching us about SAVe, the Sustainability in AV initiative.
I decided it would be a good idea to get SAVe Certified. It would be good press for us. We could use the little badges in our email and virtue-signal to the world that we are neat folks that care. I was taking this class for all the wrong reasons.
By the time we were done, Christina’s infectious passion changed us. It changed the way I look at volunteerism, philanthropy, and our company.
Christina and Kelly (yes, our Kelly) cooked up this plan some time ago. Their plan was to do something bigger than make a cool Zoom-room. It was a plan to raise awareness in our profession that we could do something meaningful. I walked away understanding what that truly meant. “Meaningful” does not mean grandiose. It does not mean humongous, over-the-top. We could do small yet important things that can make a big difference.
Our team spent the day spitting out ideas where we can actually make a difference. We could do more energy-conscious control programming. We could research and recommend ethical e-waste recyclers. We could use our skills to help people that may not be able to afford them. We were empowered.
Improve Your Tomorrow
That is when I remembered meeting Joshua T Smith of “Improve Your Tomorrow” at an airport on my way to InfoComm. I mentioned something about these folks in a social post. It’s a great organization. They have a simple goal. They exist to help young men of color graduate high-school, graduate college and thrive in our communities.
For me, I thought initially that it would be amazing to create a pathway into our industry for some diversity. AV is mostly middle-aged white dudes. It was time to change that. After meeting with IYT, that has not changed, but now I just want to help. No strings attached. This group is doing the right thing for the right reasons. I happened to be in a peculiar place to help at the right time. They were moving into a new space and guess what?… they needed AV. They needed AV. We’re in AV. So, I put my hand out to our factories.
What happened next is so moving it is hard to type.
Without exception, without any caveats, everyone I asked said yes. And not just yes, but “Can we do more?”
- Salamander Designs donated beautiful AV furniture
- Listen Technologies donated a tour-system and all the ADA gear they needed
- Philips Professional Displays donated a 75-inch touch screen
- Audio-Technica donated array microphones
- And Q-SYS, holy cow, donated network, cameras, speakers, amplifiers…
There was only one problem. Who was going to put it in? Improve Your Tomorrow’s HQ is in Sacramento, and I called my friend Gary Johnson from AVI-SPL. Without hesitation, they donated the labor to install it all. Instantly. Just like that!
I am not surprised by the generosity of the good people with whom I surround myself. This shouldn’t surprise anyone. Chris Discotto, Mikey Shaffer, Ray Biba, Matt Garner, Reid Peterson… to name a few.
These people are not just coworkers or my bosses – these are great friends. Nobody would be shocked by their desire to help. I was just shocked that I hadn’t done something like this sooner. I am surprised how easy it is to make a giant difference for some folks that may have a higher calling than I do.
I am surprised and blessed that it took my neighbor’s sister, Christina, and of course Kelly to get me to realize that we could pull stuff like this off. I am surprised by how proud I am to have the first ever SAVe certified rep-firm and programming house.
I am proud. And you should go to www.SAVeAV.org and do something. Now. Don’t wait. It costs nothing. You can make a difference right now. Start today.
Oh…and Christina! Your sister’s kids drive WAY too fast.