By Mike Ratajski

QK and its team members have been active participants in community service activities in the central valley for more than a decade. There are numerous reasons why we should volunteer. Studies show that volunteers are happier and healthier than non-volunteers. Volunteers establish strong relationship. Volunteering is good for your career and good for society.  Volunteering gives you a sense of purpose.  Many QK’ers have offered time and energy to make the communities they live in a better place for their neighbors and, in many instances, total strangers, some of whom they may never meet.   The following represents a decade of our volunteer activities.

Extreme Makeover: Home Addition

In August 2019, several Clovis QK’ers braved the brutal summer heat and helped build a new home from the ground up for a deserving family in Clovis. A local fireman lost his wife during childbirth and was forced to raise his children, with the help of their grandmother, in the small space they live in. With the leadership and generosity of DeYoung Properties, a new home was built complete with in-ground swimming pool and playhouse for the kids.   Not many QK staff members know this, but a decade earlier, QK helped build a home in central Fresno for the remake of that same television show in 2009. Led again by our generous client, De Young Properties, QK was involved with assisting 5,000 volunteers who demolished a 1955 ranch home that was in serious need of repair and renovations. The homeowner, born without legs and only one fully developed arm, needed a wheelchair friendly home for her and her four children. This project began a decade long list of community involvement and public services that QK has been unselfishly engaged.

QK Volunteers (right to left): Ron Wathen, Scott Zaayer, Jessica Louie, and Jessica’s husband Kevin Louie

I spoke with members of the QK team who helped the television show achieve a better environment for the homeowner, and here is what they remember about that event. Jessica Louie: “It was a very cold day as we waited for the television crew to set up and film the episode. The QK volunteers arrived early in the morning and spent the entire winter day shivering while waiting for the big reveal…and I never met Ty Pennington”. She added, “I saw him, but never met him”. Scott Zaayer: “De Young Properties was the true hero here. They devoted an incredible amount of time and resources for the new home”. He added, “We had to jump through hoops just to get the house staked on the lot.” The home was completed in less than ten days from tear down to opening day. The new home was one of the earliest in Fresno that included a solar energy system cutting electricity use by 75 percent.


The ACE Mentor Program is an afterschool program that introduces students to careers in architecture, construction management, and engineering and oftentimes, other related disciplines. QK’s involvement with ACE mentorship began in 2011 and ended in 2014. I first became involved with ACE in 2012 teaching the students at Edison High School in southwest Fresno all about planning. Other mentors assisted with engineering, architecture, construction, estimating, and even biology. The Aquarius Aquarium Institute, a 501(c)(3) organization, establishes environmental teaching programs utilizing aquariums to help bring educational parity to central San Joaquin Valley students and citizens of all backgrounds and cultural groups in addition to being the organization behind the Fresno Aquarium project. A ten-acre site was donated at the intersection of the San Joaquin River and Highway 99 – a gateway entry site to the City of Fresno. In 2011, the Fresno Aquarium became the selected project to be studied by the Edison High students. The students developed 3-D models and presented their projects at a special event hosted by the Central California Builders Exchange. The previous project was the Dickey Park Youth Center near downtown Fresno. Following the aquarium project, students later chose to select their own projects for detailed studies. The selected project in 2013-14 was a Family Entertainment Center, an all-in-one arcade that included golf carts, video arcade, trampolines, batting cages, laser tag and more. Teaching high school students all about planning, architecture, engineering, and construction can be a rewarding experience.

Lowell Community Gardens

In 2012, QK worked with City of Fresno, Caltrans, PG&E and the Fresno Metro Ministry to develop a community garden for the Lowell neighborhood north of downtown Fresno. QK provided the preliminary site plan, topographic survey, grading plan, permitting, irrigation plans, construction staking, and even helped with construction of the facility. Designed with raised beds for the disabled and thirty garden plots, the community garden “brought people from different walks of life together” and “helped the community spirit bloom” said PG&E representatives. The gardens won a 2012 Green Dot Award in the Service category for designing a resource for green living and a 2012 San Joaquin Valley Blueprint Award of Excellence.

Caltrans State Roadway Clean-Up

On a beautiful sunny day in April 2015, six QK team members met Caltrans at one of their sites to begin clean-up efforts along and near a stretch of state route roadway in the City of Fresno. The trash pick-up included more than two dozen extra large bags of paper, bottles, cardboard, and other garbage and tires, signs, golf clubs, and scratch-off lottery ticket. Golf clubs and lottery ticket? Yes, I found an old set of clubs with no golf bag, and Annalisa wiped the dirt off a lottery ticket, scratched it and won 50 bucks! Yes, it could pay to volunteer in more ways than one.

QK Roadway Clean-Up Crew

Imagine U Children’s Museum

The Imagine U Children’s Museum is located one block east of the transit center in the City of Visalia. The museum first opened its doors in October 2015 with a mission to inspire children through interactive educational experiences by providing multicultural, hands-on learning through the sciences, environmental conservation, and the arts. By empowering children and their families in a fun environment, they seek to transform lives and enhance the community. The 15,000-square-foot building was paid for by a $5.4 million Proposition 84 grant.  The facility, known for its indoor tree house and kid’s auto repair clinic, is in need to expand for additional interactive activities in its outdoor space.   The 18,000 square foot outdoor space represents a great opportunity for the facility to expand as its membership grows. Led by Ron Wathen, QK CEO, Dan Garber, Steve Brandt, and I assisted in the conceptual planning for the unique outdoor space. An additional 15,000 square feet east of this space represents another opportunity for future expansion. The QK Team prepared a plan in late 2018 that includes an outdoor amphitheater, barn, maze, themed play equipment, and unique bio-fuel exhibit so children can learn about energy alternatives at an early age. The project is currently seeking funding.

Much More

These five projects represent specific activities or events. We won’t overlook the many QK staff members who took the initiative to run a charity drive or fund-raising activity and the many employees who donated. In addition, every Christmas season, needy children and families have seen our QK Team fill the boxes in our lobbies with generous toys and gifts that have put smiles on local faces for many years. QK has truly been a leader in volunteerism and charity drives. Thanks to everyone who has been a part of the generous giving of time, money, clothing, food, and toys. Lets keep up the great work!

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