Shawnee Community Services – A Life Changing Encounter

Shawnee Community ServicesThis woman changed my life.

We all meet people in our lives that have a profound impact. I will never forget the first time I met Evelyn VanKemseke at the Shawnee Community Services while participating in the Shawnee Leadership Program in 2005.

I knew the instant I met her and saw how she and her staff were serving those less fortunate, that this person and place were special and I wanted to be a part of it.

To really appreciate what the Shawnee Community Center does you had to see firsthand where they were operating from.

Shawnee Community ServicesThe 1,000 square foot old convenience store just West of Neiman on 67th Street in Shawnee looked unsafe to even walk into. Yet when you got inside and met Evelyn, you would have thought she had won the lottery. This petite woman, with a smile on her face from ear to ear, was so eager and excited to speak to our class.

She talked about the many programs that Shawnee Community Services has to help people who need food, clothing, shelter and assistance. I remember her pointing to the empty field next door and gushing about the new building she hoped to build some day.

I thought “What a pipe dream.” but boy I was wrong! I was moved to help by the persuasion and passion Evelyn has for those in need.

Since 2005, Shawnee Community Services has been a special place that we’ve supported.  We’ve played a small part in helping them grow into their new 10,000 square foot facility and that’s really made an impact on the community they serve.

A salute and thank you to Evelyn VanKemseke, Sylvia Terry and Marlisa VanKemseke for the wonderful work and care you give to so many.

If you would like to support Shawnee Community Services, please visit As an added incentive to give to a good cause, Straub Construction Company will match donations up to a combined total of $2,000.

Meet our Director of First Impressions – Sandra Jenkins

Employee Spotlight: SandsHave you ever walked into a room and one person just stood out of the crowd? Like a ray of sunshine, bright and happy?

Sandra, our Director of First Impressions, is our ray of sunshine.

When we told “Sands” (as we affectionately call her) that she was selected for our employee spotlight this month, she didn’t just answer the questions. She took over the piece!

That’s just her way.  She’s always willing to lend a hand. And her positive energy and the way she does life is contagious. The following was from our interview with Sands.

I recall the day that I interviewed almost 8 years ago for the “receptionist” position with Straub Construction. One of the last questions I was asked was “why do you think we should hire you?” My immediate response was “because it’s a perfect fit.” All of these years later I still feel the same way! Every day is a good day. At least for me, because I choose to make it so.

Employee Spotlight: SandsWhen you become part of the Straub family, you become an intricate part of a well oiled wheel. They care about their employees and their employees families…they consistently go the “extra mile” matter what it entails…you feel that you really are in an environment of appreciation.

My co-workers at Straub have always made me feel valued….we work together as a team to contribute to success equally….it is important to all of us to live up to Straub’s core values…because at the end of each day…it is a reflection of all of us as a team.

What really makes Straub stand out in a crowd of employers? You’re rewarded based on your merit – not your title – but your actual performance, every day in the office or in the field.

It’s what you bring to the table that is recognized and acknowledged.

Employee Spotlight: SandsSomething else that makes being an employee of this company a privilege – how many people can tell a story of being ill and having the owner of their company prepare and deliver food to their front door? Completely within the scope of a day’s work for Ernie Straub.

I am not a Midwest girl by birth..I was born in Canada….to a military family and have traveled all over….I am living the dream and working my dream job!”

That’s our Sands – simply one of a kind and the very best Director of First Impressions Straub could ask for!

The Straub Company Picnic is Always A Good Time. We Brought the Raffle Back!

Straub PicnicRecently, we had our annual company picnic.  I always look forward to it because we get to see the spouses and families of our teammates!

Maybe it was because of recent graduations, or just a better frame of mind, but I loved seeing all the kids.  The irony is that when we started the picnics years ago, my kids were the little ones that were taken under the wings of the older Straub boys.  Now it’s mine playing with the younger ones.

Soccer and kickball games, face painting, along with all the other kid friendly activities make for a great afternoon.  I think the highlight for the kids is when the ice cream truck makes an appearance.  Everyone went running when they heard the familiar jingles coming from the ice cream truck!

The fun part of being in a young and growing company is seeing the evolution of the lives of our people.

My family especially looks forward to seeing the new babies and meeting the new members of the Straub Team.  This year, there were four new babies, with the most recent being less than 10 days old!

Another fun twist to this year’s picnic is we brought back the Straub Raffle!

To be eligible you had to have worked for Straub for at least 6 months and must be present to win.  There were ten fantastic gifts to be won, so 25% of our families took a prize home. We had a carpenter take home a UHDTV, there were laptops, GoPros and more!  You can see all of the raffle prizes in the picture below.

But that wasn’t all, if your name was not drawn, you were given a cash prize!  Everyone walks away a winner!

For me, the best part of the day is just getting to reconnect with so many friends.  It reminds us that we truly are a family.  It never fails that at the end of the picnic, Ernie and I and a few others look to each other as we clean up and say, that was the best one yet!

Straub Picnic Straub Picnic

New Look Breathes Life Into Avila University Learning Commons

There’s something to be said about feeling good about the space you’re in.

Doing your best work often happens when your surroundings have a sense of good energy, and studies show that bright and encouraging spaces tend to stimulate learning and productivity.

The transformation of the Avila University Learning Commons is doing just that for its student body. Designed with a contemporary flair, Straub Construction transformed The Hooley-Bundschu Library into a 17,000 sf Learning Commons complete with flexible study areas, meeting rooms and the latest technologies.

The pops of bright colors including the signature “Avila Purple” was used throughout and really makes the space modern.

One of the coolest features of the Learning Commons is the history wall which tells the legacy of Avila University through the use of pictures and text that could hold your attention for hours. Students are enjoying the lounge area that is in the center of the Learning Commons and features comfortable seating and ottomans along with flat screen monitors.

O’Rielly Hall was also renovated and features  15,000 sf of new microbiology, chemistry and general science labs as well as student and faculty support facilities. It’s since been renamed the Marie Joan Harris, CSJ, Ph.D. Science & Health Complex.

Others are taking notice of the transformation – the project has been nominated for an Economic Development Corporation of Kansas City Cornerstone Award and will be recognized at a May 20th event at Union Station!

Here’s a time lapse video of the project:

Mario Gutierrez – How a Mountain Moved the Contractor

Talk about your silent treatment – would you be able to exist in almost total silence if it meant experiencing one of the most life changing moments you’ve ever had?

Mario Gutierrez, an Assistant Superintendent for Straub Construction, did just that when he went on a missionary trip to France.

Mario Guiterrez“I didn’t want to go, in fact, up until I boarded the plane, I almost began kicking and screaming”, Mario jokes. “But at the insistence of my wife and her deep belief in me and our faith, I knew I had to go.”

Mario says that the journey began when his wife of 21 years told him about a dream she had about him going on a trip. His family are devout Catholics and belong to All Saints Parish in Kansas City, Kansas.  In addition, they are active in the Community of the Lamb through which missionary trips are supported.

Upon reaching St. Pierre France, Mario says his hesitancy gave way to feelings of love and appreciation for others.

“I was in a place of strangers where I didn’t know anyone, and no one knew me, but they accepted me with open arms and made me feel a sense of community, love and grace.”

Mario’s mountain retreat was a 6×10 room, hosted by monks. Most of his time was spent in silence with his thoughts and prayers.

“I know I couldn’t have done this without the support of the Straub Construction family.  That sense of community that I felt up on the mountain is the same way I feel about the company.  I realized that the way the company takes care of me and treats me is the same way they treated me on the mountain in France.”

Using words like honesty, work ethic and accountability – all words that make up of Straub Construction’s Core Values – Mario says he took away from the experience a better sense of how to put these words into action and he realized it starts with him.

“Those two weeks on that mountain in almost complete silence moved me to appreciate treating people right and doing things right because we are all here by the grace and love of God.  It’s shared with family, friends and coworkers and how I do my job for our clients.  I think we complain and forget that idea, but [my time on] the mountain helped show me that again. In the busy world we live in today, with all of the distractions and interruptions, we seldom have the opportunity to reflect in silence.  This experience made me realize how important it is to take the opportunity to be silent.”