‘We just kept rolling’: EquipmentShare employees’ effort grows to provide more than 45,000 meals

EquipmentShare chef Craig Hindelang and coworker Matt Bade noticed that many kids didn’t have lunch when the pandemic shut down in-person classes. So they decided to do something about it.

They approached EquipmentShare’s leadership about gathering funds to create meals for kids in the community. The company supported the initiative, and Hindelang and Bade got to work.

The project, called No Child Hungry, started as 80 bagged lunches per day for kids who couldn’t get their lunches at school anymore. It quickly climbed to 2,500 meals a day. Since then, Hindelang and his team shifted to larger bags of food, including fresh vegetables from the garden they planted in the parking lot behind the EquipmentShare building, frozen food, milk and bread for families in need of food.

The company has provided over 45,000 meals since the start of the pandemic, and the project partnered with Columbia Public Schools teachers to distribute the meals.

The team also started more widespread efforts, filling two semi trucks — and counting — of supplies that are being sent to aid EquipmentShare communities hit by recent hurricanes

EquipmentShare is being honored with one of the inaugural Kindness in Business awards in the Kindness to the Community category. The awards recognize businesses and organizations that have shown and promoted kindness during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Learn more about the Kindness in Business awards and meet the honorees.

Columbia-based EquipmentShare operates an online marketplace connecting contractors with their peers in the construction industry to rent the equipment that would sit idle otherwise. It was founded in 2014 by brothers Willy and Jabbok Schlacks.

The company fosters a culture of giving back to the community, and Hindelang and Bade’s initiative certainly highlights this, Willy Schlacks said. However, he said each of the company’s employees embodies kindness.

“It’s really neat to see what they’ve done,” Schlacks said. “But, at the same time, it’s no different than employees who would never even want to be known for some things that they’ve done. No singular action is greater than another. It’s all a source from empathy, and kindness.”

Hindelang spoke with Missouri Business Alert about EquipmentShare and its response to the pandemic. Answers have been edited for length and clarity.

Missouri Business Alert: Tell me about the No Child Hungry initiative and what inspired you to start it.

Craig Hindelang: There was a group of us that first got together and approached the ownership here and asked them if it’d be all right if we used EquipmentShare as a way to gather some funds as well to start some lunches during spring break when the kids weren’t going to be in school. It started as a small little project of 80 lunches a day, turned into 2,500 the first week, and then we saw a need, and we just kept rolling with it.

We still do it weekly. Every Thursday, a couple of teachers come and pick up bags of groceries for refugees and single parents in the school district. So we put everything from milk to bread, lots of fresh vegetables, and lots of frozen stuff, too.

NAPA Auto Parts one week brought us $500 worth of books to hand out to the kids. So then we got an idea from that. We kept getting a lot of our employees to donate books and games for the kids. It’s very heartwarming every time you see the kids and you show up with something new that they didn’t think they were going to get. And it was a good way for the teachers to also see their kids. So it was amazing just to see the different kids that would show up, and just see the looks on their faces and know that we were actually making a difference.

MBA: What else would you like to share about the project?

CH: We had a lot of community support. Everything from the Odd Fellows, who donated a couple thousand dollars, to different businesses that jumped in. And a lot of our friends and family from EquipmentShare that just donated money. It was just amazing how that happened and took place.

MBA: How does EquipmentShare create an environment where employees can take on these projects?

CH: The ownership here is very different from other places. It’s kind of an open-door policy. You have an idea, they want to hear it. They want to see what you can do with that idea. Matt and I had an idea. And through the goodness of their heart, they let us do way more than we ever thought was possible to do. And now they kind of have even shifted that to even a bigger thing. So we’re gonna do some disaster relief stuff coming up because of it.

MBA: What is your philosophy on kindness?

CH: You know, kindness goes as far as people let you take it. I believe in, help others, don’t ask for anything in return and good things will happen to everybody around you. So it’s kind of everything that I believe in. I don’t really delve into that too much because it’s just kind of one of those things that’s personal.

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