Published: October 18, 2023
Published: October 18, 2023

Miriam Lavey: Teaming up with Race Car Drivers to Beautify a Community Center

Miriam Lavey, the quality manager of the Aerospace facility in Indiana, helped bring to life her second COLORFUL COMMUNITIES® project. Alongside 56 volunteers, she initiated a complete transformation of the Community Alliance of the Far Eastside (CAFE) neighborhood center in Indianapolis. Despite having a limited amount of time to plan the project, they managed to successfully speed through the event. Should we expect anything less when partnering with Team Penske’s professional race car drivers?

The Castle Skyscraper 

The Aerospace facility in Indianapolis covers 45,000 square feet with a current headcount of around 80. Local chemical management and customer packaging services are undergoing constant expansion, so the facility is expected to experience growth throughout 2024.

Miriam's role at the Indianapolis facility is quality manager, where she is responsible for quality testing inspections and audits. Although she’s been with us since 2021, the PPG building in Pittsburgh has been in Miriam’s subconscious since her childhood.

"My dad's family is from Pittsburgh, so I grew up admiring the Pittsburgh skyscraper. Back then, I always called it 'the castle skyscraper.' My uncle explained to me that it was the One PPG Place building. So now, as an adult, I get to work for the castle skyscraper that I always admired. That is so cool!"

A CAFE Revival

The Colorful Communities project at the CAFE neighborhood center in Indianapolis was the second event of its kind that Miriam helped bring to life. As Miriam says, she was "the head boots on the ground" for the project.

"I was responsible for organizing the entire event and coordinating with the other business units, the architectural team, the benefiting organization, and many more."

This Colorful Communities project is part of the New Paint for a New Start initiative, a campaign that beautified 27 learning spaces around the world from June to August 2023. Miriam knew that a learning institution should be involved, and CAFE was the ideal candidate. The center had various learning spaces for seniors, people learning English, teenagers, the workforce, and a Head Start space for preschool young learners. Moreover, their indoor areas were in dire need of a "facelift." What more could we ask for?

There were eight classrooms, a very long hallway, and it felt so dark. The paint was faded, peeling, and cracking. You could tell whoever had painted there didn't put in the effort to make it look appealing. When I saw those classrooms, I knew that this is exactly where we, as PPG, need to provide support.

8 Days, 8 Hours, 8 Classrooms

The entire Colorful Communities project faced a time crunch, as only eight days after the scheduled start, the children would return. Miriam and her team were dedicated to making the classrooms beautiful and surprising for the teachers and students when they returned.

"I reached out to all strategic business units (SBUs) in Indiana, and we had volunteers come from Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, and many from our state as well. They all traveled to Indianapolis just to help us."

Miriam managed to gather 56 volunteers from multiple SBUs. Thirteen people from Miriam's local Indianapolis site also helped out. "We had people from our PPG Paints stores and also many sales reps from the area!"

The volunteers spent eight full hours and 46 gallons (174 liters) of paint decorating the classrooms and several other interior spaces of CAFE. Miriam shares a strong memory that she says she'll forever remember:

Toward the end, people were sweaty and exhausted. But there was still one last pink pillar in the center of the Head Start office space that needed to be finished. I had to gather all my remaining energy to grab my brush and start working on it. The next thing I remember is that everybody from my team came to that pillar, and we all ended up finishing it together. That was a very heartwarming moment where we didn't feel like co-workers. We felt like human beings trying to make a positive impact.

Aside from the beautifully painted walls, the volunteers also created 125 seed pods with local flower seeds thanks to our partnership with Keep America Beautiful. The seed pods were then given to CAFE so that the students could later take them home and plant them, spreading the beauty of local flower species.

Despite the short timeframe and obstacles that came in the way, Miriam is #PPGProud of the positive impact of Colorful Communities. She highlights that "corporations like ours have a responsibility to the communities they inhabit - beyond providing jobs."

Miriam's leader and ASC Indy business director, Shu Goto, thanked Miriam and all the volunteers that made this Colorful Communities possible. He agrees that helping the community where we work and live is essential, describing this as the “ultimate win-win feel good project”.

Cheria Caldwell, the VP of Communications & Engagement at CAFE, confirms that Miriam and her team significantly contributed to “a vibrant environment for the students to grow and learn in”!


Racing through the Tight Schedule with Team Penske

What made the project even more unforgettable was the fact that Miriam and our colleagues were painting alongside a professional NASCAR driver from Team Penske, an auto racing organization from Indiana with an enormous local fan base.

Ryan Blaney, a driver for Team Penske, attended our event. He really got his hands dirty, painting a large portion of the pink pillar, and classroom six. It was fantastic to see how everybody was so excited about Ryan, wanting pictures with him. I'm so glad they were able to participate.

Ryan was very excited to witness and take part in the amazing collaborative effort. He described it as “a great experience that will go a long way as kids and their families head back to school this fall.”

This was already the second time that the race car organization partnered with us for a Colorful Communities project. Thanks to the collaboration with Team Penske, Miriam knew that numerous racing fans would attend the project, and she was very happy that they had the opportunity to meet their racing heroes during such a unique event.

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