When you’re fortunate enough to do well in business, it’s important to give back.
That’s the philosophy behind Eleanor and Wayne Robison’s business Rulon International. The couple started the company, which produces wood ceilings and acoustical walls, over 44 years ago in Jacksonville, Florida.
The Robisons have always been charitable, but a few years back they decided to use some of their company’s excess wood to bring a little bit of sunshine into a dark world. Based on studies that show sick children respond well to music therapy, Wayne publicly pledged to build 10,000 acoustic guitars made from scrap wood in their warehouses and donate them to sick children around the world.
“With sick children it’s proven, that two things that help them get through their illnesses are music and animals,” Eleanor explained.
The Guitars For Kids program started with a large donation of guitars that Rulon sent to an orphanage in Haiti. The first shipment included a batch of painted guitars for the kids, but the immediate feedback was that the children prefered unfinished guitars that they could paint and decorate themselves.
Ever since then they’ll send pre-tuned guitars, either finished or unfinished, in a variety of 4 or 5 different shapes and styles. The handles of the guitars are microbial and germ-free, which is important when shipping instruments to hospitals. Kids love adding their own unique flair to their guitars.
Since starting the initiative Rulon has already shipped out more than 5,000 guitars to needy children around the world. They’ve also partnered with local elementary schools to teach children basic woodworking skills and allow them to be a part of the company’s mission to help those less fortunate than ourselves.
The guitars have now reached over 50 hospitals and charity groups, including cancer and critical-illness camps where kids can take a class to paint their guitars and keep them as a memento.
“A lot of them use it as more of a two-way process. Number one, the kids actually get to make it their own, and number two, they get to take it home,” said Tim Tyler, the company’s program coordinator.
Each guitar is made from 100% recycled scrap wood and recycled paint. The factory where they’re created has no fumes or chemicals of any kind, keeping the products environmentally friendly.
Eleanor says that she and her husband have no intention of ever stopping this unique program. She hopes to expand their reach by teaming up with even more elementary schools to teach children about the joy of creating something purely to give away.
“I would like to somehow get into each school, and have them have an art class to make guitars, so the children are getting their art lessons, but they’re also helping other children” Eleanor said.
What a fantastic use of extra resources! This is the perfect example of the way small businesses give back to their communities and to the world around them. Any success we have in life is worth sharing.
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