Editor’s Note: Masonry is a trade that not only creates amazing and everlasting structures, but those in the industry tend to display an overall concern and desire to help those around them. In our series, Masonry Gives Back, we are going to highlight some of the good work those in our industry provide to their respective communities. If you know anyone who is doing good work through masonry, please email them to us at dkamys@masonrymagazine.com. We’d love to feature as much of the good work going on as possible.

Natural Stone Veneers International, Inc, (NSVI), is a family owned business headquartered in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin that has a global reach. With over 130 years of combined experience in the fields of quarrying, geology, masonry, and marketing, the Buechel family has turned their talents and dedication into a moving force in the stone industry. Under the guidance of NSVI President Dennis Buechel, his wife Renee and sons Joe, Jason, and Jesse, the firm has also had a major impact in the lives of the critically ill children and military families served by the Believe In Tomorrow Children’s Foundation.

This past October, NSVI participated in the construction of a mountain top pediatric respite house located in the Allegany Mountains of Western Maryland, that will give military families who have critically ill children a place to renew their spirits and recuperate physically during their child’s treatment process. When completed, eligible families will be able to stay within the house for up to a week at a time during their child’s treatment process. This is the second Believe In Tomorrow respite house that NSVI has helped to build. In 2010 they worked to complete the Believe In Tomorrow House at Pinnacle Falls near Asheville, North Carolina. That project also prioritizes military pediatrics and has provided thousands of overnight accommodations, primarily to young cancer patients and their families, since opening its doors.

“Natural Stone Veneers is simply an amazing company,” said Brian Morrison, the founder and CEO of Believe In Tomorrow. “Their extraordinary commitment to volunteerism, combined with their beautiful stone products and considerable skill, creates a work of art that the families that we serve will enjoy for many years.” Believe In Tomorrow Children’s Foundation respite houses are designed to captivate the imaginations of the children and parents who utilize this unique service, and according to Morrison, stone veneer products used in both the interior and exterior of their facilities accomplishes this goal perfectly. “The natural beauty of the stone combined with the intricate patterns that are made to create stone walls, make spaces in our respite houses that families can touch and feel and simply look and marvel at. There are really few other building products that accomplish this goal like masonry stone,” said Morrison.

The Believe In Tomorrow Children’s Foundation provides hospital and respite housing services to families who have children with life threatening illnesses. Since its inception in 1982, the Foundation has provided over 800,000 overnight accommodations to families from every state in the U.S. and over 82 countries worldwide. In 2010, Brian Morrison and Believe In Tomorrow COO Maryanne Davis met Joe and Jason Buechel at the International Builders Show in Las Vegas. Davis and Morrison were scouting the show looking for donations of products when they struck up a conversation with Jason and Joe at their booth. After explaining the mission of Believe In Tomorrow and the concept of the respite project that the foundation was building in North Carolina, the brothers said to count NSVI in as a volunteer construction partner. At that initial introduction, the Buechel family expressed their commitment to helping children and families who Believe In Tomorrow serves at it respite houses. Given NSVI’s initial commitment, it seemed logical and natural for the two organizations to team up again on the latest mountain property construction project. Later that year Joe and Jason left Fond du Lac with a caravan of masons, stone and tools, and traveled over 800 miles to the construction site in the Blue Ridge Mountains near Asheville, North Carolina. There they spent one week installing stone on the exterior and interior of the beautiful Believe In Tomorrow House at Pinnacle Falls.

In late October of 2017, Joe and Jason were joined by their brother Jesse who drove from his home in North Dakota, and they again traveled with a group of masons over 800 miles from the NSVI headquarters in Fond du Lac to the Believe In Tomorrow construction site in Maryland. Over the course of four incredibly long days the NSVI volunteer team applied over 1,000 square feet of stone veneer to the exterior and interior of the house. “We feel that what we accomplished there will give families a very comfortable atmosphere. A lot of pride went into the installation. To be able to sit in a room and look at a beautiful piece of work is good for the families who will stay here and also good for us,” said NSVI Vice President Jason Buechel. With an expected opening date of May 2018, the Believe In Tomorrow House at Deep Creek Lake will become the foundations 9th facility to serve critical care pediatrics.

For NSVI and the Buechel family, giving back to the community is an important part of their company and reflects who they are and what they stand for as individuals. “The essence of Natural Stone Veneers comes to life by sharing our success with those around us,” explains Renee Buechel. “Participating in philanthropic initiatives helps employees feel good about themselves and proud about where they work. It is not about what we have but what we share that makes a difference in our communities and the world we live in.”

According to Renee, being a mason offers opportunities to share unique talents within communities. “An accomplished stonemason requires an understanding of physics, geology and geometry, while also having a keen eye for art. Being around masons for over 50 years we have often seen them use their talents and skills to pay it forward and give back. That is one of the things that makes this a wonderful industry,” she stated.

The Believe In Tomorrow Children’s Foundation developed the very first pediatric respite housing in the United States in 1986, and they are on a mission to expand their housing for critically ill children. With development plans for other respite houses throughout the country, they are always looking for building and philanthropic partners to join in their efforts. As one of the largest providers of pediatric support services to U.S. military families, there is significant demand for additional pediatric respite houses, and often long waiting lists for admission into each existing house.

Brian Morrison started the Foundation in 1982 after volunteering to help a young child being treated for cancer. Struck by the challenges faced by families with critically ill children, Morrison began looking for creative solutions that addressed the intense stress that families often endure. In 1986, Morrison’s vision led Believe In Tomorrow to develop the first and only pediatric respite facility in the United States in Ocean City, Maryland. The Believe In Tomorrow Children’s House By The Sea was built steps from the Atlantic Ocean, and over the years has served thousands of sick children and their families. A few years later this non-profit venture was followed by the opening of a major hospital housing facility for families whose children undergo treatment at the world-renowned Johns Hopkins Children’s Center in Baltimore, Maryland. In 2006 Believe In Tomorrow also developed the first long-term residential facility in the United States to accommodate the special needs of children undergoing bone marrow transplants. These families must stay within a 15-minute radius of the hospital for between 60 to 120 days after the transplant procedure.

Each Believe In Tomorrow pediatric respite and hospital house has been built using a modified old-fashioned barn raising approach to modern construction. Some of the Believe In Tomorrow houses are large multi-unit facilities, and others are more private single-family homes. Where possible, donated materials and labor are integrated into the construction process. Morrison views the volunteer work performed by Natural Stone Veneers as a crowning touch to what are often complex projects to bring together. “It is amazing to see what can be accomplished when good people come together to accomplish a meaningful project. When you watch the all-out volunteer effort of the stonemasons from Natural Stone Veneers, it just gives you faith in the goodness of so many people in our community. They represent the heart and soul of America.” said Morrison.

In conjunction with assisting critically ill children, Believe In Tomorrow prioritizes all military families within its programs. The Believe In Tomorrow Military Initiative was created in an effort to serve the men and women who honor us with their service to our country. While their child is receiving treatment at a military hospital, families in the U.S. Armed Services often find themselves far from home, without the support of extended family members. Believe In Tomorrow’s Military Initiative acts as a support system that provides military families the time to be together, relax, and reconnect.

“It is an honor for us to have worked on respite houses that not only will provide joy to children with cancer, but will also support the men and women in our military,” said Joe Buechel of Natural Stone Veneers. “It makes us feel really good to be a part of something that is so much larger than any of us individually.” The relationship between Natural Stone Veneers International and Believe In Tomorrow may have grown from a chance encounter at the Las Vegas Builders Show almost a decade ago, but it has clearly remained strong all these years later.

After the Believe In Tomorrow respite houses are complete and up and running, families sometime add their own unique imprint to each facility, sometimes in the most unexpected way. After Natural Stone Veneers completed their work at Pinnacle Falls they left several hundred stones behind that were placed in a pile on the side of the property. One of the first families to stay within the mountain top house was a child being treated for cancer from Tennessee, whose father was a sergeant in the U.S. Army. The child’s mother took one of the stones and painted it a bright blue with the names of everyone in the family and a shining golden starfish in the middle. She placed the rock in the garden on the side of the house. Today there are hundreds of brightly colored rocks created from families from throughout the country that make up the Believe In Tomorrow Rock Garden of Hope. They are a symbol of everything that is good in the world we live in. And at the newest house in the mountains of Western Maryland, Natural Stone Veneers left behind another large pile of stones, in preparation for all the families who will be arriving in the near future.

To learn more about the Believe In Tomorrow Children’s Foundation go to www.believeintomorrow.org.

Words: Lorraine Kramer
Photos: NSVI, Believe in Tomorrow Children’s Foundation