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Local CEO pitches in to rebuild homes, lives

After being blessed with his own business, CEO of Phoenix Contracting Mat Robinson said he decided it was time for him to give back to someone else, so he teamed up with God’s Pit Crew.

“I was driving down the road one day listening to Spirit FM when I heard them ask for volunteers to come down to Oklahoma to assist in rebuilding two houses,” Robinson said. “Something told me I needed to do it.

 “I had just started my business this year, and God gave me the ability to do so. He’s blessed me with having the right people in my life to get me there. So I decided to help, thinking why not go ahead and give back,” he added.

Being that Phoenix Contracting primarily focuses on commercial and residential roofing, Robinson made a call to God’s Pit Crew to see if they had a roofer and to find out what supplies they needed. 

After hearing they didn’t have a roofer, and supplies were needed, Robinson found himself saying, “Don’t worry about it. I’m going to handle all the materials and labor for the roofs.” 

God’s Pit Crew had been assisting with Moore, Oklahoma since a tornado caused devastation on May 20. Volunteers had cut trees off people’s homes, replaced roofs, pressure washed houses and distributed relief supplies. 

The team also spent four days cleaning up a city park, so people could have somewhere to go to get away from the destruction and devastation if only for a little while, according to Robinson. 

“With providing materials along with the labor of three men from my crew and myself, I spent roughly right above $8,000 out of pocket without one dime coming back and without one hurt feeling over that because I know what I did is helping two families restart a life.” 

Robinson met up with God’s Pit Crew on Sept. 30 starting his two-day drive with five tractor-trailers, several privately owned vehicles and God’s Pit Crew trucks. After spending the night in Jackson, Tennessee, the volunteers arrived in Moore on Tuesday evening. 

The group was well received by a local church that fed them and set them up with a place to sleep in their gym before construction began on Wednesday morning. 

According to Robinson, approximately 50 volunteers were there from places such as Mount Erie, Dismal Swamp, Louisiana, Tennessee, Radford and Christiansburg. 

 “I remember climbing onto that roof the first day and looking around to see absolutely nothing but empty roads, empty driveways, empty sidewalks and concrete pads where once houses stood. On the ground there were kitchen sets, broken china, baby dolls, little knick-knacks, stuff of everyday homes and children’s stuff lying in the dirt and sticking out the ground. Seeing that made it so much more surreal,” said Robinson.

 “You couldn’t help but think of the houses that used to be there and the memories that come with them. Just being able to look around and seeing the reality of it all and thinking that was somebody’s life, you get lost real quick in emotion and thought.” 

The two homes, which were across the street from each other, were Structural Insulated Panels or SIP homes. Robinson’s crew installed the roof deck of house one and started on the exterior walls in the first day.

By the end of day two, both houses were under roof, under decking, and had a window set; they began interior walls as well as electric and plumbing. 

By the end of day three, both roofs were ready to be shingled, and in one day Robinson’s crew knocked out shingling both houses right at 44 square feet total. The men worked from approximately 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. each day without “running into any difficulties.”  

When Robinson went to Oklahoma, he said he wasn’t expecting anything but to go down to do a job. However, that changed after meeting the families that would soon be homeowners to these new, fully furnished houses. 

One is a family of four with two sons. The other is a family including a single mother with three children. 

 “Meeting the families was the best part of the trip. Seeing who was getting the houses, we were able to see what they used to have and what they have now. It was very emotional, but it gave you an urgency and excitement to do what you were doing,” said Robinson. “I just truly enjoyed seeing the children’s faces light up to the fact that they were going to have a home again in just eight more days. We are giving families who lost everything a chance to start over right before the holidays, and what a blessing that is.” 

Now that he’s returned home, Robinson said he doesn’t want the helping to stop. Through Facebook, he has been able to keep up with the families and their living arrangements. 

Come Christmas, Robinson plans to spread more joy to the children. 

For a little over three years, Robinson, with the help of his wife, Stephanie, has been running the Halifax Soccer Club for children ages 4 to 18. 

Each year, his Phoenix team likes to help others in need. This year, Robinson has asked both families to send him a Christmas list with items the children may want. With the help of their soccer team, they plan to see what gifts they can send out. 

Robinson said, “Like I said, both families lost everything. If we can help keep a smile on their faces, we are going to do so. It doesn’t matter if they are over 1,300 miles away.” 

Over the years, Robinson had always heard of God’s Pit Crew and wanted to help. Once he knew he could help, he jumped at the chance and says he would do it again in a heartbeat. 

Robinson also is excited at the response he’s received on Facebook about his trip. 

“You know, it’s not always about making money. It’s about starting a business that’s focused on who you are helping. My business is based off of family values, to give back to those who are in need. Also, so many people have told me if I go back again that they want to be a part of it. It’s awesome to see that the word getting out and that so many people want to help,” he added.