At noon on Saturday, June 5, when the last contractor customer of the day pulled out of Jackson Lumber & Millwork's drive-through yard in downtown Lawrence, Mass., the race was on. The 20-person decorations committee of the Essex Art Center's sixth annual New Paint fundraiser converged on the under-cover warehouse and loading area with little more than five hours to hoist and hang oversized paint tube models, arrange seating and tables for 450 people, and set up wood lattice to display 43 paintings created by local artists who—at the same time—were busy working on canvases in and around the 6.2-square-mile city, a once-famous factory community about 45 minutes northwest of Boston.
This is the third year that Jackson Lumber president and CEO Al Torrisi has hosted the center's event at his family-owned lumberyard, and he's already signed on for 2005.“Al is a leader in the community, and whatever he is involved in he attends, participates in, and is very actively involved in making it happen,” says Leslie Costello, executive director and one of three co-founders of the 10-year-old Essex Art Center. “He has given 150 percent of himself to us—not just the use of his building, but his knowledge of the community and [access to] the people that he has fostered over the years to be philanthropic.”
Personal Touch The New Paint fundraiser is indeed a sizeable commitment that requires a lot of personal time, but it is only a drop in the public service bucket for Torrisi and Jackson Lumber, a company that has consistently upheld a guiding business philosophy rooted in the reciprocal value of cooperative support among organizations, local and regional communities, and industry associations.
Torrisi has an unending source of energy and an almost Herculean ability to find time to actively participate in every post he accepts. And while he estimates that in any given year Jackson Lumber's public service commitments, including donations and staff time, run well into six figures, it's the effort and long-term personal dedication that's most important. “It's not just the money,” Torrisi says. “It is looking for people to serve on committees and be involved.”
This level of dedication has earned Torrisi much acclaim for accomplishing challenging objectives. Last month when he stepped down from his two-year term as chairman of LMC at the organization's annual fall meeting in Minneapolis, he was hailed for his 30-year legacy of service, including helping to steer the buying group through its successful transition to a sole affiliation membership plan, which required all stockholders to discontinue memberships with other buying groups.
“During his chairmanship, we reached a plateau of sales unheard of around here before, and that was $3 billion,” says Tony DeCarlo, president and CEO of LMC. “Al would be the first to tell you that he did not do that alone, nor did I, but it was done on his watch. At LMC, we say that Al bleeds LMC blue [the company's official color], which means that he is in total support of our activities both from the standpoint of what he buys, his attitude about the staff and the stockholders, and what he is personally willing to do to support any and all of our programs.”