Paul Hylbert is flying into town and he's bringing the Redmond, Wash., rain with him. Normally, the Oakland, Calif., skies in June are sunny and clear, but Hylbert's plane has been delayed from the wet weather and he's three hours behind schedule on a day that includes touring Lanoga's San Lorenzo lumberyards, attending a reception for the Homebuilding Community Foundation (HCF), meeting advisory board members for the Harvard University Joint Center for Housing Studies, and preparing for a full HCF meeting the following day. He's coming off of a weekend that included a City of Hope fund-raising golf tournament with Lanoga's Lumbermens division and the announcement of a newly acquired truss facility in Kansas, and as he drives from the Oakland airport to the first San Lorenzo yard, he's looking out the window at the rainy inner-Oakland streets and thinking about the power of education.

“Education is the great equalizer,” Hylbert says. “I see inner-city Seattle or here in inner-city Oakland, and I see disadvantage. The people are disadvantaged economically, nutritionally, and from a housing standpoint—but give them the opportunity and power of education and they have an ability to compete that right now they don't have.” Since 1982, Hylbert has been helping to pass along those opportunities as a fund-raiser and member for the board of trustees for Zion Preparatory Academy, a pre-school through eighth grade private school in Seattle devoted to providing disadvantaged African American youth with a private education—through $3,500 scholarship programs—that they otherwise would be unable to afford.

For Hylbert, public service at Zion Prep is a natural extension of his own upbringing and education, first at Denison University (where he is still a major financial contributor), through his MBA at the University of Michigan, and over the past 20 years in the construction supply industry with Wickes, PrimeSource, and now Lanoga, where he has served as president and CEO since 2001. “My parents were always involved with charities when I grew up in Northbrook, [Ill.,] from Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts to a store where the family worked at called Village Values that sold secondhand clothing for charity,” Hylbert says. “But public service for me really is a legacy that came from Wickes when I joined them back in the mid-'70s. [Like] General Motors, our commitment to the United Way in Saginaw [Mich.,] was top-down driven, and to say no, you were in deep grease.”

While Hylbert fondly recalls raising tremendous amounts of money for the United Way and finding similar success leading a Wickes fund-raising effort for the YMCA, he has grown to eschew bullying peers and co-workers into the public service spotlight. “I'm much better at leading by example than going out and putting the strong arm on my associates to pony up,” he says. “I don't mind making a hard sell, but for the most part public service ought to be voluntary, and it is something that I think is ultimately quite personal.”

That's not to say that Hylbert has not been influential in bringing others into the folds of the public service endeavors that he personally champions. In 2004, Hylbert became the first LBM supply board member for the Homebuilding Community Foundation—an effort to facilitate and publicize charitable giving among builders, vendors, and suppliers by allowing companies to set up a fund of $25,000 or more, which can then be directed to the charities of their choosing. The combined worth of all funds allows for greater tax-free asset growth through professionally managed investment pools while the industry as a whole gains greater recognition for both the gross and individual commitments of HCF participants. Hylbert also was instrumental in bringing The Strober Organization chairman Fred Marino on board. “I knew Paul's reputation long before I met him,” says HCF chairman and Hearthstone CEO Jim Pugash. “He is well known and respected throughout the industry, but more importantly, very philanthropic both on a personal and corporate level. Paul's involvement and encouragement to other suppliers [like The Strober Organization] ensure that one of the most important members of our community, the professional dealer, is an integral part of HCF.”

At City of Hope—the Los Angeles–based hospital and health organization committed to battling cancer and other life-threatening illnesses—Hylbert was recognized May 19 with the Spirit of Life Award, the organization's highest philanthropic honor presented annually by City of Hope's Hardware/Home Improvement division. “Both Paul and the entire Lanoga organization have been great to work with,” says City of Hope associate vice president Rob Myers. “When they take on a project they go at it with both barrels, and Paul is right at the front of that. There's no hesitation—they set their minds to do things, and everything we have done with them has been extremely successful.”

In addition to the fund-raising golf tournament at Lumbermen's in June, Hylbert's latest objective for City of Hope has again been pulling more pro dealers into the mix. According to Myers, Hylbert's professional relationship with 84 Lumber COO Bill Myrick has led City of Hope to become more aware of the philanthropy of 84 Lumber owners Joe Hardy and Maggie Hardy Magerko. “As a result, Maggie Hardy Magerko will [be recognized by] the Spirit of Life next year,” Myers says, “and Paul was very instrumental in making that happen.”

While Hylbert's name is on the Spirit of Life Award, he modestly tips his hat toward other pro dealers who have left an indelible public service mark on organizations dedicated to the treatment of life-threatening illnesses. “If you're looking for someone to profile that has had a unique impact in public service, you have to recognize [Stock Building Supply president and CEO] Fenton Hord,” says Hylbert, explaining that the work Hord has done and the support he has given to Virginia Commonwealth University's brain cancer research and the Ronald McDonald House “are just phenomenal.”

Being part of a collective pro dealer effort characterizes much of Hylbert's public service involvement. In addition to pulling peer support together for City of Hope and HCF, Hylbert consistently rallies LBM supplier involvement in the various projects conducted by the Joint Center for Housing Studies, where he serves as an advisory board member along with representatives from Stock, Strober, BMHC, and Builders FirstSource.

Even with the intense industry service, Hylbert still manages to bring the public service spirit back home to Seattle, where in addition to involvement with Zion Prep, he is active with Families Northwest, the family life and community organization spearheaded by former Seahawks quarterback Jeff Kemp, and the Washington roundtable where Hylbert serves—not surprisingly—on the Education Committee for the group of 40 Seattle-area private-sector CEOs who work to promote regional economic growth through policy change.