On the afternoon of June 23, 2020, life changed forever for the Richard “Bird” Gaunt family. Gaunt had pulled onto the shoulder of Interstate 74 near Carlock, Ill., to secure the load on top of his vehicle when he was struck and killed by the driver of a pickup truck.
Trucking and construction had always been a part of Gaunt’s life. He owned his first dump truck when he was just 14 years old. In 2001, he started Gaunt Enterprises, Inc. Gaunt was a member of the Midwest Truckers Association, belonged to Operating Engineers 649 for 32 years and Teamsters Local 627 for 18 years.
Gaunt’s untimely and unthinkable passing left a hole in his family’s heart. To honor him and bring awareness to construction zone safety, his wife of 30 years, Shannon (Aupperle) Gaunt, and her family started a fund called the Bird Gaunt IL Work Zone Safety Fund.
“I’m a pay it forward kind of person and love to help people. It just felt like it was the right thing to do to help others and honor my husband,” explained Shannon Gaunt. “In the first year, we raised $21,000.”
Construction Angels Give Support
Part of those funds came from Construction Angels, a Florida-based 501(c)3 non-profit corporation founded in 2011 with the mission to provide immediate financial assistance and grief counseling to the children and spouses left behind when a construction worker has a fatality on the job site.
Gaunt did not know about Construction Angels. But all that changed when CEO and Founder/National Executive Director of Construction Angels Kristi Gibbs contacted her after hearing Gaunt’s personal story.
“Although I had never heard of Construction Angels, the organization had learned about my husband and donated $1,000 to our fund,” explained Gaunt. “And then I met Kristi, who is absolutely amazing. This is her drive.”
Gaunt continued, “Within six months, I joined Construction Angels and was voted onto the Illinois Board of Directors. To be able to watch it grow these last three years is something I’m very grateful to be a part of.”
During the last three years, Gaunt has organized three golf outings in central Illinois which she dedicated to her late husband. “We had our first golf outing in 2021. Then, during our second outing in 2022, we raised $17,900. This year our goal was to raise $20,000 which we exceeded,” said Gaunt happily. “We raised $25,000!”
She added, “In central Illinois, Construction Angels is becoming more well-known. But it takes time to spread the word. That’s my job – to try to spread the word. I feel that with my Construction Angels committee I am doing that.”
“The organization provides an invaluable resource at a time of tragedy and loss. We donate $7,000 to families, offer grief counseling to the family members and scholarships for the kids,” explained Gaunt. “Our goal is to be in all 50 states within the next 10 years. Illinois was the 13th state to join. Now we are in 26 states and growing.”
Since its inception in June 2011, Construction Angels has given more than $1 million to families in financial aid, grief counseling services and scholarships across the U.S. with funds raised from events such as golf outings like Gaunt’s, donations from individuals and sponsorships from local and national companies.
“These hard-working employees who work paycheck to paycheck are typically the main providers for the family. Without additional financial support, many of these children and spouses are left behind with bills and the feeling of emptiness,” said Gibbs. “We know it is important for these families to realize their loved one played an important role in building our future here in the United States.”
“Construction Angels shows our industry that fallen workers are not forgotten and their families will continue to be supported through generous donations,” noted Gibbs.
How to Get Involved
There are several ways individuals can support Construction Angels including choosing to donate, volunteering at events and participating in fundraisers, to name a few. Businesses can become a State or National sponsor.
“By supporting Construction Angels as a State or National Sponsor, you show millions of workers that you understand the dangerous industry they work in and care about them and their families,” explained Gibbs.
“In the past, some companies have held client appreciation parties and raised money for our charity,” added Gaunt. “If anyone in Illinois would like information on Construction Angels or information on holding a charity event, they can contact us. We will help put it together, bring our banner and materials and help with the event.”
Gibbs continued, “Although it’s a dangerous job, it’s a great industry to be a part of. We hope that should the unthinkable happen, if we don’t reach out to them first, the families will reach out to us. We will be there to help them in their time of need.”
For more information, to make a donation or to contact Construction Angels, go to: https://www.constructionangels.us/contact-construction-angels-organization/
About Construction Angels
As a third-generation asphalt family member, CEO and Founder/National Executive Director Kristi Gibbs always knew how dangerous being in the construction industry could be. What she didn’t know was there were no charities to support fallen construction workers’ families. That is until one day in 2009 when she was at the World of Asphalt trade show. While at the show, Gibbs met a woman raising money for “one of our own.” When she asked who “one of our own” was, Gibbs was told he was a construction worker.
After doing some research Gibbs discovered there was a void and a need for an organization that would provide financial assistance immediately for the families who lost their loved one. To fill this need she founded Construction Angels in 2011 to meet the immediate needs of the construction families left behind.
“We provide immediate financial assistance, which right now is $7,000 per family. However, we are looking to increase that in the near future,” explained Gibbs. “Providing families with immediate financial assistance helps alleviate some of the pressure of bills. However, it definitely doesn’t alleviate the shock of having a fatality in your family.”
Construction Angels is a 501(c)3 Non-Profit Corporation that provides immediate financial assistance and grief counseling to the children and spouses left behind when a construction worker has a fatality on the job site.
The organization’s mission is to provide immediate financial assistance and grief counseling to the children and spouses left behind when a construction worker has a fatality on the job site. Construction Angels also offers construction scholarship opportunities to qualified applicants, and additional scholarships to surviving children of a fallen worker.
With the vision of being there for families who have lost a loved one as a result of a work-related accident, the organization’s goal is to be an immediate source of assistance, public awareness of job site safety and a conduit for continued support to the construction industry. Construction Angels wants to make an everlasting impression and impact within the industry, one family at a time while honoring those who have given the ultimate sacrifice.
Core Values: A.N.G.E.L.
Acting compassionately to help families
Caring, protecting and encouraging
Virtue of giving without obligation and hope of reward
Understands and cares for others
Leaders and educators in our industry and community
For more information: https://www.constructionangels.us