HARTFORD, Conn. -- Engineers and executives from United Technologies Corp. got out of the office and into a Hartford community garden to celebrate a partnership with Engineers Without Borders recently.
Engineers Without Borders is a volunteer network of engineers who work to solve infrastructural and other problems in communities around the world. UTC has committed to expand its partnership with the group and to provide funding for its efforts around the globe and in American cities.
"We are proud to have UTC's creativity, intelligence and support in helping communities thrive," said Cathy Leslie, CEO of Engineers Without Borders-USA. "Together, we can create meaningful, measurable change."
The new partnership's work toward meaningful change began at the KNOX community garden on Hudson Street near downtown. Around 30 volunteers from UTC subsidiaries Pratt & Whitney and Collins Aerospace constructed new catch basins they had designed for the 23 KNOX community gardens throughout the city.
Beth Matonak, a Pratt & Whitney engineer, spread new soil into some of the garden's beds. She helped establish Engineers Without Borders' Hartford Professional Chapter, 10 years ago and has worked on projects with her coworkers throughout the city since.
She said she agrees with Engineers Without Borders' mentality that engineers have a social responsibility to share their engineering skills with communities in need. In addition to designing the new water catches for the gardens, which will allow garden volunteers to economically produce their own water, Matonak said engineers have a duty to make sure the community knows how to upkeep the project over time.
"The big thing about Engineers Without Borders is that solutions have to be maintained by the local community," she said.
UTC CEO Greg Hayes said the company's employees take pride in giving back to their communities and dedicating time outside of the office. He said the company plans to continue giving to Engineers Without Borders over the next few years.
"We've seen the impact these projects can have in the communities in which we live, work and do business, and are thrilled to expand our partnership and commitment to achieve even more," Hayes said.
Pratt & Whitney employees have worked with Engineers Without Borders in various ways since 2010 for local projects funded through the company's Green Grants program. Pratt & Whitney engineer Charles Nobilski has worked to bring the groups together and has applied for many of those grants during the last 10 years. He was excited to see the partnership expand to all of UTC.
At the KNOX community garden event Friday, Nobilski said he and the rest of the Engineers Without Borders' Hartford Professional Chapter plan to visit all 23 community gardens to asses their needs and install rainwater catches if needed.
"We have 200 engineers that are willing to roll up their sleeves and do this types of projects," Nobilski said.
Patrick Doyle, executive director of KNOX, said his organization hopes to bring everyone in the city together, from gardeners to people like the Pratt & Whitney and Collins Aerospace engineers.
He said more than 350 families volunteer in the gardens in Hartford and produce $400,000 of fresh produce annually for the city.
"We focus those efforts on building a stronger, greener, healthier city and on people who live in the city," Doyle said.
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