Aside from its catchy radio jingle, the Mays Landing-based construction company East Coast Roofing Siding & Windows is known for another reason.
Each winter, owner Larry Stiteler holds a contest to find one low-income family in need of a roof or other home repairs. He scours the region for entries and, eventually, finds a winner.
That his company usually donates several roofs — three this year — is beside the point.
“For 35 years we’ve been successful, landing in the black every year,” Stiteler said. “We need to pay it forward.”
The idea for the contest came six years ago, he said, but the effort has grown considerably in recent years. Universal Supply Company donates much of the construction material, and other contractors have come on board to perform jobs his crew may not have the training or time to complete on their own.
“That’s allowed me to concentrate on giving three roofs instead of one,” he said.
Stiteler’s generosity is rooted in his faith, but he didn’t come by it easily. His family wasn’t particularly religious, he said, but his life experiences led him to it.
During his first year in business, for example, he remembers a time when he had about three employees and a shortage of work.
“It was a Friday morning, and I knew I only had work to finish that day,” he said. “Do I tell my men I don’t have work for them Monday? Do I lay them off?”
The answer came, appropriately, on a message left on his answering machine.
“How soon can you get a roof on my house?” asked one of his regular customers. “Can you start Monday?”
Beyond his success in business, Stiteler said he has been blessed by many people who’ve helped him when he was in need. At 16 years old, he dropped out of high school with no money, job or education.
“I put my faith in God,” he said.
Many people helped Stiteler through the years.
“In the very beginning, I asked a lot of questions,” he said. “Bankers and roofers and mentors helped me.”
So now Stiteler, who employs about 50 people through the company he built, does his best to help others in need.
He tries to choose the recipients based on a combination of their need and what they’ve contributed in their lives. The applications are usually made by friends and family members.
“I don’t care if they’re 80 years old and were a Girl Scout leader when they were 20,” he said. “As long as they’ve given themselves to something.”
Jeannette MacClure, 55, of Galloway Township, isn’t sure why she was chosen this year — relatives had applied for her in prior years — but she’s grateful the roof came when it did.
Two years ago, her would-be son-in-law was struck and killed while walking down Pomona Road. Today, she helps raise three grandchildren who live with her underneath her roof.
Several relatives and contractors had tried to fix it, but nothing seemed to help. Replacing the entire roof was too expensive.
“It just got worse and worse to the point we couldn’t live in the house too much longer,” she said.
But with her family already struggling to make ends meet, MacClure said she couldn’t afford to pay $1,000 per month or more to rent someplace else. They would make it, but she wasn’t sure how.
“It’s a miracle there are people who still pay it forward like that,” she said. “I want to try to do it also, if I can. It’s a beautiful, beautiful thing.”
Contact Wallace McKelvey:
@wjmckelvey on Twitter