Small Machines. Big Impact. Contest Winner

HOW ARE YOU MAKING A DIFFERENCE?

This simple question, asked of entrants to our 2018 Small Machines. Big Impact. contest, received an incredible response from people across the nation who are making positive impacts in their communities.

In the last issue of Worksite Journal, we announced the three finalists for our latest SMBI contest: Neil Behnke of Black Forest, Colorado, and his project "Rising Above the Ashes"; Kobus Appelgrijn of New Port Richey, Florida, and his endeavor "Restoring Neighborhood Pride"; and Anita Will of Ridgefield, Washington, and her project "Trailblazing Outdoor Connections."

The contest winner will receive a new G-Series Compact Track Loader with a Worksite Pro™ attachment. Thanks to John Deere Financial, the two runners-up will each receive a yearlong lease so their projects also have the power of a G-Series machine behind them. Additionally, thanks to John Deere and the finalists' local Deere dealers, each project will receive a $2,000 stipend.

Neil Behnke walks through the Black Forest

Neil Behnke and the locally based nonprofit organization Black Forest Together have been volunteering tirelessly to help clean up properties and heal the community since the 2013 forest fire.

Today, the scars remain — thousands of dead, charred trees; foundations marking destroyed homes; and lives being rebuilt. But Neil Behnke and the locally based nonprofit organization Black Forest Together have been volunteering tirelessly to help clean up properties and heal the community since the fire.

July 13, 2018, is also a day Behnke won't forget. Almost exactly five years to the date of the fire, Behnke was announced as our Small Machines. Big Impact. contest winner at a special event held during the John Deere Classic, a PGA® Tour tournament in Silvis, Illinois.

Now, his efforts to make Black Forest green again will be fast-tracked with the power of a new 333G Compact Track Loader (CTL) with a Worksite Pro attachment.

 

TAKING A CHANCE

Behnke, a financial analyst, discovered the SMBI contest while browsing the John Deere website.

"I don't have a background in construction; I'm just a finance guy who wanted to help our community," he says. "I saw an opportunity to enter a contest and make an impact, so I took it and we ran with it."

Once Behnke was named a contest finalist, the 13,000 people in the Black Forest community came together to support their local hero.

"I didn't think it was real that I was a finalist until the John Deere crew showed up. Then it went fast and furious after that! I was humbled by even being named a finalist. I was even more humbled when I found out I was the winner and still can’t believe it. I'm excited to make a huge impact in our community and to let everyone know that our efforts have come to fruition."

 

FAST-TRACKING EFFORTS

Since the fire, Behnke and Black Forest Together have been helping homeowners clean up their properties by using chain saws and hauling branches by hand. It's relentless work, and clearing dead trees is not covered by insurance. Now the community has the power of a G-Series machine behind its efforts.

"This is going to be huge," Behnke says. "Bringing down trees and cleaning up properties is going to help with safety."

The new 333G CTL is not only a workhorse, but also a beacon of hope for the community.

"The machine provides a lot of hope that we can finally get this cleaned up," Behnke says. "It's been five years, and projects are just dragging out. We're just happy to get this piece of equipment and to fast-track efforts to get them completed."

I don’t have a background in construction; I’m just a finance guy who wanted to help our community. I saw an opportunity to enter a contest and make an impact, so I took it and we ran with it.

Neil Behnke
Black Forest Together volunteer

MAKING A BIG IMPACT

Along with the Black Forest community, the local John Deere dealer, 4Rivers Equipment in Colorado Springs, is also supporting Behnke's work. The dealer, along with John Deere, is donating $2,000 toward the project and will provide machine-service support.

"4Rivers Equipment has just been top-notch," Behnke says. "They got the word out for voting, and it means a lot that our local dealer is behind our efforts."

Bill Mantia, founder of Black Forest Together, says the contest experience has created more of an awareness for how much work remains and the level of support needed to move forward. He understands the fire's devastation all too well after losing his home.

"As a victim of the fire's destruction, I appreciate what Neil’s done," Mantia says. "As a board member, I appreciate the magnitude of what we collectively have done to win this piece of equipment. But it's beyond that — it's knowing that corporate America cares about communities. It's knowing that people who voted care about the community. And that in itself is inspirational. It's nice to have positive reinforcement that we're making a difference."

Tell us what difference you have made in your community with the help of John Deere equipment for the chance to be featured in an upcoming issue of Worksite Journal. Send your story to dirteditor@JohnDeere.com.

And keep up the good work.