A John Deere Publication
Kristi rests her arm on the bucket of a 524 P-Tier Wheel Loader on a roadbuilding jobsite in Florida.

Kristi Gibbs, the founder of the nonprofit Construction Angels, poses next to a John Deere 524 P‑Tier Wheel Loader at a roadbuilding jobsite in Florida.

Fall 2023

Support in the Toughest Times


Construction Angels helps families when they need it most

Clock Icon 6 MIN READ

On a muggy, sunbaked summer morning in Florida, a crew of construction workers briskly moves dirt while the world races by at dizzying speed.

Vehicles pass like a blur, weaving through a construction work zone as they make their way through the sprawling suburbia surrounding metropolitan Orlando. At the same time, countless pieces of construction equipment navigate soggy, uneven terrain, still waterlogged from the previous evening’s heavy rainfall.

It’s a telling snapshot of the countless factors construction workers deal with on a daily basis. And it’s against this backdrop that Kristi Gibbs, founder of Construction Angels, discusses the inherent unpredictability of working in the industry.

“In this business, you never know what might happen,” says Gibbs, peering at her surroundings to emphasize her point. “You never know what could cause an accident. Safety is our number one goal in construction. We try to anticipate any different types of construction issues that might occur on the jobsite and prepare for it. But there are accidents that happen that we cannot prepare for.”


Meeting the need

With this reality at the forefront of her mind, Gibbs has dedicated her life to providing a support system in the moments when tragedy strikes.

Construction Angels is a nonprofit organization that provides immediate financial assistance and grief counseling to the spouse and children who are left behind when a construction worker dies in the line of duty.

It’s a cause that’s near and dear to Gibbs, who represents the third generation of an Ohio family that worked in the asphalt business. She knew from a young age that she wanted to work in construction. Gibbs was employed at a concrete-cutting company in 2009 when she crossed paths with a woman raising money for a family that had lost a loved one in a construction accident. The chance encounter prompted her to take a deeper dive into the issue.

Gibbs soon learned that, on average, 4.5 construction employees are killed in a typical workday in the United States. And on top of that, approximately 20 percent of all jobsite deaths in the nation occur in the construction industry, according to statistics from the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration.

As she assessed these numbers, she also came to the realization there was not an existing nonprofit that provided aid to the families of those lost in such accidents.

“It became clear there was a need,” Gibbs says, nodding as she thinks back to the organization’s launch. “We wanted to fill that need.”


Passion and purpose

As she dons a hard hat and speaks with construction workers, Gibbs’ comfort level on a jobsite is clear. She alternates between cracking jokes and discussing serious topics with Augusto Salles, vice president of marketing and compact construction for Dobbs Equipment, a John Deere dealership that serves customers in Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina.

Salles now serves as a member of the Construction Angels board. Reflecting on his evolving role with the organization, he emphasizes that Gibbs was a catalyst for the work he’s done.

“What stands out to me about Kristi is her passion,” Salles says. “That passion never changes. The charity is her number-one love, and I think the way she presents herself and the way she presents the charity have really moved its mission forward.”

To Salles, efficiency is essential to what makes Construction Angels effective. “Our support is immediate,” says Salles. “Whenever a family is in need, we are usually one of the first ones to support them.”

Sense of relief

Gibbs has seen firsthand how timely support can lift up grieving families in their most difficult times.

“Really, when talking to the families, you get almost a sense of relief. You’re sharing their most hurtful time with them. The tears of joy just to hear that there’s something like this to help them out with immediate financial assistance. We have a one-on-one conversation, which is really emotional. That first week is a very tough time for that family. They are still trying to pick up the pieces.”

This immediate response is balanced by a commitment to helping families for the long haul. A scholarship fund created by the nonprofit ensures children who lost a parent will still have the financial means to pursue higher education. Meanwhile, Construction Angels demonstrates a commitment to teaching about safety and raising awareness.

“The goal is to make sure our workers come home safe,” Gibbs says. “They’re just out there to do a job, and they just want to come home to their families.”

Tears well in Gibbs’ eyes as she recalls an incident this past spring in which six construction workers were killed on Interstate 695 after a motorist lost control and his vehicle went careening off the road. Construction Angels offered vital support in the aftermath of that accident, and the organization is committed to being there for others moving forward.

Gibbs emphasizes that the support of dealerships like Dobbs has opened new doors for Construction Angels. After learning about the organization and its impact, Dobbs endeavored to create a fundraising event that would be a financial difference-maker for the charity. The dealership created an annual golf tournament that raises funds for Construction Angels, supporting families touched by tragedy and fueling the future growth of the nonprofit.

“We’re in 24 states now,” Gibbs says. “The idea is to be in all 50 states by 2030. Working with these dealerships has really helped us move ahead, and partnering with companies like John Deere has given us some national exposure and helped us grow.”

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