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Stepping Up to Support the Industry



The asphalt pavement workforce plays an integral role in building and maintaining the U.S. transportation infrastructure. Walking alongside asphalt paving companies and their employees are three nonprofits committed to supporting employees and their families. Through scholarships, leadership programs, and direct financial assistance when a tragedy strikes, these organizations are dedicated to the community.


NAPAREF, which was established in 1978, raises, manages, and disperses money that helps strengthen the asphalt paving pipeline of workers and supports families when a NAPA member is fatally injured in a workplace accident. The foundation is a separate organization from NAPA, but NAPA supports it with in-kind donations, including NAPA staff time, office space, and other resources. NAPA members are essential supporters, donating money directly to NAPAREF.

The NAPAREF scholarship program includes both state and national scholarships that provide asphalt technology training to future employees. Undergraduate and graduate students who are studying civil engineering, construction management, or construction engineering at an accredited four-year college or university or two-year technical institution are eligible for these scholarships. Many of the state scholarships are specifically geared to students who live in that particular state. The program’s visibility also incentivizes engineering students to take courses in asphalt technology and for colleges and universities to provide these courses.

“Our members tell us all the time that the development of the workforce is one of the biggest obstacles they face,” said NAPA Vice President of Finance and Operations Melanie S. Richardson, who oversees the foundation. “So, the scholarships are a way to get more workers into the pipeline to be able to support our members. These scholarships are a way to lower the barrier to enter this industry.”

The NAPAREF national Acott/Wilson Scholarship is provided specifically to qualified students attending two-year engineering or technical schools. The scholarship was established in 2019 with a donation from Bob and Ellen Thompson to honor the contributions of former NAPA President Michael Acott and former NAPA Chairman of the Board Peter Wilson and his family.

“Traditionally, our scholarships have gone to civil engineering students, and Acott/Wilson is a way to extend it to vocational and technical students,” Richardson explained. Since its inception, 65 Acott/Wilson Scholarships have been awarded, totaling $242,500.

NAPAREF also oversees the NAPA Care Emergency Benevolent Fund, which was established by NAPA Associate members to support families of NAPA member employees who suffer a fatal job accident. The fund provides immediate tax-free financial relief to families, which can help pay for funeral costs or necessary living expenses. Currently, eligible families receive $7,500.

“It reflects our commitment to our members and the families of their employees,” Richardson said. “We think it fills a gap – things like life insurance, lawsuits, and benefits can take a long time. One of the best features about this program is that we can do it very quickly. If there was a fatality yesterday and we found out about it, we could get it approved by the committee and the check overnighted to the family the very next day.”

NAPAREF has also supported the industry by contributing more than $16.7 million to the National Center for Asphalt Technology (NCAT) at Auburn University in Alabama. In addition, through NAPAREF, NAPA members contributed $1 million to support the “America on the Move” transportation exhibition at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History. In February 2020, NAPAREF donated $25,000 to support the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial near the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The contribution honors the central role Eisenhower played in the creation of the nation’s interstate highway system.

“NAPAREF is a reflection of NAPA’s commitment to the industry and its workers,” Richardson said, “and it’s a fantastic vehicle to support the asphalt pavement field.”


The foundation, which was established in 1985, is a sister organization to ARTBA. “The foundation’s programs support the overall mission of ARTBA, which focuses on growing and protecting the transportation construction market,” said ARTBA Foundation Executive Director Matt Jeanneret.

The foundation created a scholarship in 1999 when brothers Stan and Jack Lanford, contractors from Roanoke, Virginia, provided $100,000 in seed money. “They both personally knew the pain of losing an employee to a work zone accident,” Jeanneret explained, “and they wanted to do something to help the families in those situations. So out of tragedy, the scholarship program was meant to provide a ray of hope.”

ARTBA’s analysis of available federal data has found that as many as 150 transportation construction workers are killed on the job each year. The scholarships provide post-high school financial aid to the children of highway workers killed or disabled on the job. The scholarship program, which has grown substantially through donations and fundraisers, has distributed nearly $800,000 to students in 33 states.

In September 2023, ARTBA announced an expansion of its scholarship program. The newly renamed Lanford Family Transportation Construction Worker Memorial Scholarship now extends post-high school financial assistance to the children of workers killed or permanently disabled while working on projects in the sectors of airports, bridges, marine, ports and waterways, public transit, roads, railroads, tunnels, and utilities.

“The 2021 infrastructure law is providing record levels of federal investment in all modes of surface transportation to repair and modernize an aging network,” Stan Lanford said in a statement. “But the increased investments also mean there are many more project work sites that put more construction workers at risk. That’s why now is the right time to expand the scope of the scholarship.”

ARTBA Manager of Safety and Foundation Programs Melanie Laird added, “These young adults are just trying to make their way in the world, and they have such passion for what they are studying. It is an absolute pleasure to talk with them each year and see how they’re progressing. And I love that we are able to build lasting relationships with these students.”

The ARTBA Foundation also supports the Industry Leader Development Program, which provides an introduction to advocacy and policymaking to industry professionals ages 30 to 50. Nearly 800 professionals have completed the program, which is held each spring in D.C. in conjunction with ARTBA’s Federal Issues Program and Transportation Construction Coalition Fly-In.

Program participants attend a two-and-a-half-day ‘boot camp’ to learn about federal transportation policy and regulatory issues and how to advocate before lawmakers. The event culminates with visits to members of Congress on Capitol Hill. Afterward, participants stay involved through the Industry Leadership Development Council.

“We’re relying on that program to develop leaders who will go up to Capitol Hill and meet with their members of Congress and talk about the importance of strong investment in transportation,” Jeanneret said.

construction angels


Construction Angels is a nonprofit started in 2011 by its CEO and Founder Kristi Gibbs, who comes from a third-generation asphalt family. The nonprofit provides immediate financial assistance and grief counseling to family when a construction worker is killed on the job. Construction Angels initially focused only on road and bridge workers in South Florida, where Gibbs lives. Then, in 2012, a fivestory parking garage at Miami Dade College’s West Campus collapsed, killing four workers. Gibbs realized the need stretched beyond road and bridge employees, and in 2014, Construction Angels began to include all construction trades.

When a construction worker is killed on the job, family members can fill out a short online application. Construction Angels verifies employment and the beneficiaries with the employer. The nonprofit directly donates $7,000 total to the spouse and/or children. If the person did not have a spouse or children, the family is offered $2,000. In addition, every family can qualify for up to $1,000 in grief counseling, which is paid directly to the counseling service.

Many of the families “are so lost they don’t know which end is up,” said Construction Angels Director of Operations Jennifer McCloskey. “Most of the construction workers that have fatalities on the job are the breadwinner. So, the spouse or the children are dependent on that person and now that person is gone. And [the family is] trying to pick up the pieces of their life. So for us to give them immediate financial resources helps them get past the initial shock and grief process. They can at least get their footing as they try to move forward.”

Construction Angels also provides three types of scholarships: for children whose parent has died on a construction job site; for those children in specific states who want to work in the construction industry; and to educational organizations to teach students about jobs in the construction industry.

Construction Angels has people organizing fundraisers, typically through a construction company, in 24 states but is always looking for more volunteers. The goal is to have representatives in all 50 states by 2030, Gibbs said.

BOMAG Americas raised money for Construction Angels through fundraisers at the 2020 and 2023 CONEXPO-CON/AGG events, where the company dedicated a portion of its booth space to the campaign and raised $13,400 through the sale of T-shirts with fun construction slogans.

“BOMAG wanted to get involved with Construction Angels not only because it is a great cause for our industry, but also because it is a well-managed and professionally run organization,” said Dena Jenkins Hecht, BOMAG’s Manager of Marketing and Communications for North America. “The Construction Angels’ mission aligns very well with BOMAG Americas’ focus on promoting safety in and around road construction sites and raising awareness of road safety in general.”


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