Board Q&A Spotlight: Chip Reaves, Board Chair//President, Bigger Brains
Chip Reaves is the current Rebuild Upstate board chair. When he’s not losing his tape measure on a build site, he leads the team at BiggerBrains, Inc. as the CEO & Founder.
Chip leads our board with empathy. He has a steadfast willingness to always help – however he can. Our organization, and the homeowners we serve, are better thanks to Chip’s volunteerism.
How did you hear about Rebuild Upstate?
Some guy named Chris talked to me about it at a business networking group meeting. I joined the Anderson advisory council, and started asking around at my church if anyone wanted to try signing up for a project. We got a few folks signed up, and it’s turned into a very passionate group of about 25 of us who take on 4-5 rebuild projects every year now.
What made you decide to get more involved with Rebuild Upstate?
I was in youth ministry for 10 years and did some minor home repairs on mission projects back then, but I was just a notch above useless when I got started on the worksites. I did it to get to know other folks at my church since I was still pretty new then. After doing a few and getting to meet the homeowners it started to sink in with me just how important these projects are for the quality of life our homeowners
have. What is your goal for Rebuild Upstate as a board member? I was struck by Chris’s comment at this year’s board retreat that, at our current levels we may not be keeping up with the growing need. I’m very interested in seeing RU do more in Anderson county in particular, and based on the numbers I think that means a huge increase in overall projects as well. I’ll do what I can to help add volunteers and donors in Anderson county.
What difference have you seen Rebuild Upstate make in the lives of others?
My church has done 20-25 projects over the last few years, but the one that stands out is one we should not have done. It was February, it was freezing, it was raining. We postponed a couple of times due to weather as I recall, and so we didn’t want to postpone again, and we hoped the rain would be light. It was not. We had pop-up tents over the saws, and the homeowner tried making us instant coffee to keep us
warm. I learned that, to my surprise, the Ryobi power tools kept working even when soaked by rain, and maybe more surprising so did I. It was a rough, rough project. We took a lunch break and went to a restaurant to get warm, and I remember we all left huge puddles in our chairs and on the floor where we sat – we had no way to dry off. But at the end, when we had the ramp done and most of the handrail, the homeowner couple came out, and the man walked down the ramp using his walker. It was the first time in I don’t know how long that he could leave his house unassisted, and the look on his face was such sheer joy that it is burned into my memory. If we can bring that much happiness to someone, with just a few hours of manual labor and some boards, it’s well, well worth it.
What is it like being on a Rebuild Upstate build day?
I try to get there early but some of my team is always there before me. Some homeowners are nice, some
try to help, some we don’t hear from, and in one case one was rude. You never know what you’re going to find – the project might look straightforward, but then there’s wasps, or there’s a plumbing issue, or there’s a bigger issue than you had planned for. But there’s something about working alongside a group of people, all dedicated to the same purpose, all working to help another person have a better life, that is hard to put into words. It’s the ultimate warm fuzzy feeling at the end of a work project when you can see the results of your work and know it’s going to make a difference for that homeowner.
Tell us a little about you.
I’m a serial entrepreneur, having started 5 businesses over the years, so that keeps me busy. My wife and I live alone now since our daughter just moved out into her first grown-up apartment, so it’s just us and the dog.
What other community organizations or initiatives are you involved in?
I used to be very active in refugee ministries back in Atlanta, and I’m still involved in several charities in Africa related to those times. In particular, at the moment I’m working with some friends to support a group of orphans and widows who are homeless in eastern Congo due to militia raids – we’ve built them a kitchen building and we’re working on supplying food.
What else do you want the Rebuild Upstate extended family to know about you?
I am legendary for losing tape measures and pencils on a work site. Can I borrow yours?
Who makes up the Rebuild Upstate team? Meet the staff, board, and advisory council members here.