Wayne Marzolf Builds Houses, Not Walls
From his point of view, he’s just an ordinary guy, though his extraordinary volunteering skills and service say otherwise.
Photo by Ed Jay
Wayne Marzolf runs a successful family business, Marzolf Brothers Construction, but he still finds the time to wrangle an annual charity golf tournament benefitting youth involved with the Alameda Boys & Girls Club and schedules construction trips to Mexico to build homes for the poor. From his point of view, he’s just an ordinary guy, though his extraordinary volunteering skills and service say otherwise.
How did the Marzolf Brother’s Golf Tournament get started?
It started in 1988 with my brother Roland. He had the idea to sponsor a golf tournament in support of the Boys & Girls Club. We already supported it with random volunteer work and by attending its events, but we thought that a special fundraiser like this would be a way to have a direct impact on the organization. I agreed to be a part of the effort, though I had never played golf. My cousin loaned me some right-handed clubs, even though I’m a lefty. Somehow I used the clubs and played for the very first time. I remember barbecuing steaks for about 60 people and raising $400. It felt like a big accomplishment at the time. Fast-forward 29 years, and the tournament raised $54,000. We’ve come a long way but have kept the same initial spirit of fun and purpose. Today, we have 12 people on our planning committee and have figured out what works and what doesn’t. Last year, we held the tournament at Round Hill Country Club in Alamo. We’ve also have held the tournament at the Chuck Corica Golf Complex and Sequoyah Country Club. The tournament/dinner includes a silent and live auction that always makes for a really good time. I look forward to the tournament every year and never lose sight of the fact that our earnings are part of the Boys & Girls Club working budget.
Tell me about your construction trips to Mexico.
In 1994, the pastor of my church, Piedmont Community Church, asked my friend, Rob Jacobus, to “get the youth group going again.” That was pretty much all that was said, and that’s when Rob asked me to help form a youth group. Looking for inspiration, Rob discovered Amor Ministries, an organization that partners with local parishes to do mission work for the poor. In 1996, through this organization, I took my first trip to Mexico to build houses with 17 kids and four adults. Last year, we took 235 kids and 65 adults and built 18 homes for families very much in need of shelter. Our motto is: We build houses, not walls. Our building efforts are about 20 miles east of Tijuana, and I am the general foreman on our trips. Not only do I have experience with building and working on homes but also with working with kids, which is a big advantage. Actually, I’ve engaged with all kinds of personality types in my life, which is what makes this job a no-brainer for me. I like to teach problem solving to kids, enabling them to figure things out themselves. Giving the kids the skills to problem solve and work hard is more important than the actual building skills. Whenever there is a building problem of any kind, the answer is, “Go ask Wayne.”
What kept you motivated to stay involved with these projects for so long?
Giving back is very important to me, so staying involved is easy. With the mission trips, it is an opportunity to instill in the kids the idea of giving back by seeing other people’s hardships and physically working on building the houses. It is both a humbling and gratifying experience that changes you. And supporting the Girls & Boys Club feels so right knowing that so many kids who without this club might otherwise not have a safe place to go to after school. These kids are the future, and I believe we all need to support them any way that we can. I’ve been involved with Boy Scouts as an assistant scoutmaster at the National Jamboree, a merit badge counselor, and an Eagle Scout adviser. So, like I said, staying motivated has always been the easy part.
Any advice for people who want to give back but don’t know where to begin?
There is a need everywhere around us. Just pause and look around. Getting involved in any small capacity and taking a little of your time can make a difference. You don’t need to have a lot of money to do this; you just need the will to help others. Take whatever speaks to you and use it — maybe it’s the library, Boy or Girl Scouts, shelters of many kinds — it is an almost endless list. Giving back is very rewarding and a terrific way to meet great people while you are doing good. Use whatever gift you have to make an impact anywhere you can.
What did receiving the regional Jefferson Award in January mean to you?
Frankly, I didn’t even know what the Jefferson Award was when I was approached about winning. It’s nice to be recognized, but my approach would be the same regardless of an award. I’m a born worker and not in it for the recognition. The actual presentation ceremony took place at the beautiful Herbst Theatre in San Francisco. All that were honored that day were given a medal for their work. It was fantastic to be surrounded by other regular people that found areas and ways to make a difference and lift up the lives of others.