Gary E. Oakes
Gary E. Oakes embodies the Hoosier work ethic. He started his professional construction management career at the bottom, working his way up to industrial plant manager, then vice president. After eighteen years of hard work, he was named president of American Precast Concrete in 1990.
“I like to go home each day feeling like I’ve given my all,” said Oakes.
Thankfully for Oakes’ community of Martinsville, this drive didn’t stop when he retired in 2003. He uses his construction knowledge to spearhead projects that provide housing, shelter and handicap accessibility to people in need.
Oakes first project began when he realized a vacant building in his town could be transformed and upgraded into a homeless shelter. Earning United Way’s backing and over two million in Eli Lilly grant money, Oakes’ efforts created 10 emergency apartments and 10 transitional apartments called WellSpring Center. Last fiscal year, 194 individuals received 19,066 nights of shelter through WellSpring. Oakes also represented WellSpring in a joint venture with Flaherty & Collins Properties to develop 36 units of income-based housing for seniors, further renovating three more buildings in Martinsville.
Oakes works hard to ensure his community members have a place to call home. “If you own a home, you take care of it and set an example for your children.” He noted that Martinsville’s housing is over 50 percent rental properties, making homeownership difficult. He aspires to change that and help people “take the first step toward ownership.”
Oakes’ talents and skills are utilized in many ways by multiple organizations in Martinsville. He serves as the board treasurer for Desert Rose Foundation, funding housing and supportive services for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. His construction skills landed him the position of director and construction supervisor for Habitat for Humanity and construction chairman for the League of Miracles of Morgan County, a sports complex designed for people with special needs. Oakes is also active in his church, First Christian Church of Martinsville, the Martinsville Kiwanis Club and Servants at Work (SAW), providing high quality, environmentally-friendly removable and reusable ramps for people with disabilities.
Oakes purposely diversifies his volunteer time so that he can help break down silos and make connections others cannot. “We need to be connected so we can share resources,” said Oakes. “When you do that, you realize we are similar people with shared values, and that’s what community means to me.”