About 20 years ago, long-time Southern Nevada attorney Janet Blumen had a brainstorm as it related to helping people find employment without having to work multiple jobs to support their families.
Thus, the creation of the Foundation for an Independent Tomorrow (FIT), which advanced from a dream to reality at 1931 Stella Lake Drive in the northwest valley near Martin Luther King Boulevard and Lake Mead Drive.
However, FIT did not start becoming reality until Blumen burned up the phone lines looking for help while knocking on the doors of executives all over Las Vegas. When it was determined that FIT needed its own building, fellow Las Vegas long-timers Linda & Frank Harris of LF Harris and Company, Inc., were among the first to come running to the job site for a new building back in 2007.
The idea of creating a job-training center piqued their interests in spite of the massive undertaking required to not only start the job, but more importantly, finish it and keep it running.
“Janet and I were friends and she asked me to get on the Board of FIT,” Linda Harris recalled recently. “They got an acre of land from the city and asked us to get involved. There were several meetings required to determine what the need was at the time.”
“We committed to be the general contractor for the job. I resigned from the Board so that there would be no conflict. We started to assemble a team while also beginning the pre-planning necessary.”
Before long, Linda had commitments from Martin Peltyn Structural Engineers (the Blumens were friends with Sandy & Roger Peltyn and got the company involved) along with JMA Architects (long-time architect Tom Shoeman of JMA was also good friends with the Peltyns)
Not to be slowed, the Harrises and their friends in the construction business instantly started turning a piece of desert into a structure that would eventually become a mini-university of reality for thousands of people needing guidance and education.
“I can still remember lugging the preliminary drawings and layouts,” Linda Harris recalled adding that the economy was still strong at the time; although the economic collapse was only a few months away from the worst economic disaster in the history of Nevada. “The structural portion of the project was delayed because it was a donation.”
One Challenge After the Next
As is the case in virtually every construction project, FIT faced one challenge after the next.
“I had heard about what Janet wanted to do before she called,” said Linda Harris, a Canadian who left the snow behind for the desert in Las Vegas. “We respect Janet’s drive. She definitely understands the community and the needs the city and the county face on a daily basis.
“Once Janet gets something in her head, there is no slowing her down.”
Ground was broken on FIT’s new building in 2007. Construction started in either September or October.
“There was no turning back at that point,” recalled Frank Harris, a 66-year-old native of Las Vegas.
As word began to spread, material started to appear as the excitement continued to grow right across the street from a massive lot that now houses the Federal Bureau of Investigations. Craig Hendrickson, now a Partner with LF Harris, was on the team and so was Project Superintendent Rick Schlecht.
One particular memory that stands out revolved around one of the Subcontractors.
“I will never forget that we had one fella named Fabrice Charbonneau (another friend of Blumen who donated the front feature wall finish) show up with a ladder tied to the top of his Porsche,” Frank Harris laughed. “He was an artist.”
Needless to say, FIT still has the fingerprints of Frank and Linda Harris all over the building.
“It’s wonderful to see people that are able to pull themselves together with the help of someone on this property,” Frank Harris said. “Sometimes, all anyone needs is a little guidance and FIT not only provides the help, but the inspiration at the same time.”
Blumen will never forget the Harrises and their dedication to FIT.
“Linda and Frank have been both personal friends and supporters of FIT for over 20 years,” said Blumen, the Founder and CEO of FIT. “Their professionalism and commitment to excellence in the projects they build resulted in a beautiful building which is FIT’s home. I am forever grateful for their friendship and support.”
In 2008, FIT moved into a 14,000-square foot facility built on just over an acre of land donated to FIT by the City of Las Vegas near Martin Luther King Boulevard and Lake Mead Drive. The building was made possible by a $1.5 million dollar cornerstone grant from Caesars Entertainment.
While FIT’s building is now nine years old, the Harrises still drop by on occasion to see how things are going. In fact, Frank replaced a door in the building on a very cold and windy day in January.
The end result is something the Harrises will never forget. They’re still involved with FIT and when they walk through the building, it’s evident by the looks on their faces that the time spent constructing the building has ingrained memories that won’t soon be forgotten.
“We’re proud of how this all turned out,” Linda Harris said. “Because of FIT, people are discovering a better lifestyle.”