Philanthropy has always been part of Quattrocchi Kwok Architects’ (QKA) culture. But now, it’s more important than ever. “We really recognize how fortunate we are,” partner and founder Mark Quattrocchi says, explaining that the firm’s 65 employees are all working from home and that their projects remain on a comparatively smooth track. “This is the time for all of us who are doing well to do more.”

QKA, one of northern California’s top providers of comprehensive master planning and design services for K-12 and higher education facilities, does much to help COTS. They’ve been invaluable consultants as we look at ways to repurpose our facilities to better serve our clients. The firm was also a generous sponsor of our annual fundraising breakfast, The COTS Hour.

“You can’t live in this community and not feel connected to COTS,” Mark says. His connection grew stronger while talking with COTS staff and stakeholders about how our sites could function better. Mark says he was taken by the array of services COTS offers to meet a variety of needs. He was particularly impressed with COTS’ focus on homeless prevention and with the permanent housing programs through which we house most of the children we serve.

Opportunity for children is important to Mark. Providing it is his life’s work: he’s spent 34 years designing their learning spaces. In Petaluma, QKA’s biggest project was Kenilworth Junior High. Their process depends on close collaboration with teachers to provide the types of learning environments students need. They create flexible and adaptable spaces so that schools can respond to changing needs or changes in methodology. When asked to name one thing that will never go out of style, Mark praised natural light, which improves concentration, mood, and scholastic outcomes. “We want to bring an abundance of daylight into the classroom,” Mark says. “Learning happens best in spaces that are light and uplifting. Every child deserves the right space to learn.”

But what happens to opportunity when classrooms close due to a pandemic? In April, Mark learned that many local students in poor or rural households were having trouble keeping up with lessons because they had no internet or very spotty internet. “Here the teachers had risen to the challenge of distance learning and adapted their lessons almost overnight. It was really remarkable,” Mark says. But some of their students were missing out. And school administrators were rushing to find the resources they needed for their students.

The firm is majority employee-owned, and the employees immediately decided to devote $30,000 to helping schools provide access to all their students. QKA purchased 60 Wi-Fi hotspots and service plans and distributed them to local school districts. They also bought paper so that teachers could drop off worksheets and instructional materials to their students’ homes. And they donated to charities devoted to bringing food and resources to low-income students. All told, QKA gave between 120 and 150 kids the ability to keep up with their better-resourced peers.

Pictured: a Two Rock student utilizing a QKA hot spot

Betha MacLain, former principal and superintendent of the Two Rock Union School District, one of the districts helped by QKA, says the firm “solved a problem we were struggling to solve ourselves.” Within ten days of Mark’s call to her, every family in her district who needed at hotspot received one. “Given the demand and the wait for hotspots, this was amazing,” Betha says. “Their contribution provided a streamlined solution that was not only the most efficient we could find, it saved us many hours of work and coordination and allowed essential staff to focus on other supports, like getting meals to families.” Paper was “the icing on the cake.”

Mark serves on the Board of Directors for the Bergin University of Canine Studies in Penngrove, and QKA just built the first phase temporary classrooms for an eventual new state of the art campus. The university trains dogs and people to work together in a variety of fields, including police work, rescue work, hunting, service and therapy. QKA solved thousands of problems along the way, says a grateful president Bonnie Bergin, and the new campus was set to open this fall. The pandemic was the only problem among thousands that QKA could not resolve, says Bonnie, who is hopeful that her the campus will welcome students back in the spring.

Mark’s belief in the therapeutic power of dogs extends to another agency for which he serves on the board: Paws for Purple Hearts (a program which has its roots at Bergin University). This is a national organization that teams veterans with service dogs to help the veterans cope with Post Traumatic Stress trauma or traumatic brain injuries. Through training their dogs, the veterans often experience relief from their symptoms. Mark was particularly moved by the story of one veteran who had his first good night’s sleep when his training dog was at his side.

Lots of events have been cancelled this year. Among them is the annual ball for the international organization A Chance in Life, which in its 75-year history has provided opportunities for thousands of at-risk children throughout the world. Mark serves as a board member and has been named the organization’s Man of the Year.

In the speech he would have delivered at the ball, Mark wrote, “To be of service to those in need is our highest calling.” We count ourselves lucky to have this local architecture firm that answers the call to help with generosity, skill, initiative, native creativity and empathy.

Thank you, Mark and all your team at Quattrocchi Kwok Architects.

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