Once Tom Riley secured a loan to build a new 12,000-square-foot facility six years after starting the Thomas Riley Artisans’ Guild, he began looking for ways to give back to the community. He was out at breakfast one day in 1997, talking about that very thing, when a teacher from East Naples Middle School happened to overhear. She tapped him on the shoulder and said, “I’ve got something you can do.”
As a result of that chance encounter, Riley began bringing troubled teens into his woodworking company to learn about the trade. Thousands have come through the doors since then, and many have completed their own projects alongside master craftsmen. “I was blessed with a loving background, so it was an easy choice to work with those kids,” Riley says.
His sons, Matt and Ben, joined the business in 2003 after graduating from college, Matt with a degree in marketing and business management and Ben as an industrial engineer. Matt, who took over as chief executive this spring, describes his father as “an orchestra leader.” The elder Riley launched his business with four cabinetmakers and grew it until he was overseeing dozens of artisans. The level of giving also increased as the company expanded over the years.
To the Education Foundation of Collier County—now called Champions for Learning—the Rileys have donated hand-carved mahogany lecterns, and ultimately an entire stage set, for the annual Golden Apple teacher recognition awards ceremony. For the past seven years, they have designed a piece of furniture—each valued at $25,000 to $50,000—for the Naples Winter Wine Festival auction benefiting the Naples Children & Education Foundation. In addition, the Rileys helped Palmetto Ridge High School form a woodworking program, and they sponsor a scholarship at Naples High School, Matt and Ben’s alma mater. Matt estimates the total value of what his family has contributed to the Naples community at more than $2 million.
To celebrate the Guild’s recent twenty-fifth anniversary, the Rileys remained true to form, throwing a party that doubled as a charity fundraiser. The event raised nearly $9,000 for Make-A-Wish Southern Florida. Giving “has become the foundation of our company,” Tom says.