Emily Schmitt, general counsel for Iowa-based, Sukup shares how "Sukup is here to make an impact on the world!"

By: Brent Adams

Emily Schmitt, general counsel for Sheffield, Iowa-based Sukup and the daughter of Sukup CFO Steve Sukup and granddaughter of company founders Eugene and Mark Sukup, joined the family business after graduating from law school. 

For 55 years, Sukup Manufacturing Corp. grain bins have been trusted by farmers across the United States to keep their grain stored and protected from the elements. 

Over the past few years, bins similar to those that provide shelter for precious commodities also have become makeshift transitional shelters for homeless and displaced residents of developing nations worldwide. 

The hurricane-proof structures fashioned from modified grain bins are also earthquake, fire, termite and machete-proof, and have an estimated life span of 75 years. 

The effort was launched in 2010 when Sukup's safety director, who for years pondered ways to build a home out of a grain bin, pitched the idea to Sukup officials. The decision was made to embark on the project, and Sukup partnered with GoServ Global to bring relief to families in Haiti who lost their homes in the devastating earthquake that rocked the impoverished nation. 

Today, there are more than 350 Safe T Homes standing in Haiti, Peru, where GoServ Global recently has provided housing in the Hidden Creeks Bible Camp and in a refugee camp in Uganda. 

Emily has become passionate about the Safe T Homes project, and last summer had the chance to construct her first Safe T Home on a mission trip to Haiti. She blogged about her life-changing experience on the company's website. She was joined on the trip by her husband, Andy, representatives of GoServe and former NFL and Iowa State University quarterback Sage Rosenfiels, who has become a proponent of the Safe T Homes initiative. 

"Sukup is here to make an impact on the world, not just sell products," Schmitt said. 

In her initial blog post she recalls flying over a site in Haiti where 70 Safe T Homes are installed. 

"I will never forget looking out the window to see a landscape of Safe T Homes for the first time," she wrote. "I was amazed at the sight."

The trip came just two weeks after the death of Eugene Sukup. In the blog post, she shared poignant memories of her grandfather. 

"Reflecting on grandpa's legacy is the ideal way to begin this trip, knowing the Safe T Home would not be possible, but for that original tinkering farmer," Schmitt wrote. 

Homes offer safety, security. 

Each home measures 18 feet in diameter, has 254 square feet of usable space and can sleep 10 or more. An interior loft adds 50 percent more square footage to the home and can hold up to 1,200 pounds evenly distributed. 

A double-roofed system displaces heat, making the structures much cooler than the grain bins found on farms. 

"That's one of the first questions we get from farmers because they typically think of the grain bins as being hot," Schmitt said, adding that the double-roof systems can decrease the internal temperature of the structure on average by about 10 degrees fahrenheit. 

The structures are anchored to the ground using ballast boxes filled with brick, gravel, rock, dirt or other heavy materials. They also can be anchored to concrete slabs or secured to the ground using soil penetrating anchors. 

The homes withstood their first major challenge in 2016, when 200 that had been installed in Les Cayas, Haiti, survived the Category 4 impact of Hurricane Matthew with minimal damage, while only 10 percent of the traditional housing in the surrounding area survived. 

Safe T Homes are more than just a steel edifice. They also include a rain water collection system that provides clean drinking water, and solar panels can be mounted to the roof to provide solar energy. 

Because safety and security are important issues in developing nations, each structure features a full-size, lockable steel door. Windows have lockable exterior doors with 16-gauge perforated steel interior screens that allow ventilation while providing security. 

Each Safe T Home kit includes basic hand tools, which a crew can use to build a home in one day. Because of the ease of assembly, Sukup officials believe the structures also are suitable for makeshift medical and dental clinics and birthing centers. 

"It takes only six hours to build one with hand tools," Schmitt said. "If I can do that, anybody could build that in a day." 

Schmitt said Sukup has plans to bring more Safe T Homes to refugee camps around the world in the years to come. 

"What we're hearing is that they want the help, and if they can't come to the U.S., we want to go to them," Schmitt said. 

There might also be opportunities to set up the structures as transitional shelters in America in the wake of natural disasters. 

"Instead of makeshift trailers, you could use these because you could transport 10 Safe T Homes inside of one trailer, so you could have had 11 homes," Schmitt said. 

To learn more about Sukup Manufacturing Corp.'s Safe T Home, including information on becoming involved in the Safe T Home effort or providing a safe shelter to those in need, visit www.safethome.com. 

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