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Covenant House
Jun 11, 2018

Christopher Gaffney: Building Homes, Rebuilding Lives

By Felecia Stratton

Covenant House

As group president of Toll Brothers, Christopher Gaffney oversees the building of luxury new home communities in the best ZIP codes across the United States. And as a devoted Covenant House volunteer, he serves disadvantaged children who have no home at all.

Despite a full plate of professional responsibilities, Gaffney finds time to devote himself to Covenant House, the nation’s largest adolescent care agency serving homeless, runaway, and trafficked youth. Not only does he fundraise and advocate for the organization, he also serves on the Covenant House Pennsylvania’s Board of Directors and formerly served on the Board of Directors for Covenant House New York for five years. Gaffney is a member of multiple committees, including those created to bring Covenant House to both Asbury Park and Camden.

Although his job at Toll Brothers keeps him on the road, Gaffney maintains close ties to Monmouth County where he grew up, graduating from Holmdel High School in 1981, and then moving to Fair Haven. While his work and life have recently taken him away from the area, “My kids still live in Monmouth County, so in addition to my work, I still have a direct family connection to the area,” Gaffney said. “Ironically, my daughter Erin now works in the same school I attended in third grade.

Covenant House

“This area will always hold a special place in my heart as it not only provided me with great perspective and pride but also incredible experiences,” he added. “It contains everything in a relatively compact geographic location – beaches, horse farms, beautiful lakes, best-in-class schools, great restaurants and, yes, the best diners.”

It was during high school that Gaffney grew interested in the home building field. Working his first job as a laborer, he swept floors for a close friend’s dad who, at the time, was in the process of building a new home for himself.

“That initial entry exposed me to the business and provided me the opportunity to learn about many other aspects of the building industry, eventually becoming closer to the part that makes it all worthwhile – seeing the joy and pride on a customer’s face as they move into a new home is indescribable,” Gaffney said. “For the past 21 years, I have been fortunate to work for Toll Brothers, a Fortune 500 company. It is a large corporation, but it truly feels like family.”

His Toll Brothers coworkers, along with his family, lifelong friends, and peer groups, enable Gaffney to help the deserving kids of Covenant House. “Being able to tap into every one of those relationships has allowed me to exponentially give back,” he said.

“Learning the life experiences of these kids has been more than enough motivation to spend time helping,” Gaffney added. “When I listen to their incredibly heartwarming stories, it’s easy to want to spend additional time trying to help them.”

Covenant House

Scenes from the Covenant House “A Night of Broadway Stars” event at Lincoln Center in New York. June 11, 2013. INSIDER IMAGES/Andrew Kelly for Covenant House (UNITED STATES)

Gaffney was helpful in bringing Covenant House to Asbury Park. “I was introduced to Covenant House by my dear friend, Kevin Ryan, the president of Covenant House International,” he explained. “While he initially asked me to get involved as a board member of Covenant House New York, he also provided me the opportunity to work with wonderful friends and neighbors from Monmouth County to bring Covenant House to Asbury Park. I remember sitting in Kevin’s living room, brainstorming a plan. Seeing the joy and excitement on the neighbors’ faces as they listened to Kevin was awesome.”

The Asbury Park plan’s initial phase involved securing a delivery van, and distributing sandwiches, water, and blankets to kids in need on the streets. After a lot of hard work and long hours, the program morphed into a drop-in center for six years. Then, in February 2018, Covenant House Asbury Park opened its doors to a new shelter on Prospect Avenue that provides the city’s homeless young men the opportunity to stay close to the part of Monmouth County they call home as they transition out of homelessness.

Gaffney’s worlds recently converged when Covenant House was added to the annual list of Toll Brothers’ corporate charities. “It is amazing to feel the support from my work family to help the deserving kids of Covenant House even more,” he said.

“Toll Brothers’ core values shine in everything we do as a company – from providing a quality luxury home and top-notch customer experience to our homebuyers, to offering an amazing work environment for all our employees,” Gaffney added. “These values resonate throughout each employee and filter down to our homes and our communities, and it’s the reason the company is regularly honored with incredible accolades.”

Among those accolades, Toll Brothers has been recognized as the #1 Home Builder on Fortune’s “World’s Most Admired Companies” list for the past four years, and ranks among Fortune’s top 10 most admired companies for quality of products and services.

Through his many professional and charitable contributions, Gaffney has become a mentor and role model. He credits his success to his parents, “who instilled in me my values.”

He also has learned from many great leaders over the years, retaining bits and pieces of certain qualities from each along the way. He specifically cites Toll Brothers’ executive chairman, CEO, and president/COO, as well as his first boss from his early career days.

“From these experiences, I have tried to develop my own way of leading, mentoring, and most importantly treating people with respect,” Gaffney said. “This has not only enabled me to stay grounded, but also to truly relate to people and make strong connections with my team.”