Community Champion: Steve Mataro

Steve Mataro, with DSW Homes, is a Community Champion for his work in the community — including his contributions to Jack Johnson Park in Galveston and renovations to a historic house in The 1867 Settlement in Texas City. His company came to town after Hurricane Ike, but he, especially, has made an effort to support community causes.

Photo by Jennifer Reynolds

Why would homebuilder Steve Mataro, of DSW Homes, make the list of The Daily News’ Community Champions?

La Cherry Matthews has the answer.

“It’s great to be back home,” Matthews, 55, said after spending four years out of her childhood home because of Hurricane Ike. “DSW Homes and Steve Mataro got me back into my house.”

Matthews was part of Galveston’s disaster housing program after Ike wrecked her house on 55th Street. The original contractor got about 80 percent of the work done but then disappeared.

For a while Matthews thought she’d never get home again.

“Then (Mataro) called me and said he would have me back into my house in a month,” she said. “It wasn’t a month. It was two weeks.

“I hear people say all the time that their company cares, but in this case it’s true. I was a real person, someone that DSW cared for and now I am home.”

Mataro, one of the partners in DSW Homes, is all too familiar with what Matthews described. His company has a reputation of coming in and picking up the pieces after other construction companies have failed.

That was the case in the Golden Triangle after Hurricane Rita. When a contractor hired by the state to rebuild houses went under and left 150 displaced homeowners, it was the same in the Galveston and Galveston County programs. DSW wasn’t among the initial builders awarded the contracts to rebuild Ike-ravaged houses, but when another company failed to get the work done, Mataro’s company stepped up.

 “We work on the granny philosophy,” Mataro, 50, said. “Every member of our team takes the approach that if the client was your grandmother, how would you like her to be treated and what help would you want her to receive?”

That philosophy has served Mataro and his partners Jim Schumer, Kirk Doss and Donald Gerratt well. By Mataro’s estimate, his company built or rebuilt more than 1,000 houses within the Hurricane Rita and Hurricane Ike recovery programs.

It was that reputation that landed DSW a contract to take its philosophy to New York City to help with the Hurricane Sandy recovery, repairing more than 500 houses.

Mataro also stepped in to help refurbish the Bell House, the historical site in West Texas City that’s part of The 1867 Settlement Community.

Mataro is focused on a new venture. The company, which moved its corporate headquarters to Galveston, is taking what it learned during the disaster recovery and applying it to build affordable housing in Galveston.

Just as is the case when he hands over the keys to those who had houses rebuilt after Ike, no one gets away without taking a photo and giving thumbs up. That simple gesture, dubbed by many as The Mataro, came about during Mataro’s work on the Rita recovery process.

“We had this guy in his 90s who was just beaten down,” Mataro said. “When we took a photo he saw me put my thumb up and asked why I was doing that.

“I told him that was my way of saying everything would be OK. He said, ‘You know I believe in you,’ and he put his thumb up.”

Matthews said Mataro and his company deserve every thumbs up it gets.

“Steve Mataro got me home,” she said. “He was right. Everything is OK.”

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