Construction Connections: Taylor Nester’s Story
As project manager for Shepherd Center’s Arthur M. Blank Family Residences building, Taylor Nester is helping build hope for others like Shepherd helped build hope for her dad.
Taylor Nester, project manager at Brasfield & Gorrie, inherited her love for construction from her father, a former Shepherd Center patient. Now, as the project manager for Shepherd Center’s new Arthur M. Blank Family Residences building, Taylor is helping build hope for others.
BUILDING A FOUNDATION OF HOPE
In 1980, Taylor's father, Thomas Godfrey, was newly married to his wife Carol. He had a thriving career in civil construction, building roads and laying water and sewer lines, when a tree limb fell on him, resulting in a T-7 and T-8 complete spinal cord injury. After a period of uncertainty that Thomas would survive, he stabilized and transferred to Shepherd Center. He spent four months as an inpatient in Shepherd’s Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation Program and took advantage of every opportunity to return to an active life. With the guidance of Terry Lee, a close friend and renowned wheelchair athlete, he ventured into adaptive sports like basketball and tennis, eventually becoming president of the Atlanta Lawn Tennis Association (ALTA) wheelchair league.
In addition to his success in sports, Thomas returned to work for his previous employer, but after a slow period of work for the company, he was laid off.
“I wasn’t going to sit around the house and do nothing,” Thomas says. “I worked hard all my life, and I wasn’t about to stop now. So, I started my own construction business building houses.”
That business is where Taylor began laying the foundation for her future. Born in 1991, eleven years after her father’s injury, Taylor grew up going to job sites.
“Mom and I were his punch-out and cleaning crew,” Taylor recalls. “It was never abnormal for me that he was in a wheelchair because he never let it slow him down. He would always check out every part of his houses, even when they were two stories. He would shimmy up the stairs one by one, and I would carry his wheelchair up so he could make sure everything was up to his specifications.”
Thomas continued to go the extra mile to be with his daughter at home.
“He always made the impossible look possible,” Taylor says. “He would still get on the floor and play with me. Now, looking back at those photos and realizing how physically demanding that was and how much effort he put into being a dad means so much.”
With a passion for construction, Taylor carried on her father’s legacy by beginning a construction program in high school and later pursuing a degree in construction management from Clemson University in South Carolina. After completing her education, Taylor joined Brasfield & Gorrie full time in 2014. However, the most extraordinary moment was yet to come.
COMING FULL CIRCLE
Brasfield & Gorrie began working with Shepherd Center to build the Arthur M. Blank Family Residences, which was made possible by generous support for Shepherd Center’s Pursuing Possible campaign. The building will greatly enhance the patient and family experience at Shepherd Center by allowing more families to be near their loved ones to support them as they travel their path to rehabilitation and learn to begin again.
“I found out that we were pursuing the job with Shepherd Center, and I immediately went to my division manager,” Taylor says. “I told him my story, and he responded with, ‘Wow. You’re the one that’s going to build this for us.’”
As a teenager, Taylor got to know Shepherd Center when Thomas underwent two skin flap surgeries. She spent several days a week with her father, experiencing Shepherd Center’s trademark culture firsthand.
“We definitely made a lot of memories there,” Taylor says. “It’s hard to be in those areas where people are experiencing this life-changing injury for the first time, but we got to share our story and how beautiful our lives have been since Dad’s accident.”
Now, as Shepherd Center and Brasfield & Gorrie finish the final level of the Arthur M. Blank Family Residences, Taylor and her family are continuing to share their story and help others create their own.
“Taylor working on this project means all that hard work paid off,” Thomas says.
“It’s been an honor and a blessing to hear all the stories about Shepherd Center through my involvement in this project,” Taylor says. “Every story is so different and adds another layer of importance to this job. Knowing who we are building this building for is everything. I’m reminded that we don’t often get to work on a project with this much significance and impact. I’m so grateful for this project.”
To learn more about Shepherd Center’s Pursuing Possible campaign, visit expandingshepherd.org.
Written by Lindsey Rieben
Shepherd Center provides world-class clinical care, research, and family support for people experiencing the most complex conditions, including spinal cord and brain injuries, multi-trauma, traumatic amputations, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and pain. An elite center recognized as both Spinal Cord Injury and Traumatic Brain Injury Model Systems, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News as one of the nation’s top hospitals for rehabilitation. Shepherd Center treats thousands of patients annually with unmatched expertise and unwavering compassion to help them begin again.