Tag Archives: work ethic

Living core values is just good business

rural view, farmstead, Holmes Co. OH

A rural view.

By Bruce Stambaugh

My late friend, Perry Reese, Jr., knew a good thing when he saw it. Perry could read people like a newspaper. Best known as Coach, Perry scrutinized his surroundings similarly.

That fact was one of the main reasons the talented and demanding teacher and coach loved living here. It was not easy for a single, black, Catholic man to reside and work amid the world’s largest Amish and Mennonite population. But he did for several successful years until his untimely death in 2000.

Coach Reese

Perry Reese, Jr.

Perry thrived here as a winning coach and as an asset to the entire area. Why? He embraced the same core values as those revered by local folks. Work ethic, faith, community, and family together formed his life foundation.

Paramount to making Perry’s basketball team, players had to demonstrate a strong work ethic. The same characteristic holds for area businesses, too. Honing that esteemed value keeps the local economy healthy and stable, better than state and national averages.

Perry was a very private person, including practicing his faith. But there was no question as to where Perry stood, and he impressed that on his players.

St. Genevieve parish, Holmes Co. OH

St. Genevieve Cemetery and Parish.

It’s fair to say that local businesses attempt to model that approach with their products, services, employees and customers. The goal: actions match beliefs.

Perry loved the community, and for the most part, the community charitably returned the affection. He knew the importance of positive interactions and interpersonal relationships.

It takes determined effort to work together for the common good in a close-knit community. Though not perfect, this area shines in this regard.

Individuals, groups, clubs, churches and foundations regularly join forces with businesses to assist in time of need. Share-A-Christmas and the new county fairgrounds are two examples that come to mind. Add in the multitude of benefit auctions for individuals and service organizations, the commitment to community speaks for itself.

Despite his singleness, Perry placed enormous significance on the importance of family. In fact, he considered his players his family, and many considered him a father figure.

The fact that so many local businesses are family-owned and operated mirrors that concept. Family is everything here. Any and every good excuse is used to gather the family together any time of year.

Birthdays, holidays, anniversaries, even solemn holy days like Old Christmas and Ascension Day, families assemble to share and commune. That’s not to say some good old-fashioned ribbing and recreation won’t also ensue.

family, friends, gathering

Gathering of family and friends.

In that same vein, businesses also reward their employees with family days like picnics, destination trips for the entire family, and financial bonuses. After all, a son or daughter might just be part of the next generation of employees.

All that said, it doesn’t mean that businesses and owners set themselves on a higher plane than elsewhere. Nor does it mean mistakes don’t happen. They do. But incorporating these four essential core values creates productive consistency in both corporate and individual lives.

Another admirable quality, humility, ties these four values together for individuals and businesses alike. Perry Reese, Jr. successfully used that important attribute to bind his teams together as one, just as businesses strive to keep their faithful employees.

These four fundamental principles have been time-honored traditions in Holmes Co., Ohio. In truth, they are revered universal values that transcend any and all geographical, social, political, gender, religious or cultural boundaries.

Friend to many, Perry Reese, Jr. was a gem of a guy, who humbly modeled the community’s core values. To do so was simply smart business.

Amish church gathering, Amish buggies

Church gathering.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2016

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A strong work ethic is a universal trait

Amish produce stand

Produce stand.

By Bruce Stambaugh

I’ve been working since I was eight years old. To earn a little spending money of my own, my first job I went door-to-door selling seed packets. I’ve been working ever since, and that’s a very good thing.

There is great satisfaction in earning money through hard work. That was especially true as a youngster who grew up in a family that had pittance left over for life’s extravagances. We weren’t poor, but we weren’t rich by earthly standards either.

Rather, our wealth came in the joy of working together as a family and learning to enjoy work’s energy and accomplishments, whether we earned money or not. If it benefited others, payment was received in ways that far exceeded any monetary gain.

If my siblings and I earned money helping others at businesses or homes, you could be sure we used the profits for wise choices. The candy store was just five minutes away. Of course, our folks taught us the advantages of saving and giving, too.

I have my parents and grandparents, and likely generations before them, to thank for instilling work as a personal core value. Dad worked 43 years for the same company as a tool engineer. Mom was a household engineer before the profession was so christened.

Living in Holmes County, Ohio, all of my adult life, I have come to appreciate the community’s emphasis on exercising a robust work ethic. I marvel at seeing it played out every day.

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I only have to observe my neighbor’s family gathering crops. Three generations are often literally bringing in the sheaves.

That should be no surprise. Having a strong work ethic is common and a highly valued principle here. It’s one of the reasons our region consistently has one of the lowest monthly unemployment rates in Ohio.

County residents pride themselves on enthusiastically employing their work ethic. That’s ironic for a society that holds humility in equally high esteem. Folks manage to balance that apparent contradiction for self and others successfully.

The method to instilling the work ethic to the next generation is simple. Folks here both model and include younger generations in work. In other words, the adults give the youngsters responsibilities that result in projects completed.

Children on farms help with chores. Feeding the livestock, gathering eggs, walking the dog all count as productivity. Drive around and you’ll likely see children including work in their play.

I always get a chuckle when I see Amish children playing horse and buggy. A couple of toddlers sit in a wagon while an older sibling plays the horse. A short piece of rope serves as the reins.

Amish children playing

At play.

From time to time as a principal, I would get a note from home asking that Johnny be permitted to visit the local store to buy some grocery items needed for that evening’s supper. I usually approved the request by driving to the store and letting the sixth grader do his deed.

At the produce stand we frequent, the entire family chips in to make the business go. From time to time, a request is made for an item not available on the shelf. Junior will gladly fetch the requested item from the field to accommodate the customer.

It’s all in a day’s work. Of course, the work ethic extends far beyond our insulated world. Working and earning are universally esteemed characteristics.

I’m glad we have Labor Day to remind us of that fact.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015

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Wagonload

wagonloadbybrucestambaugh

Wagonload. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014. (Click on the photo to enlarge it.)

Since our home sits on land sold from an Amish farm, many opportunities to capture rural life in action present themselves. I sometimes have to act quickly, however, if I want to capture them. This image of our teenage neighbor guiding the workhorses pulling a wagonload of just cut cornstalks was one of those times. I happened to glance out the window and saw the wagon heading back to the barn. Unlike tractors, horses don’t make much noise when working. I grabbed my camera, and snapped a couple of shots before Bill and Bob, the draft horses, rushed the wagon out of sight.

If you look closely, you realize there is a lot going on in this shot. The first thing that caught my attention was the texture of the gathered cornstalks. The tan tassels, the long, dark green leaves all bending to the force exerted by Bill and Bob, and urged on by David, the driver. I thought the appearance of the chopped stalks laid and carried horizontally on the wagon boldly contrasted with those still standing in the cornfield directly behind the wagon.

More importantly, note the rhythm of working together that Bill and Bob nicely demonstrate with their almost unison strides. For the record, the cornstalks were ground up into mash, and stored in the silo for future feed for Bill and Bob and the other livestock on the farm. In addition, cutting the outside rows of corn, and a few through the middle of the stand of corn allows freer movement of air to help dry the remaining standing corn.

This photo is more than simply showing a young Amish boy leading a wagonload of harvest. It exemplifies the efficiency and purpose of Amish farming. “Wagonload” is my Photo of the Week.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2014

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A commitment to community

fullyinvolvedbybrucestambaugh

Fire fully involved the barn in minutes.

By Bruce Stambaugh

The middle-aged man sat in the van watching what he really wanted to do. His physically weak condition didn’t allow him to help rebuild the barn that had burned a month earlier.

I knew this man, and knew his heart was with these good people, people from across the community who came together to help resurrect the barn. My friend’s presence moved me as much as the corporate act of mutual aid that we witnessed.

Though he couldn’t help, my friend wanted to be there for support, for community, to keep the connection with his people. His presence was his help. Everyone knew about the fire that had destroyed the old bank barn. There was nothing firefighters could do that night other than to protect the adjacent buildings, which they did successfully.

Only three days before the barn raising, the clarion call went out, one phone message to another, for help. The result was a swarm of activity that began at sunrise and lasted until the job was nearly completed. This was not only how the community worked. It was the community.

barnraisingbybrucestambaugh

Three hours after the work had begun the barn was fully framed.

My friend knew this. He viewed his vicarious participation as imperative.

He didn’t need to tell me this of course. In our decades of living here in this place, we knew the unwritten, modest code of conduct. When your neighbors need help, help them.

It is the way this community operates, has operated, will operate. It is who we are and how we survive. Without one another, we are nothing. No man is an island indeed.

Old Order and New Order Amish worked side-by-side, hammer by hammer, board by board, with one another. Conservative Mennonites, Mennonites, and probably a few Baptists and Presbyterians were in the mix, too. All hands were on deck, no membership cards needed.

One man served as the coordinator for constructing the structure back into a barn. One body, estimated at about 300 men, women and children, made it happen. The process was beautiful to behold, a community in action.

With the foundation and floor previously completed, the framing of the barn began before sunup. By 8 a.m., the trusses were already being set. No orders needed to be barked. Spontaneous crews simply flowed in precision without cue, and the building arose. It was mind-boggling, astounding and inspiring.

Bearded men, clean-shaven men and teenage boys, proving themselves worthy, massed over the 50 by 60 foot frame. Seated on church benches, youngsters and women, their bonnets bleached whiter by the day’s brightness, watched and waited their turn.

By noon, the siding and roof were nearly completed. Hearty meals of homemade meatloaf, mashed potatoes and gravy, and plenty of side dishes and luscious desserts refueled the crews for the afternoon.

Even the weather cooperated for stepping casually across the peek of the roof. Clear blue sky, no wind to sway the balance, no humidity to dehydrate efficient work all made for perfect construction conditions.

In practicality, such a coordinated effort helped cut the cost of rebuilding for the owner. In a broader sense, such a coordinated effort reaffirmed that in a cooperative community no tragedy is too great to overcome.

Though he couldn’t help lift a board, my friend participated in this most sacred and iconic act. To the passersby who stopped to take photographs, it was a special treat to behold.

For those who knew what really transpired, like my friend, it was much more than a delight. It was communion.

newbarnbybrucestambaugh

By evening work on the main barn had been completed.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2013

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Retirement: What’s that?

Bob Akins by Bruce Stambaugh

Bob Akins has worked at Briar Hill Stone Co, Glenmont, OH for 65 years.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Bob Akins loves to go to work. He supposedly retired in 1990, but Bob is a man of routines. Work was an important one, so he kept at it.

The 84-year old Killbuck, Ohio resident arrives at Briar Hill Stone in Glenmont every workday at 5:30 a.m. sharp and finishes up at noon. As of September 4, he started his 66th year at the stone company.

“I enjoy working there,” Akins said, stating the obvious. “The company wanted me to keep working.”

Just a few moments with the knowledgeable Akins gives a hint as to why Briar Hill wanted him to stay around. A shiny semi-tractor trailer pulled into the sandstone company’s yard. In one glance, Akins knew where the truck was from, what the driver would be hauling, and where the stone would be delivered.

Think that might be obvious? Think again. Akins had never seen the truck or the driver before. He just knew what shipment was due to go out that particular day. In this case, the load of custom cut sandstone was heading to Saskatchewan, Canada.

Bob Akins with stone by Bruce Stambaugh

Giant brownstone slabs are Briar Hill Stone’s signature product, used in construction around the United States.

As the company’s customer service representative, Akins has enjoyed his part-time labor for 20 years instead of working the full day like he did for 45 years at Briar Hill. With this much experience and his superb loyalty to Briar Hill, he’s entitled to a little rest.

Akins’ loyalty doesn’t just lie with his job. He and his wife, Janet, have been married for 60 years.

“I wanted to date Janet for a long time,” he said. “She finally agreed one New Year’s Eve.”

Akins in part attributes his strong work ethic to his hard childhood.

“My father died when I was nine months old,” Akins said.

Born and raised in Blissfield south of Killbuck in Coshocton, County, Akins still owns his home property there. Akins has lived in Killbuck for more than 60 years.

He graduated from Warsaw High School, now River View. He continued his education taking various courses through work.
Akins started at Briar Hill in 1947 as a production control clerk. He held that job for a decade before switching to the mill department, focusing on stone samples.

In 1960, he worked in sales, shipping and inventory control, and held that position for 21 years. He served as assistant sales manager for two years before being promoted to sales manager. He was in that important position for four years. Akins became customer service manager in 1988. He continues in that capacity today, just on a part-time basis.

Ask Akins anything about Briar Hill products, and he has an immediate and succinct answer. That could be one of the reasons the company wants Akins around.

Glenmont OH by Bruce Stambaugh

Briar Hill Stone has several stone quarries located in the hills around Glenmont, OH.

He cannot only explain the difference in the stone products, but how they are produced, where they are most used and sold. When it comes to Briar Hill stone, Akins is a walking dictionary.

In addition to his work, Akins put his experience to work for the community. He is past president of the Killbuck Chamber of Commerce, past chairperson of the Killbuck Early American Days homecoming, past financial secretary of Killbuck United Methodist Church, and was a former director of the Wayne-Holmes County Home Builders Association.

Akins is a member at Killbuck United Methodist Church. His hobbies include collecting coins, bottles and antiques. He also enjoys attending arts and crafts shows, and traveling with his wife.

As for his job, Akins sees no change in exercising his determined daily work ethic.

This article appeared in The Bargain Hunter, Millersburg, OH.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2012

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Waking to the sound of work

pouring the cement for the parking pad

Our neighbors, who own Mast Poured Walls, pour the cement for our parking pad.

By Bruce Stambaugh

I can’t say for sure if the idling engines woke me or if I just happened to notice the noise after a full night’s sleep. No matter. Their steady, pre-dawn purring was merry music to my ears.

Both neighbors across the road own a construction-related business. One pours walls for a living, the other trenches fields and lays pipe.

Their tidy steel buildings sit cattycorner from my home, one to the southeast, and the other to the northeast. On mornings when they work, they often pull out their always-clean vehicles and let them idle before heading out to the job site.

It doesn’t take a financial wizard to guess that their work, like most building related work, has slowed considerably in this extended recession. Though neither has ever complained to me, my neighbors’ patience for work has had to replace actual labor.

This lack of employment has been hard on them, not just financially, but emotionally, too. These men are used to working hard for their daily living. But in this economy, with construction moving at a snail’s pace, regular, substantial work has waned.

Last year was especially uncertain. Too many days their trucks were silent. It may sound funny to say this, but I missed that motorized humming and the occasional sharp clanking of metal against metal as they prepared to head out. I felt their pain.

The expressions on my neighbors’ faces couldn’t hide their concerns. They were frustrated at the lack of work. These are talented men, men who know how to put in a decent day’s work for honest pay.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t just my good neighbors whose jobs had slowed or stopped altogether. It seemed every business took a hit, regardless of occupational focus. In a community where work ethic is king, doing nothing or next to it was absolutely agonizing.

The economic downturn was particularly hard on this community that hosts the world’s largest concentration of Amish and Mennonites. Consequentially, the tourist industry, a major revenue producer for private and governmental institutions alike, tapered off.

It was difficult to see people’s work hours curtailed. A few businesses simply closed for lack of customers. For the first time in a long time, our rural area felt what the rest of the global economy was feeling. And it hurt.

Farmers weren’t immune either. While milk and commodity prices sputtered, operating expenses kept rising. It was a losing proposition.

For these thrifty people with whom I have communed daily for four decades, it wasn’t just about the money. Cash flows were low, and so were their spirits.

These were people who knew how to work, had excellent skills, many self-taught, and labored for a fair wage. They had done so all of their lives, as had their fathers and mothers before them. Work was as much tradition as it was means.

But true to their congenial nature, their heritage and their commitment to faith, family and community, my neighbors in Big Prairie, Nashville, Glenmont, Killbuck, Clark, Farmerstown, Walnut Creek, Winesburg, Mt. Hope, Benton, Holmesville, Millersburg, Berlin and yes, even charming Charm preserved. They skimped along as best they could, and hoped and prayed for the best.

Perhaps we are not completely out of the economic woods yet. But it sure is nice to wake up to the sound of diesel engines running once again. Here’s hoping they keep on purring.

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