The purpose statement of Kenney Machinery Corporation is “Growing People Who Grow the Green Industry”, and today we’d like to highlight two of our employees who have experienced personal growth thanks to service projects that have taken them outside both the borders of our country and their own comfort zones.
As Kenney Machinery Corporation CEO Mike Kenney explained on our blog earlier this year, one of the company’s goals for 2016 is to use a partnership with the Indianapolis-based nonprofit TrueU to help employees become leaders at home, in their communities, and at work. Part of that process involves opportunities for charitable service, and the first employee we’re featuring today has already turned that opportunity into a life-changing experience.
Angie Hubbell Helps Build a Home in Mexico with Homes for Hope
Angie Hubbell, the General Manager of Kenney Machinery Corporation, recently made a trip to Ensenada, Mexico with the organization Homes for Hope. The purpose of the trip was to build a home for an impoverished family of four in that community. The trip was part of the six-month TrueU leadership training program that Angie is participating in as part of their partnership with Kenney Machinery. In total, there were about 15 people from the program who went on the trip to Mexico.
The family that they were assisting consisted of a mother and father and their 5-yr old daughter and 9-yr old son. Both of the parents worked, and their combined weekly income was $62. In order to qualify for the project through Homes for Hope, they needed to make payments for six months on a piece of land where the home would be built. The family was living on that piece of land in a shack that was nothing more than tarps wrapped around tree limbs that had been stuck in the ground. They had no running water or electricity, and slept on a dirt floor.
In preparation for the home build, all the necessary supplies had been delivered to the site. In a matter of two days, Angie and her team completed construction of a basic three-room house that included a kitchen and living area and two bedrooms. They painted the home, added windows and a door that could be locked for security, and provided a few basic furnishings.
Once construction was complete, the team took up a collection for the family so that they could buy more furnishings and food for their home. With the $750 they were able to raise, they took the family to a Walmart in a town about 45 minutes away by bus to go shopping. The family had never been to the store before, and for the kids it was like a trip to Disneyland. Out of everything in the store, the first thing the kids wanted to buy was fresh fruit.
For Angie, the trip had a big impact. It made her appreciate things like running water and electricity that most people in the U.S. take for granted, and opened her eyes to the kind of poverty that many people around the world live in. It was the first time in her life that she had ever done volunteer work for a charity, but it won’t be the last—Angie plans on participating in more service projects through TrueU, and will be encouraging other Kenney Machinery employees to do the same.
Mike Clohessy Helps Give a Haitian Community a New Library
While some Kenney Machinery employees like Angie are being introduced to service opportunities thanks to our partnership with TrueU, others have been volunteering their time with non-profit organizations for a long time. Mike Clohessy, the Operations Manager at Kenney Machinery, is one employee who has not only volunteered for non-profits but actually helped start one—the Muncie-based Haiti Library Foundation.
The foundation’s story begins in 2001, when Mike’s wife Carole Clohessy participated in a service project in Haiti with a group of volunteers from their church, St. Francis of Assisi/Ball State Newman Parish. St. Francis parish had partnered with a parish in the Haitian town of Plaisance, St. Michaels, to help support them both financially via various church fundraisers and by sending volunteers on an annual trip to complete service projects.
After two trips to Haiti, Carole decided she wanted to do more to help. When the pastor of St. Michael’s Church, Father Andre Sylvestre, visited Muncie and saw the library at Storer Elementary School, he commented that it would be nice to have a library for the community in Plaisance. Carole and Mike realized they could help make that happen, and in 2003 they and a half-dozen supporters created the Haiti Library Foundation specifically for that purpose.
The library began with 50 books Carole purchased in Port-au-Prince, which were stored in a classroom of the St. Michaels school. Prior to that time, students at the school had to share textbooks, which they weren’t able to take home. They had to be introduced to the concept of a library, and of being able to use books for free and then return them when they were finished. Needless to say, the challenge of attempting to provide a quality education without access to books was significant, so the library had an immediate positive impact and quickly began to expand. Through a partnership with Scholastic Canada, the foundation was able to purchase books in French, which is the language of the educated in Haiti. The continued expansion of the library eventually led to the need for a separate building to hold all the books.
After four years of fundraising, site surveys, design studies, and logistical planning, construction on the new library building began in the spring of 2013. The exterior structure (pre-fabricated by Borkholder Building & Supply in Nappanee, Indiana and shipped to Haiti) was erected in just four days by volunteers from the foundation, and the work on the interior has continued since then.
Last summer, Mike Clohessy supervised the installation of a solar-powered electric system for the library, since there is no electric utility in Plaisance. When the entire project is finished, the library will include an outdoor reading courtyard, signage and graphics, and landscaping on the grounds. It will serve not just the St. Michaels school but the entire town of Plaisance—and in a country where the literacy rate is only about 61%, that will have a significant and lasting impact.
As Kenney Machinery employees get more involved in the personal development programs offered by TrueU, more of them will be following in the footsteps of Mike and Angie. In fact, employees who want to participate in service projects in the local community will be given some paid time off to do so. It’s all part of Kenny Machinery’s plan to build our company by building our people and helping them reach their full potential.