On Friday, December 15, 2017 Build Rehabilitation will host our 50th Annual Holiday Party for our disabled trainees and we hope you will consider making a tax-deductible contribution towards this event that so many look forward to all year!
Build Rehabilitation Industries in Sylmar and Burbank has made over 9,000 adults with developmental disabilities lives more independent by properly training them for community employment. We provide contract packaging and other labor-intensive services for public and private businesses, and the businesses that partner with us have the satisfaction knowing they are receiving well-trained, dedicated employees – while helping to change the lives of so many.
The Build Rehabilitation Industries Annual Holiday Party is a much-anticipated event to our 200+ disabled trainees, as it may be the only celebration many will attend all year.
Build Rehabilitation Industries is a 501 (c)(3) public charity that does not solicit donations because we believe, model and teach our trainees that earning an income is absolutely possible and attainable. The Annual Holiday Party is the only exception, as this donation is used exclusively for our Holiday Event and not vocational training.
Our trainees have cerebral palsy, intellectual disabilities, autism, and epilepsy. But regardless of their disability, they want to work and be treated in the same way everyone else is treated. You can make this happen by contributing to this event, and also considering hiring our trainees!
Your tax-deductible donation to our Annual Holiday Party will assist us in providing hope to those whom may have lost it, as well as give them the assurance that our community cares. Your donation will also help provide the proper environment for our trainees to celebrate the holidays!
Donate using the PayPal above, or please make your check payable to Build Rehabilitation Industries and send it to our corporate address:
c/o The Build Holiday Party
Build Rehabilitation Industries
12432 Foothills Blvd.
Sylmar, CA 91342
Thank you so much for supporting Build Rehabilitation Industries now and throughout the year! All of us at Build wish you and yours great health and happiness throughout the holiday season, and may the New Year bring prosperity and joy.
With much gratitude,
Build Rehabilitation Industries
Federal Tax ID Number: 95-2483215.
The warehousing and packaging industries are centuries old, and with every bit of new technology the industries evolve. There are new developments every year that make the process cheaper and more efficient, but some old inventions are still used today as staples in the industries. Today we’re going to go over a few inventions that revolutionized the industries, and are still being used to this day.
Cellophane is one of the most commonly used materials in packaging. It can be used to wrap boxes of virtually any size. Its malleability and light weight make it the perfect solution to secure large parcels together, or protect a shipment from the elements. Cellophane was invented by a Swiss chemist by the name of Jacques E. Brandenberger. Brandenberger was originally inspired to create a hydrophobic cloth, after seeing a bottle of wine spill at a restaurant and soil the tablecloth. He first attempted to create waterproof spray that could be applied to cloth, however, his initial solution didn’t work out as he imagined. After 10 years of working, Brandenberger eventually came up with a working solution – cellophane. Named after the words cellulose and diaphane (meaning transparent), Brandenberger’s invention would soon revolutionize the packaging world. Whitman’s Candy Company was the first to adopt the material in 1912, and although the rest of the packaging world was slow to adopt the use of cellophane, by 1930 cellophane was being used by most major packagers in the United States.
The earliest forms of pallets were developed in Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia during the 1st millennium B.C. They are a warehousing and packaging necessity in our modern world, and they have been so for thousands of years. Although the pallet looks differently now than it did back in Ancient Egypt, its function remains largely unchanged. The modern pallet however, was patented by two men, George Raymond, Sr. and Bill House in 1939. Due to the increased use of lift trucks, the modern-day pallet provided a necessary solution that allowed for the easy transport of goods from one place to another.
Scottish inventor Robert Gair invented the cardboard box in 1890 – a technology so versatile that its design has not changed much over the course of the century. Similar to Brandenberger, Gair also conceived his idea for the cardboard box due to an accident. Gair was a printer and paper bag maker living in Brooklyn, when one day a piece of his bag making machine malfunctioned. The component that was supposed to crease paper into a bag shape, ended up cutting the paper instead. Seeing this gave Gair the idea to both cut and crease paper, in order to shape it into other forms. This idea eventually led to the creation of the cardboard box that we use today. Gair’s early designs used paperboard, which was fine for small applications such as cereal boxes, but it lacked the sturdiness required for shipping and packaging large or heavy items. Eventually, corrugated board started being used for boxes, and in 1895, the first cardboard box was produced in the United States. By the early 1900s, bulky and expensive wooden boxes were quickly replaced with the far cheaper and lighter corrugated cardboard boxes.
The packaging industry is one that is constantly developing. However, some inventions were so beneficial that manufacturers continue to utilize them on a day-to-day basis even a century after their original inception. Build Industries has a longstanding reputation in the warehousing and packaging industries. For 50 years, Build Industries has been serving the San Fernando Valley and surrounding areas, providing custom packaging and warehousing solutions to a variety of companies. For reliable packaging and warehousing service, call Build Industries today! (818) 898-0020
Warehouses are used by companies to store large amounts of product inventory. Although a lot of warehouses today are run by automation (Amazon warehouses being a prime example of this), warehousing had a far humbler beginning. Inventory storage and warehousing have been around for thousands of years, with the first warehouses dating back to the early Roman Empire. Today warehouses are a crucial part of our economy.
Let’s look back in history to see how warehouses developed into what they are now.
The first type of public warehouse was the Roman Horreum. Originally constructed during the 2nd century BC, these buildings were used to store grain, olive oil, wine, food items, clothing, and marble. The biggest of these was the Horrea Galbae, which contained 140 rooms on the first floor alone. In total, the Galbae covered more than 225,000 square feet! To help you understand the Galbae’s size, less than half of warehouses in the U.S. are larger than 100,000 square feet.
Although these horrea (plural for horreum) were the first of their kind, they were undoubtedly ahead of their time. When Roman emperor Septimius Severus died in 211 AD, he left the Horrea Galbae stocked with enough food to feed all 1 million citizens of Rome for 7 years! Additionally, ancient Roman horrea were built with ramps instead of stairs, which made transporting goods in and out of the buildings a breeze. Horrea were built with thick walls to reduce the chances of fire, and high windows to reduce the chance of theft. These ancient warehouses were often located close to major shipping ports which streamlined the process of importing and exporting goods. The Ancient Romans really thought of it all!
The Industrial Revolution
The Industrial Revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries brought new advancements to warehouses which made them more specialized. The dramatic and sudden increase in globalization during this period caused warehouses to emphasize product movement. This emphasis brought forth some of the earliest large-scale supply chains.
Once the railway system began to take hold in the United States, more people began to travel and colonize previously barren areas. This development led to the creation of several “rail warehouses” that were conveniently located alongside railways. Rail warehouses and railways allowed companies to transport goods over land more efficiently than ever before.
The twentieth century brought warehousing to the next stage. Machine-operated factories were sprouting up everywhere and consumer goods were being produced at an astounding rate. Advancements in communication and transportation technologies increased globalization and urbanization, which led to warehouses being created all over the world.
The 21st Century
This brings us to the current period. Here in the 21st century, we are currently witnessing the next major development in warehousing– automation. Whereas in the past when heavy boxes full of goods would have to be moved by humans, automated machines now handle most of the heavy lifting. These warehouses usually only require a few human operators to schedule tasks while the machines handle the rest. Products move on automated conveyors and are organized completely by automated machinery. Although most warehouses today are still operated predominantly by real people, the trend of warehousing automation is growing.
It’s clear that warehousing is continuing to evolve and grow. Warehousing technology is getting more advanced and more efficient, and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down. Since 1967, Build Industries has been serving the warehousing and packaging needs of the San Fernando Valley with cutting edge technology. The team at Build Industries are experts in providing state-of-the-art efficient warehousing and packaging solutions.
Going Green: How Sustainability Changed the Packaging Industry
Sustainability is defined as the “avoidance of the depletion of natural resources in order to maintain an ecological balance.” It’s a buzzword you’ve probably heard before. Companies, in virtually every field are focusing on sustainable production, and the packaging industry is no exception. In many ways, the waste created by the packaging industry is what started the sustainability trend.
Sustainability found its way into packaging vernacular in 2006, after Andrew Savitz and Karl Weber published a book entitled “The Triple Bottom Line: How Today’s Best-run Companies Are Achieving Economic, Social, and Environmental Success – and How You Can Too.” The book is described by Amazon.com as, “the groundbreaking book that charts the rise of sustainability within the business world and shows how and why financial success increasingly goes hand in hand with social and environmental achievement.” Before the release of Savitz’s book, sustainability was defined largely by its ecological aspects. However, The Triple Bottom Line expanded the focus of sustainability beyond solely environmental factors– by addressing the social and economic factors that come into play as well. It provided a more comprehensive understanding of what the term “sustainability” means.
To fully understand how sustainability reached this comprehensive definition, we have to look to the environmental movement of the 1970s.
1970 was the year in which Americans celebrated the very first Earth Day– a day dedicated to environmental action and awareness. Around this time, several media outlets were determined to educate the American public on the ecological problems in the world through PSAs and commercials. One of the most impactful anti-pollution commercials at the time was the “Crying Indian” commercial from the nonprofit organization Keep America Beautiful.
Although these ads helped to increase public awareness of environmental issues, it wasn’t until the 1980s that people started to blame the packaging industry for the nation’s pollution problems.
The shift was caused by the infamous “Garbage Barge.” Entrepreneur Lowell Harrelson was going bankrupt and needed a way to alleviate his debt. His idea was to transport a massive amount of trash via tugboat from New York to North Carolina. After the trash was deposited, Harrelson hoped to make some money by harvesting the methane from the decomposing trash heap (which was composed largely of discarded packaging). However, things didn’t go quite as Harrelson planned. The barge, containing more than 6 million pounds of New York trash, was turned away from every destination it arrived at, as nobody wanted to deal with the potential disease aboard the vessel.
The barge, a.k.a. the Mobro 4000, was kept at sea for more than 5 months as it wandered from destination to destination only to be turned away from every port. Soon the Mobro 4000 was being highlighted by every news outlet, making it a symbol of the nation’s growing problem with trash. Eventually the trash was simply burned. However, before the hulking heap of trash was finally disposed of, activists from Greenpeace hung a giant sign on the barge that said “NEXT TIME…TRY RECYCLING.” The sign made newspaper headlines and was aired all over nightly news programs which ultimately caused a dramatic shift in the recycling habits of the American population. In the years following the Garbage Barge fiasco, recycling rates among Americans tripled! Although the barge was a symbol of environmental carelessness, it sparked a movement towards sustainability.
The increase in consumer recycling caused packaging manufacturers to start using materials that were more easily recycled. PET, for example, started being used in place of PVC as PET could be broken down and reused with ease. However, although recycled materials were more sustainable for the environment, they were expensive to use. This made using recycled materials un-sustainable for businesses.
However, in 2004 the Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC) was formed. The SPC defined sustainable packaging in a way that helped both the environment and businesses.
Their definition is as follows:
Is beneficial, safe & healthy for individuals and communities throughout its life cycle
Meets market criteria for performance and cost
Is sourced, manufactured, transported, and recycled using renewable energy
Optimizes the use of renewable or recycled source materials
Is manufactured using clean production technologies and best practices
Is made from materials healthy throughout the life cycle
Is physically designed to optimize materials and energy
Is effectively recovered and utilized in biological and/or industrial closed loop cycles
Nowadays, it’s practically mandated that companies follow these sustainability guidelines to be successful. Consumer awareness of global waste issues have only grown since the days of the Garbage Barge, putting the pressure on packaging manufacturers to utilize sustainable materials. New developments are being made every year in the field, with some of the most notable developments being the PlantBottle created by the Coca-Cola company, and the bioplastics created by the Bioplastic Feedstock Alliance.
The history of what we know today as commercial packaging dates back thousands of years, though the goal has always remained consistent: preserve and protect goods, as well as provide easier ways to transport them.
Although historians cannot pinpoint exactly when packaging was first invented, they estimate that it started when people were more nomadic, traveling with tools and food on long journeys.
Packaging made of easily found natural materials began to develop like hollowed out gourds to carry water. Dried out skins of animals became carrying vessels for a variety of items and blocks of hollowed out wood were used as storage devices. Because these early humans were constantly moving from place to place, it was important their storage containers were lightweight.
Years later settled communities began to develop and several advancements helped ease the once hunters and gatherers way of life. With a larger demand for storage and transportation containers, materials used depended on the geographical landscape of the village. Woven baskets and shaped clay were good solutions to store crops, dry goods, and liquids for the winter or to protect the contents from dangerous animals. These devices also served as a more efficient way to transport larger bundles of goods to the village.
Villages became cities and the packaging technology continued to advance. Cities enabled people to trade goods with others while also giving them access to supplies and technology that wasn’t directly available in their home region. Soon they began to create more complex containers and eventually the wooden barrel was introduced. The versatility of the barrel made it possible to transport dry or liquid goods with relative ease and enabled people to conduct trade on a much larger scale than ever before. Many historians believe that the wooden barrel was one of the first forms of bulk packaging.
The Industrial Revolution replaced hand-made producers of products with machines that manufactured at a far higher rate with larger quantities than ever before. For this reason, manufacturers were pressed with the need for durable and high-quality packaging. Additionally, during the Industrial Revolution, more people migrated to the cities congregating in centralized locations lessening the need to export large amounts of product. This forced packagers to focus on individualized containers for goods rather than large bulk packaging and the dawn of uniquely branded goods for easy consumer recognition began.
It wasn’t until the 1900s that the packaging industry saw major development changes with the introduction of plastics. Plastic would prove to be a cheap and more hygienic way to package a variety of things. In the 1960s, polyethylene plastic became the preferred method for packaging products as it was easier to work with and less expensive. Though the widespread use of plastic worldwide over the last 50 years has led to a number of environmental issues due to its slow decomposition rate.
Build Rehabilitation Industries recognized these issues early on and began to focus on more sustainable packaging options decades ago, like most of the U.S. based commercial packaging industry. Although packaging made from recycled materials can be slightly more expensive than traditional plastic, the cost of sustainable packaging has become more cost effective and Build passes those savings onto their customers.
The packaging industry is consistently evolving and Build Industries is on the forefront of every change. For over 50 years, Build Industries has been serving the San Fernando Valley and greater Los Angeles area businesses with the efficient packaging and warehousing solutions that they need at reasonable prices.
To learn more about how Build Industries can help your business, click HERE to visit our website, or call (818) 898-0020!
It is with a heavy heart and great sadness that I, on behalf of myself and Build Rehabilitation Industries, announce the passing of Patti Cooper Abbott, a friend and employee.
Patti was my friend for over 38 years and a Build employee numerous times during those years, including the last six years of her career where she served as our Director of Support Services. During her time at Build, Patti was dedicated to ensuring that developmentally disabled adults were given every possible opportunity to achieve their individual employment goals. Patti’s love for life and tireless efforts empowered our clients to become more independent and productive members of our community.
Patti Cooper Abbott is survived by her husband Tony Abbott and her children Paul and Brandon, along with lots of sisters and grandchildren.
Celebration of Life services for Patti will be held in Temecula on Saturday, February 18 and in Idyllwild on Sunday, February 26. Specific locations and times for these services will be widely communicated when finalized.
In lieu of flowers, Tony and Patti’s family ask that donations be made in her name to Build Rehabilitation Industries. You may donate to Build by clicking on the following PayPal button or mail your donation directly – address below.
Please make your check payable to Build Rehabilitation Industries and send it to our corporate address:
c/o Patti Cooper Abbott Memorial
Build Rehabilitation Industries
12432 Foothills Blvd.
Sylmar, CA 91342
Thank you for your support of Build Rehabilitation Industries and please join all of us at Build as we pray for peace upon Patti’s family.
CEO, Build Rehabilitation Industries
Build Rehabilitation Industries is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit located in the San Fernando Valley. Over the last four decades, Build has served more than 8,000 adults with disabilities, setting them on a path to greater independence and a better way of life through their participation in our various programs.
Build Rehabilitation Industries
Federal Tax ID Number: 95-2483215
4 Ways Build Rehabilitation Industries
Can Help Your Business with Contract Packaging
When you hire Build Rehabilitation Industries in Los Angeles to fulfill your contract packaging needs, you ensure the reliable release of your products and have the opportunity to expand production in the most cost effective and efficient way.
Businesses in the Los Angeles area have outsourced their packaging needs to professional contract packagers like Build Rehabilitation Industries. Not only is contract packaging cost effective, but it will also increase your business’s profit much more than if you handled it in-house. When you let Build Rehabilitation Industries handle your packaging needs, you don’t have to worry about the capital required to train your employees, buy the packaging equipment, and set up the software.
For over 50 years, Build Rehabilitation Industries has offered contract packaging services tailored to businesses, specializing in turnkey packaging products, hand assembly, and fulfillment services. We guide every project from inception to completion with competitive pricing, reliable turnaround and our high standards of quality. We serve a wide variety of businesses and retail channels and have experience in primary packaging as well as club store packaging such as Costco, Sam’s Club, Amazon, etc.
Build Rehabilitation Industries is always striving to develop the most efficient packaging solution for each unique product they handle. By entrusting Build Rehabilitation Industries with your products, you won’t have to worry about ways to keep costs low; instead, you will have the advantage of our entire team of qualified and customer service focused staff handling every aspect of your project. Streamlining the packaging process for our clients is one of our primary objectives at Build Rehabilitation Industries.
Here are a few ways that Build Rehabilitation Industries can help your business:
When a professional contract packager like Build Rehabilitation Industries is handling all of your packaging needs, you’ll easily be able to increase your production rates without having to update your own facilities or equipment or hire additional employees. On top of that, when you work with contract packagers, you are essentially adding an entire team to your business. Our expertise lies in creating the right packaging for products. This will allow you to take risks and try to create products that you normally wouldn’t be able to create without access to specialized facilities or a professional team.
Increase Reliability of Product Releases
It is our job to ensure that your products can be packaged efficiently, and released on time. When you create a new product, there are several factors that can delay its lead-time to market. However, by working with Build Rehabilitation Industries from the initial phases of a product’s development, you can cut down on lead-time and be sure that everything is ready to go the second that your product is completed. Often times, we can also aid you in the distribution of your product, allowing you to move inventory efficiently.
Contract Packagers Can Handle Your Seasonal Needs
Sometimes you only need packaging for a product for a short period of time. Purchasing equipment and taking all of the steps to package the product on your own is often overly expensive and unfeasible. Build Rehabilitation Industries is prepared to handle several types of packaging requirements, so short-term packaging plans are always an option. If you have an ever-changing inventory, then short-term packaging could be exactly what your business needs. However, it is important to note that Build Rehabilitation Industries can also fulfill long-term packaging requirements.
Turnkey Packaging Services Can Save You Time and Money
Build Rehabilitation Industries offers turnkey packaging services where we gather every material and resource needed for packaging your specific products. Turnkey packaging services enable us to help your business to save money but also save time. Whether you’re a small or large business, the success of a product largely depends on whether it launches on schedule. With turnkey services, you’ll be able to streamline the process, so that your product goes from the manufacturing to packaging stages smoothly.
When you hire Build Rehabilitation Industries to handle your packaging needs, you ensure the reliable release of your products, save money, and have the opportunity to expand production in the most efficient way. Having access to a team of contract packaging professionals, who are experts in marketing and packaging efficiency, will enable your business to better communicate its brand image and increase profits. Build Rehabilitation Industries is one of the leading contract packaging services in Southern California and our packaging solutions have been satisfying customers for more than 50 years! Visit our website, or give our team a call at (818) 898-0020 for more information.
Build CEO Matt Lynch notified the Board of Directors that the Client Holiday Party has been scheduled for Friday, December 16th, and will be held at the company headquarters in Sylmar.
Refinance Building in Sylmar
The Board of Directors approved the CEO’s motion to refinance the building in Sylmar in an effort to reduce the interest rate eighty-five basis points from its current rate of 5.4% down to 4.55%.
Strategic Plan, Program Evaluation, and Outcomes Report
The Board elected to review the annual Strategic Plan, Program Evaluation, and Outcomes Report during their next retreat, which will take place shortly after the CARF survey.
Los Angeles Pierce College
Build CEO Matt Lynch introduced a tentative agreement with Los Angeles Pierce College to allow the company to have a tent/information booth on the college’s campus to promote the WorkSource Center. Build will be requesting twenty-seven thousand dollars to cover the company’s costs associated with the campus presence.
Automatic Front Door
Build CEO Matt Lynch also notified the Board that due to funding from a grant, Build had new automatic front doors installed at the company headquarters in Sylmar.
Build CEO Matt Lynch notified the Board that Build had hired a new receptionist for its front office in Sylmar.
Build Rehabilitation Industries Corporate Retreat
The Board was also apprised of the location and date of the company’s next staff retreat/training held on October 10th. The retreat will take place at the Best Western Conference Center located at the Winnetka Bowling Alley.
Build CEO Matt Lynch indicated to the Board that he was unsatisfied with the rising costs associated with the company’s current Liability Insurance and that he intends to look for a new carrier during the next renewal period.
Build CEO Matt Lynch and Board agreed to seek the services of Steve Rosen for the next audit.
Build Art Show
The President informed the Board of Directors of the date and time of Build’s 4th Annual Art Show, which will be held on November 18th from 4:00 P.M. to 6:00 P.M. in the main conference room.
2015 Workman’s Comp Audit
Matt discussed the results of the 2015 Workman’s Comp Audit, in which it was initially thought that Build would owe $26,000. However, Build Finance Manager Gary Olsen reviewed it and discovered that Build is actually owed $3,300.
Build CEO Matt Lynch and the Board of Directors decided to increase the Staff Holiday Gift this year to allow for a $35 gift card to Trader Joe’s.
Refinancing Sylmar Building
CEO Matt Lynch kept the Board of Director’s apprised of the process underway to refinance the Sylmar building. He notified them that he is awaiting a decision from the bank.
Build Rehabilitation Industries Annual Retreat
CEO Matt Lynch informed the Board that the Company’s Annual Retreat held on October 10th was a great success and that seventy-eight staff personnel participated in CARF mandated annual training.
Open Positions at Build
The Board was notified of several unfilled positions within the company, and that as a result, CEO Matt Lynch posted job openings on the employment website: indeed.com. Consequently, Matt convened open interviews on Wednesday, October 26, 2016.
Company Medical Insurance
CEO Matt Lynch told the Board of Directors that he would be receiving medical insurance quotes for the coming year. He also reminded the Board that the company is bracing for increased medical insurance costs which have been forecasted as much as 25% higher during the coming calendar year.
San Fernando Building Issues
CEO Matt Lynch made the Board cognizant of the structural problems associated with the building in San Fernando. He also informed the Board that he is in the process of negotiating with the building owner to determine which repairs should be completed by the owner and which repairs should be completed by Build.
Work Source Center
CEO Matt Lynch stated that he is in the process of searching for a smaller and more compact facility site for the Work Source Center since the lease will be up with Marie McGinley in October of 2017. The two tenants who had previously occupied the second floor are now gone.
New Company Website
The Board was informed that the company’s new website is getting very close to completion and that Matt will be viewing a draft of the new site, prior to launch. The Board expressed much interest in seeing the new site once it is launched.
Winner at Art Show
The Board voted, and chose the winner of the best poster submitted by clients who entered the annual Art Show.
Minimum Wage Increase
CEO Matt Lynch and the Board also discussed the pending Minimum Wage increases at the state and municipal levels, including the fact that the Los Angeles minimum wage will be increasing to $12.00 per hour on July 01, 2017.
Stories for a Faithful Heart: Folded Napkins. A Trucker Story.
By Alice Gray
This story may be true, or not… Either way, it will renew your faith in others and maybe inspire you… At Build Rehabilitation Industries, we are inspired every day. We have trained over 9,000 adults with development and other disabilities, teaching them valuable job and life skills that make them more independent.
I try not to be biased, but I had doubts about hiring Stevie. His placement counselor assured me that he would be a good, reliable busboy.
But I’d never hired a mentally handicapped employee and wasn’t sure I wanted one. And I didn’t know how my customers would react to Stevie.
He’s short and dumpy with the smooth face and thick speech of Down Syndrome. I wasn’t worried about my trucker customers. They don’t care who the busboy is as long as the meatloaf is good and the pies are homemade.
Mouthy college kids were the ones who concerned me. Traveling to school, the yuppie snobs secretly polish their silverware with their napkins for fear of catching a deadly “truck stop virus.”
And the shirt and tie business men on expense accounts think every truck stop waitress is a flirt. I knew they would be uncomfortable around Stevie so I watched him closely for a few weeks.
I shouldn’t have worried. After the first week, Stevie had my staff wrapped around his little finger, and within a month my truckers had adopted him as their mascot.
After that, I didn’t really care what other customers thought of him. He was like a kid in blue jeans and Nikes, eager to laugh and to please, but very attentive to his duties. Every salt and pepper shaker was exactly placed, and not a bread crumb was visible when Stevie got done with a table.
His problem was waiting to clean tables until the customers finished. He’d hover nearby, shifting from one foot to the other, scanning the dining room until a table was empty. Then he’d scurry to that table and carefully bus dishes and glasses onto his cart and quickly wipe the table with a quick flourish of his rag.
If he thought a customer was watching, his brow would furrow with worry, as he took pride in doing his job just right, and we loved how hard he tried to please everyone.
Soon we learned that Stevie lived with his mother, a widow who was disabled after some cancer surgeries. They lived on Social Security checks in public housing near the truck stop, and their social worker often stopped by to check on Stevie, admitting that he and his mom had fallen between the cracks.
Money was tight, and what I paid him kept them living together, instead of Stevie going to a group home. That’s why the restaurant was gloomy one morning in August, the first morning in three years that Stevie missed work.
He was at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, getting a new valve to repair his heart. His social worker said that Down Syndrome folks often have heart problems so it wasn’t a surprise, and there was a good chance he’d come through the surgery well and be back at work in a few months.
A ripple of excitement ran through our staff on the morning when we heard he was out of surgery, in recovery, and doing fine! Frannie, our head waitress, let out a war hoop and did a little dance in the aisle when she heard the good news.
Marvin Ringer, one of our regular 18 wheeler customers, stared at this 50-year-old grandmother of four doing a victory shimmy beside his table. Frannie blushed, smoothed her apron and shot Marvin a withering look. He grinned. “OK, Frannie, what’s that all about?” he asked.
“We just heard that Stevie is out of surgery and will be okay!” I had a new joke to tell him about doctors. Frannie quickly told Marvin and the other drivers sitting in his booth about Stevie’s surgery, then sighed: “Yeah, I’m glad he’ll be OK, but I don’t know how he and his mom can handle all the bills. From what I hear, they barely get by as it is.”
Marvin nodded thoughtfully, and Frannie hurried off to wait on other tables. Since I hadn’t had time to find a busboy to replace Stevie and really didn’t want to replace him. so the girls were busing their own tables until we decided what to do.
After the morning rush, Frannie walked into my office with a paper napkin in her hand and an odd look on her face.
“What’s up?” I asked. “I didn’t get that table where Marvin and his friends were sitting cleared after they left, so Pete and Tony were sitting there when I got back to clean it.” She said, “This was folded and tucked under a coffee cup.” She handed the napkin to me, and three $20 bills fell onto my desk. On the outside, in big letters, was printed “Something For Stevie.”
“Pete asked me what it was all about,” she said, “so I told him about Stevie and his mom, and Pete looked at Tony and Tony looked at Pete, and they gave me this.” She handed me another paper napkin that also had “Something For Stevie” scrawled on it. Two $50 bills were tucked inside it. Frannie smiled with wet, shiny eyes, shook her head and said simply… “truckers.”
That was a month ago. Today is Thanksgiving, the first day Stevie is supposed to be back to work.
His social worker said he’s been counting the days until the doctor said he could work, and it didn’t matter that it’s a holiday. He called often last week, making sure we know he’s coming, fearful that we had forgotten him or that his job was gone. I arranged to have his mother bring him to work. Then I met them in the parking lot and invited them to celebrate his return.
Stevie was thin and pale but he couldn’t stop grinning as we pushed through the doors and headed for the back room where his apron and busing cart were waiting.
“Hold on there, Stevie, not so fast,” I said. I took him and his mother by their arms. “Work can wait for a minute. To celebrate your return, lunch for you and your mom is on me!” And I led them to a large corner booth at the rear of the room.
I knew that our staff was following us as we went through the dining room. Glancing over my shoulder, I saw booth after booth of grinning truckers empty and join our parade. We stopped in front of the big table. Its surface was covered with coffee cups, saucers, and dinner plates, all sitting slightly crooked on dozens of folded paper napkins. “First thing you must do, Stevie, is clean up this mess,” I said, trying to sound serious.
Stevie looked at me, and then at his mother, then pulled out one of the napkins. It had “Something for Stevie” printed on it. As he picked it up, two $20 bills fell onto the table.
Stevie stared at the money, then at all the napkins peeking from beneath the tableware, each with his name on it. I turned to his mom. “There’s more than $10,000 on this table, all from truckers and trucking companies that heard about your problems. “Happy Thanksgiving.”
Well, it got real noisy about then, with everybody laughing and shouting, and there were many tears, as well.
You know what’s funny? While everyone was shaking hands and hugging each other, Stevie, with a big smile on his face, was busy clearing all the cups and dishes from the table.