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The Business Has Grown

Imagine that. Upgrading they tell me. The business has grown. I’m (gasp) 7 years old. Maybe I am taking this too personal. You know how they talk about “strong German stock”? That’s me. Just say my name. Jungheinrich. The name swells me with pride. Granted, some may say I am only as good at my job as the operator. I was dependable, though. Day by day, I did my job, slow and steady. Oh, no, it was not a glamorous job, some would say – pallets of cardboard, an occasional move of a machine from over here…to over there. You know that song, 867-5309? Well, I’m EF6430. Just melodically drag out that 3 in my name into "threeeeeeee" "EF64threeeeeeeee0", I sang to myself. I can’t help myself. Music helped me keep up that rate. Slow and steady. Balance that load just right. Well, now I sing this song as I sit here on the used lot. It’s how I stay sane, not being busy and all. I do know I am worthy. I know it sounds cliché, but I think I can make a difference somewhere if they give me a chance.

Imagine that. Downsizing they tell me. The business is moving in a different direction. Of course, they don’t mention the fact that I am (gasp) 56 years old. How can I not take that personal? CPA, those three letters were like the exclamation point, the laurel wreath at the end of my name. Granted, I was part of a team, a numbers person. I gave it my all, though. Day by day I did my job, coming in on deadline with projects that were accurate. Some people may not think numbers are glamorous. Those accounting acronyms sang to me. FE-VE-AE-OE. Corporate governance has spoken, though. I’m not fitting their ROI, return on investment. At nine in the morning I pour my fourth cup of my coffee to the empty tick-tock of the clock in my kitchen. I know it sounds cliché’, but I think I can give back somehow. I just have to figure out how.

Imagine that. There’s no room in her life for me. I’m 26 years old, with three little girls, ages 5, 3, and 2 (gasp). We married young. We loved each other. She didn’t love me as much as she loved the meth, though. So here I am with the girls. We celebrate the first day of kindergarten, the riding the bike for the first time, clap our hands when the youngest poops in the potty. Doesn’t sound glamorous, does it? It’s not easy. I work ten hour days if I can, just so I can pay the daycare bills, the rent at an apartment where we are tripping over each other’s space (not to mention the toys), make the payments on my beloved minivan (very practical), and maybe once in a while have a few extra dollars for a special treat for the girls. I wish I could give them more, though – a yard for them to play in, a place where the girls weren’t stuffed three into a room. We are happy, though. I know it sounds corny, but love is getting us through.

On Sunday, the ribbon was cut on this city's first Habitat for Humanity home. Nathan Smith, who is the proud owner of the remodeled house, was visibly emotional as he sat on the front porch while his three daughters were happily playing nearby in their front yard. "It's a dream", Smith said. "I never imagined that my family would be given an opportunity like this.

This has been an opportunity in more ways than one. Approximately a year ago, after the company she worked for reorganized their business focus, Joanne King found herself unemployed. "I had no idea what I was going to do. After 30 years with the same company, I just felt very defeated. In the back of my mind, I really wanted to do something to help the lives of others. Habitat has given me this opportunity."

It was at around the same time as Smith found herself unemployed that a group of community volunteers decided it was time to bring the Habitat program to Austin. A substantial local donation not only allowed the group to purchase their first property to renovate, but also to make a long-term commitment to building the Habitat program in town by hiring King as program manager.

One of the community founders of the Habitat program, Bruce Richardson, says that Joanne King as a manger brings with her a great deal of business sense and a willingness to roll up her sleeves, learn, and to work hard. "She believes in the program. The volunteers love her enthusiasm and enjoy working with her."

Joanne King smiles as Richardson compliments her, replying, "I barely knew which end of the hammer is used when I stated, but a lot of my job really falls into my love of numbers and working with others to reach a goal".

Habitat for Humanity is a worldwide volunteer-based organization that remodels existing homes or builds new homes for qualified low-income families. The philosophy of Habitat is that every child should have a decent, safe, and affordable place to live. The homes are sold to the families at no profit and are finances by no-cost or innovative loans. The monthly mortgage payments are used to finance new Habitat projects. In fact, the volunteers are already at work on remodeling at a new site.

"We were very lucky", King said, "to have had such a generous donation to jumpstart the program in Austin. At this point, many of our volunteers are retired, so we decided to invest in a used forklift to assist the volunteers in transferring supplies on the building sites. We call her 'Hilda' because she is German built. We don't know what we would do without her".

As part of his contract in the purchase of the home, Smith will be expected to contribute 200 hours of his own volunteer time on future Habitat projects, which is no easy task for this single dad. Smith, however, has no problem with the additional demand on his time. "I want to give others the chance that my girls and I were given to improve our lives. I am so thankful. I want to pay it forward."

As for the Smith daughters, their rooms are pink and yellow, and they can often be found baking cookies or doing art projects at the home of one of the Habitat volunteers, for those volunteers have become an extended family to the Smith family.

King views this modest three-bedroom home as a symbol of many new beginnings. "This job has taught me to believe in myself again. It has given the Smith family a base for their future." With that smile King is known for amongst the volunteers, she adds, "Hey, it was even a new beginning for Hilda the forklift".

Imagine that. “EF64threeeeeeeee0”, I sing, as I move the bundle of shingles closer to the house. I’ve seen three houses so far become homes for families. I’m only beginning. It is glamorous in my eyes. This is joy, pure joy.

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