“We have petroleum products running through our pipe line, and care running through our hearts,” says David Brooks, Utility Station Operator at Wolverine Pipe Line Company in Niles.
If you have gotten gas in your car, then you are probably a customer of Wolverine Pipe Line. Their company provides the transportation system to assure liquid petroleum products from refineries and terminals in the Chicago area safely reach terminals in Indiana and Michigan. However, what really fuels the employees at Wolverine Pipe Line are the moments of hope they give to people in their communities through their annual United Way campaign and the Wolverine ‘Days of Caring.’
“Every day we are so involved with each other through what we do in our day to day business. Working with United Way and helping people in our community helps us set that all aside for a day or two and enrich our souls, and spirit, as a team. It touches on those human values we all share. When we hear stories about people who may not be in as fortunate of a position as we are, it makes us want to reach out together to help others,” says Saul Flota, president of Wolverine Pipe Line Company.
Each year Wolverine Pipe Line runs a United Way campaign because they see the immediate benefit of how it affects the people in their community. They kick off the annual campaign with a catered breakfast for the whole crew as a way to get everyone excited and ready.
“Through this breakfast we say to everyone that this is a special event we are having. That we are getting ready to launch the rocket and start this United Way campaign. We are saying we appreciate you and we want you to participate in this with us,” explains David. “When we start the campaign our United Way representative comes and they bring stories about what the United Way accomplishes here in Niles, Buchanan, and other nearby areas where our guys live. When they know they are giving to the people right here in their community it flames the fire in their heart. Everybody doesn’t have to give the same amount, but we all give something.”
On top of their commitment and giving to United Way programs in Niles, they also organize annual an Day of Caring for individuals in need. On these days their whole team gathers together to help cancer patients, senior citizens and individuals with disabilities.
“When we do the Day of Caring, we bring the skills our co-workers have, that we may not see every day. We see each other use those skills to help the group, to help someone in need. We high-five each other, support each other, and at the end of a Day of Caring I can say, ‘today I was reminded about those other skills you have, and I got to see them again.’ It helps us boost each other up and reminds you of what you enjoy about working with the people in your company,” David explains.
Together they have cleaned, painted, and landscaped yards for senior adults who suffer from Multiple Sclerosis. They have built handicap access ramps and sundecks so a grandmother with a physical disability could go outside and sit in the sun with her grandchild. They have cleaned and redecorated the room of a senior who was confined to that one room, brightening up her world. The crew at Wolverine has helped cancer patients in treatment by pouring a gravel driveway, renewing landscaping, staining wooded areas, paid to have septic systems cleaned and mostly, provided a ray of light in situations that were in desperate need of hope.
Their focus is on the human element and how we connect as people; whether we are helping others, in need of help, or trying to convince others to accept help. David recalls meeting Mike, a patient going through chemotherapy for cancer. He had become too weak physically from the treatments to work on his house, but had a hard time acknowledging that he needed to rest and try to heal.
“When Mike was first approached about the Day of Caring, he wasn’t open to our help. He struggled with the idea of our help, because as a man he wanted to be able to do the work himself. He was going through treatment for (aggressive) cancer and knew the work needed to get done for his family, so he accepted it. His heart caught on fire with hope when we came and he saw all this work getting done. He sat and watched, smiled with us, and laughed with us. It boosted him inside. Mike exited our world recently but we did something for Mike and his family that he could not. We changed things for them,” remembers David. “And that is what it’s all about.”
All materials for these jobs are paid for by Wolverine Pipe Line and they hope to inspire other companies to join them, and partner with ones that already do. They hope they can continue to be change agents in the lives of people in their community through their Day of Caring and supporting United Way.
"Our employees know how United Way works in their community, how it helps their town. We are a small company and at the end of the day, we are a family. We talk about our lives and our children and understand how fortunate we are. When we do this work of helping others, it brings us even closer together. The work of United Way lines up with our company culture of helping others and is what this extended family is all about - caring for each other,” says Saul.