A Community of Volunteers –
January 13th, 2011 at Winamac Coil Spring started just like any other day until the unthinkable happened. A fire broke out in the plant’s paint room and without hesitation a community of volunteers sprang into action. It’s hard to determine who is blessed more, Winamac Coil Spring for having an exceptional community volunteer fire department, or the community for having a strong volunteer fire department supporter. Whichever the case may be the bond between a company and their local volunteer fire department can’t get much stronger.
Larry Baldwin, a retired 40 year veteran and former Chief, said “they have been a major supporter to the fire department from day one when they moved from Winamac to Kewanna in 1957.” The support is so strong that the fire station is now known as “Plant 3” among WCS employees. Joe Hott, a 41 year team member and WCS Maintenance guru who served on the volunteer fire department for 25 years, believes that what makes the relationship between WCS and the fire station so unique is the heart and soul of the WCS ownership. Joe says, “They have given the department money, equipment, and most importantly time.”
Time is one of the most precious commodities we have and ever since the company was founded in 1948 by Walter Pesaresi, volunteering time to such a noble cause has been rewarded. In fact, volunteering has become part of the corporate culture. No one knows just how many WCS employees have served on the Kewanna Volunteer Fire Department over the years, but the company estimates having an average of 7 to 9 WCS employees serving the department at any one time during the past 58 years.
Company president Tony Pesaresi, grandson of the late Walter Pesaresi and volunteer firefighter, said “We believe in being good community stewards and we believe by allowing our employees the opportunity to be volunteers we create an intangible benefit that really can’t be measured. Our policy has always been to allow the volunteers to leave work and respond to emergency calls. This gives the community a sense of peace and makes you feel good knowing you are giving back.” Tony expressed, “it helps you sleep at night knowing you are doing the right thing. We believe our fire could have been worse had we not had so many firefighters working here.”
In the early days every WCS employee/volunteer firefighter would respond to an outside emergency call; whereas, today WCS takes a more strategic approach. According to Tony Pesaresi, they want to remain good stewards to the community and they want to take care of their customers as well. By implementing a self-regulating/call situation policy they are able to do both. The employees decide amongst themselves who can take the time to go on an emergency call and who needs to stay at work. “In situations where there’s a major structure fire, likely we would all go; however, we have protocols in the event all of the volunteers would leave work, making sure our customers are still taken care of,” commented Tony Pesaresi. Brock Hinderlider, a 15 year employee of WCS and Captain of the fire department, says “that it’s nice that the company continues to pay your wage through the first hour of being gone on a call. If you are out longer, you get to make up your time.”
While the hopes are there will never be another situation like the day the fire broke out in 2011, WCS remains 100 percent committed to their employees, their community of volunteer firefighters and first responders.
Pictured left to right: Heath Gearhart, Adam Hisey, Brock Hinderlider. Not pictured: Brian Guzman, Tracy Cunningham, Chuck Felda, Josh Weaver, Chad Conley and company president, Tony Pesaresi.