Michigan Pallet June 2020 Newsletter
Rich Newill Sr.
Michigan Pallet is a producer of many sizes and types of pallets. Having 4 plants located around the lower portion of Michigan, we employ a diverse group of people. This group works harmoniously together, muting the discussions about racial discrimination to a level of non-existence within our organization. This comes naturally to our team, requiring little input from any of us since everyone understands we are equals pulling in the same direction here. We are genuinely proud of our employees for working hard all along and for staying productive throughout the pandemic. We have established a culture where people do not even consider the race or color of their co-workers, and where safety in the manufacturing processes is normal, not in any way alien to the crew. As Safety Director, I write an article highlighting important matters affecting our people periodically. The letter below, from May 2020, is a single example from many success stories our people can tell:
I have a story to tell you that you may enjoy. I was heartened by this story, and it comes right from our own ranks. This is a success story, and has not yet ended. The story is of a man working at the Michigan Pallet plant in Clinton. He gave me permission to use his name and he gave me the details himself. I would never divulge personal information about any employee without permission. This man’s name is Noel Clarke (pronounced No-El). Noel is a department supervisor and Hi-lo operator that has come through the ranks at his plant. He is clearly headed for greater things in life and in his work.
Noel’s story begins in Adrian Michigan where he was born. His family of 5 children and his single mom depended on welfare for survival. When Noel was in 4th grade, the family moved to the east side of Detroit. It was a rough time for Noel and his siblings now living in a city of poverty, violence, and gangs after leaving a country town. His mother instilled a strong Christian faith in the children all their lives but there came a time when the pressures of the environment came to bear on Noel’s life. He attended his first 2 years of high school at 7 Mile and Gratiot, notorious for poverty and crime. His mom moved the family back to Adrian where he attended high school junior year then dropped out his senior year. He admits to selling and using drugs at that time. He was convicted of his first felony and placed into the system. At that point, Noel says he believed that lifestyle was essentially inescapable, hopeless. As said, Noel was blessed to have been raised in a Christian family. Those values had been instilled in him since birth by his mother and grandmother. 10 years ago, realizing he had to return to his faith, Noel made a personal commitment to return to God. He turned himself over to the Lord, and while admittedly stumbling a few times at first, Noel has become a living inspiration, a man immediately recognized as a positive, caring individual when you meet him.
His first job after that epiphany was caring for a disabled motorcyclist. He next came to Michigan Pallet, hired as a temp, to be a sorter. He went home every night too sore to move during the first 2 months, but with 10 kids to care for he held on. He rapidly progressed through being a team leader, then hi-lo supervisor emptying trailers and feeding the sort line from shipping & receiving to his current role as Sort & Repair Line Supervisor. 5 years into Noel’s employment at Michigan Pallet, Jerome Coleman, the current plant manager, hired in. Jerome took notice of Noel’s work ethic, ability, and attitude. He provided advice to Noel on people, leadership, and management skills. Noel is a man willing to listen to sound advice. He took Jerome’s advice and is today thriving in his current position with the respect of the crew he supervises. In early May of this year Noel was able to close on a house for his family; a true and well-earned success story.
Noel’s wisdom, gained from his life experiences, is profound. He says “prison, addiction, and having a criminal record can mess you up”. Many, if not most so saddled, absorb that feeling of hopelessness and the belief there is no way out. There is little rehabilitation available within the system as it is. Consciousness and a deep faith do bring a better life to those that desire it. Noel tells of his younger brother, also a successful citizen, saying he watched Noel and made sure NOT to do what Noel did in their earlier years. He knew that would be his road to destruction. Noel knows it now too. His success is remarkable, and the easy pleasant attitude he conveys is motivating to his crew (and to all in contact with him).
While I interviewed Noel for this article, he received a text from his minister. He read it aloud to Jerome and me. It was an eloquent and powerful positive message that Noel was proud to receive. Clearly, when you surround yourself with good people, you benefit from it as well as spread it.
I thought Noel’s story worthy of passing on as soon as I heard he’d purchased a house for himself and family. This is a perfect example of what applying yourself to honest productive work and keeping a positive attitude can bring you. Success remains available to all Americans wise enough to pursue it well. Safety falls into place right along with positive thinking. Safety is also a huge element of being successful. This is real.