Hello All!! Over the next few days I'll be posting a series about my brother Chet. He's running for Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania!! I'm proud of him and wanted to show him my support by posting a bit about who he is, what he stands for and the things he hopes to bring change to. And don't worry Chet, I won't post any embarrassing pictures........or maybe I will!!!
Fire trucks surrounded our tall silo on Sunnyside Farm that late spring day in 1981 as I returned from a fun week at the shore with some friends. I had just graduated from high school. The smoldering fire that had engulfed the feed supply for our fifty cows was about to change my world. College would have to wait. Working hard to help our family survive and recover would take over the lives of my parents and their eight children.
As my hard-working parents tried to save our family farm in the wake of the Carter recession, this silo fire was the last straw. Forced to sell everything, our family of ten moved in with relatives and struggled to regain our footing and find a new place to live. Those were dark and frightful days. My parents, each with only an 8th grade education, had very limited options. Working the land was all they knew.
Unemployment was not available since they had been self-employed farmers. Welfare was not an option because they had an aversion to government handouts. Dad, dealing with a deep sense of failure, took a part time job painting houses for minimum wage. Mom found a few houses to clean for a meager amount each week. I worked the night shift at Donnelley Printing because this enabled me to be available during daytime hours to help my parents deal with the banks and creditors to establish a repayment plan for their staggering debts.
They were determined to avoid bankruptcy. My mother would often say, “If we each do our part, and if we work together, we will make it through. Let’s trust that God ‘will restore the years the locusts have eaten.’" After dedicating two years to work with my family, I was awarded a scholarship to Pepperdine University where I studied economics, business, and government.My room and board were not covered by the scholarship, so I worked two jobs to make it through. That kept me focused.
During my four years away at college, my mother often cleaned more than fifteen houses each week….by herself. Upon graduating from college I returned home, determined to help my parents build a business around my mother’s impressive cleaning system. We duplicated her skills by training others. Today Naomi’s Cleaning, named for my mother, serves hundreds of homes down the Main Line toward Philadelphia. Mom and Dad were eventually
able to repay their debts, and also build a house which is now nearly paid off.
Now they make it a priority to help individuals who encounter desperate circumstances similar to their own experience. After helping my parents build Naomi’s Cleaning, I founded another business, Amish Country Gazebos. When the gazebo business grew nationwide, my three brothers and I developed a trucking company to more efficiently deliver gazebo kits to homes all across America. Building these and other enterprises has been challenging but, even more, it has been rewarding. Not all of my business ventures were always successful. But, that’s how a free economy functions. Other family businesses such as Auntie Anne’s Soft Pretzels, owned by my cousin, and Kreider Farms, built by my wife Sharon’s family, were birthed out of difficult circumstances and have weathered many storms.....(to be continued).