Friday, July 16, 2010

There’s no place like home

What a cool trip this has been. I’m in Grain Valley, MO, at OOIDA’s headquarters. As field editor of Land Line Magazine for the past 10 years or so, I’ve been telecommuting since long before it was trendy. I’ve sent stories by mail, fax, e-mail and maybe filed one or two by carrier pigeon. But in all this time, I’ve never visited the home office.

A combination of editorial calendar planning meetings and the encouragement of Managing Editor Sandi Soendker brought me down the road, past the loading docks, and up through the front doors. And while I had great anticipation, the reality is so much more than I expected.

My husband, Bob, and I have been members since 1989. We have a four-digit member number. OK, the short number is his because I joined as a spouse member, and at some point I got my own number which was higher, but I’m claiming 7985 since I pay the bills and we ran team.

I remember when we joined, the whole idea of strength in numbers made sense. In spite of being fiercely independent one-truck owner-operators, it seemed smart to have an organization to represent bunches of us in places where an individual voice might not be heard. The concept wasn’t new. Heck, OOIDA started back in 1973, but in 1989 it still seemed pretty grassroots, fly by the seat of your pants, take a chance without risking a lot of money and maybe this group would turn out to be around for a while.

Well, that turned out to be an understatement. No matter where we ran or how much time we spent on the road, it’s been nice knowing that someone out there has our backs. And someone who would listen to our concerns or demands or point us in a constructive direction was no farther than the other end of the telephone line.

I guess we weren’t alone. Did you know that the receptionists who answer the phones (and there are 10 of them) answer an average of more than 1,000 phone calls per week? That’s each. Every receptionist talks to more than 1,000 of us every week. And they’re nice and gracious and courteous all day, every day. They’re the first voices you hear when you call. It’s still personal here – not an automated phone system that tells you to Press 1 for this or 7 for that. Real people. I like that.

The buildings look large and shiny. Huge windows overlook I-70. The rumble of trucks and the occasional thrumming of a Jake Brake provide a constant backdrop to the business at hand. There’s room for trucks in the parking lot. In fact, members are welcome to stop in and visit. There are two big wings with a cafeteria in the middle, three floors on each wing.

There’s a lot going on here. And it’s all focused on service. From Membership to Insurance to Regulatory Affairs to Business Services to Land Line Magazine and the Land Line Now radio studios – the place is humming with activity. In a year’s time, almost 1.7 million pieces of postal mail are sent, including association business and member correspondence, and that doesn’t count Land Line Magazine.

From a couple of truck drivers talking, we’ve grown into an Association that’s the voice of our industry. It’s pretty amazing.

It’s my first visit to a place that feels like home.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Giving back to vets

Many of OOIDA’s 154,000-plus members are military veterans. The number is near 40 percent, according to the OOIDA Foundation.

We’re reminded of the strong tie between vets and truckers every year when OOIDA’s “Truckers for Troops” program rolls around, combining to gather contributions and distribute care pages to troops overseas. In 2010 alone, Truckers for Troops processed 602 boxes of care packages to U.S. troops stationed overseas, including care packages for 7,224 soldiers.

With that in mind, I thought I’d pass along some information about an effort to improve a facility used by many vets in the Midwest.

Lowe’s is donating materials and volunteer hours to make several improvements this Saturday to the VA Medical Center in Kansas City, MO.

Thirteen different Lowe’s stores in the greater Kansas City area have volunteered to send 10 store employees to add carpet, paint and new cabinetry to the veterans’ recreation hall kitchen, as well as install pavestone walkways and a gazebo for the VA Cancer Survivor Garden. The group also will add landscaping and repair some existing landscaping on the hospital grounds, and repaint several patient rooms.

The improvements were selected by Lowe’s as part of its Heroes Campaign – a volunteer program that encourages employees in local areas to team up and work on a project to help organizations in their area.