These are unprecedented times for us in the building trades. The COVID-19 crisis has brought on tough challenges, many changes and endless obstacles, but the industry is strong and resilient—right now we lean on each other. We are all in this together!
And, as each day brings more and more coverage on the COVID-19, its impact on communities, and the economy, it’s also revealed some incredible stories we want to shine a light on. One such story is of Cherie & Jack Jester, owners of Benjamin Franklin Plumbing and Mister Sparky in Oak Hall, Virginia.
Cherie, Jack and their team of employees began helping their community through a program to assist people, especially those struggling from abuse, addiction and underserved in the community. The Jesters and their team of plumbers and electricians make deliveries twice a week to a neighborhood women’s shelter. Items being delivered include necessities such as toiletries, diapers, baby wipes, food, and various other supplies to give to those who are struggling. The company has had a relationship with this shelter for several years and have recently added a food and supply drop off location outside the office so the general public can stop by to make donations that will be delivered by their team. Working with a local radio station, they are also publicizing the program to drive awareness of the need in the community.
In addition to the great work Cherie and Jack are doing, they are looking for future programs to assist and hope to team up with other Mister Sparky and Benjamin Franklins in the region. They’ve been lucky during the past few months of COVID-19, as their team is staying busy and all the techs are working. Initially, Cherie and Jack could not find supplies for masks, but through their community outreach, found someone to create them for the whole team. They follow strict guidelines and protocols for social distancing and limit customer contact as much as possible.
I recently had a chance to ask Cherie about their business, philanthropy, and how the pandemic has changed the way they do business.
MH: Give us a little background on your team with Mister Sparky and Ben Franklin Plumbing?
Cherie: Jack and I started our company in 1989 as a new construction plumbing contractor. We decided to change our primary focus to service in the late 1990’s and joined the Benjamin Franklin Plumbing franchise in the fall of 2006, and we added Mister Sparky to our portfolio in 2008. Our son, Lee, has grown up in the business and serves currently as our Operations Manager. Our team of professionals at Benjamin Franklin Plumbing and Mister Sparky Electric can solve plumbing and electrical problems quickly and efficiently with our guaranteed on-time service, fully-stocked trucks and highly-skilled technicians. Some of our specialty services include bathroom remodeling, water testing and purification, home automation, house rewiring, among many others.
MH: How was the relationship created with the shelter?
Cherie: Our relationship with the local neighborhood women’s shelter began through our office manager, Leesa. Leesa had been incredibly involved for several years with a special Christmas project for the shelter families. She and a few other volunteers would take a “Christmas Wish List” of items (toys, clothing, coats) for every child and parent in the shelter and go shopping for them, wrap the gifts, and then deliver everything right before Christmas for the shelter staff to distribute. Our company and team members all contributed at first and our involvement continues to grow. Last year, we wanted to increase our giving, so we matched the contribution each team member gave. This encouraged more participation from our entire staff.
MH: How has COVID-19 changed the way you do business?
Cherie: We have been fortunate enough to be able to keep all of our team working in spite of the impact from COVID-19 on the economy, and we are very thankful. The health and safety of our customers and employees has been our biggest priority, which is why we implemented procedures based on information from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). We require all of our employees to wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) including masks and gloves, as well as practice social distancing and regularly wash their hands and sanitize, and we’ve been making changes to reduce our in-person contact.
MH: What other programs or areas do you see as potential for supporting philanthropic endeavors?
Cherie: We love giving back to the community and are always looking for ways to help, especially since we have a strong support system from our employees who aspire to make a positive impact. We’d love to partner with nearby Mister Sparky and Benjamin Franklin Plumbing franchisees in the area to continue to build upon our giveback efforts. Beyond the women’s shelter we work with, we are long-time supporters of our local volunteer fire companies and we are reaching out to a local homeless shelter to see if we can help them in any way.
MH: Can you share any insight or personal stories about someone that has benefited from the support?
Cherie: When COVID-19 began to impact our community, we learned that there was an increase of families being taken into the shelter. Due to the increase there was a high demand for extra items, so we wanted to help. We decided to go shopping for them ourselves, collect items at our office from our team and anyone else wanting to help, and make deliveries to the shelter during the pandemic. Through these efforts we’ve donated several boxes of food, toilet paper, and various other supplies to give to people who are struggling.
MH: What do you hope others in the industry may take from reading about how you support in your community?
Cherie: We wanted to help our community in this time of need and are overwhelmed with the support we received from our employees, our local community in Virginia and our franchise family with Mister Sparky and Ben Franklin Plumbing. We hope our story will bring inspiration to others and motivate them to look for ways they can be a blessing wherever they are.
Having the team from Benjamin Franklin Plumbing is a gift for those in their community with little means or in need of a helping hand. As this pandemic continues with unknown speed, we can’t forget the most vulnerable who need even more support. So, if we are all in this together, we must include, plan for, and protect our most vulnerable too.
Cherie, Jack and the team of employees, Thanks You!