Successful Support Program: From Homeless to Team Leader
Helping people overcome drug addiction and find a new start: our plant in Waverly, USA supports former drug addicts with special programs that help support them in making a new start in their careers.
Our colleague Ben Buck participated very successfully in such a program – today he leads the Honda Accord team in the plant and has been clean for almost seven years.
The story of Ben Buck sounds like a Hollywood drama with a happy ending. But, it really happened. It encourages others to make a fresh start. Ben participated in the Transitions Work Experience Program in Scioto County, Ohio. There is a similar program in Pike County, where our Waverly facility is also involved.
Poor decisions early in life sent Ben to prison for seven years, followed by homelessness and turning back to drug addiction. After a near fatal overdose, his kids became the reason Ben sought treatment and a fresh start. "I was living in the back of a Jeep Cherokee, filling out thousands of employment applications. I always answered truthfully when asked if I had ever been convicted of a felony," Ben said, even though he knew that it was likely the reason he would not be hired. He had quickly lost faith in the community, industry, and apparent programs that seem to offer support.
But Ben didn't give up. "In 2017, I came to KIRCHHOFF Automotive in Waverly as a temp. I was excited to be working a really decent job. I worked harder than anyone else. I was always honest with my supervisor and team lead. He was understanding and did not hold my past against me." Ben was then able to participate in the Transitions Work Experience Program, which is designed to help people transition out of drug addiction. "I was quickly offered a full-time position, and several years ago I was given the opportunity to step up and begin leading others." Today, Ben Buck leads the Honda Accord team in Waverly; they produce the cross car beam for this vehicle on a complex assembly cell.
In the past five years, Ben has lost over ten friends and relatives to drug addiction. "It tears your life apart. I feel very fortunate to have overcome this, and it has left me with a very strong belief that recovery and employment go hand-in-hand." He celebrated his birthday on January 13, which marks 82 months of being clean.
"We are so thankful for Ben and his passion and commitment, not only to the Waverly plant, but also to those coming from similar backgrounds," said Plant Manager Mel Fultz. "We remain committed and engaged to do as much as we can to help our community combat this plague."
Ben Buck is also grateful to our company and for participating in the Transitions Work Experience Program. "Tomorrow I could start working at another company in Waverly. But that company didn't save my life."
Further Information: Transitions Work Experience Program
The program in the Pike County region of Ohio, USA has been in place since 2019. It is designed to help those affected by substance abuse transition out of addiction and reorganize their work lives. Adult employees with technical work experience can acquire basic skills and learn professional etiquette in the form of internships. In May 2020, we established an internship site in Waverly for the program. A total of eleven interns participated last year. More than half of them were offered full-time employment and more than a third will continue to work full-time at our plant.