DEARBORN - The request was small, but the response was overwhelming.
That’s probably the best way to sum up the heart-warming story that began when Anthony ‘Tony’ Offredi – a Body Construction engineer in Ford Vehicle Operations Manufacturing Engineering (VOME) – responded to an e-mail sent to him by his manager at Ford’s Fairlane North in Dearborn.
Offredi was called back from the Army Reserves into Active Duty from his job at Ford last fall to serve for one year as the engineering officer in support of the Afghanistan National Army Logistics Support Area in Parwan, Afghanistan. That’s where he was when Mark White sent him an e-mail to see how he was doing.
“Tony was very happy that somebody from work reached out to him, and during the course of our correspondence I asked him if there was anything we could do for him,” said White.
Offredi, who has served in the military for 13 years between active service and reserve time, responded:
“Thank you for thinking of us out here. It is very hard not to feel disconnected and a word or two from home makes a huge difference. Most of the guys are from the Midwest and only drive Ford or GM. Lots of Mustang and F-150 fans. If there happens to be an excess of stickers/pens/giveaway Ford items from a launch event that are hanging around the office – send it over here to boost morale.”
As soon as White learned of Offredi’s wish, he and Amy Coan, a VOME administrative assistant, sprang into action.
“Amy and I got together, and we decided to do a fundraiser to collect money to buy Ford t-shirts for Tony and his team of 122 people,” said White.
Coan sent an e-mail to everyone at the Fairlane complex asking if they would like to donate $30 to cover the cost and shipment of 122 Ford blue t-shirts with a Ford oval logo on the sleeve, a “Built Ford Tough” logo on the back and a Mustang red-white-blue insignia on the front pocket. Any extra money, the note said, would be donated to the Wounded Warrior Fund.
The response was tremendous, says White, and the effort began to snowball as people began forwarding the request to other Ford colleagues in different areas of the business.
“Some people helped me achieve a great deal on the t-shirts. Another person from Marketing donated more than 100 red Ford Motorcraft hats for the group. One of the people made 150 Detroit Tiger buttons and others supported with fruit drink mixes,” said White. “Not only were we able to purchase the t-shirts from the monetary contributions, but we were also able to donate a total of $1,442 to the Wounded Warriors Fund.”
Coan says everyone was very generous.
“We had asked people to donate $30, and we had people giving us $100, $150 and $200,” she said. “It was a special thing, and everybody felt it.”
White says the outpouring of support is symbolic of the Ford spirit.
“There are a lot of folks who came forward in a happy, voluntary way to support this effort, which demonstrates the type of people that Ford people are,” he said. “They care about others, and they especially want to support their colleagues who are serving our country in the military.”
Once the t-shirts and other gifts were ready to go, White says his wife helped pack them up and sent them off to Afghanistan. After he received the package, Offredi sent the following message back to his Ford colleagues:
“They absolutely loved them!…Everyone was proud to wear the t-shirt and hat. They were extremely appreciative of the gifts and donation. Many soldiers waited afterward to personally convey their gratitude. I don’t want to say it was like Christmas, but all age groups were wearing a big smile and acting like it was. For that, I want to personally thank you and all the members of Vehicle Operations. There is nothing quite like lifting the spirits of a soldier that has been in country for nine months. Truly heartwarming.”
Responding to an e-mail written to him by this writer, Offredi expressed how much he misses his job at Ford:
“There is truth behind the adage if you love what you do you never work a day in your life. I have been blessed with a position at Ford that I enjoy immensely and there have been times here in Afghanistan where I wish I was on the plant floor rather than in a halfway frozen mud-hole troubleshooting a generator.”
Most of all, however, he says he misses his co-workers:
“I really do not consider my fellow comrades at Ford co-workers. The feeling is more like a family. We are a very tight group at Body Construction Engineering. The travel and late nights debugging tooling and analyzing part quality forges friendships that transcend the word ‘co-worker.’”
White says the feeling is mutual.
“Tony’s one of our people, and we’re like family in many respects” he said. “He’s a very dedicated and very passionate employee. The entire team at Body Construction Engineering misses him and wishes him a safe return”.