In the automotive industry, manufacturers often use plant downtime to retool for new models.
Last April, as the North side of the FCA US Toledo Assembly Complex began retooling for the launch of the all-new, next generation 2018 Jeep Wrangler, the plant’s 2,200 employees and 60 retirees turned their attention to helping Toledo-area community organizations "retool."
FCA Toledo Assembly Center body shop employee Tina Tagle works in the garden at Helping Hands of St. Louis in Toledo.
During the six week program (Sept. 11 – Oct. 20) known as the ‘Season of Service’, employees volunteered more than 20,000 hours with dozens of community organizations, weeding gardens, sorting clothes, stocking food pantries, painting walls, building sheds, fences and paths, removing debris, spreading mulch and beautifying city parks, as well as numerous other activities.
“The relationship between the Jeep brand and the city of Toledo goes back generations. It’s important that our workforce continues fostering that very important bond,” said Chuck Padden, Toledo Assembly Complex Plant Manager. “This is our opportunity to come out and show our thanks to the people of Toledo who have shown us great support over the decades.”
“Toledo Assembly employees have a lot of pride in their work and appreciation for the community,” said Mark Epley, UAW Local 12 Jeep Unit Chair. “We are humbled to be building such an iconic vehicle like the Jeep Wrangler and share that enthusiasm with the city of Toledo.”
From the more than 20,000 hours of service, many stories surfaced of employees going above and beyond what they were asked to do.
FCA Toledo Assembly Complex employees Ed Garcia, body shop, left, Thomas Hall, trim launch leader, center, and Xavier Brown, exterior specialist, right, put up a rafter on a new shed at Helping Hands of St. Louis in Toledo.
Helping Hands of St. Louis
Deep in his core, Thomas Hall exudes leadership, which is why it was impossible for him to leave an unfinished project at the end of his Season of Service day.
“Once I had my hands on it, I couldn’t let it go,” said Hall – Toledo Assembly Complex Team Leader.
During the Season of Service, the task was to finish a utility shed for Helping Hands of St. Louis in downtown Toledo. Helping Hands is a soup kitchen and outreach program that serves homeless and low-income residents.
After his eight-hour shift at Toledo Assembly, Hall was itching to complete the project. So, he returned on his day off.
“Leaders don’t wait until ‘next time’. They honor their commitments, no matter what it takes,” said Hall. “It’s a good feeling to give back. The community has given us so much, we enjoyed returning the favor.”
The Season of Service was just one component of a six-week, comprehensive training and launch readiness program known as “The Toledo Way”. Employees from the North plant of the Toledo Assembly Complex participated in the week-long program which included three, eight-hour days of hands-on technical training at The University of Toledo’s Scott Park Campus; the Season of Service day; and a day devoted to learning about the Jeep brand and time behind the wheel of a Wrangler to experience its off-road capability.
Building upon years of volunteering and a drive to create the kinds of safe spaces she had growing up in Toledo, Rita Jackson created Impact Toledo to upgrade and revitalize city parks so they can be used to their fullest potential.
Unfortunately, city parks are often resources that do not receive much funding, as more immediate necessities often take precedence. At least until Impact Toledo became a community partner during Toledo Assembly’s Season of Service campaign.
“The number of people who helped was really impactful. Normally, we would never be able to do anything of this scale,” said Jackson.
Jackson, who is also an FCA US employee, joined more than 500 of her coworkers from the North plant in restoring 18 city parks. At each site, teams of volunteers focused their efforts on graffiti removal, cleaning up trash, landscaping, painting, and boarding up vacant structures.
The members of Impact Toledo believe that by changing one thought, one mind, one attitude, one heart, it will create a chain effect and leave a lasting impact on the world. With help from FCA US, the group has taken one giant-step towards realizing its dream.
Growing Hope Farms
Based in Swanton, just outside of Toledo, Growing Hope Farms is a family-run organization where the dream to have an appropriate environment for people affected by autism has come true.
During the Season of Service, Toledo Assembly employees were mobilized to work with the farm to make a wheelchair accessible path out of mulch leading from the house to the barn that would enable all residents to visit the animals. When the team realized that the mulch would be just a “bandage”, they decided to donate their own money and expertise to construct a more permanent solution - a concrete wheelchair ramp.
During the 'Season of Service', Jeep workers 'retooled' Growing Hope Farms in Swanton, Ohio, building pathways and other structures from found materials and reaching into their own pockets to fund the construction of a wheelchair ramp.
“Our ‘Jeep’ name is going on every project that we contribute to, and we know how special that is,” said Todd Gibson, Toledo Assembly Complex Paint Shop Team Member, who helped build the ramp.
The concrete ramp will now make the barn accessible to all Growing Hope residents for many years to come.
“It was mostly about doing it right,” said Earl Ramirez, Toledo Assembly Complex Paint Shop Team Member. “The farm’s owners had a vision for what we could accomplish quickly, but we always want our work to be the best.”
Retooling Toledo North
Jeep has called Toledo, Ohio, home for more than 75 years. Since 2006, the Jeep Wrangler has been built in the South plant of the Toledo Assembly Complex. To increase capacity of the iconic Jeep model, production moved to the North side of the complex when the next generation Wrangler launched in December 2017. The Wrangler’s move from the South to the North plant marked the second step of the Company’s two-phased, $3.5 billion industrialization plan to realign its U.S. manufacturing operations to expand the Jeep and Ram brands. FCA US invested $700 million to retool the North plant for new Wrangler production and committed to adding 700 new jobs.
To date, more than 2 million Wranglers have rolled off the line of Toledo’s South plant, which will continue to produce Wranglers into the first half of 2018. Later this year, the South plant will begin retooling to produce the all-new Jeep pickup truck, slated to launch in 2019.