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East Central Indiana Companies Offer Unique Perks to Retain Employees

These employers are adopting new strategies to serve their workers’ needs.

By Bill Lewis on June 16, 2022

Esdras Velasquez, in black, stacks freshly sawn lumber with Nicolas Mejia, in blue, at the Frank Miller Lumber Company in Union City.
Nathan Lambrecht

A lumber supply company might seem like an unusual place to find chaplains offering counseling and prayers, and a food manufacturer’s transformation of a vacant school building into a day care facility might seem curious, but those are strategies two East Central Indiana employers are adopting to serve their workers’ needs.

The initiatives are gaining notice at a time when employers are looking for innovative and creative ways to recruit and retain talented workers.

SugarCreek purchased the former Central School building in 2019 to make child care available for its employees. Richmond Family YMCA operates the center, which serves the company’s employees and other families in the community. The multistate food products company has operations in Cambridge City in Wayne County.

Parts of the surrounding area in East Central Indiana have been called a child care desert, and the lack of day care options can be a significant problem for working parents.

SugarCreek is a diversified food manufacturer whose customers include some of the industry’s largest and best-known companies. SugarCreek offers expertise in everything from food trends and marketing to packaging and logistics.

Founded in 1966, SugarCreek employs more than 2,000 people in six manufacturing facilities that serve clients in the United States and internationally.

Frank Miller Lumber
Nathan Lambrecht

Chaplains at Work

Frank Miller Lumber, a wholesale lumber supplier in Union City, began its pastoral care program more than a decade ago and sees it as a valuable resource for its employees.

“There are a couple of reasons why we started it. One, we are in a small, rural town that is on the higher end of the poverty level. Our owners wanted to make sure that our employees had the opportunity to reach out to a chaplain if they needed it,” says CEO Steve James.

“Two, it did set us apart from the other companies in the area that did not offer a service of this nature. The owners really care about the employees and our town.”

“It did set us apart from the other companies in the area that did not offer a service of this nature. The owners really care about the employees and our town.”

Steve James | Frank Miller Lumber

Both companies began their initiatives well before today’s Great Resignation, which has seen millions of workers rethink their careers, change jobs or even leave the workforce. In today’s tight labor market, the availability of day care and the ability to seek workplace counseling and assistance with a personal problem can help employees overcome obstacles to full participation in the workforce.

Frank Miller Lumber’s chaplains are provided by Marketplace Chaplains, a private organization founded in 1984 that employs more than 1,800 chaplains serving more than 1.2 million workers and their families nationwide.

Frank Miller Lumber Company
Nathan Lambrecht

Overcoming Obstacles

“We have three chaplains that come once a week,” James says. “We have a female chaplain for the women that work here. She is wonderful and provides an outlet for them. It is more of a friendly chat, and if they need prayers or spiritual guidance, she offers that as well. We have a Spanish-speaking chaplain that comes monthly on first shift.”

The chaplains don’t just keep office hours. One of them comes during the third shift.

“It is nonevasive and just provides a lane if our employees are interested,” James says. “They also will do hospital and funeral services for us if needed.”

Frank Miller Lumber has been a family-run business for more than a century, continuously operating at its 20-acre original location in Union City. The company has grown into a global business using state-of- the-art sawmill and kiln-drying technology.

James doesn’t measure the impact that Marketplace Chaplains has on employee retention and recruitment, but he believes the initiative is important.

“I can tell you that our employees generally like it,” James says. “It is my belief that if we can help any of our employees that are struggling and need spiritual support, it is worth the cost to us.”

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