Jairo Arguedas, Cliff Baird, Jeff Davison, Alyson Gilleland, Wally Holden, Kim Kelley-Tunis, Treavor Land, Kale Lewis, Will Lowery Azalea Moore, Adam Peterson, David Robinson, Van Wagner, Tom Waterbor, Noah Wilson, Brian Weirich
The Georgia Pest Control Association has encouraged a spirit of community involvement and partnered with many great charities throughout its 60 year history. Like the classes before them the Leadership Class of 2017 was posed with the same mission of identifying a charity that they believed in and were willing to raise money for. When hearts and heads came together and our team shared life-changing events that had devastated them and their families over the past year or two the thought of a charity to provide hope through support for members of the pest control industry was birthed.
Now with a new direction came new challenges. We had to not only develop a business plan to just raise money for our selected charity but create a new 501C-3 non-profit foundation from scratch if we were to ever be able to raise the funds needed to make a difference and give hope when life happens. We put our heads together and created our foundation name, the Hands United Foundation. We created a logo that symbolized together we will embrace the needs of those in our industry in those unexpected life’s tragic moments. Those the logo has gone through many revisions before reaching our trademarked logo that serves as the icon of our heart to serve.
I am a Region Support Manager for Terminix in South Georgia and Southern Alabama. I have been a member of the Georgia Pest Control Industry since December of 1979. I am a frequent speaker at Pest Control Industry continuing education events and co-chair the GPCA Education Committee. My wife Frances and I live in Middle Georgia and have two children, a daughter-in-law, a son-in- law, and a grandson named Charlie.
My inspiration for wanting this charity was founded on 01/15/17 when I received the most devastating call of my life. It was about 5:50 AM I just finished reading my Bible and meditating before getting ready for church. I was printing my Sunday School notes for our lesson that day which was, “When Sorrows Come” when my daughter called. As a parent you can feel and hear their pain as if it were your own, I could hear hysteria in her voice and all of a sudden she said “Daddy, I need your strength”. Shocked by her tone I asked what do you mean? She informed me Amelia, my nine-year old granddaughter, had been cast out of their boat after something had jarred the boat and Charlie her father fell out of the boat not realizing until later the one thing he had grasped to try to hang on to was the throttle which broke off propelling the boat at full speed into a spin. Her father made several attempts to get to her to no avail before nearly succumbing to exhaustion produced by treading water fully clothed in utter darkness and frigid waters. We talk about PTSD for soldiers and police, but what about father who can see his child in danger but is immobilized by the frigid water in the early morn of January. She and her father were returning to the shore to come home from night fishing which they loved to do together.
When I arrived on the scene it was like an episode of one of the reality shows where you say you feel sorry for those people and glad it is not you but this time it was us. We spent the next thirty-nine hours watching, weeping, and praying for the search teams as we watched choppers, specialized boats, and cadaver dogs search for the body of our precious little Amelia to give some closure and allow us the opportunity to grieve and begin the healing process.
As I look back it has been an event I do not want to repeat but it is one that has changed my life in many ways. This tragedy has fostered new friendships and was just one of the seeds that helped foster the Hands United Foundation providing the Giving Hope Fund to families of the Georgia Pest Control Industry in times of catastrophic life changing events. Parents and grandparents reading this hug your child or grandchild today and tell them you love them for you may not get tomorrow because life happens.
I began my career in pest management as a 19 year old college student in Indiana. It wasn’t my first choice in a career, but one that I have never regretted. Along the way, I have met a number of people working in this industry that I have been lucky to learn from. Even though I may have worked for a competitor, everyone I have met has always found the time to share best practices, training materials, ideas, and even tips from their own personal experiences. Over time, those acquaintances turned into friendships, where conversations quickly turn from discussions about business to discussions about family. It was these friendships that I relied on to help me get through one of the most difficult times of my life.
I don’t remember much after I was told that he was unresponsive. How could this happen, he was only 47 and in good health? All I could think about were my 13 and 15-year old children! It was January 21st and I had become a widow and a single mother in a heartbeat. I had just relocated to Atlanta less than three years earlier and the closest family member lived at least 4 hours away.
That’s when my friends in the Pest Control Industry stepped in! They immediately mobilized, working to get me the help I needed, working to bring my family into Atlanta where they could assist with my children and arrangements, and providing both physical and emotional support when I needed it most! My children and I could not be more grateful for everything that they did and continue to do.
Hands United is my opportunity to give back to an industry that has given me so much! I know that I am not the first person to find myself in this situation, and I won’t be the last. The Hands United Foundation was developed to help those who may find themselves in a similar situation and are struggling to find a way out of the lowest point in their life. As an industry, we work every day to serve our customers and help make their lives better. Through Hands United, we can help to make the lives of our pest management family better.
Kim is the Director of Quality Assurance and Claims with Rollins and resides in Buford, GA with her two teenage children.
My name is Cliff Baird and I have worked for Compass Pest Management for 12 years and have been in the pest control industry for almost 19 years. I am a region director for the Georgia Pest Control Association, I am also a co-chair for the Northwest Georgia Conference, on the Public Relations Committee and a recent graduate of the GPCA Leadership Program.
My inspiration for wanting to get involved in the Hands United Foundation dates back to October of 1997. My wife Misty and myself were expecting our 2nd child. Our only child was our daughter Shelby who was 4 at the time. It was an exciting time for us. We were going for a regular checkup and ultrasound and it was time to find out if we were having a boy or a girl. As the technologist was performing the ultrasound she has a concerned look on her face, she said she needed to get the doctor and of course we were very concerned! He came in and gave us the most devastating news of our lives! First of all he said it appears to be a girl, but she is way to small for her age and she doesn’t have any arms or legs. We have to get you to a specialist tomorrow. After the appointment was set we got into our car and sat there trying to process everything. As we looked at each other it was like the Lord was verbally speaking to us. He said name her Faith, he never promised that everything would be easy, but just trust him. As we started to tell our family our pastor wanted to have a prayer meeting that night, I can honestly say that I have never experienced anything like it! The next day we went to the specialist and as he was comparing ultrasounds he said she is still the same size, but she has arms and legs now. We knew that everything was going to be alright. He gave us all the scenarios of what could happen and they started giving my wide steroids because they knew we would never go full term and needed to develop Faith as much as possible.
As we were going for weekly ultrasounds in December they told us to start coming with our bags packed and ready to deliver. The 1st week of January she appeared to weigh a little over a pound. We went back on January 8, 1998 and our lives forever changed. They did the ultrasound and said she is loosing weight we must do an emergency c-section today. We were only 28 weeks along and Faith was born weighing in at a whopping 15 OUNCES! She was in the hospital right at 6 months with a number of issues. She came home with a feeding tube and we were told she would be a vegetable all of her life however, God had different plans! The feeding tube came out when she was 19 months and has astounded the doctors every since. She graduated high school in 2017 and along with her Mom is starting a brownie baking business. During this time the Lord blessed us with a son in August 1999.
The medical, travel, food and room cost was very overwhelming. We lived about 1.5 hours from the hospital and still had our oldest daughter to raise and spend time with. Even though I wasn’t in the pest control industry at the time an organization like Hands United would have been very beneficial!
After completing his military commitment with the United States Air in 1985, Van Wagner secured a job in pest management until he could “find something better”. Thirty three years later Van is a certified pest control operator in three states, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, and is currently a Senior Manager with Arrow Exterminators.
Van’s life changing event happened when he was just twelve years old, when he came home from school one afternoon and found his father. He had passed away from a massive heart attack earlier in the day. With two younger siblings, Van suddenly had a lot of responsibilities to deal with at a very young age. With the loss of his father Van began going down the wrong path very fast. His grades in school began to slip and he began hanging out with the wrong crowds. He eventually found himself in real trouble and turned back to the Christian faith that his father had introduced him to. Van and his wife Nannette currently live just outside Augusta Georgia. They have three grown children and three young grandchildren.