Employee Spotlight: John Wheeler
on Tuesday, June 18, 2013
John Wheeler is a TMC Wheel Master whose dedication goes further than his two million safe miles. After working hard throughout the year, John uses some of his vacation time to volunteer on missionary trips to help rebuild areas devastated by natural disasters, constructing equipment for orphanages in Haiti, and helping with a Louisiana State Penitentiary project.
It all began in 2004 as John and his wife, Janice, watched the tragedy of the Sri Lanka tsunami and wanted to help. He was scheduled to travel there on a mission trip with his church, but the trip was cancelled. The next year, John spent two weeks in Bourg, Louisiana with friends from his church to help rebuild a house that had been destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. In 2007, John left for Jacmel, Haiti to help build shelves, cribs and tables for an orphanage. A couple years later, John’s church went on a mission trip to help build a chapel at the Angola State Prison in Louisiana, which is known to have the most violent inmates in America, with more than 70% serving a life sentence.
“The Angola warden told us we would be working alongside convicts, and we did!” says John. “Working together on a project like this helps to give those serving life sentences hope and allows them to still live for something. While I was there I also got to take a tour of death row and it really changed my outlook on the death penalty.”
In 2010, John went back to Jacmel, Haiti with his daughter, Jodi, and her 11-year-old daughter, Cara. They were there for the Hands and Feet Project making repairs at the orphanage and playing with the 42 children who called it home. This trip took place six months after the January earthquake and John witnessed the severity of the disaster first hand.
“I was shown a very small house that was occupied by a family of eight,” he says. “There was a wall that was still halfway gone from the earthquake. The average income is only $1 per-person per-week. One of the family members found three small watermelons the family would share for food that day and happily presented one to us because we were their guests. It’s a real joy to go out and meet Haitian people and especially interact with the kids. They always have a bright smile on their face no matter what they have. It makes me very grateful for everything I have and reminds me of how wasteful we can be.”
John will be traveling back to Haiti in July with Jodi and two of his granddaughters, Cara, 14, and Emma, 12. The orphanage he visits has grown from having 12 children in 2006 to now having 60, so construction is constantly being done. He looks forward to seeing his full-time missionary friends and the Haitian boy his church has sponsored, Roosevelt. In the meantime, John continues driving for TMC and appreciating what he has.
“I’m grateful to Harrold and the management team at TMC,” he says. “We are given good equipment and treated extremely well. In this industry it’s easy to complain, but I’ve realized that it’s not all about me. I’m grateful to be able to keep working so I can keep going on mission trips and provide for my wife at home.”
When John isn’t on the road, he’s involved with a lot of family activities, church and enjoys spending time fishing and working on home improvement projects.