Here's something you may not know. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics nearly one-third of the people in the United States older than fifty-five were employed in the year 2000. The number is expected to increase to at least 38% in the next ten to fifteen years.
Right here in the Greater Cleveland area you will find a number of seniors working in places like grocery stores and fast food restaurants. But few places have a "seniors only" policy like the one in force in the production department of Bonne Bell Cosmetics in Lakewood, Ohio.
It happened about five years ago. Orders were coming in hot and heavy and the need for good line workers was growing. Unfortunately, agency-supplied temporary workers were generally unreliable. In general, they would work a few days, collect a check and leave.
Never concerned with getting their hands dirty Jess Bell (son of the founder, Jesse Grover Bell and sister of the company's namesake, Bonnie) and his wife Julie jumped in on weekends and extra hours whenever they could. It became evident that this would not be enough. They started calling retired employees to come and help with the holiday rush and their faithful retirees answered the call.
Jess Bell no longer had to worry about the reliability of his workers. He knew these people and knew they were giving their all to their job. He watched these retirees work hard and conscientiously, displaying a sense of pride in their task that no temporary could experience, or even understand.
It was then that he decided to make this program a permanent part of the Bonne Bell business. He advertised in local churches and senior centers. What started out as a group of 13 employees helping out for one holiday season has turned into a group of eighty-four workers. They are divided into two shifts; 7:30 - 11:30 and 12:00 - 4:00. The combined shifts average 22,000 pieces of product every day.
Although there is another packaging operation on Crocker Road, the seniors are all together in one place. This not only prevents unnecessary competition with the younger workers (although the seniors have no problem holding their own!) but it also provides a nice, friendly atmosphere with their peers.
Over and over again you hear the same comments, "It's the best place to work" "I love working here" "This is such a good place to be". When you talk to the Senior-senior, 91 year old Evelyn Cicerchi, you can't help but feel the attitude of the entire place - what matters is their pride in the job they're doing and the feeling of independence and self-worth.
Bonne Bell has always been a family-owned company. Jess Bell runs the Senior Program. His wife, Julie runs the retail store and the direct mail portions of the business. Their son, Buddy, runs the day-to-day operations and his wife, Hillary, handles the marketing. They believe a family business is a more compassionate business. They have the opportunity to get to know the people and share a part of their lives with them.
Jess (77) and Julie (70) are perfect examples of the benefits of maintaining a young attitude and a healthy life style. They are both swimmers (5-7 times a week!) and walkers (Julie walks to work every day!). After 48 years of marriage Jess still refers to the lovely Julie as his "trophy wife". To see them, you know immediately they eat a healthy, balanced diet. You also know they deeply love each other, the business, and the people working for them.
Jess would like to see other companies adopt a policy of hiring seniors and taking advantage of this countries greatest natural resource - it's senior citizens. It's not hard to understand why. The work ethic exhibited by these workers is spectacular. They all show up for work a minimum of 15 minutes before their shift starts - and they start working!
Some take advantage of the exercise room or the aerobics classes before or after their shifts. They are friendly, jovial and meticulous in their desire to do a good job. Signs on the walls relate special accomplishments and they are rightfully proud of those deeds.
Retirement made a lot of these people feel old and useless. Going back to work reminded them of all the strengths they have. Plus, it keeps them young and nimble. As Julie Bell points out, "How can arthritis take over fingers that never stop moving?" After "being put out to pasture" these people have come back to the work force and are making a difference. They are a vital, necessary and truly remarkable group of people.
Loyalty is not a word you often here in the workplace these days. But it is the backbone of the Bonne Bell Company. Many of these employees have been there over half of their lives. Once they become part of "the Bonne Bell Family" nobody wants to leave.
They now have a very long waiting list of seniors who would like to be part of this amazing team. The wait will be long since nobody wants to leave. And who can blame them?
If you'd like to take a look at what Bonne Bell Cosmetics has to offer, visit their website at www.bonnebell.com.
See more photos from Bonne Bell Cosmetics
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