Bernick’s Beverages and Vending, a family-owned Minnesota company, has long held a commitment to public service as part of its corporate culture. As a part of that commitment, the company’s Duluth branch has worked with Goodwill for decades, helping Goodwill to fulfill its own mission of finding jobs for people with disabilities or other barriers to employment.
Rick Hartzell, fleet and building maintenance manager, said it’s rewarding to be able to help people with disabilities.
“There are a lot of people out there that need an opportunity in one way or another,” Hartzell said. “We’re glad to give them an opportunity when we can make it fit.”
Bernick’s strives to give back to the community at all of its major branches, including St. Cloud and Dresser, WI.
“We use disadvantaged help wherever we can to help the community,” Hartzell said.
“You want to help keep these people employed,” said Jason Bernick, company director of corporate affairs. “It’s a way of supporting the community. The crew is supervised; they do a good job. It’s a good morale boost too.”
The branch here in Duluth has worked with Goodwill for more than two decades. Up until his recent retirement, Ken Hallgren was part of that partnership. He started working at Goodwill in 1976, and went on to work for Bernick’s (then called Automatic Vending Services) a few years later.
“Kenny did a good job,” Hartzell said. “He fit the bill very well. He was kind of a character in a way…he and I got along really well. He felt like he was a part of our team.”
Indeed, Ken became such an integral part of the Bernick’s team that the staff threw him a retirement party in August 2010.
“I enjoyed it,” Ken said of the party, adding that he misses seeing his co-workers and sees them often at company picnics and other events. “Bernick’s was great, really good. I miss working with them.”
Ken’s job changed through the years, as the staff at Bernick’s was happy to accommodate his changing needs. He started out cleaning and recycling, but as the Bernick’s facility grew larger and Ken had a knee replacement, he moved onto jobs that didn’t require him to walk around so much, such as dumping expired product.
Goodwill client Brad Shea is now working at Bernick’s, and has been there for about a year doing some of the same jobs that Ken had. He said he enjoys the work. Bernick’s is now working closely with Goodwill to accommodate another client.
Hartzell said that through his 14 years at Bernick’s, Goodwill has always strived to make sure things go smoothly for the company and its employees.
“They’ve been very good to work with,” Hartzell said. “They’re always concerned that they’re providing the right person that we need. It makes it a very easy relationship.”
Facilities manager Tony Klar said Goodwill staff members have been great about keeping the lines of communication open.
“It’s been really good,” Klar said.