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May 10, 2021 15 mins

For the Calabrese family, based in Utica, New York, serving their community is a family tradition. In 2013, John Calabrese Sr. and his wife Lori embarked on a new career by opening up their own Express Employment Professionals franchise. Intrigued by the business, their son, John Jr., joined the cause and began doing the important work of matching candidates with companies and vice versa. Along the way, he noted that a lot of the area's unemployed were also veterans - many of them homeless and struggling. So he and his family launched the Veterans Supply Drive initiative, using two repurposed military vehicles to collect and distribute food and clothing, as well as monetary donations for like-minded charities. Twenty tons of donated food later, John Jr has received awards for his important and proactive work.

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Episode Transcript

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Speaker 1 (00:05):
This is on the Job, a podcast about finding your
life's work. On the job, is brought to you by
Express Employment Professionals. This season, we're bringing you stories of
folks following their passion to carve their own career path.
A year into COVID, the US has witnessed the highest
unemployment rate since the Great Depression, and now as society

(00:27):
begins to return to a new normal, there are people
whose occupation it is to help Americans get back on
the job. Today we talked to one of Express Employments professionals,
very own about his work, how we got there, in
the innovative ways he's giving back to his community. People
are coming in here looking for work. UM. A lot

(00:47):
of people take working for granted. It's not guaranteed, especially
in these times. It's not guaranteed. In early April, I
had the pleasure of talking with John John Calbaries. I'm
a staff consultant with Express Employment in Utica, New York
and UM twenty seven years old. Full disclosure. He works
with his dad, John Calgary Sr. So this is John

(01:10):
Calaries Jr. Yeah, I'm junior to which sometimes it helps,
sometimes it doesn't. But don't tell him that for those unfamiliar.
Express Employment Professionals is a franchise. The staffing company, the
branch that John works at in Utica is a family business.
John works directly with companies recruiting and finding good employees.
On the flip side, I'm also helping people find work.

(01:34):
So it's kind of like a two sided coin. So
one side is helping our client businesses fill their openings,
and then the other side is helping people find work.
So like, your job is essentially giving people a lifeline,
and a lot of people need it, and a lot
of people are looking for a chance to prove themselves
and we're willing to give people that chance, and we

(01:57):
do every single day. John has a very personal stake
in his work, not just because it's a family business,
but because this is where he grew up, right here
in Utica, in a suburb called New Hartford, great community.
I had an awesome neighborhood. In my wedding, I had
twelve guys. Out of the twelve, eight of them all

(02:18):
lived in our same neighborhood. He was really into sports
growing up, really into science and biology, so eventually he
went off to college to be a dentist. I really
liked the opportunity. It was just something that I always liked,
but not necessarily passionate about. Part Way through college, his
interest in dentistry and school itself was dwindling, and at

(02:39):
the same time, his parents back home. We're making a
pretty big move. My parents took the leap of faith.
They both left their stable, normal jobs and wanted to
be their own bosses and open up their own business.
So in two thousand thirteen, John Sr. And his wife
Laurie opened up their branch of Expressing Ployment Professionals, and

(03:01):
I was pretty inspired by what they were doing, like
the entrepreneurial spirit of it um. I also didn't want
to be in school for twelve more years. I had
an opportunity to work with my parents every day, So
I rerouted my whole life and I said, I'm gonna
work with you guys. Now, I feel like family run

(03:22):
businesses are harder to come by in than they were
even twenty years ago. Maybe because there's a lot more
gig work out there or computer jobs, or maybe people
feel like I do and think they'd go insane working
with their family. That is definitely not the case for John.
For me, it was the opportunity to like deal with
my dad every day, which hasn't happened before this. When

(03:47):
he was growing up, John's dad had a job where
he was traveling all the time and he was away
from home, which is part of the reason he and
his wife started this business. So now you've spent more
time with your dad than ever. Yeah, so in the
last seven years, I've been with him every single day
and my mom every day. That never happened before. As

(04:07):
starting a small business goes, there were just a ton
of jobs that always needed to be done, and I
was very easy to find because I was living at
the house with them. So basically, if someone didn't show
up to work, they would call me and I would go.
He kind of gained his parents trust doing all these
odd jobs they had for him. Then it became more
steady as he started working in the office. I did

(04:30):
a lot of filing back then. I did a lot
of data entry on the computers, learning the software. Then
he got put on the task of streamlining their payroll system,
which he did it's the same one that they used today,
and then went into staff consulting basically full time. So
you basically just had learned to do everything because you

(04:51):
had to Yeah, so that's part of the family business.
There's not a job description. You learn as you go,
which is awesome because I'm const we doing new things
and i have a lot of opportunity, which is amazing.
But that's part of why I love it. We'll get
back to our story in a second. First, a word
from Express Employment Professionals. A strong work ethic, takes pride

(05:15):
in a job well done, sweats over the details. This
is you. But to get an honest day's work. Do
you need a response, you need a call back, You
need a job. Express Employment Professionals can help because we
understand what it takes to get a job. It takes

(05:35):
more than just online searches to land a job. It
takes someone who will identify your talents, a person invested
in your success. At Express, we can even complete your
application with you over the phone, will prepare you for interviews,
and will connect you to the right company. Plus, we'll
never charge your fee to find you a job. At Express,

(05:55):
we can put you to work with companies of all
sizes and industries, from the product and floor to the
front office. Express Nose Jobs, get to No Express. Find
your location at Express pros dot com. Or on the
Express jobs app now back to on the job. When

(06:17):
John's dad established this branch of Express, one of his
core goals was to give back to the community. So
besides donating a lot to charity with the business, John
got to see the community up close in the office
every day. Some of the people that were coming into
our office veterans in particular. They were coming in in
in pretty rough shape. Utica has a pretty high veteran

(06:38):
population and a lot of them have unstable housing and
food and income, and to me, seeing that was pretty shocking.
Both my grandparents served in the military and they were
able to leverage that into great careers. And seeing someone
who's basically homeless coming into my office acting me for

(07:00):
a job and also letting me know that they had
a military background was it was tracking to me. It's
like a punch in the gut because you're wondering, how
did this person get into the situation after everything that
they've done for our country, how do they end up here?
And what can we do about that beyond employment and

(07:22):
helping them get work. This was the question that was
rattling around in John's brain for a while, and one
day he and his dad were browsing through used cars
on the internet. They liked flipping cars, and they came
across this enormous military truck, pretty low price with no
special requirements for driving. It basically like a truck you

(07:45):
would see in the movies. And it's like, well, that's
pretty cool. The kid and me is like, that's a
big truck. That's interesting. What can we do with that?
What if we put Express all over it and we
could food drives. I nominated John Jr. Because for such

(08:07):
a young man to come up with such an impactful idea,
I thought it needed to be recognized. The voice you're
hearing is Beverly Napped, the Express Employment Professionals, corporate developer
for the Calabrisas region. This is a video made about
John when he was recognized at the company's annual conference
after he and his dad made this military food drive
truck a reality. And you just did it because why not.

(08:31):
It's a crazy idea at the time, but it was
less than a year later we had the truck and
it was very real. In the past year, we've donated
roughly seventeen tons of food and that goes to local
food pantries and they distributed directly to the veterans. In
the video, John is driving this massive army truck through
the streets of Utica. They've driven it in parades, They've

(08:53):
partnered with local sports teams to do drives during games,
and of course partnered with organizations that directly helped that.
John's contribution and dedication to feed our bests is really
open the eyes of the community and let them know
what we really do here, who we're helping. And it's
just and you're up to twenty tons of food. Now
that's insane, it's unbelievable. It's it just shows how tighten

(09:18):
it our community is and how giving our community is.
This program has brought a whole new awareness and I
really feel good about when we go to the schools,
the young people getting infound they come out with cases
of not just bigs. The truck is a symbol. When
this video was made, John was honored with the Champions
of Hope Award, something that Express gives out every year.

(09:41):
The truck has been running for five years now. I
believe that the truck is a symbol of hope for veterans,
so they know that someone's looking out for them. And
after they looked out for us. Despite getting recognized in

(10:03):
this video with the truck, John is really behind the scenes.
He delivers food to these organizations. He's the middleman. Like,
you know, the people you're doing it for might not
even know who you are. How do you feel about that?
I think I would rather be like that. I'd rather
be like the the batman that comes in and helps
out and no one really knows who he is, drives

(10:25):
around the spit truck. Who's this guy? I'd rather be
like that, honestly. Yeah, I just want to help. I
don't want to be in the spotlight because of this.
I'm not doing it really for me. M hmm. I
mean it's pretty crazy what you do every day. I mean,
whether you're out batmanning and your truck and helping people

(10:46):
get on their feet so they're healthy enough to find work,
or actually in the office directly finding someone employment. Your
job is to provide a livelihood. Yeah, I mean, that's
the reason why I do it. That's the reason why
I come in here every day. When you help someone
find a job, it's probably one of the most rewarding

(11:08):
things that you can do. You're basically changing someone's life
through employment. It's probably true that the memories you have
at the end of your life the really good ones.
For most people, they're not memories from on the job.
They're probably moments with family or friends are traveling. But

(11:31):
in order to really enjoy those moments, or to be content,
or to even make those moments possible, you need the
security of work. Having a job gives you that security.
We can give you shelter, food, warmth, comfort, the freedom
to do the things that you want to do. A
job can give you purpose and hope. That is the

(11:54):
service that John provides. He knows that, and he's got
a folder in his desk drawer just in case he
ever forgets. I call it the Good Folder, different letters
and cards people have written me, and going through it
and looking back, you forget sometimes. But we've really helped

(12:14):
through express so many people in our community. It's amazing.
I asked John about one of his favorite stories from
the Good Folder. He told me that one time he
helped a couple find work when the odds were very
stacked against them. Husband and wife, refugee couple. Their names
are Son and Fienne, both hearing and paired. He said,

(12:37):
on paper, these things made it pretty difficult but he
did find them both jobs and they sent me a
card which I found and I have here I can
read if you want. It's kind of like he holds
up a green card with neat handwriting all over it. Okay,
dear John, thank you kindly for helping us find a job.

(13:00):
We've worked there for a whole year. It was an
enjoyable experience and gave us the work experience that we
needed to move forward in our careers, and we wanted
to say thank you so much for your time and
your great service. Sorry, we can't stay. We're unfortunately moving
to another state for a new adventure with family. However,

(13:22):
once again, thank you so much for everything. Sincerely, some
in Fien. I haven't looked at that since then, and
this was in it's emotional looking at it. I don't know.

(13:42):
At the time, you're in the middle of doing your job.
I have to find these people for these jobs. You're
not thinking of that, and then you read something like
this and you really understand how you're impacting someone's life.
It's something that happens here all the time. It's so rewarding,
and that makes everything else just pay comparison. It's when

(14:03):
things like that happen. It makes everything so worth it.
For On the Job, I'm Otis Gray. Thanks for listening

(14:37):
to On the Job, brought to you by Express Employment Professionals.
This season of On the Job is produced by Audiation.
The episodes were written and produced by me Otis Gray.
Our executive producer is Sandy Smallens. The show was mixed
by Matt Noble for Audiation Studios at the Loft in Bronxville,
New York. Music by Blue Dot Sessions. Find us on

(14:58):
I Heart Radio and Apple Pie podcast. If you liked
what you heard, please consider rating and reviewing the show
on Apple Podcasts or rever you listen, We'll see you
next time. For more inspiring stories about discovering your life's work,

(15:19):
Audiation
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