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Hats Off to Manufacturers Lee Schoenherr and Alton Thacker

Lee Schoenherr, owner of FloraCraft wanted to find a way to show his appreciation for his employees.

Schoenherr has run the family-owned company, which is headquartered in Ludington, Mich., since 1973. The company, which employs 200, manufactures foam products for the craft and floral industries counting among its customers Walmart, Amazon, Michaels, Joann and Hobby Lobby.

Eric Erwin current CEO of the company told CNBC Make It that Schoenherr has wanted to do this for years and the 82-year wanted this the year to be the one where it happens. “We spent a better part of the year making sure we had the right program in place."

And at the company Christmas party, Schoenherr announced that in appreciation for the employees’ hard work he will be giving $4 million worth of bonuses.

The amounts will be determined based on years of service, but most employees will receive $20,000 according to the Detroit Free Press. Those who have been with the company the longest, 40 years, will receive more than $60,000.

"I believe strongly in giving back to the community by supporting initiatives that make Ludington a wonderful place to live, work and raise a family," Schoenherr said in a statement calling his employees, "the heart and soul of FloraCraft." And in keeping with that philosophy the company has never had a layoff in its history.

Alton Thacker gives to others as well but in a different way. He created a factory that turns out between 80,000 and 120,000 wooden toy cars a year and are distributed free to children in need both in the U.S. as well as countries including Iraq, Afghanistan, Ghana, Thailand, Russia, Mexico and Brazil, through charities, churches and children’s hospitals.

The toy factory was founded in 2002 when Thacker and his wife Cheryl decided to turn donated planks of wood into toy cars, as reported by the Washington Post."For years, we'd dress up as Santa and Mrs. Claus and deliver eyeglasses, shoes and medical equipment to little villages in Mexico," he said. "And we both knew the important role toys played in helping little minds to grow."

The little toy cars are made from leftover wood donated by local lumber yards and cabinetmakers. A benefactor pays the rent for the factory. And the Tiny Tim’s Foundation for Kids buys paint and brushes with donations. The volunteer staff is comprised of retirees with an average age of 80. And community volunteers pitch in as well --churches and civic and Boy Scout groups that sign up for shifts running the band saw, sanding the cars or putting on wheels.

Thacker said it costs about $2 to make each car. If he had to buy the wood himself, each car would cost $5, and if he had to pay labor, each would cost about $16.

This year the factory hit a milestone when it produced its 1 millionth toy.

Originally published: https://www.industryweek.com/companies-executives/hats-manufacturers-lee-schoenherr-and-alton-thacker?NL=IW-07&Issue=IW-07_20181226_IW-07_255&sfvc4enews=42&cl=article_1_b&utm_rid=CPG03000001464245&utm_campaign=31800&utm_medium=email&elq2=0433036849c14595a11178cac4111012

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