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Community, Service and Investing in People at von Drehle

Every roll of von Drehle tissue and paper towels starts…as waste. More specifically, as office waste that is recycled into our jumbo parent rolls by our paper manufacturing division. These huge rolls measure 102″ wide and anywhere from 42 to 70″ in diameter, and our converting operation cuts them down into the tissue and paper towel rolls our customers love.

Justin Dawkins is intimately familiar with this process. Local to the Cordova area, he came to von Drehle six years ago as a Continuous Improvement Leader. Less than a year later, he became Site Manager for our Cordova Paper Mill. Since 2018, he has served as our Director of Operations – Paper Manufacturing.

In that role, Justin has focused on organizational strategy and culture within Papermaking while also working with other site leaders on safety, strategic maintenance, and paper quality issues. When asked what a typical “day in the life” is like, Justin replies, “Every day is different, but it’s always fun.

On any given day, Justin works with a broad team to ensure the smooth operations of our papermaking process. One member of that team is our Paper Making Excellence Leader, Richard “Buzz” Phillips. Buzz has started up and serviced paper mills worldwide, and his tremendous amount of knowledge is invaluable to Justin. He describes Buzz as someone who pushes our management systems forward, coaches and develops our team, and ensures that we sustain the highest level of quality for our internal customers, our converting group.

Justin also works closely with our Materials Manager, Christy Leviner. She has been with our Cordova facility longer than von Drehle! She worked for the company that first owned the facility, and we are so glad she stayed on. Justin brought her into the Materials Manager role because of her experience, tremendous growth, and willingness to help anyone at any time. Today, Christy is responsible for any materials going in and out of our Cordova and Natchez facilities except for our wastepaper. She provides training and coaching to folks at every site in the different systems we have.

That sort of development and investment in people is one of the things that drew Justin to von Drehle in the first place. Growing up in Rockingham, just outside out Cordova facility, Justin was initially interested in a career inside his own community. But his conversations with Randy Bergman, our CEO, and Jason Gscheidmeier, our COO, really drew him in. “The values were easy to see,” he explains, and von Drehle’s focus on people aligned with his own outlook and passion. “It’s definitely a work family. People care about each other, and it just shows,” he says. “I came out of a very corporate world where people had their own agendas. Here, everyone is focused on what they can do for the greater good, not just personal gain.”

Justin has played an integral role in investing in that greater good. He’s partnered with a group in Hickory to develop a training program for our leaders, offering education and coaching to reach even higher performance levels. It’s an investment in our people that has been very well received and will continue to help us grow as an organization and work family.

That family focus extends even beyond our company, which is important to Justin. As a Richmond County Commissioner, he appreciates von Drehle’s deep sense of community. “All our teams give back to the communities we operate in. Any time businesses can step up to help here, it makes a huge difference,” he explains. “In our leadership group, we push for things that are directly affecting the communities we are in.”

One community initiative that’s particularly close to Justin’s heart is the Richmond County Special Olympics. There used to be a school for kids with special needs above our Cordova facility. While the school has since moved, Justin formed a connection with Special Olympics that remains strong. At the last event before COVID struck, 24 volunteers from von Drehle helped, and they can’t wait to begin participating again as the pandemic finally slows.

Our commitment to service is what Justin thinks makes us stand out in other ways too. “Our team is very much focused on our internal and external customers. That’s what distinguishes us from our competitors,” he says. “We are focused on delivering what our customers ask for and being very consistent in doing that, and we step up in their time of need.”