Giving back

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When Gary Hanke, president of Pegasus Transportation in Louisville, Ky., was asked by a local homebuilder to donate trailers and services to an area family in need, he didn’t think twice about saying yes. The project ended up becoming one of the most rewarding experiences he’d ever been involved with – and a great unifying cause for his fleet of 220 drivers.

The project’s end result will be seen by millions of viewers who follow the hit ABC show, “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.” Tentatively scheduled to air on Feb.17, the episode transforms the home and life of the Hughes family. They were chosen to have Ty Pennington and his crew of designers transform their house into a completely accessible home for Patrick Henry Hughes, 19, who is blind and wheelchair-bound.

Patrick is an amazing pianist, is a university student and also sings and plays the trumpet for the University of Louisville School of Music Marching and Pep Band. It took 106 hours to build the new house, which includes a private handicap-accessible apartment attached to the main home.

Hanke says his whole company followed the progress of the project through the three truckers who participated in the event, and many Pegasus employees used their own time to volunteer during the building process. The sense of a family pulling together continued to play out when, ironically, one of the truckers who hauled for the event ended up struggling with an unexpected illness of his own.

“His fellow truckers rallied around him, and there was an outpouring of financial and moral support throughout the company,” Hanke says. One touching moment occurred when a driver came by Hanke’s office and handed over a few extra dollars he’d managed to save throughout the week. He earmarked it for the trucker in need, and Hanke said it was obviously a sacrifice. “I think the spirit of a community and company coming together to help a family like the Hugheses left a lasting impression of compassion that translates into an ongoing outpouring of generosity.”

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Establishing a close family-oriented trucking company is a worthy goal for many reasons, but it definitely impacts driver retention. Hanke says Pegasus’ 48 percent turnover rate is well below the industry average – a remarkable number that can’t be explained just by good compensation packages.

“Never turn down an opportunity to give back to the community,” Hanke says. “The odds are you’ll end up getting more than you give.” I agree – and I am always touched by the generosity and spirit of America’s trucking industry.