Company owner surprises employees before the Thanksgiving holiday

Company owner surprises employees before the Thanksgiving holiday
Company owner surprises employees ahead of the holiday season (Source: WFIE)

HENDERSON, Ky. (WFIE) - In Henderson, Pittsburg Tank and Tower Group is celebrating 101 years of operation, but this year, employees have extra reason to celebrate, after a generous gift from the company’s owner.

Ben Johnston is the president and owner of Pittsburg Tank and Tower, a family-owned company passed down for generations.

Just like many other companies, however, Johnston’s team has faced great adversity during the pandemic.

“We’ve been blessed for the most part to be able to continue working,” says Johnston. “We’ve had some jobs canceled, some postponed.”

A total of 360 employees juggle the demands of a full-time job and the coronavirus pandemic.

“The stress of trying to navigate through COVID,” says Johnston, “keeping your family safe, the distancing, the not being with your family and friends. Overtime, we realized we just had to do something special this year.”

Johnston’s employees say that is exactly what he did.

“It was a surprise,” says Marilyn Brenton, an employee at Pittsburg Tank and Tower. “He kept it a complete surprise.”

Brenton also serves as the Chief Human Resources Officer with the company.

On Monday morning, all 360 employees received a note from Johnston acknowledging their hard work. With that message was a holiday bonus.

For many, the bonus totaled $1,000.

“I was surprised about the amount, but not surprised about the gift,” says Jordan Pyles, a fellow employee at Pittsburg Tank and Tower.

“Being in HR,” says Brenton, ”I’ve heard from other employees: lots of joy, lots of happiness, and even some tears, because with some families, it really made a difference between a good Thanksgiving and Christmas and a great Thanksgiving and Christmas.”

Employees say Johnston has always been a humble and generous leader who simply went above and beyond this year.

“It has just continued to exhibit itself through something such as COVID,” says Eric Gardner, a fellow employee, “that we’ve been able to lean on each other, draw on our faith, and in our family of employees through something like this.”

Gardner also serves as the Vice President of Risk Management.

“The employees use the word generous,” says Johnston. “I look at it differently. It was just the right thing to do this year. It was just the right thing to do.”

“Ben’s generosity and loyalty to employees creates a committed employee base who remain steadfast and flexible through all challenges that 2020 has brought,” says Keegan O’Daniel, an employee with Pittsburg Tank and Tower.

When asked how the company managed to pull off a surprise of this magnitude during such a difficult year, Johnston’s answer was simple.

“Just do it and don’t worry about it,” says Johnston. “That’s what it boils down to. At the end of the day, God takes care of us.”

“Ben knows he didn’t have to be so generous,” says O’Daniel, “but he knew he needed to be that generous. Between the bonus and an extra half day off, he was committed to find ways to say thank you.”

Johnston says this week’s gift before the holidays was no random act of kindness. It was intentional.

“It’s not about me,” says Johnston. “It’s not about my family. It’s about our employees who are our family, and they are the ones who make it possible. Yes, it’s my job to be smart and lead and make right decisions, but they are the ones who make it happen every day, and that’s what it’s all about. It’s not about me.”

“If there is one thing about Pittsburg,” says Pyles, “it is that we are a family, and Ben leads the family. The company and the employees care deeply about one another. For our employees to achieve what they have with all things considered is truly an amazing thing and for Ben to award them for their efforts only proves further that we are a family and that we are all working towards one common goal.”

Johnston says his employees travel the nation working on tanks and towers, so every Wednesday, they have a task force meeting to monitor COVID conditions across the country, to protect their employees the best they can.

“He is a man of strong faith so I think he leans on that heavily to make his decisions,” says Gardner. “Quite honestly, when you do that, it typically turns out pretty good. We are very pleased to work with him, for him, and we are very appreciative of his efforts.”

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