For more than 20 years Groundworks of Palm Beach County Inc. has had the good fortune to have Rogelio Hernandez as yard foreman, crew leader, chief equipment operator and keystone employee. Groundwork’s and the Hernandez family (pictured above) have literally grown up together and the time has come for us to publically recognize the contributions, commitment and dedication that have marked Rogelio’s years here. These same traits, instilled in all of his children, are consistently exhibited by the many members of his family whom are now, also very important members of ours.
Rogelio started with Groundworks in January of 1987 at a time when the company had more good ideas and moxie than it had cash. Funds for the weekly payroll were almost always in doubt but Rogelio recalls that his pay of about $160.00 per week was always there. Rogelio talks with gratitude about those days because he knew it was a constant struggle for George to make payroll but it was always there as was Rogelio for George and his young Company.
Violeta Hernandez, Rogelio’s wife of 23 years along with sons Jose (21) and Rogelio Jr. (20), daughter Andrea (16) are all important members of our team here today. Mom is a constant presence everywhere you look at Groundwork’s, taking care of all of us as she does her own. Each of the younger Hernandez’s fills a vital role when they are not hard at work pursuing their educations. Rogelio Jr. and Jose both attend PBCC taking courses in Business and Architecture (respectively) while Andrea is at South Tech studying Cosmetology.
It is not possible to summarize the myriad of events that have occurred here on Rogelio’s watch but a couple of memorable moments, as told to me by Rogelio himself, seem to me to depict who he is and who he will always be in the eyes of the company’s founder and president.
Rogelio became an equipment operator by watching then foreman, now VP Troy Porter load and unload trees while handling the strapping. Without being told to or even asking permission Rogelio took it upon himself to jump on the machine and try the controls. He did this whenever Troy and George were away from the loading area and taught himself how to run the loader. That’s the kind of guy he is; willing to learn, wanting to better himself and always looking for ways to help the company. When the time came for Rogelio to get a shot at becoming an equipment operator he was ready and has been the chief equipment operator ever since.
A little ways down the path that we call time, an accident occurred while offloading a large Canary Island Date Palm. The tractor, the palm and Rogelio all tipped over leaving George breathless. His heart pounding he ran to see if Rogelio was alive, injured or worse. George will never forget the relief of seeing Rogelio uninjured and Rogelio will never forget that George was more concerned about him than the tree, the equipment or any amount of money. They went over the incident, talked about how to prevent it from happening again and then righted the tractor with another piece of equipment. What did Rogelio do then; he got back on the loader and completed the task. This is a true professional. Was he a bit unnerved? Absolutely.
Did it stop him from looking the beast in the eye and getting back on? Not for a moment.
Truly unbelievable and totally Rogelio! The two men talked and Rogelio realized that George really did care more about him than the money and he has seen how that concern has blossomed into one of the best safety programs in the industry. George also learned at that time that Rogelio was basically fearless and totally confident. So very impressive and so very tough, the only concern Rogelio ever expressed was “Are you going to fire me?” George replied “No, are you going to quit?” Rogelio said “If you don’t fire me I’ll work here forever.” That exchange took place twenty years ago and the two men have grown in respect and admiration for each other. This is what George had to say: “We must never forget who we are, how we got here and where we came from. It is the failing of so many that once successful; the people and events, the choices and dedication, the commitment, sacrifice and love of those who brought us to this point are often forgotten. To see ourselves only as we are today and forsaking those that made it all possible is pure folly and is indicative of that most destructive of attitudes, personal arrogance. I too have occasionally forgotten who I am and where it is that everything we have has come from but I am one of the lucky few; I have a barometer for my attitudes & arrogance and its name is Hernandez. All I need to do to be reminded and humbled is to step into the presence of one of the finest people that I have ever known, to look into his eyes and see all of our yesterdays together.
Rogelio Hernandez was here on day one and he is here today20 years later. He stood next to me; willing & able in every instance and no matter the circumstances. Without Rogelio and the determined commitment that he has made through the years we would surely be living in a different place now. Over the twenty years that we have spent together I have watched his family grow and have been honored to have had so many of them join us in our efforts to create a secure tomorrow. I have memories of sharing difficult weeks and frightening Fridays but not once did Rogelio waiver. I was often able to find the strength I needed to achieve that momentary miracle that would keep us alive for another week in my recognition of his faith in me. It is true that we have achieved a great deal of success. It is also true that many people & events were instrumental in our ability to reach this point but I do not exaggerate when I say that without the commitment & dedication of Rogelio and his magnificent family we might never have come to be here now. To Rogelio and to each of the Hernandez’s I make this declaration: I will never forget who I am or where I come from. I will never allow myself to forget or forsake the love and respect that you have shown to me. I stand as one with all of you and through all the days of my life. I am exceptionally proud to be amongst you and will always be wherever you need me to be.
I congratulate Rogelio Hernandez on his many years of exceptional service to this company. Thank you Rogelio; for being you, for being with me and for helping to keep me real. I am your friend, your brother and I truly appreciate you.
There is a lot more to the story but that pretty much says it all.
All of the members of team Groundworks salute Rogelio and the Hernandez family.