Giving Back, Building Forward

March 12, 2024
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Walker Lumber Puts Principles First Through Second Chance Program

This is a great story about one of our Wood Products customers. Sometimes, folks just need a fresh start, and Walker Lumber is giving people that chance.

Five years ago, Walker co-owners Ray Hayles and Scott McMillan had an idea: what if they combined their faith-driven desire to give back with their expertise in business? For a few months, the duo discussed different approaches they could take.

During this time, they had a conversation with a Walker Lumber customer who owned several halfway houses that provide support for people recovering from addiction. The customer suspected that Walker, like so many businesses, may be in search of more workers and asked if they might consider hiring someone from the program.

Ray and Scott decided to give it a shot. Without realizing it at the time, that one hire turned out to be the beginning of something much bigger: Walker Lumber’s Second Chance program.

Scott McMillan and Ray Hayles—co-owners of Walker Lumber & Supply

“We wanted to look at philanthropy differently,” Ray says. “As business owners, we have the opportunity to, instead of just giving somebody money, we can give them a job — even one we don’t really need — to help restore hope and dignity to their life.”

Through the Second Chance program, the Walker Lumber team partners with several local ministries that focus on alcohol, drug, and prison rehabilitation to identify, employ, and coach individuals committed to making changes in their lives and in need of a fresh start.

Today, the Second Chance program has 20 people enrolled — about a quarter of their total workforce — and 80 alumni.

“We bring structure to them,” Ray explains. “They get a job, training, and the opportunity to succeed. It’s all about consistency, commitment, support, family, accountability, and love.”

Ray recalls one moment when he wrote a letter in support of a Second Chance employee seeking to get full custody of his daughter. The employee had been sober for three years and had proven himself every step of the way.

“When I gave the letter to him to read, he wept,” Ray recalled. “He had never had support like that before.”

Another person in the program once asked Ray a question and then immediately answered it — “Do you know what the opposite of addiction is? It’s connection.” 

This gave Ray an epiphany.

“We have an opportunity to connect,” he says. “We provide connection and community. They become a part of a family. They now have people that love and care for them. Many have never experienced love and support in their lives before.

According to Ray, the program is much bigger and deeper than simply employee development. It is emblematic of the type of organization he, Scott, and the rest of the leadership team is building. 

“Of all the things we’re doing at Walker Lumber, the Second Chance program is what makes me most proud. You just can’t put a dollar value on the impact on peoples’ lives.”

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