Giving Thanks For Our Newest Team Member

Disastrous Hurricane Spurs New Life for CE Employee

CE Warehouse/Counter Associate Joseph Melendez didn’t change jobs. But he transferred from his homeland – where it’s almost always hot and sunny – to a place where weather changes all the time.

Melendez was working in CE’s Caguas, Puerto Rico branch when Hurricane Maria hit Sept. 20, 2017.

“It was like a nuclear bomb,” says Melendez. “I lost almost everything I had.”

From the Miami area, CE donated water, food, generators and supplies. The company also set up a GoFundMe account to aid employees and family members.

But the necessities of life remained difficult to obtain, including gas, food and medical care, Melendez recalls. He was without power for seven months.

Connecting with Rochester: A Perfect Fit

Through the CE job portal, Melendez found out about a job opening in Rochester, NY – more than 1,800 miles away — and pursued it.

He interviewed and communicated with the hiring team over Skype.

“He could see Rochester in the snow, and we could see Puerto Rico in the dark,” says Tim Kropf, sales center manager in Rochester.

With Melendez’s direct CE experience and technical skills working for his father’s HVAC business, Melendez “seemed like a perfect fit,” says Ed Bersani, Upstate New York area branch manager.

“I could see the fight,” says Kropf. “It’s a hard transition to pack your life up and go. You know you’re going to have a good, dedicated worker.”

Plus, he’s a “super awesome guy,” Kropf adds.

Bersani credits CE HR Specialist Cheryl Smith with making the match happen. She connected with CE colleagues in Florida and worked through numerous obstacles, he says. “If it wasn’t for Cheryl recognizing and pursuing this talent, we would have never found Joseph.”

A Helping Hand

With a little help from some new friends, Melendez settled in Rochester in April 2018.

“When you have good people around, it makes it better,” he says. “I don’t think I could find someone better than Tim,” Melendez says.

Kropf connected Melendez with a leasing agent who helped find an apartment within walking distance of the branch.

Several colleagues also helped fill a U-Haul truck with household goods to get Melendez started in his new life: used furniture, a TV, dishes and other staples.

Store associate Mike Sirianni and former CE employee Jake Bertani, who now works for Carrier/UTC, contributed.

The Rochester team also involved Melendez in family gatherings, introduced him to friends and helped drive him wherever he needed until he could get his own car.

“It’s an example of young people sharing what they had with someone who had less,” says Bersani.

In June, thanks to CE tickets from Pittsburgh Sales Manager Rich Patsy, Melendez was able to see his favorite pro baseball team play.

He treated his father and brother — who were visiting from Puerto Rico — to “great seats” at a Pittsburgh Pirates game.

Forecast: A Bright CE Future

Bersani foresees a bright future for Melendez at CE.

“He has a good head on his shoulders – and the customers all love him,” says Bersani. He sees the potential for Melendez to eventually manage his own branch.

For now, he is working in the warehouse while training to staff the counter. And he looks forward to settling down in Rochester.

“I like this area,” he says, sharing his plans to buy a home here.

Kropf kiddingly reminds Melendez of the reality of a Rochester winter: “Talk to him in a few weeks when the white stuff shows up,” he quips.

But a snowstorm is nothing compared to a hurricane.

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