Ceramic company gives workers $500 shopping spree as Christmas bonus
There were no memberships for a jelly-of-the-month club in the envelopes Darl Beer distributed to his employees on Friday.
Unlike Clark Griswold from “National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation,” workers at Dynamic Ceramics in Buffalo Township received a more heartfelt Christmas bonus.
For the third year in a row, Beer handed out $500 to each of his nearly two dozen employees to fund a holiday shopping spree at the Pittsburgh Mills mall in Frazer and nearby stores.
“Our Santa lives in Sarver,” said Chasidy Heatherman of Buffalo Township, who has worked at the industrial ceramics manufacturer for more than five years.
Beer gives his employees a traditional monetary year-end bonus. But he realized that money often went to paying routine bills — not toward anything holiday-related.
“We wanted to do something to guarantee they have a nice Christmas with their families,” said Justin Oertel, Beer's grandson, who serves as the company's production manager.
“We look at them as our second family,” said Oertel. “They're all excellent people, and they deserve it.”
“We've got good employees,” Beer said. “They really work hard. It pays off for the company.”
Beer, 82, wore a red Santa Claus hat and a bolo tie with a clasp celebrating Jesus as he stood on a chair in the mall's food court and thanked his employees on Friday morning.
“You guys are the best employees we can hire,” Beer said as his workers and some of their spouses gathered around. “I'm real proud of you. I wish you all a Merry Christmas. We want you to have a good time today.”
Oertel noted that even the employees who are laid off during the slow winter months are included in the shopping spree.
“That's the worst thing about this business,” he said of the layoffs.
He told the employees he's heard from customers that they've delayed some projects to 2014, so he's hopeful layoffs won't been needed next winter, and they may even add to their workforce to keep up with demand.
Dynamic's employees were given Friday off from work — their only task was to spend $500 by the end of the day. Oertel said they ask everyone to present their receipts to show they spent the money, helping the company ensure it's used for holiday-related purposes and not saved for regular household expenses.
Cherie Cypher of Buffalo Township, a 10-year employee of Dynamic Ceramics, wiped away tears after hugging Beer and accepting her envelope of cash.
“I cry every time,” she said.
She said she was especially emotional the first year, when Beer surprised the employees with the shopping spree.
Darla Beer, Darl Beer's daughter who serves as the company's office manager, said in 2011 they told employees to come to the mall for a holiday brunch.
“Dad told them, ‘I'm sorry, I lied to you. We don't have any food for you,' ” she recalled. But the Beers offered something even better.
“They're wonderful people and a wonderful company,” said Cypher, who planned to use the money for Christmas gifts.
Kathy Kelley of Saxonburg said she's worked for the company for 18 years.
“I think it's great,” she said. “They are the best family to work for.”
Heatherman and her fiance, Ron Roush, both work for Dynamic and each received $500. They planned to use the money on Christmas gifts for their three children, Ronnie, Skylar and Summer.
“We had put stuff on layaway and had no idea how we were going to pay for it,” Heatherman said.
“This isn't just how they are at the holidays,” Heatherman said. “Every day, they do something kind.”
That sentiment was echoed by Roush's mother, Debbie Roush, who has worked at Dynamic for about five years.
She said the Beers were very supportive when her sister died earlier this year.
“It's like a family,” she said. “(Darl Beer) says, ‘I pray for you people every day.' ”
“Their belief and devotion to God is unbelievable,” Heatherman said.
Darl Beer said his faith has been a guiding influence in the company that he and his wife, Leona, founded in his garage in 1980. His son, Terry Beer, and daughter, Melanie Beer Waddell, work for the company.
“There is a reason for the season,” Darl Beer told his employees on Friday. “The real reason is the Lord. I want you all to remember that.”
Liz Hayes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4680 or firstname.lastname@example.org.