Striving & Reviving
Sharon, PA is a small Rust Belt town being given a second chance at life. Our mission here at JCL Development is to lead the charge to restore and reenergize our town. Every day we are collaborating, creating, striving, and reviving to help polish this hidden gemstone.
I was nineteen and nearly 1,000 miles from home in my second year at Arkansas State. By then, I knew that I should never have gone back to school; I was lost.
My summer job with the Wayland Street & Water Department was backbreaking, but even after days of mowing, ripping out broken sidewalks, and sweeping streets, I could enjoy the fruits of hard labor. I realized that I would never be an academic.
I wrote my dad in desperation. We didn’t have much of a relationship until then, but the advice he sent back was sage. Learn to work with your hands. Get a skill. Think about trade school. It was just the kick I needed, and the friendship it helped to form with my father has lasted to this day.
When I came home, I enrolled as a tool and die apprentice at the RIT School of Applied Industrial Studies on the corner of West Main and Fitzhugh Streets. I still had problems, though. Even juggling a handful of jobs, I didn’t have a car. When the term started, Dad suggested I grab my lunch box and hitchhike. Never be too proud, he said. Your friends will recognize you, and they’ll give you a ride. Dad’s insane notion proved right.
After a few rough days, I caught a ride with the kindest man I’d ever met, Jerry Westacott. His classic diesel Mercedes became my ride to school. That car and the friendship it represented were a dream come true for me.
Jerry worked at the other end of Main Street — he was on the west side and I was a 2-mile hike east. The walk to that car after school made me a familiar site to the professionals of downtown Rochester. My jeans, sweatshirt, and lunchbox stood out then, and it’s pretty close to the uniform I wear today.
One day, it was almost dark when I crossed the bridge — a final landmark before I reached the Mack truck repair shop Jerry’s brother Jim owned. The last of the city traffic had emptied out as I walked into the yard. But this time, there was no Mercedes. There was no Jerry. And there was no 45-mile ride back to my parent’s place in Wayland.
His brother Jim must have seen my anxiety. With a smile and a single sentence, he changed my life. “Don’t worry, son. Jerry went to an appointment. We’ve got a ride for you.” With that, he tossed me the keys to his brand-new Chevy pickup — an absolute beauty. “It’s got a full tank. Don’t worry about filling it up. Just bring it back in the morning.
Jim and Jerry trusted me before I could prove them right. In a moment like this when community is interrupted by a shadowy virus and a six-foot invisible wall, we need a little less suspicion, a lot more caring, and yes, a lot more love — the kind of love the Westacott brothers showed me.