Progress report: TMC executives applaud employee’s literacy efforts

Eli Hawley TMC Laundry Equipment Operator

Eli Hawley
TMC Laundry Equipment Operator

There is no stopping Eli Hawley.

The TMC Laundry Equipment Operator will read to anyone, anywhere, at any time. 

Case in point:  Hawley was recently in Pediatrics when a mother vented to him that her young daughter was acting up.  She had tried everything to calm her down, and nothing was working.  Hawley asked, “Can I go read to her?”  “Go ahead and try it.  We’ll see what happens,” she said.  Eli popped his head in the door.  “Do you want me to read you a story?”  The tyke said yes.  She sat there with her mom as Eli read to them.  A few minutes later, he came back to check on how she was doing.  Her mom said, “She finally calmed down and went to sleep.”

When Hawley told that story to a group of TMC executives who had gathered to hear him read, there was a collective sigh.  We shared Hawley’s story in April a few months after he started a program called Literacy Connects, which is run through Literacy Volunteers of Tucson

Hawley with the group who listened to him read

Hawley with his granddaughters, the TMC executives, and their assistants who listened to him read

Now that he’s about six months into the program, he wanted to give the TMC executives who encouraged him to enter the program a little update about the progress he’s making.  Busy executives, including TMC President and CEO Judy Rich, stopped what they were doing on a Monday morning and poured into a conference room just to sit and listen to a fellow employee who has accomplished so much.

Hawley read two stories like a pro.  “I’ve never seen someone so happy to read,” said Rich.  Hawley replied, “I’ve worked at TMC for 19 years, and all that time, I couldn’t read a lick.  Now that I can, I look at the world differently.  If it wasn’t for TMC, I would have never gone back to school.  I love working here, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

TMC President and CEO Judy Rich presented Hawley with two new books

TMC President and CEO Judy Rich
presented Hawley with two new books

Rich presented Hawley with two classic Dr. Seuss books, Cat in the Hat and Green Eggs and Ham.  “I could probably recite these books by heart because I’ve read them so many times,” she said.  “These are wonderful books because they have small words in them and lots of repetition.” 

Hawley can hardly wait to dig into them – motivated to continue working hard, and determined to keep improving.  He says in a few months, he’ll be back in front of the same group – only this time, with books that are even more challenging.

Literacy Connects helps TMC employees reach their full potential

Eli Hawley and his granddaughter Natalie Sigala

Eli Hawley and his granddaughter Natalie Sigala

“Tata, can you read this book to me?”

When 5-year-old Natalie Sigala asked her grandpa, Eli Hawley, this question, his heart sank. “No,” he said.

That’s all it took.

Hawley has been a Laundry Equipment Operator at TMC since 1994, but has been unable to read his entire life. The disappointment of having to refuse Natalie’s request propelled him to do something about his inability to read. He admits that, at first, he was mortified to reach out to anyone. Perseverance ultimately took over. “I knew I needed help. I was determined to get help one way or another. I got it – thanks to TMC,” he said.

Hawley entered a program called Literacy Connects, which is run through Literacy Volunteers of Tucson.

TMC has teamed up with the non-profit to encourage adult literacy among employees. The programs are free for adults who would like assistance with learning English, or improving English skills including speaking, reading, writing and basic math. They offer small or large group classes, tutoring and resource centers with on-site assistance.

“When I first went to school, I couldn’t read anything. Now that I’m back in school, I’m reading. It’s not at the level I want to be, but I’m getting there,” he said. “It’s helped me on the job, and it’s helped me at home. I couldn’t ask for a better place to work.”

TMC President and CEO Judy Rich said she is impressed with the courage Hawley showed. “To speak up and say ‘I need help’ is very brave,” she said. “Eli has sent me some of his papers. He gets all A’s. One of these days, he’s going to read a book to me too.”

“I’m not scared anymore, and I’m not embarrassed – because I’m doing something about it. I’ve already read five books,” he beams. “From now on, when my granddaughter says, ‘Tata, can you read this book to me?’ I can proudly say ‘yes.'”

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