At last, UFM Supervisor Gets to Take a Seat
For 20 years, Jeff Brewster has secured service award gifts in the form of chairs and lamps and benches for inductees into the University’s 20-Year Club.
This year, Brewster, a receiving and distribution supervisor at University Facilities Management (UFM), will celebrate 20 years at Kent State himself, an accolade that allows him to finally oversee the construction of his very own seat, an all-cherry rocking chair.
Most chairs are painted black and gold but Brewster’s gift will go unpainted to show the natural color of the wood. And he won’t build it himself.
“I’ve joked with my employees that I was going to inspect their work,” he said. “I teased them that I wanted my chair delivered at 8 o’clock at night. I’ll have one of my employees build it, but I’ll take it home in my own truck.”
Brewster said the cherry rocker is most popular with employees. He estimates that he’s either built or supervised the assembly of some 600 chairs over the years. The gifts arrive mostly assembled, then Brewster and his crew take about 30 minutes to complete the assembly and attach personalized labels.
“When I started as a delivery worker that was one of our tasks, to assemble the chairs and attach the name plates and deliver them,” said Brewster. “My supervisor felt that was a way to honor our fellow employees and do our part to congratulate them. He took great pride in it, and he taught me to have great pride in putting these awards together and deliver them to peoples’ homes.”
The manufacturer considers certain types of chairs family heirlooms. Those come with an envelope affixed beneath the seat that is stuffed with a large form to be completed with the family’s genealogy if the gift is to be passed down through generations.
While the chairs are far and away the most popular gift, other items are getting more recognition.
“The lamps are new, but I expect those to pick up in popularity,” he said. “They're really nice and they don't take up so much room like a rocker does.”
Brewster admits that sorting and distributing the 20-Year Club service award gifts can be a logistical nightmare. Some years the shop has been jammed with as many as 40 or more boxes filled with gifts.
“The hardest part is the inventorying and making sure everybody gets the correct chair, and then trying to get them delivered to people’s homes during our regular work hours is not easy,” he said.
One delivery in particular held a special meaning. Joe Kovacs was a fellow maintenance worker at UFM who had reached the 20-year milestone. Brewster was more than happy to deliver that gift.
“To deliver a chair to someone that I've worked with for years…gave me a special feeling,” said Brewster. “That was fun. We got to sit together and talk about old times. He was very appreciative so that was probably my favorite delivery of all time.”
Years ago, employees could choose to have a tree planted in their name on their campus of choice but not anymore.
“I'm really into trees and that was my profession before I came to Kent State,” said Brewster. “I was a certified arborist and I love trees and I would have loved to have a tree planted.”
Although he won’t have a tree to visit on the Kent Campus, Brewster and his wife have always known the exact location for his chair.
“In my living room, right in front of my fireplace,” he said. “We've always talked about that. She has a rocker herself and we've always talked about when I would have one too and we could sit by the fire and rock in the winter. So now I can join her.”