Jodi’s Journal: Businesses rally around burn victim, show accident’s larger story

June 3, 2018

I didn’t remember the date, but they likely won’t ever forget it.

It was April 24 of this year. About 3:30 p.m. That’s when a typical day at the construction site at Dow Rummel Village turned into a nightmare.

A worker was involved in an accident that left him severely burned.

I found out about it the next day from Journey Group, the project’s contractor.

This would have been a tragedy on any construction site for any company.

But I’ve come to know Journey well because they are one of our SiouxFalls.Business sponsors, and I knew how hard this had to be.

We don’t cover accidents – you can get that lots of places – but on days like that I kind of wished we did. Because it would have allowed me to tell you what you really needed to know about this story.

As fate would have it, I had just finished working with Journey on a piece that talked about how important safety is to the company culture. This wasn’t lip service. I’d talked to too many of their team members, up and down the organization, and heard the same thing over and over again. It had become part of their DNA.

“Our goal, every day, is to send everybody home safely. We have no higher responsibility,” CEO Randy Knecht repeated to me last week.

Journey has embraced a concept known as relationship-based safety. Their team members are trained to look out for one another, to remind one another that they emphasize safety because they care about each other.

The accident involved a subcontractor, an employee at Limoges Construction.

I was familiar with Limoges too. I got connected with them through another one of our sponsors, the Prairie Family Business Association. And I know from having worked with many family businesses that employees become like family too. I knew it had to be devastating.

“Since I’ve been in business, this has been one of the biggest nightmares of being in business, having a person get hurt like that,” owner Nate Limoges said, as he tried not to choke up.

“Big concrete guys aren’t so big and tough when something like this happens.”

Limoges and Journey share a philosophy about safety that is so common they even use similar language when describing it. The goal is to send everyone home safe, every day.

“We’re on the same page when it comes to safety,” said Erica Schmitt, Nate’s daughter.

Limoges has a 15-person safety council with representatives from each crew that meets weekly. The employee who was injured was on it, “which makes it even more devastating,” Schmitt said.

Even with the best planning, preparation and communication, construction is still a risky industry. Accidents still happen. Investigators quickly determined that was the case at Dow Rummel, Knecht said.

I also thought about Dow Rummel on that day. Through our partnership with Journey, we had produced a piece on the company’s work at the assisted living community. I knew the workers had developed strong relationships over the past year with the staff and the residents there.

They were mindful they were working in residents’ homes. They waited to relocate mailboxes until after Christmas cards were delivered. They built viewing windows into walls around the project so residents could safely watch the work.

“They’ve become like family,” Dow Rummel CEO Darla VanRosendale said.

As soon as the accident happened, residents began praying for the victim, she said. They were able to learn his name, so they could pray for him by name. And the staff started asking how they could help.

It led to a massive bake sale and luncheon in May, where a freewill donation netted thousands for the victim and his family, which includes three children age 1, 3 and 8.

“It was just a huge outpouring of support,” VanRosendale said.

On Friday, representatives from Journey and TSP, the project’s architect, added contributions and presented them to Limoges for the family.

Nate Limoges, Limoges Construction; Darla VanRosendale, Dow Rummel Village; Michelle Klobassa, TSP; and Randy Knecht, Journey Group

“It’s overwhelming how grateful we are and how grateful the family is,” Schmitt said. “They’re just overwhelmed with how everyone is stepping up and supporting us and the family. It’s an incredible display of community.”

In typical Sioux Falls fashion, nobody made a big deal about this. They didn’t make it into an event or try to make a big splash for credit. They just called me and asked if I’d be willing to share how sometimes there’s so much more to a story than you might think.

“What I’m really proud of is how people responded, the outpouring of support,” Knecht said. “Everybody wanted to stand up and say ‘What can we do to help.’ To be part of this makes me so proud.”

Thankfully, the injured worker is doing better. The burns will take a long time to heal, but all are hopeful he will come home to his family and eventually back to Dow Rummel, where a lot of people are waiting to greet him.

“He has a very deep faith and an extremely positive attitude, and I think those two things alone will help him in the long run,” Schmitt said.

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Jodi’s Journal: Businesses rally around burn victim, show accident’s larger story

When a horrible accident struck a Sioux Falls construction site, businesses came together to help a family.

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