Truckers Against Trafficking – Making a Difference

Human trafficking is a topic we don’t typically like to discuss. The topic brings with it a sour taste filled with the unpleasant thoughts of such a horrific practice. We don’t want to imagine the horrors the victims of human trafficking go through, but it’s important that we don’t ignore a problem just because we see it as unpleasant. Knowledge, discussion and action are all steps that lead to change.

With January being National Human Trafficking Awareness Month we want to highlight an organization that is making a difference in stopping human trafficking and take a look at some of the training they offer in hopes that you too will know what signs to look out for in saving victims of human trafficking. We also want to encourage all transportation and trucking companies to think about initiating training for all of your drivers so they can know what sorts of signs to look for and how to act in order to stop traffickers and save lives.

T.A.T. (Truckers Against Trafficking)

We, at Mid-States Utility, work with our friends at T.A.T. using the tools and resources they offer to train our truck drivers and staff to see the signs of human trafficking and knowing how to respond to the crime. The organization has done a fantastic job creating a number of different training tools for trucking companies as well as partnering with law enforcement and government agencies to assist any way they can to strive towards ending trafficking.

Anyone can easily learn more about T.A.T. by checking out their website here https://truckersagainsttrafficking.org/ which is absolutely full of amazing resources.

Signs to Look For

Truck stops are popular locations for human traffickers to stop at and force their victims into horrible situations. It’s important for every truck driver to be aware of any potential suspicious activity he/she notices whenever he/she stops. These signs can include the following:

  • Signs that prostitution is taking place.
  • Women or children looking fearful, disheveled or crying.
  • Multiple cars and different men going in and out of a residence.
  • Someone (typically an older male) being controlling, threatening or even violent with an individual (typically a younger female).
  • Extraordinary security measures for a business or home.

It’s also important to note that many traffickers will attempt to advertise their victims using CB radio messages to passing truck drivers. If you receive messages that sound suspicious please report them.

We all have the ability to make a difference and save lives by simply being aware of our surroundings and knowing how to react when we see or hear something suspicious.

If you are a company looking to train your drivers to fight against human trafficking, please check out T.A.T.’s Industry Training Program and get them certified. Join over 800,000 people who are registered as T.A.T. trained and are currently making a difference all across the world.

A Merry Christmas at Mid-States

Many companies have Christmas parties, but no one celebrates the holidays like Mid-States Utility and Keizer Co. With four locations, things get quite exciting, especially when three of those locations each needs to plan and host their own Christmas party. Each preparing and enacting their own activities and celebrations.

Today you get quite a treat as we delve into this years holiday celebrations from each location. What they did, the food they ate, and how they show the employees appreciation for the fantastic year we’ve had. Additionally, you’ll get to hear a couple of personal traditions and recipes from individual employees. We hope this helps to pump you up for your coming holiday celebrations and puts you in the Christmas spirit!

Sioux Falls, South Dakota

The first Christmas party was held on December 6, 2019 at our Sioux Falls location. Like each location, many of the office and service staff assist in the preparation and setting up of the party as well as ordering the catering service and securing awards for the various games and activities they plan to do. It’s a lot of work, but it can also be an incredible amount of fun to prepare the day’s activities.

Food

It doesn’t really matter what holiday you’re celebrating, food is an integral part of the celebration. Sioux Falls had a fried chicken focus with their caterer, complete with sides and a number of flavors of cheesecake and cupcakes for dessert.

Activities & Contests

Ugly Sweater Contest

A classic tradition for Mid-States and Keizer that you will notice at each of our locations is the annual Ugly Sweater Contest. Employees are encouraged to buy or make an ugly sweater and wear it that day (during the party) and all employees get a vote to whose they think is particularly grotesque or just plain funny. Below you can see a number of pictures depicting just how unpleasantly creative the Sioux Falls employees can be with their choice of Christmas sweaters.

(Side Note) You may notice that we keep an open-mind to what can be entered into the “sweaters” contest. We also allow suits, vests, and anything with a ridiculous Christmas tone to it.

Who is that Baby?

A fun, new addition to the Christmas party was the Who is that Baby picture contest. A poster board featuring a number of baby pictures brought in by several employees. The pictures were labelled from numbers 1 – 14. Each attending employee received a paper with 18 names (4 extras to throw people off a little bit). The employees were tasked with figuring out which baby picture corresponded with the appropriate name on the sheet. It was a tough challenge and it was a huge success with employees gathering tightly around the poster-board of pictures trying to find those tiny hints and giveaways on the pictures.

A fun, new addition to the Christmas party was the Who is that Baby picture contest. A poster board featuring a number of baby pictures brought in by several employees. The pictures were labelled from numbers 1 – 14.

Each attending employee received a paper with 18 names (4 extras to throw people off a little bit). The employees were tasked with figuring out which baby picture corresponded with the appropriate name on the sheet. It was a tough challenge and it was a huge success with employees gathering tightly around the poster-board of pictures trying to find those tiny hints and giveaways on the pictures.

How Many M&Ms

A classic challenge that involves filling a jar up with M&M candies and challenging attendees to guess how many of the treats are hidden inside. Winner gets the jar of M&Ms as well as any other prizes you decide to tack onto it. It’s important to know that there are math equations that can often times help employees get incredibly close to the total. If you’ve filled a jar or another cylindrical shaped receptacle it can be as simple as calculating the area.

A = 2πrh+2πr2

But there’s a very simple way to discourage this little trick. Add different sized M&Ms into the mix. Peanut M&Ms are the largest of the candy’s variations, whereas mini M&Ms are the smallest. It makes calculating the potential number nearly impossible. Whatever the case we had a lot of fun with this quick competition.

The Special Seat

Most attendees didn’t realize that, hidden on the back of the chair they sat on, was a number and anyone that might have noticed them had no idea that it was part of the party. Near the end of the celebration they did a surprise raffle, drawing one of the numbers from a tin and employee sitting at the corresponding seat won a prize. Simple as that.

Omaha, Nebraska

Our Omaha branch is known to be the “king of company parties” with their annual Halloween Party always being a huge success and the Christmas holiday is no different. Oftentimes, the Des Moines branch and its employees will come to Omaha to celebrate the holiday alongside them.

Food

Whereas Sioux Falls went with fried chicken, Omaha decided on BBQ, alongside some brisket and of course the appropriate sides. They also offered cheesecake for dessert. No one left hungry after this holiday celebration.

Activities & Contests

Ugly Sweater Contest

Just like with the other two branches, Omaha holds a vote on who wore the ugliest sweater to the holiday party and a prize is awarded to the one sweater that really stuck out. Below are some of the awesome contenders for the ugliest sweater.

Basket Raffle

Special thanks to Lisa, one of our newest members to the Omaha team, for putting in an incredible amount of time and work to get the many baskets ready for the Christmas Party. Each basket had a theme to it and a number of items inside that fit that theme. Each attendee was given a set number of tickets with their names on them. These tickets could be placed inside the drawing bins next to each of the themed baskets. That way, if you really wanted a particular basket, you could put more of your tickets into it. Mark then drew from each basket to determine the winner. To ensure that everyone had a chance, he only gave one prize to each employee, even if their name was drawn more than once. Some examples of the beautiful baskets are featured below.

A Holiday Recipe

Crystal, an office staff at the Omaha branch, offered a popular recipe she prepares for her family every Christmas.

Sioux City, Iowa

Finally, came the Sioux City Christmas Party. Sioux City took a couple notes from the books of the other branches and incorporated those aspects into their own celebration.

Food

Sioux City followed Omaha’s lead in the BBQ front, hosting a meal of pulled pork and brisket as well as all the sides and fixings. For desserts they offered a number of cookies and cupcakes from the well-known local bakery Sugar Shack.

Activities & Contests

Ugly Sweater Contest

We continue with one of the most popular and well-known Christmas Party competitions: the ugly sweater contest. People at the Sioux City branch got just as into it as the others did, with quite a lot of clever creativity. Below are some examples of the ugliest sweaters out there.

Who is that Baby

After seeing the success of Sioux Falls’ Who is that Baby photo contest, Sioux City decided to hold their own. Managing to bring together 25 baby pictures of employees the game presented quite a challenge. The winner of the competition scoring 13 of the 25 correct. Although it was tough, it was an incredibly fun activity.

How Many M&Ms

Another take-away from the Sioux Falls celebration was the How Many M&Ms challenge with a prize of candy and more candy! Christmas is notorious for the number of sweets and treats consumed during the season and that’s no different here at Mid-States Utility.

Christmas Trivia

Both Sioux City and Sioux Falls handed out sheets of Christmas-themed questions for attendees to answer. They graded the sheets and the individual with the highest score received a prize! It’s important to throw in questions from different Christmas related “genres” from movies, to music to holiday history that way everyone has a chance.

A Tradition and Recipe

One of our HR representatives, Marlenne, shares with us her family’s holiday tradition as well as one of their delicious recipes.

Okay so we celebrate Christmas Eve we make a lot of good Mexican food, one that a lot of people would be familiar with is red pork tamales. We do a Mexican tradition of “the birth of Jesus”. So we have one baby Jesus which we pray and sign to him. We pass him around and everyone kisses his forehead and get some candy.

Marlenne

A Common Practice at All Our Branches

There are a handful of activities and traditions that all our branches typically their Christmas celebrations with. Those are listed below. Each one is meant to show both the owners’ appreciation for each and every employee that works for them, as well as to show the owners and the company itself how much appreciation the employees have.

A Christmas Gift

Following the food and activities the owners of the company, Shane and Stacy, take the stand where they are presented with their gift from the company. Employees pitch in and put together a financial gift in their name to a charity decided on by the employees.

Sioux Falls’ Lyle showing the donation check off to Shane and Stacy.

Sioux Falls decided to make their donation out to one of their customers who supports The Warrior Ride. The customer, Paul Thacker, is a former X Games champion who jumps snowmobiles. The organization he manages offers snowmobile experiences for disabled veterans, giving them an epic and thrilling ride.

To learn more about Paul’s organization check out this awesome video!


Omaha donated to Secret Santa Society and Sacred Heart of Omaha which works to give kids the various necessities and gifts during the holiday season that will help them out for the rest of the year.

Mark announces Omaha’s gift to Shane and Stacy.

Sioux City donated to the organization Partners for Patriots which trains and gives service dogs to veterans who are disabled or struggle with PTSD. A representative and one of the dogs stopped by during the Christmas Party to give a demonstration and talk about their organization.

A representative from local news station KCAU was there to record the gift and it later went out on the news. Below is the feature from that news story and the article that was published with it.

Company Awards

Every year the company gives out awards to employees who stood out throughout the year in some way. These awards are decided on by votes from other employees. It’s always a pleasure to be able to recognize the hard work and personal growth in our staff. After each award is given it is followed by a hearty handshake by the owners to seal that gratitude. The awards that went out have a range of different recognition such as those below.

  • Rookie of the Year
  • Perseverance Recognition
  • Innovation Recognition
  • Best Customer Service
  • Safety Recognition (Within Service and Non-Service departments)
  • Best Mentor
  • Top Sales (Within Parts and Trailer Sales)

Christmas Speech

Finishing off the festivities is Shane Keizer, son of Jim Keizer who founded Mid-States Utility and Keizer Refrigeration, who offers up a speech about the year past and the year to come. He thanks his employees for their hard work and he, and his sister Stacy, hand out Christmas cards addressed to each of the employees. The two hold true to their father’s motto that “It’s all about the people.” Of course, that applies to our customers, but it also holds true for the employees as well. A company is only as good as those working for it and maintaining it. The Christmas Parties are in place to show gratitude for each of the employees that work for the company and to celebrate another great year thanks to their hard-work!

Merry Christmas

We hope that our Christmas Parties brought joy to your holiday season. We want to thank everyone for making 2019 such a great year for all of us at Mid-States Utility and Keizer Refrigeration. We hope you all have an enjoyable and safe Christmas holiday and we can’t wait to see what 2020 has in store for us! Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Helping Hands & Happy Hearts

The basic needs of every human include food, water, shelter, and clothing. Without these things we cannot survive. Thankfully, for those without the resources necessary to procure these items, there are organizations who strive to ensure these necessities are distributed. Groups like soup kitchens and shelters ensure that the homeless or needing individuals within our communities are cared for, but even organizations like these need things. They need donations as well as volunteers who can distribute the items donated.

From 4:00 PM to 6:00 PM the Sioux City, IA soup kitchen hands out hot meals to the various needy in the Siouxland area. Thanks to donations from various community members, local businesses and organizations the kitchen is able to maintain a steady stream of good food that it’s staff prepare each day for those in-need, but it often finds itself in need of people to help run the operations of serving the food to those who attend. Kerri Toben, of the Sioux City Mid-States Utility branch saw this need and decided it was time something was done.

Kerri went to work creating sign-up sheets for the night of Tuesday, December 3rd to help the kitchen with staffing. She managed the names that came in and worked with the soup kitchen to set up times. It wasn’t long before she had so many names that the kitchen was overwhelmed. They decided to push past a single night and managed to organize enough volunteers for three Tuesdays: December 3rd, 10th, and 17th.

The first group, including Ashlei, Ben, Darlene, Justin, Kerri, and co-owner of Mid-States Utility and Keizer Stacy all assisted at the December 3rd night. Four of them handing out the food, while the other two made sure dishes were getting cleaned and prepared for the next day.

“It’s pretty organized.”

Ben Clark – Salesman

The kitchen was managed by Tony, a veteran who served two tours in Iraq. He maintained his military-minded organizational skills at the kitchen with an incredibly capable, but simple schedule. First are the women and children from the nearby women’s shelter who come and partake in the meal. They are followed by the rest of the community. Depending on the donations for the day the kitchen offers seconds at a specific time and cuts off food distribution at exactly 6:00 PM. Although somewhat strict, it is a necessity to ensure that everyone there manages to get a fresh meal that night.

“…it was a very gratifying experience.”

Darlenne Bracht – Accounts Receivable/Service Writer

In-between handing out the the various vegetables and hot dishes to the attendees, the staff was able to talk with many of the individuals, hearing their stories and making conversation. Learning about the people that attend the nightly meals.

Overall, it was a great experience and I would definitely like to try to get down there again to volunteer.

Ashlei Hanks –

“I’m so glad we did it, it was awesome. The biggest thing was just how thankful they were.”

Kerri Toben – Organizer of Soup Kitchen Volunteering

It leaves a warmth in one’s soul to give back to the community and the people around you. We highly recommend finding a local soup kitchen or other volunteer opportunity where you live and find out how you can participate or work with them to better the area where you live. You’d be amazed how much a couple of hours of service can truly mean to those in-need in your area.

Food Drive Ends with Huge Success!

“There is no such thing as a simple act of compassion or an inconsequential act of service. Everything we do for another person has infinite consequences.”

Caroline Myss

Keizer Co and Mid-States Utility are no strangers to charity and service work. The companies set up or participate in a number of service projects throughout the year with a number of service organizations. This year, we wanted to try something new: a food drive.

The idea started simple, and at the Sioux City branch. Let’s do a food drive. The idea grew into wanting to involve the Sioux Falls and Omaha branches as well. How could we do it in a way that really promoted the charity and also increased the potential for donations to truly support our communities. This is when the idea for a competition came into play. Each branch was known to have a strong competitive nature. We all enjoyed trying to beat one another in various sales and service challenges in the past. So we decided we would do the same with this particular charity as well.

After contacting and confirming the rights to hold the challenge with each of the respective food banks: Food Bank of Siouxland, Feeding South Dakota and Food Bank for the Heartland who were all as excited as we were to kick off this competitive food drive. They were incredibly easy to work with and immediately sent us all the resources we would need to handle the charity.

We officially started the food drive on Monday, October 28. Our plan was to go through the month of November, ending the week before Thanksgiving (the final day being Friday, November 22), to ensure the food banks had enough time to receive, process and distribute the food by Thanksgiving Day. We began advertising the drive on social media in hopes of reaching out to many of our customers and other followers to offer them the chance to get involved and help their communities.

The first set of stats came in on Friday, November 8 and were posted that following Monday with Sioux Falls holding a sizable lead in the competition.

The second week began to get very competitive, especially between the Sioux Falls and Sioux City branches. The second sets of stats were posted on Monday, November 18.

Sioux City managed to take a small leap ahead of Sioux Falls with Omaha silently filling up their boxes in the background. Sioux City made sure not to get too comfortable in their slight lead and continued to build up.

Word started going around that some employees were “sandbagging” or otherwise bidding their time until the last minute to collect every possible item that they could to donate. The branches became fairly secretive of their numbers, hoping to surprise everyone with their final scores. An email was sent out shortly after the numbers were posted reminding people that Friday, November 22 would be the final date to bring in items for the food drive before the items were all taken to the various food banks.

Finally, Friday came. All of the employees who had been saving up their donations began bringing in those final food items. Each branch did their best to hold off on making the delivery to the food banks until the very last second in hopes of giving every employee enough time to bring in every item possible. But, by the end of the day, the final scores were tallied and locked in with the results to follow that Monday.

It was a somewhat close, but decisive, victory by the Sioux City, IA branch. We were incredibly blown away by the fact that, between the three branches, we managed to collect over 3,500 items! Everything was taken to the respective food banks who were incredibly gracious for the resulting donations.

The competition even sparked some interest from one of Sioux City’s local news stations who contacted us for an interview about the food drive and produced the following news story to detail it!

We want to say a huge thank you to all the food banks we worked with for making the process of setting up the drive so easy. We also want to send out a massive thank you to everyone who got involved in donating various non-perishable food items. Every single one of those items will go on to make a difference in the lives of those living in our communities.

Tailgating with Friends

Oftentimes a line is drawn between work and fun. At Mid-States Utility we like to blur those lines every now and then. We have several different activities, parties and other events to add positive energy into the workplace such as our annual holiday parties, customer and employee appreciation luncheons, and even prize drawings. This year we had a fantastic opportunity to try something new to offer both a number of employees as well as an even larger number of our customers.

Before the Nebraska Huskers took a 13 – 10 victory over the Northwestern Wildcats several of our Omaha branch representatives such as Mark Golden, Jennifer Blum, Mike Davis, and Jim Hansen along with Sioux City branch representative Mike Wooster were entertaining guests at the Ironhorse Private Event Building with food and drinks catered by Doorstep Diner. They had an absolute blast meeting with many of their customers in the surrounding Nebraska area before heading off to the game.

From Left to Right (Mark Golden, Jennifer Blum, Jim Hansen)

Mid-States gladly provided tickets to the game for all their guests and it was a fantastic turnout with nearly 40 guests to join them in cheering on the Huskers. The day was beautiful, and the game was thrilling. All-in-all it was a fantastic day for both employees of Mid-States and guests alike. We thank everyone involved in the planning and preparing of the event as well as all those who were able to attend and enjoy it with us!

IMTA Management Conference

“Over all I find that it refresh’s me with enthusiasm for the trucking industry.” – Jim Franzen.

The Iowa Motor Trucking Association was first established in 1942 by three trucking organizations wanting to find a way to come together and represent Iowa’s trucking industry. In 2017 the organization turned 75 and continues strong to this day. On Tuesday, September 24 and Wednesday, September 25 they held their annual Management Conference which two of our sales representatives from our Des Moines branch: Jim Franzen and Jeff Croner, attended.

IMTA is one of the top state transportation associations in the nation. They are always on the cutting edge of all the current & future events, with seminars, meetings & emails that keep us up to date. It’s also a great place to meet your customer’s, colleague, in a fun & relaxed environment, along with making new friends in the industry.” Said Jeff Croner about the IMTA.

The conference featured several educational sessions, networking opportunities with other representatives from other trucking companies and organizations, special recognition and speakers for various topics within the transportation industry. The purpose of the event, as advertised by the IMTA was that,

This annual conference provides all attendees with the tools, the knowledge and the expertise needed to be a successful leader in responding to the constantly changing environment in the trucking industry.” IMTA Management Conference description.

One of the biggest announcements that came out of the IMTA Management Conference was the unveiling of their Show Trailer which featured a state-of-the-art driving simulation inside. The IMTA has had a show trailer since the early 1990s which they use to promote the trucking industry across the state. The new show trailer was purchased in 2016 and has been in the works until now. Here is a link to the marching band at the ribbon cutting of this brand-new show trailer. https://www.facebook.com/iowamotortruck/videos/391175258211468/

The Management Conference featured a record-breaking turnout for their annual golf outing. Jim Franzen speculated it was a beautiful day for golf. It was followed by a tour of the Iowa Cubs stadium in Des Moines. Wednesday morning the guests were treated to breakfast with Iowa governor Kim Reynolds who was the guest speaker along with a chairman representative from the American Trucking Association. Wednesday finished with a banquet followed by an awards ceremony given to members of the IMTA for various achievements of truck drivers, safety departments, dispatchers and maintenance.

To learn more about the Iowa Motor Trucking Association or become a member check out their website here. http://www.iowamotortruck.com/

Summer Employee Appreciation Lunches

As a company, we stand by our founder, Jim Keizer’s, mottos that, “It’s all about the people.” This is not lost on our employees and we want to thank them all for their amazing work. Throughout the summer we held several employee appreciation lunches.

Sioux Falls.jpg

Starting in Sioux Falls, South Dakota where we sat down with some of the hard-working men and women to enjoy a nice lunch of burgers and brats.

Omaha

Moving over to Omaha, Nebraska. Zach Fritz (Left) kept the grills running so that everyone could grab a burger and brat and take a break to enjoy some time with some of the other employees at the Omaha branch.

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Finally, we finished off the summer at the Sioux City location where there were plenty of brats and pork loin available for all the employees who wanted to come outside and enjoy the fantastic weather.

Again, we want to say a massive thank you to all the amazing men and women who make up the Keizer family!