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Pilgrim’s honors long-term employees

“You are Pilgrim’s.”

That was the sentiment Pilgrim’s complex manager Brian Hanna shared with the 60 employees honored March 11 at the A.W. Todd Centre, each with 25-plus years of service to the community at a first-ever Awards Banquet.

Pilgrims pulled the awards banquet together to honor these employees for their dedicated longevity and doing their party to make Pilgrims the industry it is today.

“It’s something special, and we wanted to honor them on that occasion,” said Jose Guerreo, community liaison. “It’s also a victory, when you stay at a job that length of time … That’s a very good accomplishment.”

Denisha Bonds was one longtime employee being honored. She has 26 years and eight months of service to her record.

“It’s a good idea. It’s nice,” she said. “Twenty-six years is a long time. If it wasn’t for people like me, we wouldn’t have made it, I don’t think.”

Bonds, who has worked in everything from deboning to working with gizzards to washing and packaging and is now a receiving clerk, vividly remembers applying for the job when it was announced that the industry was opening. “I filled out two applications. They said to me, at the employment office, ‘Why did you fill out two?’ I said, ‘Well, just in case you lost one, I’d still have another one. I wanted to make sure I was going to get hired because they said they were going to be paying more money than I was making.”

Manager Teresa Wilkerson and Hanna both expressed their appreciation to employees.

“At the end of the day, the reason you do what you do is to support your family,” Hanna said. “Thank you for service, commitment and dedication. At the end of the day, it’s not about Pilgrim’s. It’s about individuals – what we do for each other and the relationships we develop.”

Wilkerson shared similar thoughts. “We’ve seen many changes together through the years,” she said. “At the end of the day, it is not the logo that defines us. It’s not that building. It’s the people we work with and the relationships we’ve made … I’m blessed to know each and every one of you and call you my family.”

The evening’s events included a presentation of plaques and door prizes – including gift cards and technology like tablets and a big screen TV – along with music by DJ Johnny Holland and a three-course dinner catered by Destination restaurant.

“I think it’s a wonderful thing,” said Gregory Bailey, who is coming up on his 30th anniversary of employment, dating back to his work with Golden Poultry. He and his wife Melissa moved to the area in 1998 and agreed Northwest Alabama is a wonderful place to live. He works in live production, where his areas of focus have ranged from the broiler to the hatchery to breeder and pullet aspect of things. “I enjoy my work, and I enjoy the places this business puts you – small towns,” he said. “My job is different every week – different challenges – and I have a group of growers I work with, and they’re interested in doing well, and it makes my job easier … They are really entrepreneurs – they’re motivated to do well. It can be inspiring, and it makes you feel good.”