- Associated Press - Sunday, October 30, 2016

VICKSBURG, Miss. (AP) - While many people in Vicksburg were enjoying the crisp fall weather, 11 TanTec employees spent their time helping improve someone’s home.

They were inside, giving the home of Toya Warren on Halls Ferry Road a fresh coat of paint in each room, part of a company program of helping others.

“It’s lovely,” Warren said. “It’s giving the house a new life. This was something I couldn’t afford to do, and I’m thankful for their help.”

Kris Schneider, whose husband is Thomas Schneider, chief executive officer of ISA TanTec, a leather tanning company in the Ceres Industrial Park, said the volunteer time is part of the company’s philosophy - a program to help employees have a strong work/life balance.

“We are a very socially responsible company,” said company vice president Jenes Kaufhole. “The employees are involved with the community and live in the area. It’s part of the culture of the company.”

“I like being able to get out and help people,” TanTec employee India Jefferson said. “I’m glad I volunteered to help and came here. My crew did a good job. I’ll do anything to help in any way I can.”

Kaufhole said the company’s culture of serving others is not limited to helping people in Vicksburg. It is also practiced in Vietnam and Thailand, where the company also has tanning plants.

“We have adopted schools in Vietnam and Thailand,” he said.

“We have worked with the German Cleft Foundation to help children,” Kris Schneider said. “Surgeons were able to repair cleft lips for 200 Vietnamese children so when they grow up, they will have good self-esteem.

“We provide books to children at the school in Vietnam, and we go into the classrooms at the school in Thailand and talk to the children and play with them. In Beijing (China) we repaired a boiler and hot water heater and repaired a window at a home for senior citizens.”

TanTec showed its interest in helping families in Vicksburg when the Schneiders presented a $5,000 check to the city of Vicksburg Oct. 10 to help renovate and improve homes in the city for low income and elderly residents.

Schneider said the donation and the volunteer work was the result of her meeting city housing director Gertrude Young at an affordable housing conference earlier this year.

Young, she said, told her about Warren’s home.

“She told me, ‘She needs help,’” she said.

“Her toilet was broken, so we got her a new one and had it installed,” Schneider said. “Now we are here painting. I told Toya when she looks in her house after the painting is finished to think of every stroke of the brush as a stroke of care and love and kindness, and her house will be full of light.”

Young said the company paid for new plumbing for the home and new floors in the kitchen and living room.

Kaufhola said it has taken a while to work on home, “Because we work during the week, so the only way we can schedule it is for the weekends.”

Schneider said the company plans to do similar work to homes in the community.

“It will be a matter of finding out what is needed and then scheduling it,” she said.

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Information from: The Vicksburg Post, https://www.vicksburgpost.com

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