An enthusiastic group bundled up on a cold winter's evening to enjoy an Evening at WKAR featuring a screening of the upcoming WKAR documentary Makers: Women Who Make America, with a follow-up discussion with Two Men and a Truck International founder, Mary Ellen Sheets.
The program focused on how women's roles have changed in the past 50 years and many of the women who made an impact. In addition to interviews from Hillary Clinton, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Linda Alvarado, Oprah Winfrey, Ellen Degeneres and many other well-known women, the film also included comments from those lesser known but equally affected by the womens movement.
The three hour documentary will air Tuesday, February 26, at 8 p.m. on WKAR-TV.
Mary Ellen Sheets
WKAR's speaker for this event was Mary Ellen Sheets, who founded Two Men and A Truck as an offshoot of her teen sons' efforts to make spending money while in high school. When they went to college, she made a capital investment of $350 for a truck and continued the business. It now has franchises in 31 states and in Canada and Europe.
Sheets' talk was down to earth and inspiring. At the time she started the business she was a single mom working for the State of Michigan, and had pretty much reached the top of where she would expect to go in that job. The first year the company made a $1,000 profit, all of which she donated to 10 area organizations. In time, Mary Ellen quit her job with the state and took on Two Men and a Truck full time.
Since then, the company has a mission to give back to the community. Individual franchises select organizations to support in their communities and collectively the company supports the American Cancer Society financially and military families and those in women's shelters through collections.
Her path was a doggedly stubborn one that confronted obstacles and conquered them. Her inspiration in part was that of her mother, whose support was indefatigable and whose face is now on posters in their office. She shared not only her story, but her challenges, her role models and her advice for success.
The enthusiastic audience asked Mary Ellen many questions about her journey. Afterwards we spoke with several about the program, the event and the talk.
"To me it was interesting to see all the commercials and see how women were depicted," said Jane Doty of Charlotte, referring to segments in the film. "It was almost horrifying to think that was OK back then. That was the most shocking thing to me."
Shirlee Bobryk of Grand Ledge, who was attending her first Evening at WKAR, agreed. "Everything was very true. It was good to go back and listen and relieve some of that. And it’s good to know where we are today and we have a long way yet to go."
Laura Pratt, now of Lansing, had at one time worked in the largely male environment of General Motors. "For me probably the biggest conflict came after I had that job and worked for many years and then had children. All of a sudden, now you’re on fast track you’re in the working world and you have children. You are constantly torn between trying to be a good mom and a good role model," she said.
"I really liked Mary Ellen’s wisdom about the fact that you just keep doing," she added. "You just keep doing it – even though you get a no answer or a wrong answer or an answer you don’t like. You just get out and keep doing it."
Cathy Adcock of East Lansing was pleased at how the documentary first put things in context. "I enjoyed that and I’m looking forward to watching the whole piece," she said. "It was fun to watch, too – reliving things that we have gone through. I enjoyed Mary Ellen’s talk – she’s a special person. I was also struck by what she said about keeping at it. She always used to say that when she was starting out. Just keep at it – you don’t know what the next day is going to bring, but you have a good chance of success."
Noreen Harty of Haslett came to the event to hear Mary Ellen Sheets speak. "She was an inspiration to me when I started my own business," she said, adding that she had started a group for women business owners. "She brought all these women together and inspired us all. I have a lot of respect for her and I just think she’s an example for all of us."