Sawmilling Success Stories

Sawmill Program Helps Men Return to Work

Sawmill Program Helps Men Return to Work

About 20 years ago, Ray Hall, President and Owner of Hartville Lumber and Millwork Co., had a dream to create a program for teaching troubled men how to succeed in life by working. In 2012, Ray purchased a 137 acre farm in Ohio with 60 forested acres, a 20,000-square foot manufacturing facility, a three bedroom house and a large garage. All of a sudden, Ray’s dream of helping people get back into the workforce started to become a reality.

That same year, together with two local pastors, Ray founded Men’s Challenge, a faith based organization dedicated to getting men back into the workforce. Men’s Challenge seeks to deal with the root causes of poverty by working with men who, for a variety of reasons, do not have a job or steady income. Many of these men perceive themselves to be unemployable because they have never worked, have felonies, or have been out of the workforce for too long. Men’s Challenge helps them overcome these barriers by providing free, job-readiness classes to teach men how to find a job, offering support coaches to help men with life issues and workshops to help men develop the skills necessary to find a job.

A key to making the Men’s Challenge program succeed is the workshop to train men how to work. So Ray set up a separate corporation called MC Workshops to provide work and training for men who needed help getting back into the workforce. He used his farm facility and part of the 20,000-square-foot manufacturing facility to provide a work place for the men, but the true challenge was providing meaningful work for them to engage in. Ray decided to make good use of local resources by harvesting some of the wood from the 60 forested acres and transform it into viable products. To fill that need Ray chose a Wood-Mizer LT40 Hydraulic portable sawmill which provides the versatility to produce lumber of various sizes, whether cutting logs or cants.

Today, the Wood-Mizer sawmill with a resaw attachment is used to cut parts in order to produce pallets and shipping crates from the farm's felled trees and purchased cants. In one day, workers can take a felled tree, cut it into lumber, and produce pallets by the end of the shift. All types of pallets are fabricated, and depending on the type of pallets, the volume of pallets produced ranges from 400-500 per day. All the workers on the Wood-Mizer sawmill and the pallet line are men who have come through Men’s Challenge and have been trained through Ray’s MC Workshops training program.


The facility continues to grow and Ray has added a 9,000-square-foot warehouse to store the pallets and other products produced through MC Workshops. He has also installed a kiln large enough to hold a semi load of pallets to heat treat lumber, pallets, and firewood. Ray’s company is licensed to heat treat pallets for export, and about one-third of the pallets produced are heat treated. The company is also USDA approved to kiln dry firewood for transport to most states. The growing demand has caused Ray to purchase a semi-truck and five trailers to deliver the large amount of pallets produced at the facility.

The Men’s Challenge program also continues to grow as Ray has transformed the farmhouse into a housing facility with enough bedroom space to house 11 men. Through a partnership with QUEST Recovery and Prevention Services - a drug and alcohol treatment center, MC Workshops now can provide supervised housing for men who have completed in-house drug and alcohol treatment and need a place to transition into the work world. 

In addition to working at MC Workshops, the men at the farmhouse also maintain a one acre garden and raise chickens for eggs to supplement their diet. Recently, Ray added two 30 foot by 96 foot commercial green houses, to add capacity for more work training programs on the farm. What began as a dream 20 years ago is now a reality. Today, 436 men have been through the program and nearly 400 have received jobs. Through Men’s Challenge and MC Workshops, Ray Hall is helping hundreds of men get back into the workforce and re-tool their lives.


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