When Kimberly-Clark located in Paris 36 years ago, the Fortune 500 company opened the door of opportunity for hundreds of people in Paris and surrounding areas.

Today, the plant employs 1,000 workers with each given the opportunity to advance and improve their wage-earning capabilities at a company that prides itself on a supportive work environment, bringing out the best in its employees.

What follows are the success stories of six of those workers; stories that reveal much about the culture at one of the largest employers in Northeast Texas.

David Gordon, who drives 53 miles each day from his home in Millerton, Oklahoma, saw a help wanted advertisement and applied for a position 22 years ago.

“Back then you would call in and then go to the civic center to take tests along with about 3,000 other people,” Gordon said. “I received an interview. It was sweet when I got the job.”

While working shifts, he attended Paris Junior College, received an associate degree in electronics and earned a position in the maintenance program. Today he is an electrical maintenance team leader.

“This is a good, solid company with a nice, clean work environment with good people around you,” Gordon said. “There’s a lot of smart people around you from all walks of life.”

Sarah Lumbert grew up in Plano, earned an industrial engineering degree from University of Oklahoma and immediately came to work at Kimberly-Clark 12 years ago. Lumbert is now a senior process engineer and heads a team to find ways to improve productivity and reduce waste.

“Once you work out here, the people here become an extended family,” Lumbert said. “Everybody tries to make sure you are taken care of.”

Lumbert lives in Reno with her husband and two young children. Her husband, Chad, also works at the plant as a project coordinator for capital projects. The wife said she and her family enjoy living in Paris, not far away from relatives in Plano and Oklahoma.

“I like the slower pace here and no real traffic,” Lumbert said. “I really like the environment at Kimberly-Clark. We are very much a community.”

Jamie McDowell is one of the plant’s longest-serving employees, having started in 1983 when construction was not yet completed.

“We were launching Huggies as a new brand, and as soon as a diaper machine was installed production began,” McDowell said, recalling walking off FM 137 across the mud past new construction to get to work. A few years later, the plant doubled in size and launched Pull-Ups, which McDowell said was top secret at the time. He’s also seen the launch of Little Swimmers and Goodnights.

“I came right off the farm near Honey Grove,” McDowell said of his start. “I think my knowledge of farm machinery served me well in those early years.”

Through a company program, which paid for him to attend a statistics class at Paris Junior College, McDowell continued to hone his skills as a operations specialist, keeping diaper machines operating perfectly to produce the highest quality product.

McDowell talked about excellent company benefits — he gets six weeks of vacation time a year — along with flexible scheduling, when needed, and programs to encourage community involvement. As far as work environment, McDowell said the plant can’t be beat.

“I was a farm boy when I was hired in 36 years ago and didn’t know if I would like working inside all the time,” McDowell said. “But it is so pleasant here where temperature is controlled and the food in the cafeteria is good. K-C takes care of its employees; there is not doubt about it.”

A baby care shift specialist, Stacy Nichols has been at the plant 29 years. He started out driving a forklift, an entry level position. Soon he moved to a machine operator position, then to crew leader on a machine and now is a specialist on the baby care line, making sure the four diaper machines assigned to his crew are in top working order at all times.

“I credit Kimberly-Clark for helping me raise my family and put my kids through college,” Nichols said. “I have been here long enough now that I am seeing young employees come on board who were wearing the diapers I was making in the 1990s.”

A member of Reno City Council, Nichols said the plant encourages community involvement and allows employees to work around meetings and other events.

Charlotte Council considers working at Kimberly-Clark and the kind of lifestyle her career has provided her and her family “a privilege.” She began at the plant in 1992 in material handling, staging raw materials on their way to diaper machines. She then advanced to moved to a diaper machine and has been operating that machine for the past 15 years.

“Paris is lucky to have Kimberly-Clark here,” Council said. “It has provided me and my family a house — built and paid for — as well as vacations I never dreamed of as a child growing up in the country at Novice.”

To those wishing to have a successful career such as hers, Council said trustworthiness, a good attitude and a strong work ethic are keys to success.

“Always have a positive outlook because there is something positive you can find in any situation,” Council said about working with fellow employees. “Try to make the best of all situations because there are people who would love to have the opportunity you have.

“About work ethics, I am quite proud of the fact in all these 27 years I’ve only called in twice — once when my daughter was in ICU and another time when my mother was in ICU,” Council said. “As you can see, a strong work ethic is important to me.”

LaShanna Johnson came to work at Kimberly-Clark in 1997 as a machine operator. She applied for and received an advanced position, and for the past 12 years serves as a training coordinator. She often is the first person many new employees see on their first day at work.

“Once an employee here, you can apply for other jobs as they are posted,” Johnson said. “We encourage new hires to submit applications and their qualifications. Talent comes in these doors every day, and as a company it helps us grow by taking advantage of those talents and rewarding employees with opportunities to advance.”

Johnson said she loves talking about Kimberly-Clark because “it is wonderful.”

“Thirty six years in Paris now, and it’s still going strong.”

Mary Madewell is a staff writer for The Paris News. She can be reached at 903-785-6976 or at mary.madewell@theparisnews.com.

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