In Memory of Donna V. Combra

ImageOnce again here at Hodges we have had the privilege of making a special plaque that has a very extraordinary story behind it. This time, however, the plaque is being dedicated to a woman’s life that was sadly taken too soon.

Donna V. Combra was married to Russ Combra and had two sons, Andrew and Brian. She was an elementary school teacher for 30 years of her life.  She began her teaching career at the Cluny School in Newport RI, then taught at the Hathaway School, Elmhurst School, and ended her career teaching the second grade at Melville Elementary School, all located in Portsmouth RI.

Donna was one of a kind.  She devoted her life to educating children and was a great role model to them.  But Donna also had many other passions and an incredibly active lifestyle.  She loved to read books of all kinds and write stories and poetry.  She was a fantastic cook and baker, her claim to fame being her “Hershey’s Chocolate Cake” and “Pistachio Cake”.  When the seasons changed and it was warm enough outside you could find Donna riding her bike along Middle Road in Portsmouth heading to Newport to visit her mom.  Donna also had professional knitting and sewing skills that she learned from her aunt when she was younger.  She mainly knit children’s sweaters, but could make anything. She loved the ocean and spent countless hours at McCorrie Point Beach in Portsmouth RI and Second Beach in Middletown RI where a lot of her knitting was done. She also enjoyed swimming, kayaking, walking and traveling with her family.

After speaking about all of Donna’s hobbies, we still have not mentioned her biggest passion in life, her family and friends.  Donna’s husband Russ and one of her best friends Eileen were kind enough to share all this information about Donna with us.  Eileen also shared a few words that she believed described Donna, “kind, creative, daring, funny, positive, loving, loyal, honest, genuine, generous, brave, grateful, patient, happy and optimistic. All these qualities made her an amazing teacher and a wonderful friend”.  Eileen’s words made it clear how much she cherished the time she had with Donna.

Russ spoke of how good of a mother Donna was.  Her priority was always her family and she raised both her sons to have the loving personality that she did.  Russ also shared how kind she was to the elderly, even taking time to frequently pack lunches and visit her older aunts and uncles to have lunch with them. One of the most heart warming parts of Donna’s life that Russ shared was that she used to volunteer at the Soup Kitchen in Bristol RI without telling anyone because she never looked for recognition for her good deeds.  Donna’s humbleness is just a portion of her gracious character. Russ spoke with all of his heart when he said she was “an outstanding wife, a great mom, and my best friend”. It is evident that those who knew Donna were all given a special gift that can never be replaced.

Tears came to both Russ and Eileen’s eyes as they saw the plaque for the first time and felt that it was a beautiful representation of Donna and her spirit.  Watching their reactions to seeing the plaque was nothing short of amazing.   But, watching the way Russ and Eileen lit up as they spoke about Donna was miraculous.  The love that Donna’s family and friends emanate for her is something so special and rare in this world.

The plaque is 18” x 24” in size, UV processed in full color on aluminum and also includes a photo of Donna.  It is going to be hung over the entrance of the Melville School Library, soon to be known as the Donna V. Combra Library.  To Donna’s Family and Friends, we could not be more honored to have made this plaque for a woman that was so humble about her accomplishments and influenced children for 30 years.  She truly deserves to be recognized for all that she was.

Hodges Badge Company Continues its Environmentally Conscious Endeavors

In 2012 Hodges Badge Company went live with a wind turbine at our RI location.  Our project for 2013 is to take on solar power!

 

If you didn’t already know, Hodges Badge Company has long been firmly committed to conservation and to renewable energy.  Maybe it began with our CEO’s college time in Burlington, VT, or perhaps during his many years of volunteer work with the Aquidneck Land Trust, but it began (as it always does) with a series of small steps.  In the beginning we focused on reducing our energy consumption as we tried to make the entire plant more energy efficient.  Here’s a summary of Hodges’ Go Green History:

  • We installed a thick insulation on the roof in order to run the heat and air conditioning units less. 
  • We switched to on demand hot water heaters and removed our six 20 gallon hot water tank heaters scattered around the building. 
  • We used to have two trash dumpsters and a recycling dumpster that we filled every week.  Then we started a recycling program and now what we send away is 2/3 recycling  and 1/3 trash.  We aren’t aiming for zero trash, but we’d sure like to get close to that goal. 
  • We tied all of our heating and air conditioning units to a master computer to control their energy usage
  • We also bought a high efficiency vacuum pump and high efficiency air compressor because we previously used a 40 horse power motor to run these all of the time.

Having done all of this, we were still using 450,000 kW of energy a year – about a $50,000 electricity bill.  We realized very quickly that there were certain factors that we couldn’t eliminate.  Obviously we have to turn the lights on and provide workers with a heated or air conditioned work place.  Another example is the fact that we also constantly run hot stamping presses that have to be heated.  These hot stamping presses often heat the room too much and then we have to cool it.  We found that we were facing a few vicious cycles that were inevitable if we were going to run our business properly. We then began to brainstorm what the next step would be. 

We thought briefly about putting solar panels on the roof at our Rhode Island facility, but realized that the building was built in the mid 1970s and had no way of figuring out if the building would hold up the solar panels.  We turned to wind.  As devout readers of this blog know, we installed a 250kw wind turbine in Portsmouth two years ago.  To date, it has generated more than 225,000kw of power!

The wind is strong at our RI facility because we are located near the ocean, but our plant in Washington, MO doesn’t get much wind.  It just so happened that in Missouri we came across a company called Microgrid Solar from St. Louis who had already done other commercial projects.  We also had access to engineering drawings of the Missouri building and were able to determine that the grade of steel it was made of could support solar panels.  After several discussions with Microgrid Solar we determined to put solar panels on the roof of our Missouri facility.

We are going to install 68kw of solar capacity, which should generate 89,000kW hours of energy a year – about 25% of our total usage.  The cost of the project is $204,000 and thanks to rebates and incentives from our power company, the payback is just over a year.   Installation should start in November, and be complete by the end of 2013!

Image

Rick Hodges’ hope is for Hodges Badge to be the best environmental steward that it can possibly be with the goals of minimizing the companies impact on the environment, preserving the earth for future generations – oh, and saving money to keep costs down whenever possible.  Rick says that he doesn’t know what Hodges next environmental project is going to be, but he’s sure to announce it here on this blog when the time comes.