Lee & Jane’s 20th Anniversaries at Hodges !


We are fortunate enough to have employees that have stayed with us through it all.  To be specific out of our 155 employees, 38 of them have been with us for more than 20 years! That’s almost ¼ of our workforce!

This year, Lee, our HR Administrator and Jane, our Vice President, celebrated their 20th anniversaries with the company! First a little background on both of them:  Jane has an accounting degree from Providence College and an MBA from Bryant University.  She was found by a company recruiter looking for a Controller for Hodges Badge Company.   While she is still the controller, she assumed a Vice President position several years ago. Lee also went to school for accounting at The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and has an associate’s degree in psychology as well.  She came on board through a temp agency, starting as a part time accounting clerk, and then was hired as a full time employee. She eventually was transferred into the HR department and has remained there since.

We decided to sit down with them and have a quirky interview to learn a little bit more about their journeys at Hodges Badge Company!

  • What have you seen change?

Lee: We’ve seen a lot of really great changes.  We’ve seen technology change, people change; we’ve watched our product line expand. It’s been fun!

Jane:  We’ve seen the company grow both sales wise and people wise.  We’ve seen technology change.  There were no computers on our desks when we started.  We only had terminals just to do data entries and things a long that line.  There was also one internet computer that you had to have a special password to get on.  I really only used the internet for credit checks.

Lee: I had to punch in every number manually into a credit card machine and double paper tape would come out white and yellow on the other end. I had to do this for every transaction.  Good thing we were a smaller company back then, can you imagine doing that now?!

Jane: We both also saw the company transition as it was passed down from Jim Hodges to Rick Hodges.


  • What have you seen remain the same?

Jane: Some of the people have remained in the same position. The way that we operate is mainly the same.

Lee: We’ve always had our dedication to the company.

Jane: Also, our commitment and the passion that we both have for our jobs, that hasn’t changed one bit.


  • Any memorable moments you’d like to share?

Lee: There’s been some amazing things.  I’ve watched wonderful people come and go and lots of laughs and spontaneous things.  They might be small but they’re significant to me.


  • Favorite thing about your jobs?

Lee: You think you know what you’re going to do for the rest of the day in the morning and then you might as well shuffle your to-do list like a deck of cards because some priorities always take precedence. It’s constantly changing and exciting. But truly for me, my favorite thing is working with the people. When I became a part of HR and I was able to help people it was extremely satisfying.

Jane: I love the challenge. I just sat down and priced all the new products in our catalogue and its very challenging, but its fun to see the company grow the way it has. I also love the drive in.  I come over the Mount Hope Bridge every day and there is nothing like seeing the bay 1st thing in the morning, when everything so still and calm. And going back over the bridge at the end of the day to a beautiful sky and the sun setting. Honestly, this part of the day really means a lot to me!  A fabulous drive to a place I want to be- what’s better than that?


  • Name 1 thing your coworkers would be surprised to know about you?

Lee: MY AGE! No I’m just kidding.  I pretty much have been an open book with the people here and they could probably surprise me with something they’ve retained about me from the things I’ve said more so than I could surprise them with anything I tell them!

Jane:  I have a twin.  As long as I’ve been here a lot of people still don’t know that!


  • Favorite thing to do on down time?

Jane: Hanging out on our boat with my family and friends, and of course doing Zumba.

Lee: Archery, friends and family.


  • What would you like to see the company become in 20 years?

Lee: Go ahead, Jane, you can take this one! But, in all seriousness, I would like to see the company remain a family business the way it has been from the beginning. 

Jane: In 20 years I’d like to see the company continue to prosper and continue to grow.  It’s a leader in what it does now, so I would love to see the company continue in the path that it’s on. 


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!


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.

The Story Behind The Plaque


It seems that no matter where you go there is a plaque hanging on the wall to honor someone’s accomplishments.  But where did that plaque come from and what did the person do to receive it?

Here at Hodges, we make thousands of plaques a year, and sometimes we have the privilege of knowing the story behind the award.  Recently, we were asked to make a very unique plaque that sparked our interest.  We designed this custom award plaque that is significant in size, printed in full color with a lovely Celtic knot border and includes 4 photos. This plaque was nothing short of amazing and come to find out so are the woman and the horse it was made for!

We had the pleasure of sitting down and talking to, Lee Gregory, the owner of the horse that the plaque was made for. Lee grew up in Boston, MA and started riding horses around the age of 4.  She took to riding instinctively, just like her Grandfather, J.W O’Connor, who was a Irish horseman. Lee spent 38 years of her life as a first grade teacher in Cambridge, MA.  A career that she was passionate about, but certainly not her only passion in life!

Lee loves to travel and while on a trip to Ireland she purchased her first Connemara from Willie Leahy, the largest breeder of Connemara ponies in the world.  This particular Connemara was named “Martin” and was a very special part of Lee’s life for 19 years.  Lee felt one with Martin and when he passed it was a terrible loss for her. She knew that getting a new horse would be difficult, but when the day came that she was ready, she would go back to Ireland to purchase from Willie Leahy once again.

Lee headed back to Ireland to see Willie sooner than she thought.  Before she knew it she was riding another Connemara.  At first she was uncertain if he was the horse for her. However, as she continued to ride him down the trail, her right stirrup snapped.  As she was trying to keep her balance while waiting for help, she realized that the horse “didn’t take advantage of the situation and continued on”. This was the perfect selling point for Lee and she was confident in her purchase.

The horses name is “Allie Coretca”, or “Crysty” as Lee nick named him.  Crysty is a 14.2 hand Gray Connemara gelding.  After taking Crysty back to the United States with her, Lee made certain that Crysty received the proper training.  With the help of his trainer, Alyce McNeil, Crysty became the horse that Lee always knew he could be.  The plaque was being made in honor of Crysty’s accomplishments, which are as follows:

    • 1st place in Novice Division at Fitch’s Corner in Millbrook, NY-2007 and 2008
    • 1st place in Beginner Division in the Millbrook, NY event in 2009
    • At the United States Eventing Championship Finals in Wayne, IL – highest scoring pony in a class of 63 mixed horses and ponies, placing him 3rd overall in 2009
    • Winner of the Captain Mark Phillips Award
    • Exhibition Pony at the World Equestrian Games in Lexington, Kentucky in 2010
    • 2nd in the Purebred Gelding Division at the New England Connemara Society Annual Show in Woodstock, Vermont

    The plaque will be going to the Dartfield Horse Museum in Galway, Ireland, where Crysty and other horses bred by Willie Leahy are honored for their accomplishments.  Lee Gregory, at 80 years old, still loves to dance, swim, garden, travel and ride her beloved Crysty.  We are proud to have been able to make an award for both Crysty and Lee’s accomplishments and we wish them both all the best!