Southeastern Freight Lines Gives Back

By Michael Waddell

Despite a busy year greatly expanding its facilities in Memphis, Southeastern Freight Lines has found time to give back to the local community through its Southeastern Serves program, donating 39 hours locally and 1,323 total hours nationally to a variety of worthy causes.

Southeastern Freight Lines volunteers helped Cathy Jones (lower right) collect scrap metal from her property to raise funds for a handicap-accessible truck. The project was part of the company's Southeastern Serves program.

(Submitted photo)

“We’re trying to do more,” said Corey Merrill, service center manager. “We’ve never had a non-profitable year in 63 years, and our owners felt like we are blessed, so it was time to start the Southeastern Serves program to help some people less fortunate than ourselves.”

Southeastern Serves, now in its second year, is dedicated to giving back to communities across Southeastern’s footprint by having associates of all levels get involved with providing for the less fortunate.

This year, the company’s Memphis location completed four community involvement projects, and Merrill envisions doing one project each quarter for the next few years.

Earlier this year, Southeastern helped wheelchair-bound Kathy Jones, who was raising funds on her own by recycling to buy a handicap-accessible truck. Merrill and his staff heard of her cause and decided to help out. They began recycling paper, cardboard and scrap metal to raise funds for Jones.

“Then about 25 of us went down to her farm on a Saturday. We rented bush hogs and three large open-top dumpsters, and we cleaned up her farm. We also built a corral for one of her horses,” said Merrill, who explained that they were able to get $1,500 for recycling the scrap metal on Jones’ property. “We just helped her out.”

Southeastern continues to donate proceeds from its ongoing recycling efforts to Jones.

Other Southeastern Serves community projects this year included work at St. Paul’s Baptist Church during its health fair.

“We spent two days helping them. We purchased school supplies, helped to bag them up and then worked the health fair and handed out supplies to the local children,” Merrill said.

For the holidays, Southeastern completed a toy drive for Youth Villages and supported Christmas for a family in Hernando, and also completed a food drive for Liberty Ministry on Shady Grove Road.

“We collected about 200 pounds of food for roughly 100 meals that were donated to the Mid-South Food Bank,” Merrill said. “When you get out and help other people, it humbles you a little bit and you see how blessed you really are. The people we are helping benefit, and so do our employees.”

Fairmount Design and Prime Automotive, two of Southeastern’s customers, also donated to some of the projects.

“We’re starting to reach out to some of our customers and get them involved,” Merrill said.

This year, 572 Southeastern associates across 17 service centers and support center divisions participated in Southeastern Serves projects ranging from volunteering at food drives and soup kitchens to providing school supplies and yard work.

“Our commitment to serving has enabled the company to build a unique culture of customer service, and we are now taking that serving mentality to less fortunate individuals throughout the communities we serve,” said Mike Heaton, Southeastern Freight Lines senior vice president. “Through Southeastern Serves, we are able to give back and strengthen the communities who have supported us over the years.”

Columbia, S.C.-based Southeastern Freight Lines is a provider of regional less-than-truckload transportation services, specializing in next-day service in the Southeast and Southwest. The company was founded in 1950 and now operates 82 service centers in 12 states and Puerto Rico, with more than 7,000 total employees.

Merrill oversees 200 employees at the company’s Memphis location on Getwell Road, where facilities have been significantly expanded and upgraded this year.

“Since last July, we’ve invested more than $6 million into this facility. We just built a new 6,500-square-foot office and a new 13-room onsite hotel for our drivers, and in February we will be opening a new 30,000-square-foot shop,” said Merrill, who expects to add 30 new jobs once the shop is completed.

Southeastern’s Memphis location handles about 2,000 shipments per day and services Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi.