by Ron Unterreiner, Founder, PEOPLE
In February of 2014, I founded my non-organization PEOPLE, a movement of sorts, to help minority contractors get some traction in this fast paced, most competitive construction industry. The premise of PEOPLE was quite simple, minority contractors need to know majority contractors and majority contractors need to know minority contractors. How else to accomplish that simple goal other than to get together in one place, mix it up with each other, talk to each other and begin that continuing process of learning to trust each other.
Just a few short months before starting my PEOPLE meetings, I was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, more commonly known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease. This diagnosis came after months and months of tests geared towards finding answers to the weakness in my body, involuntary leg spasms and the loss of function of certain important nerves in my left leg. All other reasons for my symptoms were eliminated one by one leaving me with this rather uncomfortable diagnosis of ALS backed by a second opinion from the SLU ALS Center. ALS is always a diagnosis of last resort.
When one receives news that life as you know it to be is about to change and that window of life, once wide open and spread wide, is narrowing and slowly closing, your thoughts of the many things that you still want to accomplish with your life start to come to the forefront. Our standard medical profession does not have any answers for ALS—there is no known cause and no known cure, just buckle up and hit the road and hope for the best. Those words elicit many thoughts, for sure.
I had thought of the PEOPLE concept a couple years earlier as I pondered just how this Rhodey Construction I was deeply involved with could be a leader in the diversity movement. It was clear that our clients were starting to voice concerns about engaging more minority firms on their projects and given that working with subcontractors we knew, loved and trusted was of primary importance to the way we did business at Rhodey, it was imperative that myself and all project managers of Rhodey meet these minority contractors and get to know their capabilities and explore getting them on our team. And maybe the most important reason I started PEOPLE was that I felt it was the right thing to do and I felt that I was in the right position to make PEOPLE work. Surely this would be good for all?
The medical diagnosis of ALS was the inspiration I needed to stop thinking about this PEOPLE concept and think more seriously about jumping in the arena and making it happen. As the Christian singer/songwriter, Matthew West, says in his song DO SOMETHING---“if not now, when? If not me, who?”
And so, I started two UNEXPECTED JOURNEYS fairly well at the same time—PEOPLE and my battle with ALS. Both journeys continue and am happy to say that both seem to be on the right path to success. I have captured my journey with ALS in a book I recently self-published titled co-incidentally AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY-Searching for a cause and finding hope in the battle against ALS. I did not accept my doctor’s advice of returning home and doing nothing and simply wait for the inevitable. I decided instead to begin my own search for better and more hopeful options.
My book is about my journey. My journey is one of HOPE and faith and of the many options that exist for the many people that find themselves or their families dealing with terminal diseases.
I am not a technical guy and certainly not a medical advisor nor am I a preacher—I am a businessman. As a businessman, I believe in exploring all options before making a decision. Most people, certainly including me before receiving this diagnosis, routinely accept the advice of our doctors and the medical professionals in our life. We accept option one and we do not dare to wander beyond the world we are told is safe. This works for many but there are those that want more and so we work to expand the box that society places us in and possibly step outside of the box and we explore.
The story of my journey is now available for purchase. I like to think of the word donation rather than purchase in that the funds, above the costs to print the book, will be used to allow my message to be delivered free of charge to ALS patients who may not have the available funds for purchase. Any proceeds above costs will also be used to further my work with my PEOPLE non-organization. I believe both to be good causes.
If you care to read about my journey, simply email me at PEOPLEofconstruction@gmail.com and I will send you a copy. You can then drop a check for $20 in the mail to PEOPLE of Construction, 646 Warrenton Drive, St. Louis, MO 63122 and/or you may make payment through PayPal to firstname.lastname@example.org. Or, better yet, attend my PEOPLE meetings in the future as I will bring copies for sale to each future meeting. Meeting dates to be announced.
My goal with AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY is to make my story visible to those in need. I believe my story carries an important message for all people, not just those dealing with ALS or other terminal diseases. Why not do some exploring before someone hands you a diagnosis? This is not a money making venture and for those that may have self-published a book of any sort in the past, you would understand that so well.
This is a huge world we live in; a great country for those of us in the USA. So many options in life and that includes options as to the way we live and take care of our minds and bodies. I hope you will find that my story will shine a light on a few of those options.