Balancing Family with Career with Veronica Horn, President of the Saginaw County Chamber of Commerce

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3 Take Aways

  • A good support system is required to get ahead.
  • Family is everything.
  • Don’t be afraid to let your passion burn bright.

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Transcript

[00:00:00] Cliff Duvernois: Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the Call of Leadership podcast where we interview people from our Michigan community who answered the call of leadership. We’ll hear their powerful stories and get their advice. I am your host, Cliff DuVernois, and today’s guest started her political and governmental career back in 1989.  

She has served on multiple campaigns. She’s got a plethora of degrees and certifications, including a degree in political science. She is a certified chamber executive program and MSU Institute of public policy. The list goes on and on. Her community involvement extends from a national level, starting with the American chamber of commerce executives to the local level by serving on the Saginaw County Mental Health board member. 

 She’s involved with several nonprofits, including Ammaus and Mustard Seed. I could literally spend all day reading her resume. She’s got so many accomplished activities and she has served many, many more. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome to the show, the president and CEO of the Saginaw County chamber of commerce, Veronica Horn.

Veronica, how are you?

[00:01:06] Veronica Horn: I’m very well, Cliff, thank you for this opportunity.

[00:01:10] Cliff Duvernois: Thank you for making time for us. We really do appreciate it. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about where you’re from, where you grew up.

[00:01:18] Veronica Horn, Saginaw County Chamber of Commerce: [00:01:18] Well. Okay. It’s kind of an interesting bounce around around story. I was actually born in Michigan’s thumb in a little town called Deckerville, and I think they had, 12 hospital beds. from there, my parents had moved from the thumb to Detroit for jobs as was common in the fifties. And so we lived in the Detroit area, West side, Detroit, and that’s where my younger years were spent until about fifth grade.

[00:01:50] at that time, the riots in Detroit were breaking out. We were the last white family in our neighborhood as blockbusting was going on. My [00:02:00] father was, block captain and we were not going to move. We loved our home. We loved our schools and our church and my father  told our new neighbors that we were staying in at one point when, when the racial tensions really began to get high.

[00:02:18]Our neighbors came to and said, Lyle, it’s not safe for you and your family here anymore. And we, we really love you, but you, you need to move. And so we did. We moved, just into Lavonia right at the border of, about as close to Detroit as you could get, but be in Lavonia. From there, my father got the urge to be closer to his parents.

[00:02:43] My mother the same. They’d like to be closer to family. So we moved to a little, farm 10 acre farm in Vassar, Michigan. that’s where I ended up,  finishing school. I graduated from Vassar high school in 1973 and talk about culture shock going from the city of Detroit with a 90 by 70 lot to 10 acres.

[00:03:06] Yep. It was, it was actually a dream come true for us as kids. we worked very hard. We had four children at that time with two more yet to come. And we lived in about a 900 square foot home. So we raised all of our own animals and gardens, and my dad farmed. And so it really was a great, great upbringing.

[00:03:29]just, just to live like that. We, we could go swimming every day after our chores were done. So it’s, it’s where I grew up.  and, graduated from, and from there I, I migrated over about eight miles to Frankenmuth, Michigan, and that’s where, where I’ve actually called home ever since. Even though I, I, you know, as our story goes on.

[00:03:51] My husband. I did move back to Detroit for a few years.  that’s, that’s kinda my background and where I’m from.

[00:03:59]Cliff Duvernois: [00:03:59] How did you [00:04:00] meet your husband?

[00:04:01] Veronica Horn, Saginaw County Chamber of Commerce: [00:04:01] Well, that’s another great  story. I worked, at that time, after high school, I got a position as an attendant nurse at Caro regional center, which is a state run mental health facility. And I worked there for a number of years and went to college. And I hit a burnout point. It was about, I had been at the Caro center nearly 10 years, and I just, it’s, it’s a very high stress job, as you can imagine.

[00:04:34] And I left. I, decided to go back to school pursuing, BSN, a bachelor of nursing degree. And so in order to accommodate my schedule, I took a job at Bavarian Inn restaurant as a waitress. At the same time, my husband migrated from Milford and got a job at Flint truck and body and got laid off one day short of, of actually, you know, whatever, the 90 days or whatever it was, they laid him off.

[00:05:06] And he immediately went out and looked for a job and he got a job as a waiter at the Bavarian Inn. He actually took my tables over when my shift was done, and that’s how we met. And it was, attraction from first sight, and he looked pretty good in a in a leiderhosen. And so we just, we struck up a fast friendship, but then it, it became more, and we eventually married.

[00:05:36]it’s an interesting story. The Bavarian Inn is a very family oriented restaurant, including, I mean, the employees were all like family still. And the Zehnder family are very near and dear to us. And so we attribute our meeting and actually learning our work ethic from, from Bavarian Inn.

[00:05:57]Cliff Duvernois: [00:05:57] I’m a big fan of what the Zehnders [00:06:00] have accomplished in, in the city of Frankenmuth. And I had Dorothy Zehnder on the podcast, She’s episode number three. And, to date, that’s probably one of the more popular episodes that I’ve have available on the podcast. So, Their, their story in and of itself is just absolutely remarkable what they’ve done and what they’ve built.

[00:06:19] Yes. so you, you married and your husband is Senator Horn, so you, you had, you wind up having two kids.

[00:06:26] Veronica Horn: [00:06:26] Kevin and Andrea. Kevin is our oldest and he is now married. He’s an electrical engineer at Nexteer, and his wife, Ruth, is from Ecuador. our daughter, Andrea, lives in Portland, Oregon. Now, much to my dismay, I would love to have her nearer. Ben is an immigrant from Russia. So our family is really bookended by immigration.

[00:06:57] My husband is as a first generation American. His, his parents, actually fled the and made their way to the United States and lived on the East side of Detroit. They were sponsored by a small Lutheran church down there. And, so we have, we have children that we raised. To love the world, to love the people of the  world.

[00:07:19] And when you do that, you don’t realize when you do that at a young age to tell, you know, we’ve told our children that you’re no better than anyone else and you’re no worse than anyone else, but everyone deserves to be treated with respect. And they grow up and you see the fruits of those lessons when one travels to Ecuador and comes home with a wife.

[00:07:43] And blessed us with three beautiful grandchildren who by the way, live with us. You have two of our grandchildren. We lost. We lost her granddaughter. it’ll be three years this summer.

[00:07:55] Cliff Duvernois: [00:07:55] I’m sorry to hear that.

[00:07:56] Veronica Horn, Saginaw County Chamber of Commerce: [00:07:56] Yeah, thank you. It was devastating. [00:08:00] and, but they live with us. Ruth is a very traditional Ecuadorian. The women don’t drive, and her goal is, she’s in her glory right now because she’s homeschooling Liam, who’s now, six.

[00:08:13]she taught in a school in Ecuador.  her English is getting better, but she doesn’t drive. So it was important for us to keep family together. That’s very traditional in Latin, Latin American families. And we love it. It keeps us young if it, when, when they go out for a walk and there’s no noise in this house, it’s like maddening so.

[00:08:34] So we do, we have two great kids. Andrea is in the food industry in Portland, and her husband works for the VA, so, and he came over at age 16 from St. Petersburg and served in the U S military. And they are just happy as clams out in Portland.

[00:08:51]Cliff Duvernois: [00:08:51] That’s always good to hear. And I know that we were talking a little bit about, you know, global, and I know a lot of this, bleeds over into the world of politics in your journey into politics actually began  in 1989.  why did you decide to get involved with politics.

[00:09:09]Veronica Horn: [00:09:09] I’ve always been politically involved. My parents were, I would consider them independent, but they were great fans of John F. Kennedy. they also voted for Richard Nixon. So if that tells you anything. My mother ran for a township clerk and I went door to door with her, and it was just, we’ve always been raised to try and make a difference.

[00:09:31] Our family is very generous. I had an uncle, or I have an uncle who was a priest. He has since married a nun, but at the time he was assigned to a parish in Saginaw. And most of the kids were very, very low income. Most had never even left the city of Saginaw. So once the week he would load up a van with kids that had never left the city of Saginaw and would bring them out to our little farm in Vassar and we would take them fishing, [00:10:00] or they’d help in the garden or whatever.

[00:10:02] They just have a day in the country with us. we were just raised to love people, to get to know people and see where we could help, not as charity, but how we could teach somebody a skill or,  you know, we worked very hard and we just tried to set an example.

[00:10:21] So I’ve always kind of been involved.

[00:10:24] When I worked for mental health, I was involved in on a union level and I quickly, I got a little, dismayed with that, I’m also a justice person.  And sometimes in those years there were people that. Probably should have lost their job for just cause, but we would have to defend them. And so, you know, that bothered me.

[00:10:50] So I kind of stepped away from that. When Ken and I married, we moved to Detroit for jobs, and about three years after we moved to Detroit, we had an opportunity to buy a restaurant bar. In Frankenmuth and when to Ken’s. our agreements when we got married was that our kids would be in one school system from the start to the end.

[00:11:15]he had moved quite a bit as a child. 13 schools before he was in high school. Difficult to make friends. You just didn’t make friends because you knew you were going to be moving again. And so we took the shot, we bought a restaurant bar and move back to Frankenmuth, and that’s what got us home. We could have had a much.

[00:11:39] Bigger home if we had moved anywhere else. But the real estate in Frankenmuth is a little more expensive, but it was worth it to us to have our kids in a great community and great schools. So, while we were doing well, we were running the business. It was Ken and me. Our daughter was three months old and [00:12:00] our son, Kevin, was not quite two years old.

[00:12:03] So it was, an interesting time of life. But we quickly found that, one of our favorite lines is when Ken, when we bought the business, all of his customers said, Hey, Oh, you’re a business owner. How does it feel to be rich? And. We really laughed because we cashed in all of our life savings. We sold our a nice house in Detroit and sunk it all into the restaurant.

[00:12:31] But we quickly found out that we couldn’t both work there and survive. So there was an opening in a congressman’s office. And I, they interviewed with them and they hired me. And that was really the start of my,  getting immersed into politics. And I’ll tell ya,

[00:12:50] you either love it or you don’t.

[00:12:52] Some people, I just hate politics. And, and for me, it got in my blood quickly. That’s when I realized, and I did constituent casework. So I helped solve people’s problems and navigate through the federal government. So you quickly learn. Who to call and what departments who, you know, you establish relationships.

[00:13:11] And I think the core, the common thread you’ll see through my career and what makes me who I am is integrity.

[00:13:21]if you’re honest with people, even if you have to give them bad news or your liaison in the federal government, if you’re straight up honest. You learn, you get to know that person and you become the trust them, and they trust your word.

[00:13:36] That is critical. you cannot be dishonest. And while you can, huh. It’s much better if you’re not. And so I learned more working for those members of Congress and talking to the public, and it was at a time, and mind you, my husband is an elected Republican. I worked for two members of Congress. They were [00:14:00] both Democrats.

[00:14:01] I formed a lot of opinions getting. My hands into the federal government trying to help people with problems. And that is how large that bureaucracy is. And if people, there are so many people that if they didn’t know to call their Congressman, I don’t know what they did, frankly. So it, it became, I told you I’m a justice person, so that became a passion of mine.

[00:14:28] To try and get justice for people that really deserved it, had wanted their social security or needed their, army veterans benefits. There’s a whole class of people that served in the military where, the, the office that housed all of the records burned to the ground. And so there were no records. We would have to rebuild their whole. History of when they served in order for them to get benefits. Same thing during the census. years ago, people of color were not counted. They would, the census takers wouldn’t even go to the door. They’d just look at the house and say six or two or whatever. And so if you didn’t have a birth certificate, which so many African-American people did not have, we would have to help get letters from their church.

[00:15:19] Try and find family members that maybe were still alive in order to build a case for them to have an identity. So it’s how I began to recognize that I could make a difference. And it was one person at a time. It was one thing at a time. I didn’t sit in a sandbox and you know, third grade and say, I’m going to run the world.

[00:15:41] Yep. It was just a combination of all of this. The lessons I learned growing up and then just really having a passion and loving people that I wanted to help, not necessarily by charitable, it’s getting them the justice that they deserved.

[00:15:58] Cliff Duvernois: [00:15:58] And you bring up a good point because I [00:16:00] don’t think a lot of people realize that with their having problems dealing with, with the bureaucracy or the different bureaus or whatnot, that the elected officials are actually there to help them.

[00:16:14] Veronica Horn: [00:16:14] Absolutely. And their staff, if it’s on the federal level, if their staff in the district staff staffing Lansing, or, I’m sorry, their staff in Washington are typically legislative people, so they, they follow all the issues because one member of Congress can’t possibly know. Everything about everything. So they have staff that are expertise in each of those areas, healthcare, economy, that, that type of thing.

[00:16:40] In the district, the staff there are by and large answer letters and they, they help with constituent casework. If somebody’s having a problem with department of agriculture or name it, you know, one of the departments. So there’s a, there’s a real distinction between the Washington office and a member’s district office.

[00:17:00] And you really are. I was as a member of the staff, as a senior member of the staff, I was the face for the Congressman in the community. I attended meetings because they were in Washington, so I could speak for the Congressman and it’s a, it’s a distinct honor, but one that I never took lightly.

[00:17:20]Cliff Duvernois: [00:17:20] you received your bachelor’s degree in 2001 and by this point in time, you had been involved with a couple of different committees, a couple of different, election committees working with various congressmen, and with all that experience, you decided to go back to college and get your degree.

[00:17:37]what made you decide to do that?

[00:17:39]Veronica Horn, Saginaw County Chamber of Commerce: [00:17:39] it was, that was just very personal for me.  I really just wanted to advance myself and really have that piece of paper that told me that I did that. By the time I went back to school and would write papers first for, you know, a literacy or a literature class or whatever, I could probably have taught half of those [00:18:00] classes.

[00:18:01] But it was the, it was in a, that’s not being arrogant, it’s just what you gain in life’s experience. But it was important for me to do that. at the, at that point, I’m one of six kids. My parents did not go to college, none of us. They were not old enough yet. My sister was in college, and so I opted for.

[00:18:23] Concordia offered online classes, and so I did that. Ken went back to college before I did, and so we supported one another. He also went to Concordia, and so  I would be with the kids. I would take them places. He finished his bachelor’s degree. We just knew it was really important. You know, it lends you credibility when you’re looking for a job in it, particularly in the career I was in.

[00:18:51] And that it was important to have that degree. Today’s world is different. I mean, we have so many different options for young people in this, in the trades. I mean, we are, you’re going to see a resurgence in this country of building things in America, and we are really lacking because we have a lot of people with degrees that aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on. We need people to build things. And we need more specific degrees, of skillset, not just a liberal arts degree. I think there’s certainly more it, more specific and more varied degrees are what, what are going to be needed. So, but for me it was a personal accomplishment that I felt I needed to do. of the six kids, four of us now have our degrees.

[00:19:42] I have, I started master’s level and I just, by that time I was working at the chamber and I ended up getting my certification instead. I did not pursue a master’s, but I have one sister with her masters. The other sister is a PhD. So we’re all kind of driven to [00:20:00] learn. You never stop learning, but in that formal way

[00:20:04] Cliff Duvernois: [00:20:04] That’s true. And I know  that reading over your  bio, looking at everything that you’ve accomplished, I mean, you’ve been through, you know, a lot of, well I won’t say a lot of, you’ve been through a few four year programs like the certified chamber executive program, Michigan state university Institute for public policy.

[00:20:22] There was a four year program in theology, history of the church communication. With your, obviously it’s, it’s a family thing, but what do you think is it that really pushes you to just continue to get more education.

[00:20:35]Veronica Horn: [00:20:35] because the world is changing so fast. And it can leave you behind.  Both the Institute for public policy at Michigan state and the certification of the chamber executive were, were career goals. For me, the theology, I’m a, I’m a commission layman. That was a four year program, learning about morality theology in the church, and that was a deep.

[00:20:59] seeded desire of my soul to learn more about my church. I’m a Catholic, like, and I wanted to know why I was a Catholic. And so I went through that for a year program and then felt called they, they have advanced, certifications after that in a number of different areas. One of them would have been led you to be an administrator at the church.

[00:21:24]I chose, homiletics. So I had to take another two years of classes and then two years of practicum where I was put in a group with the Bishop, my own parish priest and a nun. And we would, record our homilies. And trade off and then critique one another. So that was another, that was a four year program that it has, has benefited me just in public speaking and everything.

[00:21:49] I mean, the Bishop passed, he allowed lay people to preach, and since that time, that was rescinded by Rome. So I can still [00:22:00] preach at funerals, at weddings. Those types of things, which I’m not able to do just because of my work schedule, but it has really given me a depth of how to speak to an audience. The the, the best line the Bishop ever gave me was that he started out by saying, Veronica, don’t think that the people in the pews are as excited about your homily as you are giving it.

[00:22:26] Cliff Duvernois: [00:22:26] yeah.

[00:22:26] Veronica Horn: [00:22:26] I’ve always remembered that and tried to keep them brief. It carried on. Speaking, I tend to speak, I’m a lot shorter than many people, but I try and get to the point.

[00:22:38]Cliff Duvernois: [00:22:38] so you’ve been involved with a number of, political organizations, just organizations in general serving the public. You’ve been chasing. you more education, more advanced education, like you’re talking about your bachelor’s degree, these certifications. How is it that you are able to balance raising a family with your call for public service?

[00:23:02] Veronica Horn, Saginaw County Chamber of Commerce: [00:23:02] Well, sometimes we don’t always do that well. and I think the wisdom is recognizing that and, and trying to, right the ship. So if I saw something going where, you know, I was at work too much, we had to balance that as being the person I am being a Catholic, if I was at work, I was feeling guilty that I wasn’t at home.

[00:23:24] If I was at home, I was feeling guilty that I wasn’t at work. Up that dynamic, you know, involved in it. But I have, I cannot tell you what a supportive husband I have during the years that I worked for the Congressman that was not a nine to five job. You were at meetings. I would don’t on the road out to different counties four days a month.

[00:23:48] And it meant coming home late nights. And while he was running the business, he also was in town. So he was the one at the kids, dances and parent’s [00:24:00] day and all of that. While he was in college, I picked up that load. So we have just, you have to have a support system of some kind. And I’m not saying it needs to be a spouse, but a family member, a dear friend, somebody that you can count on that shares your values.

[00:24:17] That can help you. We have a very, very close, tight knit family. We’ve all been there for each other during difficult times in our lives and the good times in our lives. And we share that load. So, you know, when I wasn’t able to be there, Ken was, or one of my sisters were. And that closeness continues to today, but our marriage is going to be 37 years this year in June, and I could not have been blessed with a, with a better partner.

[00:24:49] Cliff Duvernois: [00:24:49] Congratulations on that 37 years. That’s

[00:24:52] Veronica Horn: [00:24:52] 37 yep. Only 37 more to go.

[00:24:56] Cliff Duvernois: [00:24:56] That’s right. That’s right. In 2018 you were named the president and CEO of the Saginaw County chamber of commerce. Why don’t you share a little bit about what it is that the chamber of commerce does.

[00:25:09] Veronica Horn: [00:25:09] Oh, Holy cow. That’s such a great question because if you’ve seen one chamber, you’ve seen one chamber. Every chamber does something a little bit different. We are  considered a midsize chamber. We’ve got about a thousand members. and depending on what kind of a chamber you are, like the Frankenmuth chamber for example.

[00:25:28] Has a, has a real focus on events and, you know, very small town, very retail oriented because of the nature of the town. And they do an exceptional job. We’re retail oriented, but we have a real, very strong advocacy piece. The Saginaw County chamber does. If the chamber representing the business community can’t get something that our city in our County needs in terms of infrastructure projects or [00:26:00] whatever legislation, who’s going to do that?

[00:26:03] You know? And so we have taken it upon ourselves to be the leading voice for business in Saginaw County. And so we certainly rely on our chamber partners in Bay City surrounding counties, Midland, and even Isabella with Mount pleasant, our Frankenmuth chamber, our Chesaning chamber. We work in partnership with them on a number of things.

[00:26:25] But when it comes to the Saginaw County chamber, we have a real key focus on, we balance our large members and we have a number. We have Nexteer we have Dow. We have, Hemlock semiconductor. we have in some great Morley companies. We have some wonderful, wonderful, a hundred year plus year old companies in our community.

[00:26:46] They’re all, I’m very community oriented and they give back to the community and we help lead that voice in Lansing, in Washington, and on the County level, frankly. So, We endorse candidates. we try and select candidates, not necessarily fairly that, you know, one party over the other. We endorse candidates that we know we can work with and that share our values, but, but are, are the kind of, they’re not partisan.

[00:27:18] They want to get to the problem and let’s, find a solution. So through that, I mean, the second our County chamber has led. And effort. We got a $14 million exit ramp to our downtown area, which was part of the bigger. Vision for redeveloping the city. And so individually, these were great accomplishments, but we did have an overall strategic plan of how we needed to rebuild the community.

[00:27:44] So for our part, we w we dig in with these legislators and put our argument forward of why we need this. And you know how this is a good use of, of taxpayer dollars. And we’re always very cognizant of that. [00:28:00] So that’s part of the chamber. The other part, we deliver services to our small businesses right now.

[00:28:06]with this, health and economic crisis we’re offering, we’re pushing the resources out to the business community. How can they sign up for the paycheck protection? We, we try and, boil down the language from bureaucrat to English. And so that’s where grown has helped. I can take bureaucrat and turn it into English,

[00:28:26] and that it’s a gift, but it helps a small business to understand when they’re frustrated already. And then trying to. You know, figure out what this form that they have to fill out means we’re offering podcasts that, you know, can steer them to mental health services. We’re offering podcasts from our members, consumers, energy, DTE, who are offering businesses.

[00:28:51]You know, a delay in having to pay to keep them afloat. So right now we are the leading voice of getting that valuable information to our members to try and ease a little bit of that stress that they’re feeling right now. It’s a scary time. It’s a scary time and someone’s got to lead that. And we feel that that’s our, our mission right now is to respond the best way that we can to our members.

[00:29:18] Cliff Duvernois: [00:29:18] That’s actually a really good point and something that I have been paying attention to a lot on the news, of course, is the fact that the longer the stay at home mandate is an effect, the more people cannot go to work, the more people can’t pay their bills. And of course if they can’t go to work, how do the, how do these businesses basically stay afloat?

[00:29:38] And even if they lift. The stay at home mandate right now, I believe, the governor has extended it until the end of April, but even if it was may and they lifted it, it’s going to be two, three, four months before people are going to start feeling more comfortable with going out and being in public and, and frequent these types of businesses.

[00:29:57] So,

[00:29:58] Veronica Horn: [00:29:58] Absolutely, [00:30:00] absolutely. And one of, one of our, one of our strengths is that the chamber, we offer a monthly breakfast, our percolator club breakfast, where we bring in experts on a topic. We draw 250 and 400 people every month. It’s turn of ours thinking are, is anyone going to be comfortable walking back into a room?

[00:30:21] So this is a psychological recovery as much as it will be. you know, a physical get back to work recovery. I think it’s important to know too, that, you know, there’s concern out there. Well, people are making more money on unemployment with the federal boosts than they are when they worked. And are they, what’s going to happen?

[00:30:41] And, and hopefully people understand that this is not a longterm, Way of life. And so it’s going to be important at a time when we already here in Michigan and Saginaw County, have a talent gap. We had, we have construction workers, Spence brothers, our construction workers are begging to hire people we can’t crank out enough skilled trades people as it was.

[00:31:06] And so now this. It’s, it’s going to be a daunting challenge. I think we’re up to it. I think we’re going to do the very best we can to help encourage and get people in, you know, into these jobs and get them back into these jobs and get the economy moving.

[00:31:23]Cliff Duvernois: [00:31:23] Cause that’s going to be a real big consideration going forward is just getting people back to work, getting people caught up on their bills and everything else. It’s just going to be a monumental task.

[00:31:33] Veronica Horn, Saginaw County Chamber of Commerce: [00:31:33] Absolutely.

[00:31:34] Cliff Duvernois: [00:31:34] Yes. Yes. So I want to talk to you a little bit about, and I mentioned this briefly in the introduction, I’d like to talk to you a little bit about some of the nonprofit programs that are near and dear to your heart.

[00:31:47] One of them is, Ammaus for our audience members that may not know. Could you explain to us what

[00:31:53] Veronica Horn: [00:31:53] Ammaus is just, a wonderful organization that, a nun, a woman, sister, Marietta, [00:32:00] Fritz, she had previously done a jail ministry and while she was doing her ministry there. She would talk to the women who were largely at that time, incarcerated for crimes of drugs, alcohol and prostitution.

[00:32:17] Many of them are driven to that because of their drug addictions, and they really wanted to make a change but didn’t know how. And so she started this home for women that she really thought had potential that were sincerely  reformed and wanted to make a change but didn’t know how wanted to be reunited with their kids.

[00:32:38] They had lost custody and it was, she called it Ammaus house on the journey. In that home. They lived at the women live together as a family. They learned how to dress to go to work. They learn what  personal hygiene, things like brushing your teeth before you go to a job interview and, and in a lot of cases

[00:32:58]That’s something that was a regular routine, and it may sound odd to your listeners, but that’s, it’s a real challenge. And so they teach them these basic life skills and then got them ready to go before a judge, a probate, and get their kids back and have visitation. The only expectation was that one day a week these women would go to a church service.

[00:33:24] Did not have to be Catholic. It could be any service. The program was so successful that it caught the attention of the department of health and human services. She was paid a visit and offered a lot of federal dollars to replicate the program and then they said, there’s only one catch. You gotta take it.

[00:33:47] Take all these crucifixes down in. You can’t make them go to church. And she said, no, thank you, and turn the money away. She said, why do you think this program is so successful? They need a structure in their life. [00:34:00] They need to learn about a higher power. And by the way, an AA meeting was considered as acceptable.

[00:34:07]you know, not a formal church service necessarily. And so the fed walked away and she. Washed her hands of it, but she continued that. I don’t know how many homes they own now, but it’s like 15 or 16 in the city of Saginaw that people have given her. Now. She is no longer running it. She’s since retired, but the staff that runs that are just exceptional and they keep that spirit.

[00:34:32] I have. Long been a proponent of the organization. My, my church, community contributes to them. They contribute household goods. Goodness. She’s got a warehouse full of stuff. So when the women are ready to get an apartment and get a job, they have furniture, they have bedding. They have, you know, the basic necessities of life that they need to help them and to their success.

[00:34:58] And the success rate is, is very high. It’s like in the 80%. Of the women don’t come back, which is great news, and they can only live there for 18 months, by the way. So they are put on  a path to change their lives. With a lot of help. and then the other program is the mustard seed, and that is for homeless women.

[00:35:20] And it is also run by the, by the diocese of Saginaw or an affiliate of the diocese of Saginaw. But it’s a, it’s a homeless shelter for women. And again, it, it’s just, it’s wonderful is growing by leaps and bounds. That’s the good news and the bad news, but more women are taking advantage of. Of that instead of simply being housed in a, in a mission somewhere.

[00:35:45] So there’s a lot of programming that goes on to help them get back on the right path, get them substance abuse, treatment, mental health treatment, whatever the needs are. my family wasn’t poor, but we certainly weren’t wealthy. we worked [00:36:00] very hard. And so. I grew up at a time when if you wanted to be a woman in th you know you were going to be a nurse or a teacher, and I’m more of a fighter than that and a social activist and I really would like to help people by giving them a hand up and they’ve, they’ve got to do it.

[00:36:22] But I walked side by side with them when I can.

[00:36:25]Cliff Duvernois: [00:36:25] That’s really powerful, and I do want to circle back when you were talking about an 80 plus percent success rate for . That is just, that’s just awesome. That really is no wonder why the fed wanted her to, to replicate, her system across the U S.  To help that many people and to keep them,  moving forward is just, that’s incredible.

[00:36:49] Veronica Horn: [00:36:49] It’s an amazing organization.

[00:36:51] Cliff Duvernois: [00:36:51] Yeah, definitely. It is. Definitely. Now with all of your experiences that you’ve had, and you’ve been involved with a number of different committees and, and, you’re, you’re obviously, an activist. You’re a big advocate. tell us about a time when you, when you thought, wow, I’m really making a difference.

[00:37:11] Or maybe somebody reached out to you, that you impacted and  their, their story just really touched you.

[00:37:19] Veronica Horn, Saginaw County Chamber of Commerce: [00:37:19] Oh, there’s so many. So I had one lady  that came in and she was, developmentally disabled. she was on her own. She had five boys and she went out and bought a house. She saved her money. She was, she cleaned houses, she cleaned houses. Those boys took care of each other.

[00:37:40]my church would help her. Anyway, she came in all excited. She had saved up $500 and she bought a house in Saginaw, and it was a land contract, but she was so proud of herself and came in and told me that, and I, I mean, I  was brought to tears. They were moving in and she [00:38:00] found out that there was no furnace in the house and had sold her the house with no furnace.

[00:38:04] And,  I can’t tell you the righteous anger that I had. And I went after him for being a slum Lord. And this was at a time before Saginaw  was still like really in the, in the depths and hadn’t started a recovery. And so the city was swamped. They didn’t have inspectors. They, you know, there was no followup.

[00:38:24] And I tell you, I  used all the power I had through the congressman’s office at that time, worked with the state legislators. And we got her money back and I mean, she just cried when we got our money back because neither, I’ll be honest, I didn’t think we were going to be able to do it, but I wasn’t going to stop until I knew that she was going to get that money back and this, this person would be penalized for what he did.

[00:38:51] I, I just, I can’t imagine living a life where you could take somebody’s, all the money that they earned. With five kids and just take it and walk away and say, too bad, you know, you bought it. So those are the kinds that I love when after, and it’s just, it’s just personal for me though. That’s the kind of difference.

[00:39:15] It isn’t the, you know, the big things, this $14 million ramp, some of the large things that we’ve accomplished through the chamber. Are wonderful. They make you feel good. But that story touched my heart and touched my soul because I helped somebody, you know, it was tangible and it just meant so much to her to have that money back and be able to then go rent an apartment and have a place for it.

[00:39:42] She and her, her son, still live in.

[00:39:45] Cliff Duvernois: [00:39:45] That had heat.

[00:39:47] Veronica Horn: [00:39:47] Yeah, it did.

[00:39:49] Cliff Duvernois: [00:39:49] Yeah. People who act like that are just a complete mystery to me. So kudos to you for, for standing up for her, you know, cause it, it sounds like from what you told [00:40:00] us before, that, you know, with her, having this, mental disability that just wasn’t, you know, for, for in a cards, for her.

[00:40:08] Veronica Horn: [00:40:08] It was, I mean, it’s again, to your listeners, we buy a house. We walked through the house. We look at it. Maybe you hire an inspector, but someone in that position, it’s like any scam. You know, they take advantage and she didn’t have the capability to, to understand that she should probably go into the basement and see if there was, I mean, you wouldn’t have to, but, but apparently you do.

[00:40:35] So she didn’t have a voice, and that’s where I could have a voice for her.

[00:40:40]Cliff Duvernois:  That’s awesome. for anyone who  might be interested in connecting with you or following you, whether it’s through website or on social media, what would be the best way for them to connect.

[00:40:51] Veronica Horn, Saginaw County Chamber of Commerce: [00:40:51] Well, I’m on Facebook on her Veronica horn. And, they can reach me at any time at our chamber website. And that’s, www.SaginawChamber.org. Can you just click on the link for staff and my cell phone? Everything is on there, so, and I’m just happy to talk with someone.

Cliff_Duvernois:  That’s awesome. Thank you Veronica so much for that. Thank you so much for your time today. I really do appreciate it.

Veronica Horn: Thank you, Cliff. Thank you.

About The Host

About The Host

Cliff Duvernois

Cliff is the host of “The Call of Leadership” podcast.  He has published over 500 short stories over Facebook, Medium and LinkedIn.  He is a passionate lifelong learner, marketer and philanthropist.  He currently lives in Reese, Michigan with his fiancé Sherry and her two children.

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