by Sheryl Schmeckpeper
Clayton Andrews lives by these words, “Don’t let your mind tell your body how old it is.” So far, the motto has served him well. While many senior citizens are hitting balls around the golf course, the 90-year-old Norfolk, Neb., resident is running two corporations that have worldwide impact.
Andrews was just 14 years old when he started hauling freight from the Chicago & North Western depot in south Norfolk to businesses downtown. Even then, he was following in the footsteps of his late father, Roy, who, the year his son was born, started a business delivering baggage and packages around town in his Model T Ford.
Andrews graduated from Norfolk High School and was attending Wayne (Neb.) State College when World War II erupted. He promptly joined the Army Air Corps and spent the next 50 months as a test officer and operational troubleshooter at the Air Corps Proving Ground Command in Egline Field, Fla., and in Panama. By the time the war ended, Andrews had earned the rank of major.
After the war, Andrews returned to Norfolk and transformed Andrews Transfer and Storage into Andrews Van Lines, which ships household goods around the United States and to more than 20 foreign countries.
But Roy and Alma Andrews did more than give their only child a strong work ethic. They also raised him as a Missouri Synod Lutheran. As a child, the long-time member of Grace Lutheran Church remembers watching the basement being dug for the congregation’s first church building. And as a youngster, he participated in a live radio show that was broadcast from the church on Sunday mornings. Later, his support of Lutheran High Northeast in Norfolk caused the school’s leaders to name the activity center for him and his late wife, Vivian.
Andrews’ religious convictions and shipping experience converged in 1992 when he became involved in the Orphan Grain Train, a humanitarian aid organization that since then has shipped 63 million pounds of food, clothing, medical supplies and other merchandise to people in 43 countries. The Orphan Grain Train is a Recognized Service Organization (RSO) of The Lutheran ChurchMissouri Synod.
The following is an edited Lutheran Witness (LW) interview with Andrews (CA):
LW: How did you get involved in the Orphan Grain Train?
CA: It’s a calling, something God intended me to do. I believe that is why He put me in the shipping industry. In 1992, the Rev. Ray Wilke, pastor at Grace Lutheran Church, went to Latvia on a mission trip. There Ray witnessed the poverty the people suffered, and he promised them that he would help them. When Ray returned home, he asked me to help him keep his promise. Within a year, the first shipment of clothing and quilts arrived in Riga, Latvia. That’s how the Orphan Grain Train was born.
LW: Is all of the merchandise shipped from your home base in Norfolk, Neb.?
CA: No. We have 19 regional divisions around the country that are operated by volunteers. The organization has only seven paid employees. For that reason, 96 cents out of every donated dollar is spent for the purpose of the donation.
LW: What are some of the more unusual items the Orphan Grain Train has sent to people in need?
CA: When a disaster happens, there is always the need for shelter for volunteers who come in to help with the cleanup. In response to that need, we turned containers used to haul merchandise on ships into dormitories and shower rooms and semi-truck trailers into kitchens. We have also shipped complete medical clinics and water purification systems around the world. Since the earthquake in Haiti happened, we’ve sent 86 containers of humanitarian aid to the island.
LW: You were recently inducted into the Nebraska Business Hall of Fame, which honors Nebraska business leaders whose contributions are worthy of acclaim. Why has your company been so successful?
CA: I believe that in all dealings, your word has to be your honor. You have to take good care of your employees, and you have to keep all of your suppliers and contractors paid in a timely manner.
LW: During your long career, you have been involved in a number of civic, service and political organizations. Why is church and community service important to you?
CA: Being involved in civic, service and political organizations is important because we need help make the community a better place. Supporting the Church is important because life would mean nothing without God.
LW: How did you meet your wife? How many children and grandchildren do you have?
CA: I met my late wife, Vivian, at Wayne State College where we were both students. We raised two daughters, Jean and Jane. I have five grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
LW: What is the most important blessing you have received from God?
CA: Health and a reason to live.—
About the author: Sheryl Schmeckpeper is the Living section editor for the Norfolk Daily News and a member of Our Savior Lutheran Church, Norfolk, Neb.