By Melissa Behling, OFS Volunteer
Eddie Sherman became a part of Operation Fresh Start by coincidence. His girlfriend saw a van with the logo and pictures of young people and suggested he look into it.
After a quick Google search, he applied for an OFS construction trainer job and got it. After serving in that role, becoming grad crew supervisor, then construction and conservation supervisor, Sherman says this program has changed him in ways he didn't realize until he took some time to reflect.
"I've become a dad, [and have] become way more responsible because I'm a true believer in leading by example," he said. "I wanted to do better so they would."
Seven and a half years later, Sherman is saying goodbye. His announcement at the Wednesday morning group assembly was not easy.
"I love my crew. That's why it was so sad to talk to them," he said. "I've always said the most rewarding part is when the young people come back, and I see them as young men and young women, instead of -- to be perfectly honest -- the children that I met." He says members come back after graduation very mature, they own houses and have families. "[It feels] kind of like I'm doing something."
Addressing a cafeteria full of members, staff and volunteers, Deputy Director Brian McMahon compared Sherman to a college basketball player, who comes ready to play every game because every game counts.
"Over the years, I have been impressed by many of Eddie's skills and abilities, but his capacity within his first year to quickly own the meaningfulness of our mission and truly invest in grasping the complexities of how we accomplish our work is when I knew he would prove to be a special addition to OFS," McMahon said. "He will be missed."
One of the members, Jaheim White, sat patiently raising his hand until McMahon was done speaking. When called upon, he added onto the basketball analogy, announcing to the room that Sherman has no jump shot. The slight jab was a glimpse into the close-knit relationship Sherman has developed with members.
Sherman's last day was on September 11th. It was a planned day of service for Operation Fresh Start members and staff. Crews spent the morning volunteering at Second Harvest Foodbank and Heartland Farm Sanctuary.
Knowing that some of the members weren't even alive when the terror attacks happened, Sherman wanted to share his firsthand experience. He explained he was working a roofing job when the World Trade Center was hit. He could see the mushroom cloud from New Jersey.
"I don't remember it as a tragedy or some awful thing," he said. "It was -- but I remember the brothers and sisters coming together. We all went up there, all tried to help and we weren't even allowed because there were too many people from all over the country trying to help."
"I live my life trying to be somebody that goes at the rubble, because those are my heroes. Those are people that go at problems, protect their families, protect their communities and go after things."
Next, Sherman is going to work as general manager of operations at the Henry Vilas Zoo.
"From one zoo to another," he joked.
He left OFS members with this parting advice: "You have to do great every day. You never know what opportunity you're going to get. Never know who's going to see you or what's going to happen. Why not? The day is just so much more fun to do. No one wants to half it. Let's go."