Celebrating Earlene Bolinger | SSC’s Longest Standing Associate

March 07, 2023

This year marks a significant milestone for Earlene Bolinger, Office Manager at SSC’s warehouse in Knoxville, TN. It is her 37th year with SSC, which also makes her our longest-standing associate. We sat down to discuss Earlene’s experiences as a part of the SSC team and learn about what she believes has led to such a successful and enjoyable career.

Entering the Workforce

Earlene began her career with SSC when her previous employer, Ruby Tuesdays, was sold to Morrison Inc. in 1982. Baxter Lee, the founder of SSC Services for Education, held a seat on the Ruby Tuesday board. At the time, he was eager to rebuild his accounting team. When the transition began, Baxter offered the top four individuals from the Ruby Tuesdays accounting team positions with SSC. Earlene jumped at the opportunity to join our warehouse team, and after 37 years with the company, she can confidently say she has never looked back.

Learning the Ropes: Early Years at SSC with Baxter Lee

As SSC’s longest-standing associate, Earlene has had the opportunity to witness the growth of our organization and many of the changes that have taken place over the years. First and foremost, she remembers Baxter’s plans for SSC and the values he created the company on.

Baxter Lee was a visionary, remembered by many for living 10 years in the future. His goal was to start and run a business that was not affected by the economy, and Earlene recalls what the early stages of this growth would feel like:

“We would go through five years of growing so fast, then we would have a year where growth was slower because employees and management needed time to catch up. I remember the first time that slower year happened, I went to my boss at the time and asked if I needed to be looking for another job, and he assured me it would all work out.”

Despite the ebbs and flows of business, Earlene knew that she would always be taken care of at SSC because of how much Baxter loved his people.

“I had a car wreck and totaled my car. I missed one day of work, and when I came back in, I was getting coffee and he came up to me and asked how I was doing. He said that he had heard about my wreck and totaled car, and I told him that I had my little girl with me at the time. He took the time to talk with me and he said, ‘Cars can be replaced, Earlene, but in the grand scheme of things, you’re ok, and your daughter is ok, and that is all that really matters.’”

This type of compassion and care isn’t always common in a large company.

“Most owners of a company would not take the time to talk to you like that, or honestly wouldn’t even know. Baxter just made sure that you knew he cared.”

Life at the Warehouse

Earlene’s career has been spent onsite at SSC’s dedicated warehouse. The warehouse serves as a hub for supplies, equipment, and materials that our teams across the country rely on to provide excellent service to our education partners.

“I’ve had my hands on almost everything and anything. At the warehouse, you don’t come in every day and just do one thing. I always knew I would be involved in 10 or 12 different things each day, and things are constantly moving and changing. I like that, being able to see the whole picture.”

Brad West, SSC’s Warehouse & Purchasing Manager, has seen Earlene’s years of experience in the warehouse benefit the company and our partners greatly over the years.

‘She knows the ins and outs of SSC and if a problem arises, she has a knack for finding the root cause and coming up with a solution. It’s rare to see someone that has been with any company for as long as she has, and for her to still have a passion for what she does, it’s truly remarkable.”

Earlene’s Advice

It’s becoming more and more uncommon to find employees who have stayed with the same company for more than a handful of years. While job-hopping has become the norm, Earlene is confident in remaining an exception.

“I have never really thought about going to work somewhere else, and I’ve never woken up in the morning like ‘Well, I need to go.’ I like what I do, and I like who I do it with.”

Her advice to others looking to build a career they love? Don’t play the game, and remember that honesty is always the best policy.

“I have never wanted to live in a grey area. I don’t ride the fence. Some people believe if you are going to get ahead, you have to play games. I think that may be why I am where I am today- I never played the game.”

Today, we would like to congratulate Earlene on 37 years of service with SSC and send a heartfelt thank you for all that you have done for our company and partner schools.