Each worker a key part of gears to keep us operating

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My father collected antique timepieces. He had several mantel clocks and an oak Regulator (a school-house wall clock). A number of pocket watches were part of the collection.

Lovingly, he cared for them. My siblings and I brought him feathers we found; he used the best of them to clean and lubricate the inner workings of his collection, claiming that a feather was the only tool delicate enough for the job.

Each of the gears and wheels and springs that made up the mechanism were needed; if one was lost or out-of-balance or sticky, then proper time was not kept, or the piece stopped working altogether.

This year, as Labor Day was recently upon us, I've been thinking of my father and the lessons of his pastime. The workforce we celebrate at this time of year provides for the strength, prosperity and well-being of our economy - locally, regionally and nationally.

Each laborer is one of the gears, wheels and springs that keeps our society running.

There has been a lot of discussion of late about the availability of employees - or lack thereof - in our area, and what that means to those who want to be employed, and to those who need a capable and consistent labor force.

A restaurant cannot run without servers any more than it can run without a chef and other food prep staff, or a cleaning crew, or a bookkeeper.

Schools need teachers along with administrators and counselors and bus drivers and food service staff and more. Childcare and healthcare and eldercare and lawncare all require people of different skills, abilities and educational achievement to provide the services needed.

Each individual, regardless of their pay grade or title, is important.

This Labor Day, as we look at the responsibilities we have as employers (for wages, benefits and general working conditions), we must also look at the responsibilities of our communities.

Do we have a culture of welcome for people of diverse backgrounds, ages, religions, disabilities, races, etc.? Are we focused on transportation, housing, access to education and training, childcare and other workforce needs?

I'm pleased to say that in some cases progress is being made and creative solutions are being sought. Some employers are providing their own transportation. A new university campus is being built on Hilton Head Island to make training available near where the job opportunities are.

Solutions to traffic and transportation for commuters are being fronted and debated. Housing needs are being discussed and, in some cases, addressed by those in government, business and the nonprofit sectors.

Even as we look for resolutions to some of the largest roadblocks to workforce needs, we must be grateful for the hardworking and capable workforce that is in place.

Live generously, being pleasant and grateful to those who work to make your life better. I'm extremely appreciative of the gifted staff of the Community Foundation who make the place run like clockwork daily, and for all in the Lowcountry whose hard work improves our lives. Happy Labor Day, y'all!

Denise K. Spencer is president and CEO of the Community Foundation of the Lowcountry. cf-lowcountry.org

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