By Alvin Benn
Reggie Shook not only grew up at the Lauderdale County Cooperative, he once found a way to use it as a weight training center.
A guard on his high school football team, Shook knew lifting heavy objects would be a good way to increase muscle mass for himself and his buddies.
|Reggie Shook, general manager of Lauderdale County Cooperative, was surrounded by his family and friends as he was honored with the 2008 E.P. Garrett “Manager of the Year” Award. (From left) Blair (son) and his wife, Kasie; Susan (wife); Reggie Shook holding Dylan Lovett (grandson); Christi Lovett (daughter); Brandon Hood (friend); Jean Harrison (mother) and Bob Harrison (stepfather).|
So, he brought several of his teammates to the Co-op and they spent time unloading big bags of fertilizer from railroad cars.
"We did it in the spring, so it was a lot like weight training as we got ready for the season," said a smiling Shook just after being honored with the E.P. Garrett "Manager of the Year" award at the 71st annual Alabama Farmers Cooperative banquet on Feb. 14.
The fertilizer bags weighed about 50 pounds each, allowing Shook and his friends to accomplish two things— helping his father and getting ready for football.
"He learned at an early age to be a hard worker and that hard work has helped him to reach many goals," AFC President Tommy Paulk said, as he read details about Shook without revealing his name at first to the 350 Co-op managers local board members and their spouses at the meeting.
It didn’t take long, however, for Shook and those who know him to realize he was the recipient. His track record spoke for itself.
|Reggie Shook, general manager of Lauderdale County Cooperative, was joined by his grandson Dylan Lovett as he was presented the 2008 E.P. Garrett “Manager of the Year” Award.|
The late R.L. Shook operated the Co-op in Florence for many years and his son learned the ropes as he grew up.
"I’d do odd jobs around the Co-op and that included sweeping the floor," said Shook. "I learned a lot from my dad, but I never expected to become the manager."
Shook attended a community college in his area and became a machinist, but being laid off occasionally because of economic downturns didn’t appeal to him.
During those periods of unemployment, he’d return to the cooperative to earn money and help his father at the same time.
R.L. Shook was killed in an accident at the Co-op in 1976 and his son carried on the family name at the business where he grew up. The experience he gained as a boy when he watched his father supervise operations at the Co-op helped him immensely as manager.
This is his 30th anniversary at the Co-op and, when he became manager, he quickly gained a statewide reputation for excellence on the job.
|Reggie Shook (right) was congratulated by Ricky Aldridge, manager of Walker Farmers Cooperative and last year’s recipient of the Manager of the Year.|
Since 1988, Paulk said during his banquet presentation, the Lauderdale County Cooperative has returned more than $800,000 to its members, including $181,749 last year. In 2007, sales at the Lauderdale County Co-op exceeded $7 million.
The honor he received at the banquet was a surprise to Shook, but he’s no stranger to cooperative accolades. He received his first "Manager of the Year" award 11 years ago.
In addition to Shook, AFC also honored outgoing chairman Larry Bennich for his service to the organization and presented him with a set of Ping golf clubs.
"You’ve got no excuses now, Larry," Paulk quipped as he presented one of the world’s best sets of golf clubs to his friend.
Bennich, who has been on the AFC Board since the early 1970s, served as chairman once before, but he said he’s going to concentrate now on relaxing and, of course, playing on a golf course.
"One man can’t pull it off by himself and that’s the case with our cooperative," he said. "Sometimes, your part in something looks small, but you put enough drops of water together and you get a few gallons to drink."
Roger Waller of Brewton received the President’s Environmental Stewardship Award and several Co-op members and AFC staff were awarded Years of Service awards.
The highlight of each annual banquet is the "Manager of the Year" award and Shook said he wasn’t thinking about winning again when he arrived for the event at the Hotel at Auburn University and Dixon Conference Center.
"I’m really not sure what the formula is to pick the Manager of the Year, but we reached our goals and I have an outstanding group of people who work at our Co-op," said Shook. "That’s the reason we’ve done so well through the years."
Shook also said a "good working relationship" with his Co-op board was another reason why it’s done so well.
"It’s quite an honor for me, but we have younger people coming in and deserved it more than I did," said Shook, who manages 28 full and part-time employees. "We haven’t had many down years. The last bad year was 1999."
In addition to the main Co-op store in Florence, Shook also oversees operations at a branch facility at Elgin Crossroads about 20 miles away.
One of the first to greet and congratulate Shook was Ricky Aldridge, who was the 2006 award winner. Shook, like Aldridge, received a new Ford pickup truck to drive for a year.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the year for Shook was the one his relatives had for him at the banquet.
His wife, Susan, accompanied him, but he didn’t know that a dozen other members of his family quietly waited out of eyesight to join him in his second "Manager of the Year" celebration.
The hit of the night was Shook’s grandson, Dylan, who joined him at the podium where Paulk held him during the presentation of the award for his granddad.
Alvin Benn is a freelance writer from Selma.