Local firm comes to Patricia Jay's rescue when she's forced to leave her home

by: PHOTO: ELLEN SPITALERI - Bob McDermid, far right, general manager of Willamette Express, directs Wade Stover, left, and Cristian Olson, as they move Patti Jays possessions  into storage. Moving day is always traumatic, but for Milwaukie resident Patricia Jay, the stress of moving has been increased by the recurrence of her breast cancer, the frequency of her medical treatments, the loss of her job, and the hold-up of her Social Security disabilities claim.

Jay, a single mother with three sons, was asked to move from her Milwaukie residence, and as yet has not been able to find a place to live. In the meantime, she and her sons will be staying with family.

But there is a bright side. When Jon Calvin, owner of Willamette Express, a moving company based in Milwaukie, heard about Jay’s story, he reacted by offering to move her household items into storage free of charge.

“We’ve done well the last couple of years, and I thought the lady could use some help. She’s done a lot for a lot of people, and people have done a whole lot for me, so we wanted to give back,” Calvin said.

Calvin was touched by Jay’s story, said Bob McDermid, Calvin’s business partner and general manager at Willamette Express.

“She’s a neighbor, and if neighbors can’t help each other, who can?” he added.

Jay said she was “awestruck” when Calvin contacted her and offered to move her household goods for free.

“We’ve had to do so many things by ourselves, so when the community reached out to us, it made me cry, but it gave us hope,” Jay said. “I am so appreciative of their kindness.”

She hopes to get her Social Security claim sorted out soon, and when her chemo treatments end, she hopes to go back to work so she can find a home for her and her sons.

She said she loves the “community climate” of Milwaukie, and wants to find a home in that city, so her youngest son can finish at Rowe Middle School.

Community service valued

Calvin founded Willamette Express in 1985, he said, and McDermid came on board about 19 years ago. The company was first located in Portland in a shared building, but when the two men decided they wanted to own their own building, the city of Milwaukie welcomed them.

“Milwaukie offered us good access to where we wanted to be, and the city guidelines were business-friendly,” McDermid said. Willamette Express moved to a building near the Oregon Department of Transportation 15 years ago.

The firm is a full-service moving company, serving households, government and county agencies.

Community service is important to the company, McDermid said.

“We make our money in this city, and when times are good, we can help out. We do it year-round. We often have a lot of goods come into storage, and we’ll have nonprofit organizations come in to pick them up,” he said.

McDermid said the company’s main warehouse manager is very active with Meals on Wheels and the Ronald McDonald House, and “we make sure he has time to do that. We work his schedule out so he can do that.”

The company has always been active in community service and often works with senior centers in the area, Calvin said, noting that Willamette Express was the first moving company in Oregon to be certified elder-friendly. He and company volunteers also remodel a house every year through the Rebuilding Together program.

“We want to be a more visible part of the community,” Calvin said.

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