BELOIT - Ron Whitley may live in Chicago, but he still calls Beloit home.
And Beloit is where he can be found five days a week operating Father & Sons Cleaning, LLC. It's also where he volunteers much of his time and effort.
Whitley grew up in the city and graduated from Beloit Memorial High School (BMHS). He then earned a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point.
After that, his career involved business and management positions as he moved up the corporate ladder. With success also came moves, six times in 10 years, he said.
But then, things changed for Whitley.
In about 2008, as the economy took a nosedive, many corporate jobs also were eliminated, including his.
After that, "I took four months off," he said.
In 2009 he went down to New Orleans, witnessing the devastation that still lingered from Hurricane Katrina's blows of 2005, he said. He also helped out with cleanup.
The experience changed him.
"It was a cause correction for me. It really put things in perspective," he said.
As a result, Whitley came back full circle to work in Beloit.
"My first job was working for my dad (Bob Whitley)," he said.
His late father began the cleaning business in 1968.
Ron took over the operations, marketing and human resources.
His two brothers also run a Father & Sons Cleaning, LLC, one in Dallas, Texas, and the other in Atlanta, Georgia.
And over the years since his return, Whitley has become involved with several volunteer organizations. One is the Practice Interview Program at BMHS.
"Mr. Whitley has been a very positive force in teaching our students professional skills through his continued involvement in the Practice Interview Program," said Mitch Briesemeister, school technical coordinator. "He has a unique ability to connect with students and teach them the behaviors that will lead to continued success in whatever they pursue."
Through his business, Whitley also has an internship program and is partnered with Community Action. He hires ex-offenders and works with them as they transition back into society and the working world.
"It's something for them to put on their resume," he said. "And hopefully, they then begin looking for bigger and better things."
It gives him a chance to get to know people and lend them a hand up, not a hand out, he said.
"Sometimes we are all only one step away from challenge. It could be any of us," he said.
Whitley hires both men and women and has hired several men from Community Action's Fatherhood program.
"Despite their lack of work history and experience he hired them," said Erick Williams, Coordinator of the Ex-Offender Program. "He was patient and kind, which allowed them to gain the skills necessary to become gainfully employed. Several of the men after working with Mr. Whitley were able to obtain jobs making a livable wage with benefits. Mr. Whitley met them where they were at and continued to work with them."
Whitley also volunteers for the Beloit Meals On Wheels (MOW) program and said he enjoys the task.
"Sometimes the only people they see are the people who deliver the meals," he said of the recipients.
His efforts are appreciated.
"Ron has been delivering with our organization for over a year and says that his time volunteering with our organization is often the most meaningful part of his day," said Ellen Wiegand, MOW Executive Director. "He enjoys the brief moments of interaction with our special clients and how it's a reminder that life for some can be challenging, and to appreciate what you have, and not to take things for granted ... he is a great example of someone who gives back and wants to be part of the solution to a better and stronger Beloit community."
When asked why he picked the volunteer opportunities he has, he had this to say:
"I try to pick spots and engage where I can be the most impactful. I probably get more out of it than the organizations. I really believe that Biblical saying: 'To whom much is given, much will be required.' I've been tremendously blessed and I have a responsibility to give back. That's the driver."
Among Whitley's many other volunteer activities over the years, are: Jobs For Youth, Mercy Home for Boys and Girls, Chicago Lighthouse, Chinese American Service League, National Urban League, Habitat for Humanity, BMHS Lunch & Learn Initiative, Student Mentorship Program and Beacon of Hope following the Hurricane Katrina cleanup.