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Daily CSR

Daily CSR
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Employees of Virginia Natural Gas celebrate Golden Anniversary


Employees of Virginia Natural Gas celebrate Golden Anniversary
It was the autumn of 1972. Richard Nixon became the first American president to visit China, and the United Kingdom had recently joined the European Community.

On Hawaii Five-O, viewers tuned in to hear detective Steve McGarrett say, "Book 'em Danno," while teenagers lined up in arcades at shopping malls across the country to play the latest cutting-edge video game, "Pong."

It was also the year Hayden Barry started working at Virginia Natural Gas.

Hayden joined the energy company on November 13, 1972, after graduating from Warwick High School in Newport News. He is now 68 years old and has no plans to retire anytime soon.

And, if you do the math, that's 50 years with Virginia Natural Gas (VNG), making him the company's longest-tenured employee ever.

When asked why he was still working, the tall man with weathered features from years of working in the sun and on his farm leaned back in his chair with a big grin on his face.
"I just love my job and I'm too young to retire," said Hayden. "I love being part of the VNG team and continuing to serve our customers."

Hayden grew up in Hampton, Virginia, and was born deaf, a disability that never stopped him from following his dreams.

He went on to add, "I was born deaf, and sound never existed in my life, so not hearing was completely normal to me. I just knew that 'normal' people either went to college after high school or looked for a job. I choose the latter."

Hayden tried college for two weeks after graduating from high school and decided it was not for him. He returned home to look for work after summoning his mother to pick him up at Blue Ridge Community College in Weyers Cave, Virginia.

Job hunting is a difficult process for anyone, but imagine how difficult it would be for someone who is deaf or hard of hearing. Hayden was aware that his disability would present difficulties for many employers, but he also understood that everyone deserves to be considered for a job just as much as someone who is not disabled.

He began his career with Virginia Natural Gas as a meter reader, then moved on to the position of storeroom keeper, which he held for 35 years until 2007.

"I was responsible for all the inventory at three separate storerooms during that time," said Hayden. "I moved over from Norfolk to Newport News in 1982 and took care of the storeroom there as well as Hanover and Suffolk. I'm a workaholic and I stayed busy all the time, which was perfect for me."

In 2007, he landed another job with the company, this time returning to his first job...meter reading.

The VNG meter reading team drives more than 100,000 miles per year, automatically capturing data from a device mounted on company trucks. Hayden knew he'd found the perfect job, he said.

"I'm home-based and since I work alone, I can start my day when the sun comes up, sometimes as early as 5:30 a.m.," said Hayden. "it's a great job for someone my age."

Hayden occasionally interacts with customers while driving his route. You may be curious as to how he communicates with them.

"I read lips," he said.

While not completely deaf, Hayden has 15% hearing in his left ear and a cochlear implant in his right ear, which he had implanted when he was 50 years old.

"I hate it, so I rely on reading lips. I'm self-taught and as long as I can see you talk, we can have a conversation. But because of my lack of hearing, I must make sure I also keep my head on a swivel, so I know if a dog or person is approaching as well as always being aware of my surroundings," he added.

Hayden has seen a lot of people come and go in his 50 years with the company. But one thing has remained constant: the calibre of VNG employees.

"People here have always treated me with respect and have not made my hearing loss a big deal," said Hayden. "Of course, there are things that I can and can't do, but all my supervisors and teammates have treated me well and taken care of me. They know that my job has been one of the main staple things in my life."

Fifty years ago, Hayden walked through an open door of opportunity, and more importantly, he had the courage to do so. When the time comes, he'll know when to walk back out through that same door and retire, he said.

"I'll know when that time will come, but not today," said Hayden. "When it comes, I'll spend more time on my farm, with my wife and the grandkids. But even then, I really won't be 'retired' since there will always be something to do."