Building Healthy, Prosperous Communities
Small business origin stories are the vibrant threads that, woven together, often build a community’s tapestry.
Small business origin stories are the vibrant threads that, woven together, often build a community’s tapestry. In 1956, Dale Neliton and Orville (Orey) Kliewer, with the support of their wives Mildred (Millie) Neliton and Pauline Kliewer, began driving a 1946 Chevy pickup around Salem neighborhoods. These enterprising young men were soliciting garbage pickup services, door-to-door. Little did they know that they would be starting a venture that would last more than six decades and span at least three generations.
D&O Garbage Services, Inc. is a leader in waste collection and recycling in the greater Salem area. They have succeeded in many ways by being willing to stay on the cutting edge of technology and service innovation.
“I guess in many ways, we have always looked for a good way to stand out,” says Jeanette Neliton, D&O’s current Secretary/Treasurer. “One of the first notable steps that set us apart was when Dale and Orey got started. They offered to line a customer’s garbage can with newspaper as a way of keeping things neater if the customer agreed to leave discarded papers on top of the can.”
D&O has been innovating ever since. In 1979, the Neliton’s took over the entire business and started using little Cushman carts to pick up in courts, alleys and long driveways. The Cushmans allowed D&O to stop the use of one truck and consolidate routes, which in turn saved resources and increased productivity. In 1987 D&O began the collection of garbage with automated trucks, which again increased efficiency.
Yard debris collection was started in 1997 in response to a backyard burning ban imposed by the City of Salem. That same year, D&O automated all of its city and urban growth boundary area routes, providing three different sized garbage carts to tailor service to their customers’ individual needs. In 2002, the mixed recycling program, using the blue 95-gallon carts, was put in place to make the recycling collection program even more efficient and user-friendly.
While its innovation and focus on customer service has kept it ahead of the pack, D&O has another secret to its success.
“A lot of businesses like to say they’re a family,” says Neliton. “We still have strong ties to that original family business feeling and work hard to keep the small business environment where everybody is recognized as a unique person, not a number.”
That built-in, close-knit quality shared by D&O’s 31 full time employees translates outward in its commitment to employees and to the greater community.
Taking part in the SAIF OBI CompSAFE group workers’ compensation insurance program reinforces this commitment in many ways.
“SAIF is really more like a partner than an insurance company,” says Wes Helmer, D&O’s General Manager. “One example is how SAIF assisted us with a challenge many of our drivers face. Our drivers practically live in those trucks. Thanks to some site visits by SAIF, they were able to recommend a modification to the armrest in the trucks that reduced stress and helped avoid some injuries down the road. SAIF even helped us apply for some grant money to defray some of the cost.”
“I particularly like the fact that when we call SAIF, we get an actual person, and nearly all of the time it’s the same person,” says Neliton. “They know who we are, our history, and they can get right to our issue without missing a beat.”
Both Neliton and Helmer also point to the competitive rates and the dividends SAIF has been able to return over the years as strong benefits in being involved with CompSAFE. Those savings help D&O stay competitive and support causes important to them and their employees. One of those programs is CAN Cancer.
CAN Cancer was established by Gil, Stu and Corinne Martinez of Wilderness Garbage in cooperation with the Central Oregon Haulers. It has spread from there to include a wide range of the state’s haulers, including D&O. Haulers solicit donations from customers using easily recognizable purple flyers and envelopes. One hundred percent of these donations go to help local families with non-medical expenses, such as fuel, travel and food costs, who are receiving cancer treatment.
In eight years CAN Cancer has raised nearly $250,000, helping over 750 families in Central Oregon where CAN Cancer was established. For its part, D&O and the Mid-Willamette Valley Haulers Association have collected almost $41,000 and counting just since October of 2013 when the Willamette Valley Chapter was established.
“We’ve been blessed with the support of our customers and the community for 60 years, this June,” says Neliton. “This is just one small way we can give back.”