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|Wilhites celebrate 35 years in business; ARCO fundraiser highlights celebration|
In April 1973, John Mark Wilhite was 7 years old, picking up trash at his father's new business, Louisiana Plastic Industries.
Thirty-five years later, Wilhite sits behind the desk as president of one of the area's most respected companies.
Back in '73, Wilhite's brother, Ross Wilhite Jr., who was 8 years old at the time, was by his brother's side helping out on the first day their father, Sidney, opened his own venture.
Today, Ross Wilhite is president of Louisiana Plastic Converting Corp., which encompasses the recycling operation of the two businesses the Wilhites operate off Downing Pines Road in West Monroe.
"We've been working for Louisiana Plastics since then," said John Mark Wilhite. "We got started early, and were paid a dollar and a nickel an hour, and we built our way up from there."
Sidney Wilhite founded his company in the Red Willet building located near Memorial Park Cemetery in Monroe. He moved to LPI's present location in West Monroe in 1976, buying an old lumber yard from the Sanders family.
The Wilhite brothers bought the recycling business from their father in 1997, and today the company recycles 110 million pounds of plastic annually. When Wilhite first started his recycling business, on average, the company would recycle about 3 million pounds each year.
During the past five years, the Wilhites also have added a 200,000 square-foot-facility and installed one of the area's largest recycling systems in Louisiana Plastic Converting Corp.
Today, LPCC conducts business all over the world, while LPI focuses most of its attention on North America.
"We're optimistic about the future, and we're very proud to be in this community," John Mark Whilhite said. "We're looking forward to another 35 years."
While the Wilhites are celebrating their 35th anniversary, they also are gearing up to help raise money for one of their favorite organizations, ARCO.
LPI is the title sponsor for the sixth annual Doug Pederson Celebrity Event, which is ARCO's single biggest fundraiser.
ARCO was founded in 1954 by Ike and Shirley Hamilton and a number of other families in response to the need to educate and support their children with developmental disabilities.
Today, ARCO helps babies with disabilities receive interventions that could reduce the impact of their disabilities through pediatric therapies and instructions to improve their neurological systems.
Also, ARCO helps local adults with developmental disabilities achieve their dreams through assisted living and finding them jobs that match their skills.
Missy Fleming, ARCO's resource development director, said the Wilhites have continuously worked hard to raise money for ARCO.
"They do so much to help so many," Fleming said. "They are a family that works very hard and they are focused on bettering our community."
"We are only one agency that they support and it's phenomenal to have families like the Wilhites endorse our mission," Fleming continued. "That just gives us an endorsement to the community that people with developmental disabilities are just like you and me."
"It's just incredible to be able to honor this family that has done so much for our community and celebrate all they've accomplished in their 35 years," she added.
John Mark Wilhite says his family is honored to be a part of efforts to assist ARCO, and they look forward to many more endeavors.
"To me, this is one organization that has a direct benefit to the citizens of our community," Wilhite said. "The money gets to the people who need it, and we think this event, for the direct economic impact, surpasses any other put on by any organization."
Fleming expects more than 30 celebrities to attend the Doug Pederson Celebrity Event to help raise money for the organization.
"They have such a genuine heart for the mission of this agency," Fleming said of all the celebrity guests who participate. "No one is paid to come in … they come here to support their friend Doug Pederson and they come because they believe in the mission."
The fundraiser for ARCO will kick off at 6 p.m. on Friday, May 2, with the annual honky-tonk talent search/concert at the Monroe Civic Center. Country music songwriters Galen Griffin, Wynn Lawrence, Don Sampson and Dave Turnbull will judge to determine the best honky-tonk artists in the area.
On Saturday, May 3, a private VIP party and auction will be held for ARCO and to officially celebrate LPI's 35 years in business. A golf tournament to benefit ARCO will be held Sunday, May 4, at Calvert Crossing.
For sponsorship information, tickets or for more details about the fundraiser, call Fleming at 372-7817.