When you meet your future employer through a church ministry team, chances are that you have more than a few values in common. Debbie Walls first met Bruce Leetz—owner and CEO of Indiana Beverage with a long history of service within the company—when they served on a ministry team together through their church in Valparaiso.
Walls and her husband had just relocated from Colorado to be closer to their families. Both products of a Midwestern upbringing, they also missed everything about their old stomping grounds.
“We wanted to raise our own kids here,” Walls said.
As soon as she and her husband settled back down in Valparaiso, Walls devoted five years to staying at home with her two young children, picking up part-time hours at her kids’ preschool. With her background in project management and human resources, she was also involved in HR-related issues within her church as part of the Personnel Ministry Unit. Once her youngest approached middle school age, Walls decided that it was time to go back to work full time.
Her mind immediately went to Leetz, whom she had grown to admire a great deal through their time volunteering together. She was in luck—a position in Indiana Beverage’s HR department had just become available.
“I reached out to him in the right place, at the right time, and I was blessed enough to fill that role,” Walls said.
Needless to say, Walls flourished in her role. Now, six years down the line, she’s happy to be working closely with people in a company that values its employees and community as highly as its customers.
“I love that my job allows me to work with everyone in the company on a personal basis,” Walls said. “And I really love working for a family-owned company that gives back to the community. There’s this wonderful environment that was established by the Leetz family. It’s led from the top down, and you can feel it from the top down.”
Along with the standard internal processes and questions Walls handles, she also oversees the company’s wellness program, Road to Wellness, which encourages employees to be physically active on a regular basis through a rewards system. Plus, she helps to maintain the employee vegetable garden.
“The garden consists of three plots that a small group of us take care of over the summer months,” she said. “It’s formed this close bond among us, and it can be very therapeutic once you get into it. We encourage each other to take a break, go out to the garden and focus on something besides work. It’s rewarding to see things grow!”
Walls has discovered she especially enjoys the interview process and getting the chance to develop new and potential hires.
“Oftentimes, I’ll interview very young, straight-out-of-high school people for warehouse positions. Even if they don’t get the job, I love being able to give them that interview experience, to help them finetune their marketable skills and bring them a step further in their career journey,” Walls said. “And it’s rewarding to see people grow within the company, starting young and working their way up.”
With her passion for encouraging growth, Walls landed in the right place.
But when she’s not nurturing people (and plants!) in her career field, she’s out cresting white capped waves and wrestling sails.
“I did a lot of sailing as a kid,” Walls revealed. “My mother-in-law lives at Lake Wawasee, so we’re very fortunate that we can spend time at the lake. I try to sail at least once a summer.”
Walls actually met her husband at Northwestern’s sailing club when she was a student there—he was working there in the Summers between his undergrad career at Purdue West Lafayette.
“If it’s not sailing, I like taking the kayak out,” Walls said. “It’s so calm and peaceful when you get back in the channels.”
Calm in choppy waters or calm ones, Walls charts a strong course.