“I live in the city, I’m raising kids in the city and I care about these issues.”
In 1928, eighteen months before the Great Depression, Martin Ozinga, Sr., a Cook County Sheriff’s Deputy, became disenfranchised by the thin lines separating law enforcement and the law breakers and decided to go into business for himself. He and his partner purchased a piece of property and opened up a yard in the same area of Chicago where he had settled his family, Evergreen Park. The partners brought rail cars with coal into the yard and used a horse and buggy to deliver coal door-to-door for home heating. Ozinga lost his partner once the Depression took hold and would have lost the business altogether had home heating not been a necessity.
By the 1940’s, Martin Ozinga was looking to turn the business completely over to his sons before all three boys were called to serve during World War II and the Ozinga business nearly shut their doors again. But all three sons, Martin Jr., Rich and Norm, would survive the war. They returned home to Evergreen Park, dusted everything off and got the family business going again.
Marty Ozinga IV, in recalling the family history, says, “My grandpa [Martin, Jr.] didn’t see combat but he was a flight trainer in Pensacola. He was a Naval Officer in the Marine Corps training pilots.”
Shortly after the Ozinga sons returned from the war, there was a post-war building boom. Marty says, “They had a couple of trucks that were used during the coal delivery days and started responding to some of the building demands. They delivered raw materials like sand, stone and bags of cement to job sites. Same as the coal yard...we’ve always been a delivery business.
“My great-grandpa was actually adverse to getting into the building material business because it was not one of those things that you had to have. It wasn’t a necessity. In the end, the coal phased out and building materials became the key part of the business during the second generation.
“Although available in other cities, it wasn’t until about 1950 that ready mix concrete came to Chicago. The brothers thought it was natural to set up a concrete batch plant and buy a truck or two and get in the business of making concrete and delivering it to the job site. That’s been our core business since then.”
When Marty’s dad, Martin Ozinga III, and two of his cousins took over the business, they aggressively grew the business into a number of locations before turning over the reigns 35 years later. In 2012, Martin, his five brothers and one cousin began their run of Ozinga and they have moved into other delivery solutions like boats, barges and terminals. “We’ve also started a new venture building and servicing natural gas fueling stations.”
Marty IV met Corey Brooks, Executive Director of ProjectHOOD, for the first time during 2012 but he met Mrs. Delilah Brooks around 2008. Their kids went to the same school and there was a prayer dedication at the school. Delilah did the prayer.
In getting involved with ProjectHOOD, Marty says, “I was at our church one day and we were all praying together and I had already heard the news about him being up on the roof. And the pastor of the church said, ‘You know, it is kind of crazy that we, as Christians, are even allowing this guy to be up there that long.’ That was kind of convicting to me. I live in the city, I’m raising kids in the city and I care about these issues.”
Marty visits ProjectHOOD as often as he can, “I like to have some connection to what’s going on rather than just writing a check.” His advice to young people just starting out is to have a strong conviction for what they are doing. To believe the path that they are on is what they were meant to do. “Be passionate about the work you are doing and not chasing money or prestige. Make sure your motives are right. If you really believe in your product or service and you’re passionate about it and you persevere through the ups and the downs, your energy, your enthusiasm, your passion will come through and people will see it.
“Any kind of hard work, whether you’re working for somebody else or starting your own thing, should give a feeling of accomplishment. There is a pride that comes from working hard and doing what you’re gifted to do. Be creative, be bold, be imaginative and create something new. Take a risk and really believe in what you’re doing.
“I think growing up we had a lot of people around us who had these values and we saw them modeled and if it weren’t for that environment we wouldn’t be who we are today. You’re not just born with it. You’re born with a unique DNA and characteristics but there is a nurture element that is critical to foster those gifts and talents that people are born with.”
Next year, Ozinga will celebrate their 90th anniversary.