Justin Mack: The Man behind the Pen

I’m sure that my fellow Big Basket Blog readers will agree that the first-ever Longaberger StoryBook is a truly special piece of our shared Longaberger culture. I’m so happy to have been a small part of bringing the vision for StoryBook to life, and am very excited to see how it inspires the sharing of Longaberger love over the coming years.

Justin Mack

Before I share more of my personal StoryBook experience, however, I suppose I should share a bit about myself.

I’m a native Texan, but one who’s no stranger to the Midwest. After growing up in the Dallas area, I headed north and braved the Indiana cold for four years of college at The University of Notre Dame. I also spent a couple of years living in Chicago when I was barely more than a toddler.

These days, I’m back in the Lone Star State, and when I’m not spending time with my Longaberger family at the greatest basket-shaped building on earth, I work on all sorts of communications projects at the CVSL headquarters in Dallas. There’s never a lack of variety in my world, but one of my favorite things to do is write.

I’ve written articles about movies, communications for various companies, and even a chapter about Batman (my favorite fictional character) for a book about superheroes in pop culture. But when I was invited by Michael Somoroff to help write some of the stories for the first-ever Longaberger StoryBook, I immediately felt the excitement of a new and altogether more meaningful opportunity.

I met Michael earlier this year, as we were both experiencing the world of Longaberger for the very first time. I’ll never forget touring the manufacturing campus and the Homestead together, meeting many of our basket makers, Consultants and the Home Office team. The more people we talked to, the more something became clear to both of us: Longaberger makes the best handcrafted baskets in the world, but the greatest treasures in the Longaberger community are the stories that express how deeply connected its members are.

Every basket is a symbol of genuine caring and dedication, and those are the qualities that made Michael and I fall in love with Longaberger before our first day in Frazeysburg was through. It wasn’t long before we gathered the Home Office team and sales leaders together and began brainstorming how to share our heart with the world in a fresh and exciting way.

The result of that collaboration (which involved many long meetings and a lot of hard work) was the Longaberger StoryBook and WishList. We all felt that we’d come up with a wonderful concept, so the next question was “of all the Longaberger stories to tell, which do we tell first?”

Fortunately, there wasn’t really a wrong answer to that question, and the team eventually settled on a few very special members of the extended Longaberger family to ask to be a part of our first StoryBook. Two of those people were Jackie Vigil and Longaberger Executive Director Paula Vandegriff.

Paula Vandergriff

Jackie Vigil

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I met Jackie on a sunny day in Houston, at the home of her friend and fellow Home Consultant, Kathie Meyer. Jackie courageously agreed to let us share her personal story of renewal in the pages of StoryBook, and Kathie was kind enough to open her home to us and let us turn it into a

makeshift photo studio for the day.

Michael was there with me, capturing Jackie and her story in photographs. I was focused on getting to know Jackie the best I could so that I could translate her incredible story to text. Jackie poured her heart out to us with total honesty. Trying to do her any sort of justice through words was extremely difficult, but I’m so grateful to have been there that day. Jackie is a true one-of-a-kind, as is Kathie, as is Longaberger.

After several hours of laughing and crying together, Michael and I said goodbye to Jackie and Kathie and hauled a couple hundred pounds of camera equipment to the Houston airport knowing we had just experienced something special. As we had during our first visit to Frazeysburg and Newark, we’d seen firsthand the humility and love that make Longaberger a force for good in this world.

My conversations with Paula during the process of writing the “Weaving Hope” story fit the same mold. While I wasn’t able to join Jim Salzano on his trip to Virginia to take photos of Paula and her family, I remember how his face lit up as he showed the results of his visit to the Home Office team for the first time. He couldn’t stop talking about how inspiring Paula was, or how much fun he had with her family.

Every part of the Longaberger StoryBook and WishList—every word, every image, every product—is a labor of love. It took an army of dedicated people and more than a few 20-hour days to complete, but it’s something for everyone who loves Longaberger to be proud of.

One of the best parts of my experience in working on the first StoryBook and WishList was the knowledge that this is only the beginning! I am as excited as any of you to see what I’ll find in the next issue!

Everybody has a story, and we would love to hear yours! Email us at mystory@longaberger.com to share it with us!