Ramsay Easterling and his wife, Heidi, have long been active with their church, St. John's Anglican. Then in 2008, Easterling took his involvement a step further when he became one of the founding board members of the church-sponsored Horizons Social Services.
Horizons offers a meal program, food pantry and clothes closet for people who are homeless or simply in need of some assistance. Getting involved in the program -- and remaining involved to this day as a board member -- has been fulfilling for Easterling, the father of three children.
Easterling recalled how Horizons started out as a way to give the needy "a hand up instead of a hand out."
"We would literally have people come to the door of the church seeking assistance," he said. So the church decided to make use of its industrial kitchen to begin churning out meals for the needy. Then other services also were started. The lunch program now serves between 100 and 125 people a day.
"It's definitely eye opening," Easterling said. "Quincy is an area where you don't think there's a lot of need, but there are some families that can't afford to put a can of green beans on the table."
Easterling, who works as a vice president, senior financial adviser and senior portfolio adviser with Merrill Lynch Wealth Management, also has done volunteer work with the Big Brothers Big Sisters program and the Junior Achievement program in the public schools.
He said he's simply glad for the chance to help out.
Name: Ramsay Easterling
Family: Married to Heidi; three children -- Elaina, 5, Will, 3, and Haven Grace, 1.
Education: Attended John Wood Community College from 1999 to 2001 and Quincy University from 2001 to 2003.
How are you involved in your community?
Board of Directors for Horizons Social Services. Past organizations include Big Brothers Big Sisters of West Central Illinois, Junior Achievement volunteer and numerous roles with our local church, St. John's Anglican Parish.
What is your job, what do you do and what do you like best about it?
Vice president, senior financial adviser and senior portfolio adviser with Merrill Lynch Wealth Management. As a financial adviser with Merrill Lynch, my primary responsibility is to help clients pursue their financial goals. My day typically consists of meeting with clients to review their personal and financial goals. What I like most about my role with Merrill Lynch is the relationships we build with each of our clients and their families. As an avid golfer, it doesn't hurt that we can build great relationships on the golf course with clients while "working."
What is a typical workweek like?
I'm usually in the office by 8 a.m. each morning and home by 5 p.m. I'm very fortunate to have the ability to eat lunch at home every day with two of our three children and my awesome wife. Our oldest daughter, Elaina, just started kindergarten, so it's been a bit of an adjustment for us to not see her at lunch each day, but she assures me that she's thinking of us while eating lunch at school. During the day I'm usually meeting with clients, via in-person and or on the phone. I'm on a team with five tremendous advisers (just ask them) in our office, and we meet on a regular basis to discuss various items. Our team has clients in 35 different states, so some travel is required as well.
What was your first job, and what do you remember about it?
Early on I mowed greens at the Quincy Country Club. (Once I only mowed half of No. 18's green. You'll only make that mistake once.) But I would say that my actual first job was at Hy-Vee on Broadway. I started there bagging groceries in high school and continued on during college, where I worked my way up to an assistant manager and was working full time while attending college full time as well. I remember a lot about Hy-Vee. There happens to be quite a bit of overlap between what I did at Hy-Vee and what I do at Merrill Lynch. It's all about customer service. While I may deal with "clients" now, at Hy-Vee we dealt with customers and learned early from my first boss, Lynn Gallagher, the golden rule: "Without customers, we don't exist. They pay our paychecks." The same rule applies to our clients at Merrill Lynch. We are here to serve them. I also learned how to remove emotions from the day-to-day operations. For example, when we would get a snowstorm and all heck breaks lose at Hy-Vee, you learned to keep calm and carry on. The same can be applied in regards to dealing with the financial markets. We help clients remove the emotional response that typically doesn't serve them well when the "snowstorm" hits.
How do you balance everything?
I don't. My wife does. Heidi was valedictorian of her Liberty High School class and went on to graduate summa cum laude from Quincy University. She taught 3rd grade at Ellington School for five years before we had our first child. So, needless to say, she runs a tight ship at our house.
Which person has influenced you the most and why?
I can't narrow that to just one. First, my grandfather, who lived in Alexandria, La. From the time I was about 11 years old, I would spend nearly a month each summer with my grandparents down south. My grandfather was a doctor, and I would spend many days playing golf with him and his golf buddies. To my benefit, I was the only grandson that played golf, so I was able to experience a side of my grandfather that no other grandchild had the pleasure of. The unique relationship I was able to build with "Doc" was one that I will cherish each and every day. Second, my wife. The one who definitely saved my life. She has blessed me with three beautiful children, and her ability to maintain our household (24/7) is something that I simply could not do. She has done more for me than I deserve, and am deeply grateful for her spending the last 14 years married to a fool like me. I could list one more, but won't (Bruce Springsteen).
Have you ever failed at something? Care to give details? How did you recover?
Yes, many. Simply put, in life there is risk and reward. In order to enjoy the rewards you must be willing to take risk and learn from any failures.
What does success mean to you?
The ability to provide for my family. Raise my children to be good contributors to this community. And a long, prosperous marriage to my beautiful, loving, hardworking and severely underpaid wife.
What was your proudest professional moment?
On Sept. 21, 2007, nearly 10 years ago to the day, I had a decision to make. There were some changes occurring in our industry, and I had two paths that I could take. One path would had offered more certainty but less future opportunities. The other choice was to join a few of my colleagues and open Quincy's first Merrill Lynch office. After 10 years and a lot of hard work, I'm very proud of the team that I have the pleasure of working with day in, day out.
What is your favorite stress buster/leisure time diversion?
Spending time at the Lake of the Ozarks with my wife, our kids and my in-laws -- although sometimes it's like having four kids with my father in-law hanging around.
What is the biggest need in your community?
Based off of my experience with Horizons, I would say the need to break the poverty cycle. Giving working families the help they need to raise the next generation of community leaders. Dr. Bill Barker, the previous executive director of Horizons, always expressed his vision of expanding the services of Horizons to incorporate a work program that would help individuals break the cycle of poverty, and that's still a focus of the organization.
What gives you reason for optimism in your community?
Once again, it would be my experiences with Horizons. I have had the unique opportunity of being in the right place at the right time. Horizons started nearly 10 years ago during the "great recession," and I had the privilege of being one of the founding board members. But believe me, it had very little to do me and the rest of the board but rather much more the blood, sweat and tears given by Mark Geissler (chaplain) and Sarah Stephens (executive director) for many years now. The program started with a simple yet important goal -- giving Horizons clients a hand up and not a hand out. Ten years later, Horizons has brought together more than a dozen local faith organizations that volunteer daily to help the clients of Horizons. The organization receives no state or federal funding, and all funding is provided by our very gracious community of believers.
If you could go back in time and give advice to yourself when you were in high school, what would it be?
Study more, save more, drive slower, listen more -- shall I continue? All kidding aside, I would spend more time treating others the way I'd like to be treated.
If you could add a few more hours to the day, how would you spend them?
Curled up next to the fire place with a good book. Just kidding. Spending more time with my family and "client" golf.
Do you live by any mantra or saying?
"Nose to the grindstone, shoulder to the wheel," courtesy of Daniel Robert Barry, AKA a Dan-ism.