Jayco Chairman Wilbur Bontrager addresses media

Jayco Inc. is marking its 50th year in business this week by paying back the communities where it operates with “50 Acts of Kindness.” The initiative opened Monday (Feb. 19) and concludes today in the towns of Middlebury, Ind., home to Jayco’s headquarters and expansive manufacturing complex, along with Topeka, Ind., Shipshewana, Ind., and Twin Falls, Idaho, where the company recently announced a major expansion that will add a 248,000 square-foot production facility.

“When my father and mother started the business they obviously didn’t have any preconceived idea that we would ever make 50 years,” Jayco Chairman Wilbur Bontrager told media Monday in Middlebury. “We have been really blessed. Their dream was to produce campers for families to provide a wholesome and healthy outdoor lifestyle. Where Jayco started is just three miles from here on our family farm.

“The Middlebury community has been very good to us over all these years. Today, as we kick off our 50th anniversary, we are giving back to the communities that supported us. This includes our Jayco campus in Middlebury, the Starcraft facility in Topeka, the Highland Ridge campus in Shipshewana and the Jayco plant in Twin Falls.”

Jane Allen, superintendant of the Middlebury Schools and board member of the Northern Indiana Boys and Girls Club, accepts a donation

Bontrager reported that Jayco employs 4,100 workers at its four facilities and now produces all RV product types except Class B motorhomes. The company, a division of Thor Industries Inc., projects building around 80,000 RVs in 2018.

“All our employees are getting pizza for lunch today,” said Bontrager. “We ordered 2,000 pizzas. We are trying to reach out and touch all facets of these communities and give back our thanks to them. The golden rule was one of my dad’s founding principles that he lived by, and we are continuing that today.”

Also present was Jane Allen, superintendent of the Middlebury Schools and board member of the Northern Indiana Boys and Girls Club, to accept donations on behalf of those organizations from the Jayco “Acts of Kindness” celebration.

Jayco mascot J. Jay pumps gas at the BP station in Middlebury

“Jayco is a big part of who built the Boys and Girls Club,” said Allen. “They were a big part of the capital campaign and continually provide us funds to keep the club running. It’s one of the best things we have ever done in Middlebury to support our schools as well as the children in our community. So for Jayco to provide this kind of surprise gift to us today — not only to the club but for the school system — is indicative of what we have here in community, especially in Jayco. This is a wonderful surprise.”

The Jayco “Acts of Kindness” event included coffee and donuts for police, trees to parks departments, thank you notes, stuffed animals in 50 new RVs and stuffed animals to pediatric wards. In addition, Jayco provided lunch for all production employees, pizza parties for customer service departments, new equipment for local playgrounds, craft supplies to local Boys & Girls Clubs, school supplies to local schools, snacks to local after school programs, books to local libraries, and food to local dog shelters, just to name a few.

At the nearby BP gas station in Middlebury, a Jayco employee dressed as company mascot J. Jay approached a women about to pump gas. “This one’s on us,” the mascot said, grabbing the pump nozzle before the customer can get to it. “Well thanks,” said the woman. “I never expected this. Thank you very much.”