When UCC moves its Cleveland offices, one staffer will be back where she started
When the United Church of Christ moves its Cleveland offices, one staff member will experience a kind of homecoming.
Lynn Herbst will be back where she started work 43 years ago.
The new-old place is the AECOM building, 1300 E. 9th St. Starting in early 2022, its 11th floor and basement will house the UCC’s national ministry offices. Today, Herbst fills warehouse orders from the UCC’s current home at 700 Prospect Avenue. In 2022, she will move with the rest of the staff.
Penton Media days
The 21-story structure at East Ninth and St. Clair used to have another name. In 1978, the Penton Media Building was home to a bustling conglomerate of trade magazines. That’s when Herbst reported for work there, on the 8th floor.
She started out in accounting, cutting expense checks for sales reps who hawked Penton titles like American Trucker, Machine Design, and the Corn and Soybean Digest. She eventually became an editorial assistant for Lodging Hospitality, a magazine for the hotel industry.
It was, she said, a couple decades of good, steady work for a busy firm.
Then, on Sept. 11, 2001, came the tragic interruption. Hijacked planes hit buildings in New York City and Washington, D.C. “We were watching on TV in a conference room when the World Trade Centers fell,” Herbst said. There was immediate worry, of course, with Cleveland’s Federal Building right next door. Like most downtown businesses, Penton sent its employees home.
But another concern soon emerged: the effect on business. Many of Penton’s titles served travel-related industries, now jolted by 9/11 and its changes. “Air Transport World went belly-up,” Herbst said. Other magazines, too — serving trades like restaurants, hotels and more — “were in a downward spiral,” she said.
By early in the decade, Herbst had left Penton amid a downsizing. Then came a couple of years at a furniture company — followed by a buyout and, again, a downsizing. “We all lost our jobs,” she said.
Finding the UCC
That’s when she found the UCC. She started as a temp, filling in for a UCC Resources agent who was on maternity leave. The new mother “decided she would stay home with the baby, so I went full-time,” Herbst said. That was on Feb. 1, 2006.
It was a busy era for the UCC warehouse — located, at the time, in an industrial park in Berea, Ohio. The UCC’s popular “God is Still Speaking” initiative was in full swing. Herbst and four other customer-service reps took orders for Stillspeaking literature and merchandise, as well as for books, Bibles, hymnals and more.
Much has changed since then. All the stock and staff for the UCC Resources online store was moved downtown years ago, to the fourth floor of 700 Prospect. Plenty of products still go out the door from there, including special curricula, the ever-popular Desk Calendar and Plan Book, plus T-shirts, stoles, banners and more. But some items that UCCR used to carry — such as books and hymnals from The Pilgrim Press — are now distributed in other ways.
Herbst is the only remaining customer service agent. And she and the shipping crew — Brian Furry and Mike May — are among the last people still working daily at 700 Prospect. It’s been that way, mostly, since March 2020. That’s when almost everyone else started working remotely because of COVID-19.
‘Going to be weird’
And now the building is really emptying out, with boxes being packed for AECOM — and lots of surplus items being donated.
Most days, the only sounds on Herbst’s entire floor are her voice on the phone, the clack of her keyboard and the occasional the whir of her printer. She’s grateful for the church’s good security guards and measures. And though she and UCC Resources will be in the basement in her new-old building, she said she’s eager for the move to be completed.
She went by AECOM recently. “It’s changed a lot,” she said. A hair salon and a fitness center are new, and “the lobby is beautiful.”
“It’s like when you go back to your mom’s house but things look different,” she said. “That’s going to be weird.”
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