Enjoying one's retirement usually means there's finally time to spend with loved while others may dream of travelling and visiting some of those far away exotic places they only dream about when they were employed full-time. For Chester Jones, a retired engineer who knew how to read the signs laid out to him print, retirement is where he found the calling to his next career.
Chester Jones says, "In May of 2009, I received the Methodist Men's Quarterly magazine and it had an article about the PET, the Personal Energy Transporter."
It was in that article where Chester Jones learned he could help people all around the globe by making the Personal Energy Transporter his pet project. Inspired by his desire to help people gain their independence and his need to stay busy, Chester was able to convince friends to volunteer and together, he and his small army traveled to Luling to work in a shop where the PETs were assembled. It was a job they all enjoyed but two months into their volunteering, the shops owner delivers some surprising news to the Bryan bunch.
"He called us over and said, fellas, I've been diagnosed with cancer, my health is bad, why don't you take the whole thing to Bryan," says Jones.
The news came as a shocking blow and the questions that followed were too numerous to count.
Jones wondered, "How would I get the volunteers? Where would I get the money? Where are we gonna put all this stuff?"
Once the group returned to the Brazos Valley and did some soul searching and praying, it all became very clear to Chester.
"I said boys we can do this," Jones recalls.
With the decision to build PETs finally behind them, Chester and his loyal friends and co-workers stepped into their workshop so strangers could take the first steps towards reclaiming their lives.
Jones says, "In November, we actually built four, then we built nine in December and we built 28 in January and 44 in February and we've been going ever since. We finished our 1000th unit several months ago. We put 1000 across the back of it and then we got pictures of the flags of the different countries and we pasted that on the sides so you can see it there with all the different flags of the different countries that we shipped to."
That number is now well over 1200, but no matter how many PETs they make, no other is as meaningful as the first.
"The first one I saw was when they picked him up and put him in the PET, you never saw a bigger grin in your life. This man was ecstatic. He had a little small shop and he got around with a little piece of square wood about this with a knob on it and he shuffled around on the floor like that and did his shoe work. He ended up fixing the back of it with his tools and now he can go, not only get around, but he can go do work outside with his shoe tools. It changes their life totally," said Jones.
And just as the PETs change the lives of those who are suffering in distant lands, they've also impacted the lives of those like Chester and all who build them.
Jones says, "If I can get them to come in here and take a look and walk through it, they get hit in the heart just like I did. That's our story, that's were we are, we're still plugging along."
While Chester Jones is the driving force behind the Bryan PET Project, he's quick to point out he doesn't do the work alone. He says he has a good bunch of people and that all he has to do is call them and they will show up to work by his side. Even though the all volunteer group works for free, Chester jokes with his friends and tells them that if they fool around and get behind, he's gonna cut their pay from zero to nothing and if he sees that they're doing a good job, Chester says he gonna double their pay from zero to double zero.