Shell Operator Fosters Hope
Oct 26, 2017
For Shell Puget Sound Refinery Operator Josh Wedin, fostering a passion for LEGO design and opening his home – and his heart – to numerous foster children go hand in hand.
Have you ever built a wall-sized mosaic out of LEGO bricks? Josh Wedin, an operator at Shell’s Puget Sound Refinery, has designed and constructed so many that he stopped counting.
Josh grew up in Mount Vernon, WA and initially thought he would become a teacher after studying history in college. But then he realized office life wasn’t a good fit, and he needed to find a different career path. After jobs at a sawmill and processing plant, he spotted an opening at Shell and applied for it. He has worked at the site for 11 years as an operator.
Outside of work, Josh pursues LEGO design and building as a creative outlet. As a kid, he loved building with LEGO, and the passion never faded as he grew older. Shortly after college, he began to view LEGO as an art form. Now, he spends numerous hours each month designing and constructing mosaics, castles and other elaborate structures. He and a friend launched The Brothers Brick in 2006, and it’s now the biggest LEGO fan site in the world. You can view a lot of Josh’s work on his Flickr page.
“With LEGO, you can build anything you want, tear it all down and then build something completely different with it. I love having that kind of freedom and the creativity that it generates.”
Josh has won numerous awards at various LEGO conventions and conferences, and his family is also involved in the LEGO hobby. He is well-regarded in the LEGO fan world, and LEGO regularly asks him to review the latest products before they’re released to consumers.
LEGO may serve as Josh’s primary hobby, but giving back to the community also plays a key role in his life.
Josh and his wife fostered many high-risk children
Many parents would likely agree that parenting is hard work – highly rewarding, but challenging at times. Serving as a foster parent may be even harder due to the emotional and physical challenges that children often experience due to trauma from their previous home life situations.
Josh and his wife made the decision to serve as foster parents shortly after they got married, and over the years they have fostered many high-risk children of varying ages, backgrounds and needs. They adopted three of their former foster children. After the adoption, they retired from foster care to focus on the needs of the adopted kids as well as their three biological children still at home. They still have three kids at home and two grandchildren living in Tacoma.
“Being a foster parent is an incredible gift,” he said. “You have the opportunity to make a positive impact in someone’s life in a significant way and provide the critical support they wouldn’t receive otherwise.”
Wedin family partners with Youthnet
Wedin’s wife is a former foster child, and she said the time she spent with her foster parents was life-changing. When Josh and his wife met in college, they knew they wanted to give back and looked for an agency to partner with in the local area. They found Youthnet, which is an organization that provides caring and supportive educational and social services to youth and families across Skagit County, WA to help them attain productive and successful lives.
Josh and his wife live on a farm in Sedro-Wooley, WA and have volunteered at local soup kitchens and other shelters. They always bring their kids with them.
“It’s important that kids spend time with people who aren’t like them – people who may not look like them, talk like them or view the world in the same way,” said Josh. “I also want my kids to grow up with the belief that they have the power to change the world for the better.”
Parenting impacts approach to day job
Josh’s former role as a foster parent definitely impacts how he approaches his job as an operator at the refinery.
“I’m a lot more empathetic now,” he said. “I try to have compassion for other people’s problems, and I’ve learned to work with an array of people of different backgrounds, values and challenges.”
Also, after having parented so many at-risk children, safety is highly important to Josh. “Safety is a culture, and it requires everyone to look after each other regardless of experience, rank or title. It’s all around caring about other people and their lives.”
Despite trauma, kids can thrive
When Josh looks back on the time he and his wife spent caring for foster children, he remembers so many moments when kids with extremely tough backgrounds (drug-addicted parents, abuse, etc.) came out of their shells and blossomed.
“I watched a teenage boy who came from a poverty-stricken childhood spend hours working on our farm so he could earn $100 to buy the first significantly large item he had ever purchased himself…the pride on his face was something I’ll never forget. I also saw a teenage girl who had been severely abused finally feel empowered to take charge of her own life and pursue her goals and hopes for the future.”
He paused for a second before adding, “We cared for children who have seen some of the worst things imaginable, and we tried our best to give them the tools to move forward – not give up. With love, nurturing and support, it’s unbelievable what many could achieve despite the trauma, and we feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to help them learn to help themselves.”
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