Alec Surratt is the supervisor of the international mailing department at the United Church of God, and he is retired from the home office in June of this year. He worked for the Church for 41 years as a full-time employee.
Alec’s very first job for the Church was back in his college days when all students at Ambassador College were required to work during their time on campus. The job he held as a freshman was working with landscaping and working as a janitor. He jokes that these jobs were to test the incoming freshmen’s attitude.
Alec started college in 1966 to study Spanish and had previous college experience before attending Ambassador. His next job wasn’t a paid position. In his spare time he would visit the Spanish department and soon began to volunteer, mostly on Saturday nights and on Sundays. He read mail written in English that was sent from Latin America. Alec said the pile of letters was backed up for months, and there was a need for help in the department. However, he enjoyed doing this job, and that is why he continued to come in on weekends to volunteer. After graduation he was offered a full-time job in the Spanish department.
In 1968, an ad for the Spanish edition of The Plain Truth ran in an issue of Reader’s Digest. Over the next few months, requests for the magazine grew from about 70 to 80,000. Alec had to learn how to read Spanish addresses quickly and correctly.
The original Spanish department was out of the Ambassador College Bricket Wood campus. When Charles Dorothy, who worked as head of the Spanish department in Bricket Wood, moved to Big Sandy, he brought along the department with him. All literature had British labels when the department moved, so Alec, along with others in the department, spent about two years relabeling every piece of literature.
In 1972, the Spanish department moved to Pasadena, California, so Alec and his wife Donna moved there as well. He worked there until 1995, when he was laid off from his position in the Spanish department.
For the next four years he worked for immigration in Dallas, Texas. Around 1999, Connie Seelig, who worked at the home office in Cincinnati, Ohio, needed help with international literature requests. Connie and Alec have been longtime friends, and she suggested he help out. Alec worked remotely before moving to Cincinnati to be the supervisor of the international mailing department. He worked at the home office in Cincinnati since 2000.
Alec tells an inspiring story of one of the first members of the Church from Colombia in the 1960s. His name was William Fly. He owned a wealthy coffee plantation, and Alec first met him at the Feast of Tabernacles in Big Sandy in the 60s. William had so much faith and determination for the truth. He wanted desperately to be baptized and would only hire people to work for him if they read through the Bible Study Course first. In a way, he introduced many people to the truth. He died in 1972, but William Fry’s story has always inspired Alec.
Donna Surratt is the international mail fulfillment clerk and retired in June as well. Donna performed file maintenance and letter reading in English and Spanish. She worked for the Church for 29 years, and she is married to Alec Surratt.
Donna’s first job was in the kitchen when she was a student at Ambassador College in Big Sandy, where she received her very first paycheck. While still attending college she worked in the mail reading area and later volunteered in the Spanish department. In the Spanish department she read mail written in English that came from Latin America and the Caribbean.
In January 1979, she was hired full-time in the Spanish department at the Big Sandy campus. Donna didn’t know Spanish when she started working in the Spanish department. She took one semester of Spanish, and according to Donna she learned the language “through a lot of prayer and a dictionary.” It took a few years, but she eventually learned to read Spanish and learned to understand it when it was spoken. However, she never really learned how to speak it.
Donna worked for the Spanish department until February 1995. In February of that year she was laid off with the entire Spanish department for not following the changed beliefs of the Worldwide Church of God.
For the next five years she worked for immigration in Dallas, Texas, along with Alec. In 2000, Donna moved with her husband to Cincinnati because he accepted a job at the home office. Two years later in 2002, Donna received the international mail fulfillment clerk job at the home office and has worked there since.
Donna said that just about every job she had was because Alec worked there first and put in a good word for her. She never had to even apply for her jobs.
The Surratts do love to travel. Alec’s favorite place is Hawaii. He likes the idea to just get lost and climb the mountains. Donna’s favorite place to travel is Latin America. She says the people are just so warm and wonderful there. They have met so many people there over the years that the brethren and their friends wouldn’t even let them stay in hotels. The Surratts have spent a lot of time in Mexico for Alec’s job. He had to help train people working in the mailing department there.
The Surratts plan on moving to Oklahoma for their retirement.
There have been many stories and adventures over the years working for the Church, but it has all been worth it for the Surratts. They will be greatly missed by the home office staff.
Longtime Friends and Work Colleagues Shared Their Thoughts:
Mario Seiglie: “I have the privilege of having known Alec and Donna Surrat since 1971, when, as a young student, I attended Ambassador College, Big Sandy. Alec already worked in the Spanish Department and I worked for him in my last year of AC in Pasadena. He was quite patient with me as I came up to speed with my Spanish and always got back to me quickly when I had a question. He was virtually a walking encyclopedia about Latin America and its frequently convoluted addresses. He has such a passion for his work, and thousands of Latin American brethren corresponded with him at one time or another.
“It has been a tremendous pleasure to work with both Alec and Donna through the years, and I have greatly admired their calm, easy-going, but very efficient manner. They have been very supportive of United through the difficult times and have had a rock-solid faith, looking not primarily to men, but to God the Father and Jesus Christ for their guidance.
We will greatly miss both of them!”
Connie Seelig: “I’ve worked on and off with Alec for 47 years. He was working in the Spanish department in Big Sandy, Texas, when I was hired as a freshman in college. Donna and Alec were so good to a poor college graduate waiting to get her first paycheck. They actually fed me lunches those first two weeks.
“When the home office moved to Cincinnati in 1998, I was the only employee in mail processing. Needless to say, I was overwhelmed, even though our mail volume was much less than it is now. We were mailing about 300 envelopes a week back then. But with only one employee trying to handle incoming and outgoing mail, plus process all the donation mail, it was a lot. There wasn’t a lot of time to handle the international mail, which kept growing. Alec was living in Dallas at the time, and when we needed help with the international mail, he was the first one to come to my mind, because I knew his love of geography and atlases. Thankfully, he was willing to help us remotely at first. But as the international mail kept growing, we needed him here in Cincinnati, so thankfully he was willing to come.
“It was a special bonus to hire Donna later, because she has such a gift for detail work and investigation of address formatting of international countries. They will be greatly missed. It is hard to give 47-plus years of experience to someone else. But they did a good job of training their replacements, Josh Raudenbush and David Salek, and I look forward to working with both.”