Penn McMichael History
Penn McMichael first started working in the heavy equipment industry in high school. His father, Jule McMichael Jr., was a salesman for Trax Incorporated in Atlanta, GA. His dad handed him a call list and put him working the phones – offering equipment to potential clients and digging us leads. After graduating from UNC in 1997, Penn went to work for Cater Machinery – the Caterpillar dealer in Virginia.
Unfortunately, in April of 1998, Penn was the driver in a horrible drinking and driving accident that resulted in the death of a friend. Through his inability to handle the guilt of his friend’s death, Penn accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. It changed his life forever. Penn was convicted of two felonies and spent two years in prison in North Carolina.
After being released from prison in December of 2000, Penn could not find a job. Later in 2001, Trax Incorporated offered Penn a job on a commission only basis. His older brother, Jule, was working for Trax at that time. Since he did not have a driver’s license, Penn would ride a bicycle to work. When he had to show a machine, he would often pay someone to drive him to it.
In late 2001, Penn and Jule got word the Trax Incorporated was going to be closing its doors. So, Penn and Jule took the money from a sale of a Euclid R35 and started Trax North Carolina. They ran the business together until 2005. They decided to split the company with Jule keeping Trax North Carolina and Penn taking his half and forming Tar Heel Machinery. Penn was hesitant to go out completely by himself, so he asked his Christian brother Scott Woody to join him. Scott had just recently left his former company and was buying/selling machines out of his home. Scott would be in Raleigh and Penn would work from Reidsville.
Tar Heel Machinery flourished into a thriving heavy equipment dealership with rentals, sales and service. In 2013, Penn and Scott signed on to carry the Sany excavator line. The Sany dealership opened new doors and helped the company grow even more.
In October of 2015, Penn and Scott sold Tar Heel Machinery. Penn was unsure about what to do with his life, but he knew that he wanted to help people, especially convicts, drug addicts and children. At the suggestion of a relative, Penn went and visited the Durham Rescue Mission, one of nation’s top faith based homeless shelters and addiction programs. https://www.durhamrescuemission.org/
It was incredible. The Durham Rescue Mission was permanently changing the lives of people. 389 people were living at the Mission that day on one of two campuses – a men’s campus and a women and children’s campus. Penn knew that he wanted to create something similar in Rockingham County. Gail Mills, one of the directors, told Penn that another man from Rockingham County named Torrey Easler had been by a few weeks ago with the hopes of getting a Mission started. So, Penn and Torrey got together. Torrey was the pastor of a church and had taken over a food ministry called The Lord’s Pantry. But, he wanted to make it into so much more. Penn and Torrey shared the vision to make a real difference to the people of Rockingham County.
The Lord’s Pantry was able to rent an empty church and a house that went with it for around $450 per month. The pews were taken out and sold. Food Lion donated shelving for the food. With the help of volunteers, the old freezers and refrigerators were moved to the new location. Once the shelves were stocked, The Lord’s Pantry was open to clients. Shortly after opening, the name was changed to the Rockingham Rescue Mission because it is not just about satisfying the hunger of people, but helping them in every possible aspect of life. Showers have been installed for client use (some clients said they had not showered in 6 months!), we opened a soup kitchen in the basement fellowship hall. Other organizations are joining in like Moses Cone Health System has congregational nurses there whenever our doors are open to offer free health care to the clients. Also, the North Carolina Baptists Men’s dental bus came in August 2016, providing free dental work for clients. The Mission has partnered with other ministries and local Chambers of Commerce to form the Feed Rockingham group that gave a frozen turkey and a box of all the necessary items to have a full meal to over 1300 families in the county at Thanksgiving. There are simply too many things happening at the Mission to list.
Things were growing so fast and the need was so great, Penn and Torrey could not keep the Mission operating as it should on a volunteer basis. So, God answered another prayer. In the late summer of 2016, the Rockingham Rescue Mission received a grant from a local trust to hire a full time staff person. The board of directors tapped Torrey to be the executive director of the Rockingham Rescue Mission. And he is doing an excellent job. He clearly is the right person for it.
With Torrey taking the helm at the Mission, Penn now has more time to buy and sell heavy equipment. Penn feels like the Lord is telling him that through his business in the heavy equipment industry, that Penn will be able to continue to be a major financial supporter of the ministry.