Women's History Month

Women’s History Month is important to United Scrap Metal as we have many women across the business facing challenges and overcoming these obstacles as we strive for success. Some of our team members have taken an opportunity to share what women have left an impact on their lives.

Audra Butler

I attribute my strong work ethic to my mom. She worked several jobs when my sisters and I were young before settling into her profession of choice in the Commercial Hardware industry. She ended up becoming the first woman in her field to gain both certifications as an AHC/CDC (Architectural Hardware Consultant and Certified Door Consultant).


I recall the time and dedication she put towards achieving those professional goals and how proud I was to see her recognized for her efforts in what was a very male-dominated industry. Nearly 40 years later my mom continues to excel at the top of her field as an instructor for DHI (Door & Hardware Industry) and works as a Spec Writer for DormaKaba (formerly Morgan Stanley – Best).

Jamie Sabel

Growing up as my mother’s firstborn, I witnessed firsthand the remarkable resilience and determination she exhibited as a young mother. Despite facing challenges that not all parents encounter, she never wavered in ensuring our needs were met, instilling in me a profound sense of perseverance and fortitude.


Our modest circumstances taught me the value of hard work and resourcefulness, virtues that have become integral to my approach in navigating male-dominated industries. My mother’s unwavering drive served as a guiding light, shaping my work ethic, and propelling me to push boundaries and exceed expectations.


I’ve learned to embrace challenges head-on, unafraid to roll up my sleeves and outwork the competition. Reflecting on my journey, I attribute much of my success in the scrap metal industry to the lessons learned from my upbringing. My nine years at USM serve as a testament to the resilience, independence, and dedication instilled in me by my mother, for which I am forever grateful.

Yessenia Ordonez

My mom (aka- mamacita) has made a significant impact on me.

At the age of twelve, my mom and abuela came to the United States as a refugee from Cuba. My grandmother applied to come to the US and went through a 5-year waiting period before granted permission to leave Cuba. To avoid their application from being denied my mom had to work at a mandatory labor camp for kids. At the age of 9 my mom had to work in the fields for 45 days picking potatoes, onions, and tomatoes. From 5am-5pm. They were granted permission to leave Cuba.

Years after being in the United Staes my mom started a temp-to-hire position with IBM. She later was employed permanently, then retired after 41 years.

My mom has made such a significant on my life because of her values. moral compass and actions. She has always been dedicated, committed and extremely loyal. What I admire most about my mom is though she grew up with so little, she has been able achieve so much in life. She is strong, beautiful, respectful and has an exceedingly kind heart.

Martha Ramirez

My mom has truly made an impact on me because she is the living example of what it means to work hard and stand out, even though there are obstacles in front of you. My mom came to the US at the age of 17, and upon getting her first job, she quickly identified that she needed to learn the English language to succeed. She described that her boss at this job was mean and would scold her often. Because my mom did not speak English, she never understood what her boss was telling her.

This motivated her to seek out English classes and complete the program. Throughout her work opportunities in this country, she was often recognized by her superiors for her performance, work ethic, leadership, and her ability to quickly learn new tasks. When I was younger, my mom enrolled in GED classes as she wanted to continue her education. This goal was personal for her, as it was not required of her, but her eagerness to stand out and to continue learning was her biggest motivation. My mom worked in the manufacturing industry throughout her career in the US and held roles at companies that manufactured microwaves, as well as computerized parts for different companies, such as John Deere.

Throughout my childhood, my mom exemplified amazing work ethic, the importance of education, and the idea that if you commit to something, you should commit fully and give it your all in order to stand out and be the best you can be. I carried these lessons throughout my life, and they were also a motor for me to continue my education, set goals for myself, and vow to be the best I can be in every role I’ve had.

Sadzi Oliva

Throughout my life, my biggest inspiration has been my grandmother, Marta Barcelo (aka Mamai).  Thanks to her, I know how lucky I am to be a First Generation American.  My family arrived in the United States in 1969 with nothing but a suitcase full of pictures and a few items of clothing as they were not allowed to take any other personal items with them from Cuba.  They came to Chicago not knowing how to speak English, never having seen snow, not knowing how to drive and without higher education degrees.

Mamai told me every day about how much she loved the United States and that there was no other place in the world like it.  She knew that here I could be anything I wanted to be.  As I sat in the back seat of her car every day delivering the dentures my grandfather made to dentists all over the city, I learned about the sacrifices my family made for a better life.  She was so proud of all my achievements including becoming a lawyer, being the first Latina to serve on the Illinois Commerce Commission and on United Scrap Metal’s Executive Team. I would not be the success I am today without her. From her I learned how to speak Spanish, be stylish, be respectful and have incredible work ethic. She passed away last year, and I hope I always make her proud.

At United Scrap Metal, I’m inspired by so many team members.  Team members whose families started a new life in the United States; who have navigated successful careers; who have put three children through college; who have made major sacrifices for the health of family members; successfully completed graduate degrees; and team members who take the time to mentor because of being part of the United Family.  Thanks to our Founder and CEO, Marsha Serlin, and our President, Brad Serlin, who fully support and take pride in team members who work hard to make dreams a reality.

Darin Haas

In July of 2023, we said our goodbyes to my wife’s beloved grandmother, Angelina “Angie” Testa, who left us at the remarkable age of 96. Until her final moments, Angie embodied strength and determination. Even as age took a toll on her mobility, Angie’s spirit remained unyielding. She never allowed her challenges to stop her from being present at family events.

On every occasion, she eagerly anticipated spending quality time with her expansive family, which included 4 children, 11 grandchildren, and 17 great-grandchildren. Born in 1927, Angie’s rich life stories were rooted in the working-class neighborhoods of South Philadelphia. It was there she began her journey as a bookbinder, earning a mere $0.40/hour. Yet, money was never the measure of her wealth. Angie’s true riches were her experiences, her resilience, and the memories she crafted.

One cherished memory many recall is her beautiful voice. As a young girl, Angie would appear on local radio stations singing, a passion she nurtured throughout her life. She held a special place in her heart for the melodies of Frank Sinatra.

For my wife, Lynn, and me, we were profoundly fortunate to have Angie play an integral role in our milestones – from joining us at our wedding to celebrating the birth of our first child. Angie’s life wasn’t just a testament to her own strength and resilience but also served as an inspiration to many. Her tales of perseverance, love for family, and zeal for life touched all who were privileged to know her.

Raul Ariza

While I take a moment to reflect on the impactful women in my life, I’m left with this overwhelming feeling of warmth. The first to come to mind is my mother.  My mom had an amazing journey starting from Axochiapan, Morelos in Mexico, where jobs are scarce and opportunities hard to come by. Throughout her journey of coming to America and developing roots here in Chicago, Il.  Along with my father, she is the anchor of our family’s success.

Many hear “head of household” and associate it with its literal definition of being the bread winner that provides monetary support to all members of the household. I see “head of household” and I think about my mom orchestrating our family’s well-being. Mom isn’t just mom, Mom is a therapist when you need someone to talk to, mom is a teacher when you needed help with homework, mom is a nurse when you scrapped your knee from running around when you weren’t supposed to be.  Mom is the best cook to ever serve you food and I could keep going on and on, but I’ll end it with, mom will always be mom and one knows if they ever needed help or advice, she’ll be there with open arms ready to aid in any way that she can.

Without the support and encouragement from my mom I don’t know where I would be, not just in my professional life but also my personal life. Her work ethic, determination, optimism, and her ability to see beyond what is seen as the norm, has taught me that everything we want to achieve is possible.

Thank you, Reyna Ariza, for supporting me in all my crazy endeavors and always making me feel like it’s okay to fail, because regardless of what happens I know you’ll be waiting with open arms, encouraging me to not give up and keep on going.

Joe Smith

My mother, Vicki Smith, has been an inspiration to me throughout my life. Most notably, her work ethic, how she treats people, and the constant desire to go out of her way to help others.

Vicki grew up on a farm in Western Minnesota. As the daughter of a farmer, she was expected to work on the farm at a young age. This is where her strong work ethic was developed. Even at age 70, she is no stranger to manual labor and still loves working in the yard and gardening. She might be the only Minnesota resident without a snow blower because she enjoys the physical activity of shoveling snow!

She realized the small-town farm life was not her dream and became the first in her family to attend a four-year university. After graduation, she became a teacher for the deaf and is still fluent in sign language to this day. After having children, she took time away from working to take care of her three children. She homeschooled my siblings for four years prior to going back to teaching when we moved to Champaign, IL in 1996. She taught in the Urbana School District for over 15 years where she oversaw their deaf and hard of hearing students. My mom treated these kids as if they were her own. For example, one of her students was brought to the States from Mexico when she was two years old. My mom worked diligently to help her become a US citizen and was successful in doing so. I have many memories similar to this where my mom went out of her way to positively impact others.

In retirement, she has stayed very active in her community and volunteering. She has spent time volunteering with the suicide/crisis hotline. She is involved in fundraising programs that provide scholarships for non-traditional women to attend college. Additionally, she is involved with lakeshore restoration and invasive species programs geared toward protecting the Minnesota lakes. She is the busiest retired person you will ever meet! I look forward to my mom visiting me for many reasons. But, I always know that when she leaves, my house will be cleaner and my yard will look better.

My mother truly embodies the core values and mission of USM. I am so fortunate to have been raised with those values and to have a role model like her. Cheers to you, VickI!

John Dergo

My mother inspires me every day.  She has battled cancer for 18 years with it continuously progressing.  Her selfless attitude along with putting others first while she doesn’t feel good herself is something I will always admire about her.  She is as tough as they come. She is literally my hero.

Jim Sause

When my mom describes her childhood, she will say it had two distinct parts. She, her mom, Dad and her brother Jimmy lived comfortably in Jersey City, New Jersey. My grandfather worked as a delivery driver for the Consolidated Laundry Company, my grandmother was home and life were good.  When my mom’s brother was 10, he tragically lost his battle with leukemia and passed away. Her Dad also lost his life to cancer two years later.

What was a happy, secure, loving environment changed quickly for my mom. What she learned through that experience was how to be brave, humble, and appreciative of every day. She learned the value of money and that hard work was a privilege and a must to survive. She learned to be a truly strong, resilient person. It’s a strength that she passed on to my sisters and I …. And an attribute that will forever make her my hero. She was voted Best Dancer in her High School Class and will always say she married the only boy she ever loved. She worked for the same company loyally for 45 years as a “typist” initially and after attending night school as an IT Administrator.

Without her guidance and love my life would have been much different. She set expectations high and accepted no excuses. She taught us to respect everyone and knew when you needed a hug as opposed to the often-issued tough love. Sometimes in the morning I call her and say “I’m looking for the greatest Mom in the world” – and she always answers “ well then, you’ve got the right number” – and in my opinion she’s 100% correct. To my mom and my hero, I say thank you…for every great lesson taught.

Sam Bornhorst

My mother has been an inspiration to me all my life. Something I took away from her growing up was to never show negative emotion towards negative incidents/occurrences. She was always composed and seemed to have a plan for every setback she encountered. She never made excuses for anything, and always made sure that us three kids were always taken care of, even if that meant working three jobs at one point. I carry that same mentality with me today, and I believe it has allowed me to be very successful.

Wajji Rizvi

My mother, the primary architect of my character, instilled in me the virtues of kindness, resilience, and the pursuit of knowledge. From her, I learned not just to face life’s challenges with a steadfast heart but to embrace them as opportunities for growth. Her stories of perseverance, from her early days in a male-dominated workplace to balancing her career with family, painted a vivid picture of what it means to be strong.