Ed Kline, president of Galloway Township-based Kline Construction Co., does not know how many charities and organizations the family business has helped over the years.
“He can’t keep track of them. He says yes to just about everybody,” said Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson, who nominated Kline for The Press of Atlantic City’s annual Bailey Award.
In its 18th year, the award honors a community-minded business in the spirit of Jimmy Stewart’s character George Bailey in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” the enduring holiday classic about a businessman who gets a glimpse of a Bedford Falls without him. Kline Construction is this year’s winner, chosen from among 21 nominations.
“He’s Atlantic County’s answer to Jimmy Stewart,” Levinson said.
Kline contributing money, time and energy to good causes — from lending backhoes and workers to build community gardens in Atlantic City, to orchestrating a blood drive after reading a newspaper article about supplies being low.
The company even helped on a community project to build road barriers to prevent pregnant turtles from crossing into traffic on the Margate Bridge causeway.
“My family is thrilled,” said Kline, 65, of Margate. “We’ve enjoyed the last few days for people who have called to support us.”
Kline’s father, William, started the company in 1945 with one used dump truck to collect trash in Brigantine.
Growing up poor, his father never forgot winning a spelling bee in sixth grade but being passed over in the next round for a wealthier student who placed second but dressed better, Kline recalled.
As the business grew, his father recognized the importance of community involvement and passed many of those duties to his sons, Bill and Ed.
“My brother’s active in the business and he’s five years older than me. So my brother had to work more because he was the older brother, and I was sent out to help different charities when they asked for help. … Back then, that pushed me into being involved helping people,” Kline said.
At 16 years old, Kline was asked to advise the Brigantine Recreation Committee on the condition of ballfields. At 18 he was a youth representative of the Planning Board, he said.
He later served as mayor of Brigantine and a state assemblyman.
And Kline Construction, which started with one truck, has more trucks than Kline can recall offhand and has about 250 employees, he said.
“I remember Ed Kline as a kid. I remember when they started out with one red dump truck, and he and his father and brother built that business from nothing,” Levinson said.
“He’s become very, very successful, and he hasn’t forgotten his roots.”
Press Publisher Keith Dawn said Ed Kline and Kline Construction have given to the community and have been a part of it.
“Personally, he’s a great guy, but what I’ve seen through him and his business is that it just comes naturally. Like he says, he doesn’t keep track of it, but it just becomes a part of what he does. And the proof’s in the pudding,” Dawn said. “If you want to compare him to George Bailey, he’s a guy who doesn’t sit back and count his earnings through business, but he truly does give back.”
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