Unlikely heroes: Felons fight virus by disinfecting oilfield sites

Published: Apr. 1, 2020 at 10:46 PM CDT
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Oil companies like Alamo Pressure Pumping are doing whatever they can to defend their employees from the rapidly spreading coronavirus.

Now they’re turning to an unlikely team to keep the virus at bay.

Dangerous, scary, a menace to society. That’s how people might describe former felons like these.

But not anymore.

Now they’re protectors against a far greater threat.

“To them we’re outsiders, we’re criminals,” Edgar Chavez said. “And now it feels like we’re the ones helping them kill the real criminal.”

The Cornbread Hustle team is made up of members with criminal histories who work for companies willing to give them a second chance.

“I’ve been in and out of prison for 11 years since I was 23-years-old,” Cornbread Hustle Field Supervisor Ricardo Martinez said. “I’ve completely turned my life around.”

Their mission now is to disinfect alamo pressure pumping sites all over West Texas.

The oil industry is already on life support weakened by a price war.

So, this team is on the frontlines guarding it from a virus that could set fire to what’s left.

“If we have one person on location get it, odds are pretty high that other people on location are going to get it as well,” Alamo Pressure Pumping Executive Vice President Glen Fradenburg said. “What that does to our industry, what that does to our business and what that does to three livelihood of the guys that work for us wouldn’t be good.”

No one understands that reality better than Edgar Chavez who was laid off from his oilfield job weeks ago after his company was hurt by the pandemic.

He slept in his van for two weeks with nowhere to turn.

“Oh yeah it was difficult,” he said. “I used to shower at a truck stop paid $13. I was running out of money, running out of gas. I was just-I didn’t know what to do. I was to the point where I couldn’t go back home because I didn’t think I could make it with the gas I had.”

Now he’s back hoping to save other workers from the same fate.

“So, if I can prevent that from happening, I’m willing to clean and do whatever they ask me to do,” Chavez said. “So, they can keep their job and I can keep what I’m doing.”

A team doing what they can to fight back against today’s real menace to society and scrub away their old reputations.

“At one point I was a total opposite,” Martinez said. “I was probably a virus not just to my family but to the community and I’m killing a virus.”

The staffing agency Cornbread Hustle specializes in second changes. To to learn more, visit their website