When Fredi Pilkati left his homeland of Albania in 1992 to come to America, it was not, he said, like you see in the movies.
“I was 28 years old,” explains Fredi. “I dreamed of coming here, but it was hard. Communism had died and we couldn’t wait to get out. We were in a lottery and received the papers to come. But there was no American Embassy in our country. We had to go to Belgrade to their Embassy, and stayed in a hotel for two weeks with our son, who was 9 months old, before we were able to come. My sister-in-law in Chicago paid for our plane tickets.”
It was hard to learn the language, Fredi recalls – it was easier to understand at first than it was to speak it. For the first three years he lived here, he held two or three jobs at the same time to support his family. Now, though, “it’s like my country.”
Fredi’s jobs included washing cars, working as a dishwasher and making pizzas. He did whatever he had to in order to support his wife, Mika, son, Chris, now 27, and daughter Jessica, now 24. Ultimately, he started his own business cleaning offices and carpets. For 12 years he was self-employed. But when business got slow, he grew weary of trying to find new customers. That plus an injured back from moving an elliptical machine on a job meant it was time to look for new work.
From Soup to Nuts
Fredi joined Northern Weathermakers in 2003 as a driver. He drives all of our vehicles (flat bed, van, pickup truck, etc.), delivering supplies to job sites and picking up materials from our suppliers. When he isn’t making deliveries and pickups, he helps in our warehouse and office. He’ll tackle whatever needs to be done, from changing light bulbs to moving office cubicles/work areas.
A few months ago Fredi was part of the Northern Weathermakers team that handled a project in Philadelphia. He drove a 26-foot truck of materials to the job site, and when the job was complete, returned to the city to pick up tools and unused supplies. “I loved the old town and all the restaurants. I stayed for a week and went out every night,” he says. Fredi enjoys traveling with his family, too. Each year they vacation in a warm climate, having enjoyed trips to Miami and the Caribbean as well as a cruise last year. He’s also visited Dublin, Ireland, and his home country.
Fredi is proud to have financed his children’s education. His son earned a degree in business administration at Roosevelt University, and his daughter just completed nursing school at Southern Illinois University and now works at Lake Forest Hospital. They both still live at home, and will until they get married. “That’s our culture,” he explains.
On weekends when the weather allows, you’ll find Fredi enjoying life in his Rolling Meadows home. He bought it 10 years ago and has dedicated many hours to making improvements, from new siding to new windows. His favorite part of the house? “My backyard. I installed columns, a pergola, a curtain and TV. I sit outside and drink whiskey,” he says, laughing.