Kerwin E. Matthews never doubted his future success -- not while growing up one of five kids in a struggling, single-parent household, not while working in a series of fast-food jobs, not while foregoing college to support himself at a service station.
The Annapolis native always knew he'd make it, one way or another.
"I never told myself I couldn't do it," says Matthews, 28. "I always pictured myself as a successful person, no matter how long it would take. And I wasn't going to let anything or anybody hold me back. It can be done. It's a matter of hard work and dedication and what you want to do with your life."
Four years ago, with no savings and little experience, Matthews left the courier service where he'd worked for a year making medical deliveries. With the encouragement of staff at the Anne Arundel Medical Center, he struck out on his own.
Since then, the Pasadena resident has managed to build a successful delivery business that serves hundreds of county doctors, who count on him in a pinch from day to day.
He's the only minority in the county running such a business, Matthews says. He's under contract with both the Annapolis hospital and Medical Ultrasound, a lab that performs sonograms and mammograms. He hopes to expand his contracts and, someday, perhaps even deliver transplant organs.
Without Matthews' work, "we would come to a stop," says Pat Bontempo, manager of Anne Arundel Diagnostics and Anne Arundel Magnetic Resonance Imaging, both owned by AAMC. "We have him running like a fox chasing his tail, but henever gets angry. He's hard-working and a good guy."
A typical week finds Matthews driving an average of 1,000 miles,delivering X-ray films and radiologists' reports from the hospital's diagnostic centers in Annapolis, Crofton and Arnold to doctors' offices or to the emergency room.
Dr. Stephen R. Brown, chairman of the hospital's Department of Radiology, says doctors rely on Matthews to quickly locate misfiled film and hand-deliver it when every minute counts.
In the case of emergency surgeries, doctors often page Matthews to locate a patient's film and deliver it within 15 to 20 minutes. Some days, he juggles deliveries for 30 doctors at a time.
"I've had several close calls, but I tend to make it on time," Matthews says.
Matthews grew up in Annapolis, the middle child of five. His mother, who worksfor the unemployment office in Greenbelt, supported the family with the help of Matthews' grandparents.
At age 14, Matthews left home to move in with his grandfather. While still in school, he took jobs at fast-food restaurants. He dreamed of college, but his family struggled to make ends meet and couldn't afford such a luxury.
Instead,upon graduating from Annapolis Senior High School, he began working at an Annapolis Amoco. He married at 19, but the marriage soon disintegrated.
For a year, he worked for Chesapeake Courier, making deliveries for the hospital's radiology department, earning the trust andrespect of doctors and staff. He decided to give it a try on his own.
With the encouragement of Brown, Matthews formed K.E.M. DeliveryInc. in 1986. The hospital hired him as a contractor. The next year,his brother came to work for him. Now, Matthews employs four people.
Matthews' success "has a lot to do with his personality," says Brown. "He has a lot of drive. He works very long hours and weekends. He's extremely dependable."
Matthews says he handles problems by facing them head-on.
"I want things to run as smoothly as possible,"he says. "The people I work for like that. I always put other peoplefirst, before everything else, and they respect that."
Matthews says he sees no end to his business' growth, because, with doctors andhospitals always in demand, "You'll always have work to do."