We’re a pretty close knit Sales & Customer Service group at Oakworks, most of us having worked together for many years. We’ve celebrated all manner of joyful events like birthdays, weddings, and new babies. And we’ve supported each other through more difficult times like illnesses, deaths, and divorces. So it’s only natural that we celebrate the holidays together. And the holidays and gifts just go hand in hand. For a few years, we did a gift exchange, drawing names with a $15 dollar spending limit. I looked forward to seeing our collective creativity in coming up with an appropriate gift while staying within the $15 limit.
When the economy crashed in 2008 we considered ourselves blessed that despite the economic turmoil, Oakworks was thriving and we all still had jobs. But we saw that not everyone was so fortunate. That year, we took another look at our tradition and asked ourselves what gift giving was really about. I mean, did we really need another scented candle even if it was Brown Sugar & Fig and smelled intoxicatingly delicious? So the 15 of us decided to pool our resources and help our community members instead. And it’s a tradition we continue, choosing a different organization to support each year.
One year we worked with the local homeless shelter to provide gifts for families that would otherwise have had nothing. We had lots of fun shopping and wrapping gifts for the little ones. Those of us whose kids were grown, were treated to an education as to what all the new toys were that year. I can tell you I took a crash course in Hannah Montana gear and had a ball doing it. While we never set a spending minimum or limit for these “adopted” families, it was heartwarming to see everyone’s generosity. The gifts, wrapped and ready for the big day, filled at least one cubicle. To give you a visual, imagine a space with about 4 portable massage tables set up next to each other. That’s a lot of presents! The real holiday miracle was our delivery volunteer, Melissa Smith Warrener, managing to get all those gifts inside her Mini Cooper.
Because our sales group here has been most heartbreakingly affected by cancer, we decided this year to work with a local organization called H.O.P.E (Help for Oncology Problems & Emotional Support) which provides support and services for cancer patients and their families. Their services include everything from financial assistance, food, and clothing to emotional support and counseling. Their volunteers will even provide rides to treatments, doctor’s appointments and the grocery store. For single parents or elders with no close relatives, these services are truly lifesavers. If you’re interested you can find out more about them at www.hopelifeline.com.
The folks at H.O.P.E. told us a little about the families we’re adopting and one story really moved us. A family whose mom is being treated for lung cancer asked only for… creamed corn. They didn’t ask for money. They didn’t ask for clothing, even though the kids didn’t have warm coats for winter. They just asked for creamed corn. Why? This family puts creamed corn on toast because it goes further. This is all they have been able to afford for meals. I know I will never again be able to look at a can of creamed corn in quite the same way.
I would encourage you to look into supporting a local charity this season with a portion of your gift giving budget. Consider getting together with folks at work, friends or your family and see where you can help in your community. You may be surprised at how much good can be done when you pool your resources.
On behalf of the Sales & Customer Service group at Oakworks, we wish you a healthy and happy holiday season.
Update: We recieved this thoughtful thank you note from Sandra Sharnetzka on behalf of H.O.P.E….