Energy Companies Partner With Interfaith to Warm Up the Holidays

Participating in holiday gift shopping for Susquehanna County Interfaith on Dec. 5 were (top, from left) George Stark, Coterra; Hayley Rupakis and Jeremy Yadlosky, Lackawanna College; Bill desRosiers, Coterra; Karen Hubbard, Rain For Rent; Bonnie Morris, Coterra; Chad Kelly, Ampro; Robert Wagner and Bob Piccoletti, GDS; Cindy Beeman, Interfaith; Rebecca Peterson, Folsom Engineering; and Candy Garrison, GDS. Below, Matt Sheruda of Down To Earth Equipment Rentals (foreground) displays one of his gift choices during the Coterra shopping trip, as Chad Kelly of Ampro and Jeremy Yadlosky of Lackawanna College peruse the aisle behind him.

It is the season for giving, and the energy workers in northeastern Pennsylvania want to be sure that there are gifts under the tree for families who are struggling. For more than a decade, Coterra Energy has coordinated a shopping trip in support of efforts by Susquehanna County Interfaith; Interfaith Friends, which serves Wyoming County; and the Wayne County Children’s Christmas Bureau.

In two hours on a recent weekday, Coterra and its industry partners spent more than $20,000 at Walmart in Tunkhannock and pushed carts overflowing with toys, clothing and other gift items to a crew outside the store who loaded them into a trailer.

There’s probably nothing better than putting a smile on a kid’s face,” said Matt Sheruda of Down to Earth Equipment Rentals of Montrose. Sheruda has nieces and a nephew, so he had some ideas going into the shopping spree of what children want. His cart was quickly filling with Lego kits. “It’s a great feeling to have the opportunity to give back to the community this way.”

It makes me feel good,” Shawn Jagger of RLE Enterprises concurred. “I actually asked this year if I could do it.” She was concentrating on winter wear like warm jackets and insulated boots. Jagger’s co-shopper and toy expert was Matthew Parsons, who was filling in for his wife, Amanda, another RLE employee. The couple has two children, ages 7 and 10. Jagger and Parsons were confident that their two carts full of gift items would brighten some lives.

Rebecca Peterson of Folsom Engineering (above) also had a combination of clothing and toys in her cart, including several Squishmallows: soft, plush stuffed animals that children play with and use as pillows and cushions. “That is ‘the’ gift this year,” Peterson said assuredly.

The annual shopping trip is coordinated by Bonnie Morris of Coterra and Cindy Beeman, executive director of Susquehanna County Interfaith. The trailer was set to return to Coterra’s headquarters in Dimock where employees there would match the purchased gifts with tags supplied by the partnering organizations representing actual requests from children and other family members.

The number of children registered for the holiday initiative often tops 800 and includes 150 to 200 families. That figure increased during the pandemic and has remained consistent with the high inflation that followed. With necessities like food and heating oil taking a big bite out already limited budgets, Beeman proposed that the Christmas gift program relieves some of burden for parents who want their children to have a happy holiday.

One might think that all children care about at Christmas is toys, but that is not the case – especially in recent years. In addition to art and school supplies, youths ask for clothing, bedding, and sweatshirts. “Things that keep them warm,” said Beeman, noting that high school students increasingly put more practical items on their wish lists. One teenage boy asked for tools to work on his car.

When asked if she was saddened by the change, Beeman suggested that the shift in priorities, even among children, is reflective of where we all are in an ever-changing world. “Being practical is not a bad thing,” she remarked. “Our counties in particular are all about making it work and getting through the hard times.”

In addition to the aforementioned, participants in the shopping initiative included Moody & Associates, United Drilling, Rain For Rent, Resource Environmental, Ampro, Northern Tier Industry Education & Consortium, Lackawanna College School of Petroleum & Natural Gas, Western Environmental, C2G, Select Energy, and GasSearch Drilling Services, a subsidiary of Coterra. Walmart supports Interfaith throughout the year, including the agency’s Back to School program.

Even speedy Walmart cashier Lauren Victory (below, right), who was asked to come in on her day off, was caught up in the Christmas spirit. “I wanted to do it,” she noted. “And this is very generous of these companies.”

Those who could not participate in person give monetary donations to Interfaith, which Beeman and other staff members use to fill out the remaining gift tags. “We try to make sure that each child gets three gifts,” she related. “We also always try to make sure that each child feels appreciated.”

Additional support for Interfaith from Chesapeake Energy, Southwestern Energy, Dandy Mini Marts, and PennDOT helps close the gap on holiday and winter needs like socks and pajamas, food, and gas cards. Many churches, groups and individuals also contribute funds toward gifts and other winter needs.

It’s not so much that there are more people that we are serving,” said Beeman. “But we are able to go deeper to help break the cycle of poverty.”

We look forward to supporting this initiative every year,” said Coterra director of external affairs George Stark. “As an industry, we come together to address the immediate needs of those who might be facing hardships during the holiday season. But the support doesn’t end here; Coterra and its energy partners continue to help Interfaith clients throughout the year in many impactful ways.”

After they are wrapped, tagged, and delivered to the agencies’ offices, the gifts will be distributed to parents in the week leading up to December 25 to allow them to place them under the tree for Christmas morning.

Candy Garveson of GDS perhaps had the biggest variety of gift items packed into her cart.

Lackawanna College School of Petroleum & Natural Gas instructor Hayley Rupakis is expecting a baby boy in April, so the Dec. 5 shopping trip provided some practice for her for Christmases to come.

After Robert Wagner (left) and Bob Piccoletti of GDS filled a pair of shopping carts with gifts, they went outside to load all of the day’s purchases into a waiting trailer.


1 Comment

  1. How wonderful this is that business, the religious community, and private individuals combine to care for those in need around us. Thank you all for your efforts.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *