Helping to move Christmas gifts on Dec. 13 from the Williams Companies office in Tunkhannock for area children receiving mental and behavioral health services were (top, from left) Tammy Bonnice and Rachel Paulin of Williams, and Michael Hopkins, Kristin Tewksbury, Danielle King and Jamie Smith of Children’s Service Center. Alicia Lomascolo (above) of Children’s Service Center heads out with some of the remaining gift bundles. She will be among the CSC service providers delivering the packages over the next few weeks.
For a fifth consecutive year, employees of Williams Companies have taken it upon themselves to make sure some children they will likely never know have a happy Christmas and receive gifts they both want and need. Williams is still a relative newcomer to the annual Holiday Giving Tree project coordinated and conducted by Children’s Service Center (CSC) for several decades, but participation at the Tunkhannock office has grown annually.
“Our employees go above and beyond,” Tammy Bonnice of Williams said of the 108 workers and contractors who helped pile gifts under and around what they have named the “Angel Tree” just inside the main entrance. She stumbled onto the initiative at a Chamber of Commerce function and told CSC president and CEO Michael Hopkins that she felt it was a good fit for Williams.
Tags naming a CSC client and something he or she cited as a “need” and something that they “want” used to be affixed to tree until they were taken by an employee. Many of the “secret” Santas shop together, wrap the gifts and bring them back to work. The first few years, employees anxious to get started stripped the tree so quickly that it stood bare within a few days.
Now Rachel Paulin and Shawna Toward of Williams coordinate the gift project from the front desk, passing out the tags and helping to keep track of the gifts as they are added to the lobby. Toward joked that employees who were out of the office when the tags became available this year were immediately texting her to reserve one or more for them.
Paulin took three tags this year, shopping for boys ages 7 and 13 and a little girl named Scarlet, which is the same as her daughter’s name. Scarlet wanted Mickey Mouse toys and a popular collectible doll. She also put down “socks” as a need, which touched Paulin. “It definitely makes me sad,” she remarked. “A child shouldn’t want for socks.”
“It really puts life into perspective,” J.J. Caprio of Williams concurred, adding that he feels blessed to be part of the project after being introduced to it by his wife, Cody, three years ago. “Not only do we not have to worry about simple needs like that for ourselves, we are able to help those less fortunate.”
Alicia Lomascolo, a blended case management worker for CSC, has been taking Christmas gifts to clients’ homes for three years. “I see tears,” she said of reactions by both children and their parents to the gifts. “The kids are so happy. And the parents and grandparents appreciate it so much because they wouldn’t otherwise have a Christmas.”
Blended case management, a multi-layered approach to children and adolescents with a variety of behavioral health and other medical needs, is just one of many home services offered to children by CSC for thousands of clients in 39 Pennsylvania counties.
“As our programs grow, there are more kids in need of this kind of support,” stated Hopkins. The gifts purchased by Williams employees will be distributed in Bradford, Sullivan, Susquehanna and Wyoming counties, clients from each receiving services through the CSC office on Tioga Street in Tunkhannock.
Hopkins related that counselors and other service providers will deliver the toys and clothing between now and Christmas during routine house calls. Sometimes, Lomascolo has the pleasure of presenting gifts to a child or adolescent in person. But she consults with the family first to see if they would prefer that the children credit Santa for them.
Retrieval of this years bounty by CSC employees on Dec. 13 was bittersweet for Williams employees who had become accustomed to walking past the mounds of brightly-colored packages. But a sense of accomplishment remains at knowing they once again exceeded their previous efforts and a few less children will go without.
“I love when all of the tags are gone,” Paulin remarked. “I know all of the kids are going to have presents.”
Hopkins applauded Bonnice for taking the project to a new level and Williams Companies for becoming such a significant contributor to the Holiday Giving Tree project. “Tammy’s work, along with the staff, makes an enormous difference in the lives of many children and families in Wyoming and surrounding counties,” he stated.
Jamie Smith and Mike Hopkins of CSC load gifts purchased by Williams vehicles for transport to CSC offices.