‘Tis the spirit

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The look on the children’s faces is priceless.” –Gary Rappeport, CEO, Donlen Corporation

OK, let’s get this out of the way up front – I’m a total sap for Christmastime. Ever since I’ve been a little kid, I’ve loved every inch of the Christmas season – decorating the tree, the house, watching the days ticking by with growing anticipation until school lets out, the holiday parties with friends and families; basically, the whole smash.

One of the local radio stations in my area – 97.1 WASH FM – actually goes to an all-Christmas music format 24/7 right around Thanksgiving and doesn’t stop until Dec. 26th. Usually, I avoid that particular stop on my (still terrestrial) radio dial because its nominal soft-rock playlist makes we want to rip my ears off … but the minute they go all-Christmas, the car and home radios are tuned to it round the clock. (Scary, I know.)

I even love the admittedly hokey Rankin/Bass holiday-themed stop motion animation films (with the wildly over-the-top plots and musical numbers.) I eagerly awaited them to be shown on broadcast television, scanning the TV Guide endlessly as a kid – now I own most of them on DVD and spin them up every chance I get.

[Here’s the trailer from the ultimate classic of the Rankin/Bass series – “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer."]

I even go out and play “Christmas tourist” in my neighborhood in the evening (when it’s not deathly cold, of course) checking out all the decorations and lights fancifully strung up along the homes and businesses where I live. Sure, in the great scheme of the things it’s a great waste of energy – but it does so much to lift the spirits, especially during the tough economic times we're going through today, with the media (myself included) writing more than our fair share of doom and gloom stories.

[A favorite example of the Christmas spirit is my local Shell filling station. Yes a GAS station, wrapped in high-tech holiday decorations. Just take a look for yourself below …]

Yet this season isn’t all about consumerism – though oft-times the media tries to make it look that way.

The spirit of the season is really about giving – about trying to help your fellow man and make the world a better place. Lots of folks in trucking take that to heart in myriads of ways, and this space isn’t even remotely long enough to do them justice. So I’ll highlight just one example.

That’s courtesy of Northbrook, IL-based Donlen Corp., a fleet management firm that made a company-wide effort to help the holiday wishes come true for a local Chicago elementary school. On Dec. 17, the company literally brought Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus, and their helpers to deliver gifts to children at Jenner Elementary Academy of the Arts.

“The look on the children’s faces is priceless,” noted Gary Rappeport, Donlen’s CEO. “We all realize how difficult it is for some people right now, [so our] employees stepped up to make this happen. This season really is about the children and we are proud to be part of this exciting day.”

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Since 2006, Rappeport added, Donlen has supported a “Letters to Santa” program, in which its employees respond to letters that Jenner students write to Santa. The nearly 400 students, most of who come from families that are living at or near the poverty level, were obviously delighted by the appearance of Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus, who distributed the gifts to each and every child. The company also treated the children to Boston Market for lunch.

Donlen’s support of Jenner Academy extends beyond Christmastime, too. For the past three years, the company helped with basic needs for the children’s education and quality of living – assisting with an annual school supply drive, hosting a career day, and helping raise money for summer sports camps, said Rappeport

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It’s efforts like these that exemplify what the “Christmas spirit” is really all about – not the shopping, not the tacky decorations or even the music (beautiful though it all is). It’s about doing something in our small corner of life to make the world a better place.

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