Progress people bring diverse experiences to the table and make Progress a special place to work. In this post, meet Janice Dodd and Julie Hancox, customer order management (COM) representatives and Wish Tree planners extraordinaire.
I believe in Santa Claus because every year I see him in the people who make the holidays special. And I’m pretty sure his spirit lives in Janice and Julie. In this special employee Q&A, we spoke to our two magical elves at Progress about the joy they spread to children during the holiday season.
And wouldn’t you know it, they passed on so much of the credit to their coworkers.
Janice: The program started 15 years ago as a charitable donation for various recipients. We were asked to assist. The following year, we worked solely with Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF) and we named it the Wish Tree. That was when we started running the program. So, I guess you could say we’ve been with it from the beginning.
Julie: We wanted to help the less-fortunate families during the holiday season, and since Progress was such a big company, we thought we would see if the employees would be interested in this. And they were. It makes everyone feel good to be able to help these kids who really need to enjoy something special for Christmas.
Janice: I think in the beginning, it started with 50 children and it grew to 100 children a few years later. Every year, each child has three wishes, and we try to fulfil each wish. If I had to guess, I would say the presents total 400-500 each year because many employees purchase more than the three gifts asked for. Each year, Progress also makes a charitable donation to the DCF as well. This year, we will be delivering the check from Progress to the DCF office with a wonderful donation of $2,500.
Julie: The first few years were a work in progress as we were figuring out how to collect and deliver the gifts. In the beginning, the DCF employees came over in their personal vehicles to pick up the gifts. Over the years, the word spread and more employees wanted to be involved with the Wish Tree. This increased the number of children and gifts, so Progress offered the use of the truck to deliver the gifts to DCF.
Janice: I coordinate with a DCF person, and they send me the list with the names and wishes. We review and ask questions so we have the proper information for each child. We ask them to specify family members so we can make sure each family gets equal gifts. Normally, we decorate outside our offices, we put up a tree, we make up holiday gift tags and post them on the wall with a sign-up list. A lot of this is done afterhours so it looks like elves have been working overnight. Then we send off the email and everyone comes down to pick a child’s name.
Some people prefer to make a cash donation, which is greatly appreciated because it helps us fulfil all the wishes. We then wait for the gifts to come in, check the lists to see if any items need to be purchased, and then go shop for those items if necessary. If any bikes need to be assembled, our friends in facilities volunteer to put them together. We make sure all the gifts are in a holiday gift bag with the gift tag attached.
On delivery day, we normally bring the gifts to the lobby and put them around the tree. Then, we invite employees to come down to see all the gifts. It’s such an amazing sight. We have cookies and cider. Progress presents a check donation to the DCF workers, and then we all load up the truck and facilities delivers the gifts to the DCF office in Chelmsford.
Julie: It is very rewarding seeing all the gifts come in and employees participating, knowing how happy the kids will be. It is truly heartwarming. We had one year when many children asked for sheets and blankets as their gifts, and employees stepped up to the challenge and supplied sheets, bedspreads, pillows and blankets.
Janice: Another year, the popular gift the kids were looking for were handheld Game Boys that were a little on the expensive side. We had a couple of employees reach out to us and they purchased these items. Another year, bikes and scooters were a big ask. We sent out an email, and the donations came flying in. We were able to purchase all the bikes and scooters along with bike locks, helmets and other protective gear. The generosity of the Progress employees is wonderful.
This is part of a thank-you from DCF that we received and shared one year:
“You have given our children the wonderful feeling of being thought and cared about, along with true happiness and delight and the wonder of the season as they excitedly open their presents that represent your compassion and caring. The children we serve have all experienced difficult situations in their young lives and are trying hard to overcome these obstacles and go forward to reach their potential.
Your support to give these children a holiday to cherish and remember means the world to us and to the children. Especially, in these continuing extremely trying economic times all of us are facing, that you gave so much of your resources and devotion is a testament to your tireless commitment and deep understanding of the plight of these children.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart. You are heroes and champions for the children we serve and I am eternally grateful to you.”
Julie: Yes, it is a lot of work, and it is a lot of fun. It is a very rewarding experience for us as well as having our COM team members who volunteer their time too.
Janice: We have spent many late evenings decorating the area, coordinating the gifts while laughing about everything under the sun.
Janice: COVID-19 has taken over and brought many challenges. Everything had to be done virtually versus our usual in-office festive holiday setup and in-store shopping. We had to set everything up online on our end and we enlisted Charlene Saini to show us how to use the SignUpGenius. Due to everything being virtual, we gave our third elf Barbie Nyder the season off.
DCF sent the list with links to the items to help with the purchases and all the gifts were shipped directly to the DCF office. I had the employees send me their order confirmation details so I could check off my list and coordinated with DCF so they could check off their list. That way, we could ensure all the gifts were ordered and received. Donations were given via Venmo and PayPal rather than writing out checks. We did our after-hours shopping online.
Luckily, DCF was able to have high school students (doing their community service) help them out, including putting together the bikes.
Everything has been purchased for this year, but there’s always an opportunity throughout the year if anyone wanted to make donations directly to DCF.
Andrew Dolan is one of many Progress employees who has donated his time and helped raise money for the less fortunate at Christmas. He’s been spreading the word to his coworkers in our Galway, Ireland, office. This year, he and his teammates helped raise money for the Yemen Relief and Reconstruction Foundation. Through their Facebook page, Dolan and friends have raised more than $2,500 so far for the nonprofit.
Dale Foster and Edwin Bermudez coordinated efforts in our Morrisville, North Carolina, office to raise money for Together We Rise, a nonprofit group composed of young adults and former foster youth, who strive to improve the lives of children in foster care. Dale, who came to Progress in March, hopes to do even more in 2021. He’s been involved with several organizations through the years, including the “Light the Night” walk for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
This year, the team exceeded its goal of $3,000 for Together We Rise through the holiday fundraiser.
Whether it’s making holiday wishes come true for children, helping people during the COVID-19 pandemic, or just pitching in where we can year-round, Progress believes in giving back. We’re #ProgressProud of our employees who give so much of their time and energy.
To read more about our recent charitable activities, check out this blog post. To learn about our corporate social responsibility program, Progress for Tomorrow, visit the CSR page.
Help the Mass. DCF
Dave Pierce strives to be a writer’s writer, an editor’s editor, and a marketer’s marketer. An award-winning journalist formerly of The Boston Globe, Dave combines his love of SEO, content management and social media with his passion for storytelling. At Progress, he manages, writes and optimizes content. Dave lives in New Hampshire with his wife and teenage daughters. You may find him at Northeastern University hockey games on the weekends from October to March. You can find him on LinkedIn every day.
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