Customers who do business with Conair Group’s Project Management Team have come to expect that their systems orders are executed—from equipment selection and procurement to delivery, installation, and startup—with timely precision and great care. Many of the elements of every project cross the desk of Terri Coe, systems order coordinator, whose task is to ensure that all the pieces of each system arrive in place and on time.
So it’s child’s play, of a sort, when Coe coordinates the elements of a very different, but no less important project: assembling and delivering a trove of holiday gifts contributed by fellow Conair employees to the Family Resources Therapeutic Preschool in downtown Pittsburgh. For 20 years, this preschool program has provided a unique curriculum of educational, behavioral, and emotional supports to young children with “special differences and needs” due to early-life challenges. And, for three years, Conair Group has supported the children with a gift-giving project that begins when Coe displays a Giving Tree containing a tag for each child at the company’s headquarters in nearby Cranberry Township, PA.
The connection between Family Resources and the Conair Group formed several years ago when Coe’s daughter, Natalie, interned at the preschool while pursuing a Masters’ Degree in Early Childhood Education from the University of Pittsburgh. Natalie, who completed her degree in December, knew her mother was seeking a Giving Tree project and suggested that her mother meet with the director of the Family Resources’ preschool, Jessica Souply, LSW. And, although Natalie has moved on to other teaching work, the bond she helped to create has only grown stronger with time.
“This year, there were 26 tags on the giving tree in Cranberry, and they disappeared in less than a day,” said Coe. Each of the handwritten tags contained the name, age, and size of one student, plus three wishes made on behalf of that student by a parent or family member. Souply collected the wishes and then passed them along to Coe, who assembled the tags. Typical wishes include a favorite doll or toy hoped for by the child, plus suggestions from family for needed items such as clothing or personal articles.
True to form, the Conair team once again delivered on time, and beyond expectations. Souply, who’s been director of the preschool for four years, says that “the impact of the gifts is just outstanding. We love our children so much and we want to go all out for them during the holidays. However, as a nonprofit, we do not have the extra money to do so.
“With Conair’s help for the past several years, we are able to give our children a really huge celebration—a holiday party that features Santa, who has a special gift for each child. And, because we know that finances are tight for many families, Conair’s sponsorship enables us to ask families if they might need a couple of additional, unwrapped gifts that they can take home, wrap and present to their children themselves. We send those requests to Terri, and Conair takes care of the rest.
“It’s amazing to have a holiday sponsor that cares so much, that wants so much to make the holidays meaningful for our children,” says Souply. “Conair seems to have more generosity and desire to give than we have kids,” she explains. Even after the immediate need for gifts was satisfied, Conair employees contributed enough additional money for crayons, coloring books, supplies and snack-time goodies to keep the children busy and happy for months. “This helped us stretch our limited resources that much further,” Souply continued.
This years’ trove of gifts was delivered to the preschool in time for a visit by Santa Claus on December 23. And, even more important than these holiday gifts are the lasting gifts that these children—and their parents—receive from Family Resources. Though many of the preschoolers could be “at risk” for out-of-home placements, the therapeutic work performed by the Family Resources preschool prepares more than 90% of the children emotionally and educationally for mainstream classrooms. At the same time, other Family Resources services enable 97% of their families to get stronger and remain together. That’s a gift that gives for a lifetime.