Last week I wrote about how the independent dealer community gives back to their communities all year round. This week I want to share the story of how one dealership truly makes a difference during the holiday season. Impact Networking based in Waukegan, IL and with a total of 11 locations in Illinois, Wisconsin, and Indiana has done an amazing job of spreading holiday cheer to those in need during the Christmas season.
Impact’s flagship charitable holiday program is its Letters to Santa, a program started in 2005. This program relies on voluntary deductions from employees in order to support the dealership’s adopted Chicago Public School, Pickard Elementary, during the holiday season. During a three-month span, select employees use the contributions to purchase a personalized ‘want’ and ‘need’ gift for each student. After each gift is organized, employees volunteer to dress up as Santa and his elves to hand the gifts out at the school, where there is also an annual pizza party.
“This is an amazing way for our employees to give back to the community because they are helping out multiple families and can see how much their contributions mean to each child,” states Megan McClafferty, digital marketing assistant.
The cause is near and dear to Impact’s CEO Frank Cucco and his wife who coordinates the program and spends more than three months purchasing and wrapping the gifts herself with the gifts filling the Cucco’s basement before they’re delivered to the children.
Besides the Letters to Santa, each of Impact’s branches have a Season of Giving Food Drive with all food collected donated to local food pantries.
But the giving doesn’t stop there. Recently, Impact’s Indianapolis branch embarked on another charitable endeavor to support a local charity, Latino Community Development, a non-profit that provides health-related services to families in need and also hosts a Santa Comes to Town holiday party. This fall, Impact’s Indianapolis branch raised $3,600 through a silent auction at its Fall Technology Showcase for the non-profit. The money raised was used to purchase toys for the children and a turkey and a small kitchen appliance for their families.
Latino Community Development organization takes care of about 1,000 families, or about 4,000 people on average. Impact has been involved with the organization for nearly two years now thanks to Chris Zvirbulis, Impact partner and general manager who serves on its Board of Directors.
Zvirbulis learned about Latino Community Development through a friend in the business community. It’s been an excellent match and has provided Impact with an opportunity to more closely connect with the Indianapolis business community and do something positive for those in need.
Zvirbulis, a father of five, was impressed by the impact the organization has had in the community since it was founded 15 years ago. Despite that history, Latino Community Development never had anyone on its Board with the business acumen of Zvirbulis who has been instrumental in soliciting sponsors.
“At the end of the day it’s a good cause,” states Zvirbulis who played Santa this year. “It’s more than just giving toys to the kids, it’s about helping the community and giving back to people who are a little less fortunate.”
About 25 Impact employees volunteered at the December 19 Santa Comes to Town event along with additional volunteers from the local business community. The party included a visit from the Mayor of Indianapolis and members of the Indianapolis Colts.
In addition to helping out at the Santa Comes to Town event, Impact employees can voluntarily elect to have a portion of their paycheck go towards funding the event. It’s not unusual either for employees to help find sponsors, create flyers, volunteer, or simply lend their support through their attendance at the event.
The event has a unique twist thanks to the Latino Community Development’s executive director who feels strongly that this isn’t just another charitable event. Families who attend are encouraged to bring cans of food which are then donated to a local food pantry. Initially this sounded a little strange to Zvirbulis, until Jenny Lauck, executive director Latino Community Development, explained that if you’re poor you don’t want to feel poor and that everyone needs to give back.
“Everyone gets something out of it and everyone feels better,” says Zvirbulis. “That’s a unique perspective she turned us on to.”
Overall, it’s been a gratifying experience for Zvirbulis and his family, all of whom helped out this year.
“I’m a father of five and I always had everything I needed growing up and my kids have always had everything they needed,” he says. “At some point you have to look at other people, not just yourself.”