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The True Meaning of the Holidays

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Recently, I wrote a blog about the Wreaths Across America program and my trepidation about visiting a cemetery. Ironic. The week of Christmas found my family at the hospital with my 90-year-old grandma whose health was rapidly declining. We were certain that a holiday trip to the cemetery was looming. Given our extreme sadness, no one in my family felt much in the holiday spirit.

So two days before Christmas, I set out to find a volunteer project to replace our cancelled holiday events. We felt that helping someone on Christmas would help us out of our funk over the possible loss of our grandma. To my surprise, everything was booked. No room in the manger for more volunteers. The local Jewish community center had hundreds of members participating in dozens of volunteer projects across the city.

Sadly, we ended up sitting at the hospital. For weeks, I have been receiving dozens of stories from FedEx Ground locations around the country that have touched my heart. From Denver to Charlotte to Kansas City, FedEx Ground employees and independent contractors have been taking time out of our busiest time of the year to donate toys, bake cookies, collect food and more for those in need.

While they were all wonderful and clearly demonstrated how FedEx team members truly give back to their communities, one story stood out. At the end of a long email chain which was forwarded to me from a field manager, I read the tale of how Independent Contractor Jarrod Gerber adopted five families for the holidays in Kokomo, Indiana.

I immediately got in touch with him to find out more about what he did. By the end of our long conversation, I realized that my search for a holiday volunteer project was a little lame. I was ashamed that I didn’t try harder to lend a hand, although I did consider converting to Judaism to join up with the crowd at the Jewish Community Center. Jarrod showed me that while there are tons of organized volunteer programs, sometimes the most touching, the most personal, are those that allow you to really connect with a person.

Here’s Jarrod’s story, which he reluctantly told me because he didn’t want any attention or accolades for his generosity. Jarrod grew up in the grocery business. His father owned a small chain of grocery stores and when he sadly passed away, Jarrod and his siblings were each given a small trust. Jarrod invested in convenience stores and then three years ago, he was in the right place at the right time to find out about an independent contractor opportunity at FedEx Ground terminal in Fort Wayne.

Since then, he has grown his business and now has 10 routes in Fort Wayne and three in Kokomo, which he brought on last spring. The drivers he employs in Kokomo are all young men in their 20s. Jarrod said a year ago, some didn’t have jobs, while others were struggling because of the dismal economy. Fast forward to the holidays. With his business expanding, Jarrod worried what the peak shipping season would bring. Would all of his vans be full? Would his new young employees continue to excel? Much to his relief, the peak season was great. “We had more business than I expected,” noted Jarrod. Splitting his time between the Fort Wayne and Kokomo terminals, Jarrod meets with the Kokomo team twice a week for breakfast.

At one of their breakfast meetings, Jarrod and the drivers discussed how fortunate they felt and ways they could give back to others in the community. “I’ve written plenty of checks, I’ve worked at soup kitchens and with the Boys and Girls Club, but I’ve found that the greatest thing is when you are there in person making a genuine impact.” He called an acquaintance at the Kokomo Head Start program. She identified a few families that could use a little help, especially with the holidays quickly approaching. Jarrod contacted them to find out what their children had on their holiday wish lists. Instead of having a relaxing weekend after the busiest week in history for FedEx Ground, he and the drivers from Kokomo spent a Saturday shopping for the five families. “We make deliveries every day, but I thought it would be nice to make these special deliveries,” said Jarrod. The team arrived at each of the five houses with groceries, presents for the children and the parents as well.

At the end of the night, the drivers, whose financial outlooks had changed thanks to Jarrod expanding his business, all agreed that they wanted to do this again next year. Since Christmas, Jarrod has received a heap of thanks from the families. But he is the one who is thankful. “This was the best Christmas gift for me. Being able to do this and seeing the kid’s faces was awesome,” said Jarrod. “I’ve been blessed.”

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Other Posts by Allison Sobczak