AT THE TRUCK STOP: Trucker Charity Inc. like a 'miracle' to financially hurting trucking families at Christmas
Thursday, January 16, 2014
by Aprille Hanson
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Before Dec. 19, EdnaRae Gould and husband Eric, a trucker on-and-off for 13 years, were facing another Christmas with no presents for their five children and possibly no heat — the electricity bill was due and the money wasn’t there.
But then, just outside their “four-block” town of Hunnewell, Kan., EdnaRae got a call from Santa Claus.
“I was actually very shocked, surprised, relieved.I felt just amazed, I started to cry,” she said.“I saved the number in my phone as Santa.”
The Goulds, along with 21 other families, got a call from “Santa” this past Christmas through the Trucker Charity Inc. Christmas group, that awarded families in need $600 each that month.
For eight hours, Trucker Charity volunteers listened intently on a conference call, anxiously waiting to hear the joyous sighs of relief from families struggling this Christmas, said Eldon McFarling, director of the charity’s Christmas group.
“It’s very emotional for most people and for everyone else. It’s what makes us do it every year,” McFarling said. “We hear the relief in people’s voices. They tell us they’ll be able to get gifts for their kids or get their electricity to come back on … pay their mortgage, gas money …
Whatever their most [important] need is they can take care of it.”
In 2009 Trucker Charity Inc. became a nonprofit comprising about five board members and around 100 volunteers. It provides a variety of services to truckers including financial assistance for drivers stranded away from home, life coaching/ mentoring and The Last Ride home, allowing the charity to transport the body of a deceased trucker home to his family.
However, the roots of the program lie in the Christmas group, which started a few years before Trucker Charity became a nonprofit.
“I’ve been involved with it from the start,” McFarling said.
A trucker since he was 16, the 56-year-old McFarling now owns the truck repair business E&R Service in Lincoln, Neb., while his wife Rose drives over-the-road for the familyowned E&R Transportation.
Even though he’s volunteered for various organizations, there is something special about the Christmas group that’s kept him involved every year.
“I thought it was a really good thing to do,” McFarling said. “It’s probably the best thing I’ve ever done. There’s a lot of stress and emotion in a short time, but it turns out really good every year.”
In October, volunteers start accepting nominations for families or individuals who hold a CDL that are in need of extra help during the holidays, McFarling said. All money donated to the charity starting in November goes straight to the Christmas fund.
“I didn’t know anything about [Trucker Charity]. It’s a good thing, a good cause and it’s real,” Eric Gould said. “You know, when I found out we won I was still skeptical until it [the money] came through. This isn’t just a fake deal … it was really special.”
Volunteers and board members, a group of about seven to 10 people, verify the stories on the applications and make sure the recipient has a CDL. The voting then begins to make sure those applicable families or individuals all get the $500 minimum cash gift, McFarling said.
This year, more than $13,000 was raised, allowing each of the 22 recipients (from 18 states) to receive $600, McFarling said. A record 47 nominations were submitted and 29 qualified for the voting process.
“We had a milestone this year. We [awarded] our 100 family/individuals and we raised right at $60,000 over those six years,” McFarling said.
The call always takes place before Christmas and one of the charity’s volunteers starts it off with a “‘Ho Ho Ho, Merry Christmas. Your family has been selected to receive a gift from Trucker Charity this year,’” McFarling said.
This year’s calls began around 5:30 p.m. and went until 2:45 a.m.
“This year we asked them to send us some pictures of the kids and give us some feedback; we have some very good stories coming in,” McFarling said. “People are able to get things going right away. A lot of times they don’t know what they’re going to do.”
That was true for the Goulds. With five children in the house — two of which are her husband’s nephews that they adopted — ranging from three to 14 years old, Christmas was just not an option.
“I applied because for the four years we’ve been together we’ve not been able to do Christmas for the kids,” she said. “They went four years without complaining that there was no Christmas.”
And EdnaRae isn’t just saying that.
“It was still pretty good, we were able to hang out as a family,” said 14-year-old Philycity Gould of past Christmases.
The family would gather for Christmas dinner but even that was sparse. Feeding seven mouths with $200 in food stamps is tight, EdnaRae said.To add to everything else, the pain of spondylosis — a degenerative osteoarthritis of joints in the vertebrae which she described as causing a curving inward, cutting into the spinal cord — has taken its toll on her body.
“Right now we don’t have insurance so I can’t get the surgery yet,” EdnaRae said. “I use a walker to walk, but there’s times I can’t do that because I’m paralyzed [at times] from the waist down. It’s pretty bad right now.”
Despite her husband hauling bulk flour fulltime for Glass Ti LLC, based in Newkirk, Okla., one income makes it difficult. Eric said he’s gone anywhere from a few days to two weeks, traveling mostly the central states.
But after the phone call life became brighter and for the first time in at least four years, the couple was able to give their children a Christmas.
“I was really happy because our Christmas was really not going to happen at this point. I told my kids we were going to have to wait until income tax [return] for Christmas at that point,” Eric said. “To see the kids light up for Christmas is really good. We surprised them and bought a Christmas tree.”
EdnaRae added, “When they walked in from school, I had Christmas music playing … they said, ‘Santa really did call you!’”
The kids got busy decorating, making construction paper loops to hang on the tree and around the house.
“We felt very blessed to be able to have a good Christmas,” Philycity said.
All of the children got an MP3 player for Christmas and the Goulds were able to pay off their electric bill.
Philycity said she listens to everything on her new music player — from country to hip hop — but the Christian Christmas song “The Christmas Shoes” has been on repeat. The song, also a madefor- TV movie, tells the story of a little boy who wants to buy a beautiful pair of shoes for his terminally ill mother to wear when she meets Jesus.
“I really like the movie and the song, it’s just really beautiful, I love it,” Philycity said. “It shows the true point of Christmas instead of just getting stuff.”
Keeping in line with the original vision that the Trucker Charity founder put forth for the organization, many of the Christmas recipients have paid it forward.
“We hear that from a lot of people they want to come back and help out. We find that year after year. Somebody we helped last year, they may not want to volunteer, but they’ll make a donation,” McFarling said.
While the Goulds may not be able to pay it forward to the charity just yet, their trucking friends have done just that.
“My husband told one of his friends who’s a trucker about what happened. She said, ‘We donate to them occasionally … we’re going to start donating more now,’” EdnaRae said.
For the Goulds, it was a Christmas miracle.“To us, they are true Godsends, they blessed us in so many ways,” EdnaRae said.
But maybe true thanks and blessings are best said from a young lady who seems to embody the Christmas spirit.
“I’d like to thank them for everything they’ve done for us. It was really great what they did,” Philycity said.
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