By: Matt Hendrian

While many families were preparing for the holidays and winding down a long year, Groveland Service Center employees were busy planning their annual tradition. Their tradition is different than what you might typically expect around the holidays. Instead of delicious dishes, hectic travel plans, and packed holiday schedules, the employees were orchestrating a holiday to remember for members of their community in need.

The situations are often different: some years are planned out months in advance from relationships they’ve nurtured in the community, such as the children’s foster care center. Other years are spent supporting neighbors and coworkers who face unexpected challenges. What doesn’t change is the team coming together to share with their neighbors every year without fail.

Cindy Hitchcock has been an organizer for 8 years. She began her duties in 2014 as a co-chair before the Grassroots team took over the Adopt-a-Family in 2016. She credits the success of giving entirely to her coworkers. “From our service workers, storeroom staff, mechanics, distribution and meter readers, to our front office; this is the effort of the entire building,” she said. 

That effort has a storied history spanning several years, but perhaps none stand out more than 2020. Even a year marred by COVID didn’t stop the employees’ generosity. Despite the challenges of remote work and limited ability to gather, they delivered their holiday giving with the same enthusiasm they always bring. Money continued to be donated, gifts purchased, and deliveries made for sponsored families. In a year that put life on hold for many, the challenges of the pandemic couldn’t stall the kindness of the Groveland community.

For the team, this impressive feat wasn’t a surprising one.

“There’s no real goal in mind when we do this, it’s for the feeling you get from giving,” Hitchcock said.

Take a walk through the halls of the service center, and it won’t take you long to appreciate the culture she is talking about. The walls are lined proudly with donated items and lists of needs for sponsored families. Though, it’s through conversations with the people who work within them that will supply understanding.

“These aren’t items that are just thrown in the hall, they’re displayed for everyone to join in and do it. It’s our way of saying we are thankful for these jobs and want to share,” Hitchcock said of attitude surrounding the holiday effort.

In addition to the gifts, the 2021 iteration of their holiday giving was full of other items to help families in need with some everyday comforts such as blankets, pillows, towels, body products, food and more. “We want to help show the people in our community that they’re valued,” Hitchcock said.

Each year leaves a trail of little reminders about the significance of their actions. It’s an invitation to play kickball with the foster care children they’ve supported, a letter from one of the families, and the way individuals talk about what the small acts of thoughtfulness mean to them. However, the ultimate proof is the knowledge that they made a positive difference in someone’s life.

As the holiday season gives way to the new year, the impact of the Groveland Service Center isn’t left behind with the gift wrap. Families in need have essential items, groceries, and a lasting relationship with people ready to step up for their community whenever asked.