Service from the Heart

Erickson’s employees enjoy bringing joy to the community during the holidays.

Christy Ross is a senior buyer for Erickson. Her job is technical as she is tasked with sending helicopter parts out for repair, researching alternate parts, and tracking down legacy parts in the surplus market. But she has a soft spot for helping others and relishes running the company’s Christmas Assistance Program. She has a passion for helping others during the holidays, “It is a part of my faith, I have a draw to serve my community; it is a way for me to contribute.” It could be a family trait.

Ross’s father decided to help her out a couple of years ago. He has a long white beard and resembles a kind holiday character. Ross said that four years ago, they were delivering gifts to a local family in Central Point, Oregon. Ross’s dad and mother-in-law knocked on the door. They heard a little girl scream inside. When the family opened the door, they said, “We have a delivery for you from the employees of Erickson.”

The little girl, assuming that this was Santa at the door, said she had made a key for him, which was hung on the wall. As soon as they knocked on the door, the key fell off the wall. The little girl took it as a sign that Santa had come to visit her. The family didn’t think they’d get a visit from Santa that year. The volunteers were wearing Santa hats as they gave the little girl a bicycle, and bikes for the rest of the family. While Ross’s dad didn’t disclaim being Santa, they did say that the gifts were “From Santa’s Helpers.”

Ross is fortunate to have help from other Erickson employees to deliver Christmas boxes to those in the community. She believes the Christmas Assistance campaign goes back to at least 2006, perhaps even earlier.

They receive names of children and their families from a local school, and they then start to put together a list of what to buy.

Many of Erickson’s employees are involved in donating both food and gifts to the community. While only some will take part in the delivery of gifts to the families.

One humble employee (who asked not to be named) said he relishes the chance to participate in the program each year, “There are many people who have participated in this program over the years, I am grateful that I can be part of the experience supporting families and specifically children in our community. In my opinion, no child should go without the Christmas experience, and I wish we had the resources to reach every family in our community that needs a little help to provide their child with the best Christmas experience possible.”

Ross said, “We try to reach 10-15 families each year, depending on company volunteers.” They start the program in early October to gauge interest from employees. They have until mid-month to agree to participate.

Then, during the week of Thanksgiving, they receive a list of families in the area who need support. In November, they put a box out to collect food in different areas throughout Erickson’s office facilities and hangars.

They collect food until December 10, and then they take cash donations and shop for other items for each family. Ross said they try to buy a week’s worth of food for the family. From the school, they also receive a list of family names with a wish list for the children.

If there is money left, they will buy other household goods and toiletries for the family – toothpaste, tissues, toilet paper, etc…

Vanessa Duskin is another employee of Erickson who gets involved. She started with the company in 2017 and said she took part from the on-set. She said, “I help others and assist when someone needs something. I love that Erickson gets involved.”

Duskin is a senior buyer with the company. She reflected on past years and said, “To see their faces when you bring the bags and bags of food and all of the presents. A lot of people cry, and it makes you emotional, of course. The kids get super excited. We ask the kids if they want to help bring the bags in.”

She added that the amount they can buy is based upon how many employees get involved. For Christmas dinner, she said, “We make sure they have all of the goods for the main dinner, we try to buy lunches and possible dinners for about a week. It depends upon how much everyone donates.” She said they also buy a gift card so that they can buy perishable items like eggs, milk and butter.

Duskin is so committed to the project that she’s offered her home as a wrapping/packing location for the project. “Last year Erickson bought gifts through Amazon and had them gift wrapped and tagged, they were added to the pile of presents. In 2020, because we were working from home, I had everything at my house; I have a huge downstairs area to sort gifts; my mom and I helped and got it all sorted,” she said. However, she added that they normally do all the sorting in a company lunchroom.

Erickson employees work around the world supporting customers who in turn are saving lives and property. In southern Oregon, they are also engaged in helping the local community, making the holidays brighter for one family at a time.