ALTOONA – Thanks to the generous hearts of UPMC Altoona employees, medical staff and volunteers, nine Altoona families with a total of 33 children had a brighter Christmas season.
The hospital’s box truck was filled to capacity as Santa’s helpers collected the gifts and many gift cards and delivered them to Catholic Charities, whose staff delivered them to the families. Santa’s helpers, included Bob Strawser of Mission/Customer Service; Dana Shade of Community Education, Project Santa coordinator; John Dobson, EVS, and Patt Keith, Marketing and Communications.
“The families are truly grateful for this help,” said Dennis George, who works with the families and assisted with deliveries. “When we delivered to one family, the mom had tears in her eyes as we brought in the gifts. The family was really struggling and this made a huge difference to them.”
Like many departments, Patient Financial Services has participated each year. This year the staff adopted a teenager.
“We felt the need to help the less fortunate have a brighter Christmas,” said Sarah Detwiler of Patient Accounts. “Our gifts may be going to the16-year-old girl to brighten her Christmas Day. However, in a sense, we are also giving something to the parents – the gift of seeing the happiness on their daughter’s face when she opens her gifts.”
The employees extend special thanks to “elves” Jennifer Dennis, Rhonda Eckenrode, and Sharon Schmitt (wife of employee Tim Schmitt), who shop for the group.
The department selects one day to get together over lunch and wraps the gifts in a party-like atmosphere.
“Participating in Project Santa reminds us of the true meaning of Christmas” Detwiler said. “God gave us Jesus on that first Christmas to show us how much he loves us. So we re-create that today by buying gifts and sharing our love with others.”
Pictured are Sarah Detwiler (left) and Jennifer Dennis, Patient Financial Services Department employees, with gifts for a teenager the department “adopted” through Project Santa.