Colleagues of Ken Gardner, a crew member with Cox Communications Inc.’s Orange County, Calif., network-operations construction department, were heartbroken when they learned their coworker had lost his son.
Marine Lance Cpl. Derek Gardner was killed in September as he served his country in Fallujah, Iraq.
In response to the loss, this holiday season Gardner’s co-workers have collected personal-care items, candy, music players and other treats to be shipped to the surviving members of the younger Gardner’s platoon, still stationed in Iraq.
Employees raised about $4,500 in cash and two van loads of donated products.
The cause is near and dear to many hearts. The cluster’s headquarters is close to Camp Pendleton, a major staging ground for troops cycling into the war zone.
Many Cox employees are retired military personnel, system spokeswoman Ayn Craciun said.
“People really related to the cause,” Craciun said.
The military fundraiser is not a regular part of the system’s public-affairs calendar. “It just happened organically,” in response to need, she said.
Employees created care packages, taking their directions from a Web site for “Operation Shoebox,” an informal organization with the goal of creating gifts from home for every service member.
The packs contained everything from baby wipes to Jolly Rancher candies to lip balm.
AROUND THE COUNTRY
Cox’s Orange County cable system is just one of many around the country honoring service members and their families this holiday season. The MSO’s Tucson system also put together donations from troops, which the system sent to two local units it “adopted.”
In Evansville, Ind., Bill Helmbold, Insight Communications Inc.’s Southwestern Indiana District vice president, challenged his employees to donate care packages, replicating an effort that took place last year to benefit Insight employees who were then deployed.
When those workers came back to civilian life, they stressed to colleagues how highly prized those hometown gifts are.
Insight will match employees’ donations.
Adelphia is promoting many local festivities in Colorado Springs, Colo., to make it a great Christmas, according to local MSO officials. About 8,000 troops from nearby Fort Carson will be redeployed to Iraq over the next few weeks.
Anticipation of their departure will make this holiday season very emotional for many families, and the MSO is supporting community events such as “Care and Share,” a program aimed specifically at military families in financial crisis; and “Christmas in the Park,” an annual Christmas Eve celebration that gives gifts and food to needy families.
Adelphia is also the local media sponsor for “The Homefront Cares,” which provides emergency services to military families.
In Rochester, N.Y., Time Warner Cable will assist the local Ladies Auxiliary of the Veterans of Foreign Wars post in its care package collection drive (presided over by MSO employee Denise White).
For an extra taste of home, the company and a local Girl Scout troop (also led by a Time Warner staffer) urged local consumers to buy Girl Scout cookies to be sent to the troops.
The New York system helped fill the donation larder at another Time Warner system in Fairfield, Conn. Employee Cindy Donovan, a sergeant in the U.S. Army Reserve, put together packages for members of her unit in Iraq.
Companies are also using their technology to bridge the gap between loved ones.
On Dec. 15, Time Warner Cable announced the launch of a video-mail application, promoting its use by soldiers’ families in selected markets with a heavy military presence, such as San Diego; Kansas City, Kan.; Charlotte and Raleigh, N.C., Hawaii; and El Paso, San Antonio, Waco and Wichita Falls, Texas.
The U.S. Troop Video Mail application, available at no charge, enables service families to send high-quality video mail of up to 90 seconds in Hanukkah, Christmas and Kwanzaa templates.
Local-origination channels are also a popular tool for holiday greetings for military families. Insight’s Northern Kentucky district has used the crew at ICN6 to solicit video greetings from local military personnel at posts around the world. The crew used the clips to create bumpers for air.
The production team even called local families to ensure they wouldn’t miss their relative’s message.
Cox’s local-origination crew in Hampton Roads, Va., produced a USO Holiday Show for families of deployed soldiers. The show, taped Dec. 11, featured the Air Force Heritage Band. Copies of the production, with family greetings added, were sent to deployed ships.
Companies aren’t supporting the military just with direct aid. The Strategic Military Planning Commission, appointed by Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, has asked Cox Communications Inc. to produce an interactive DVD to showcase the state’s four military installations, highlighting the defense and economic impact of each. These will be used to lobby the Department of Defense’s commission on base efficiencies.
Cox will assume the cost of the project, which executives estimate at some $25,000.