Despite nagging website issues during their peak fund-raising season, the team at Truckerschristmasgroup.org continued their quiet work of providing holiday help to trucking families in difficult straits.
Cofounded in 2008 by Purolator’s Greg Manchester and later developed into a 501(c)3 by IBI Secure Transport driver Mark Abraham, since that time the charity has dispersed a total of $91,000 in Christmas cash to 156 families. I was granted the privilege of being a fly on the wall, so to speak, as team Manchester/Abraham and a small group of volunteers wrapped up the painstaking task of vetting each case individually and winnowing away applicants who did not qualify for reasons such as a lack of a CDL.
The team then went to work on the phone at around 7:45 Eastern, with board members listening in via conference call. Beginning with families living in the Eastern time zone, the group’s Canadian cofounder Manchester handled the calls, introducing himself as Santa while informing the party on the line he was with the Truckers Christmas Group. He would go on to let them know they would receive $500 via FedEx or PayPal, their choice, to help with holiday expenses. Before each party was callled, a synopsis of their case was read off by alternating board members, including my own personal host for the evening, the Grande Dame of the Diesel herself, Ms. Idella Marie Hansen.
A composite example of one family’s circumstances would read something like this:
On 9/21, driver John Q. Doe fell off a flatbed near Jersey City, New Jersey, crushing his ankle. It was four hours before he was discovered and taken to the hospital. There has been no income in the house now for nearly three months. His wife Mary became a stay-at-home mom to care for their three-year-old daughter, who was recently diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder. Mr. Doe recently sold his 2006 Freightliner to cover household expenses.
Then, the “Santa Call” would be made.
Sometimes the truck driver would answer, dazed and incredulous that anything good might be happening to him. Then there were cases like that injured father of three deep in Eastern time who broke down weeping with gratitude.
In a classic case of life imitating art, Mr. Manchester was detained by an Ontario scalemaster in the middle of the calls — like something out of a Bill Weaver song — at which point Mr. Abraham took over for about half an hour.
“I haven’t been pulled around a scale in five years!” lamented the group’s Santa, when he was finally released. “Of all the nights.”
I’ll have to admit I shed my own share of tears at some of the cases, while trying unsuccessfully to remain silent. At one point, my host for the evening (the Grand Dame of the Diesel herself, of course) snapped, “We got a heavy breather in here somewhere that I’m fixin’ to mute!”, so I managed to pull it together.
Turns out, just when you begin to believe all the good hands are mostly gone, you again run across the salt of the earth, who, from the cabs of their trucks, write another chapter in the Christmas story.