The most wonderful time of the year

Just a few of the ways our employees are giving back during the holidays

PEC employees are known for their spirit of giving the whole year through, and it’s no secret that the holidays are our favorite time to think about those in our community who could use a little help. Every year, staff organizes and takes part in many giving opportunities. Here are just of the few that have become a tradition.

Meals on Wheels Christmas baskets

Juicy ham. Cheesy scalloped potatoes. Cookies with red and green sprinkles. We all have a holiday favorite, but not everyone is fortunate enough to have warm, delicious meals this time of year. Our PEC Information Technology department took that as a challenge. For the past few years, they’ve been participating in a Christmas tradition of their own: delivering food baskets and carols to senior citizens in need of holiday cheer.

Fifty-one weeks each year, a team of our IT employees delivers food to 15 Johnson City-area seniors with health or financial issues through the Meals on Wheels program. During the week of Christmas, however, Meals on Wheels doesn’t operate. Knowing how much thee seniors depend on the deliveries, IT staff took it upon themselves to ensure the seniors’ bodies and spirits were well fed over the holiday. They asked their coworkers to donate food and needed items to fill large gift baskets — one for each household — and as no surprise to anyone, PEC employees gave generously of their pantries, wallets and time to make Christmas special for those in need.

On Dec. 20, PEC employees, in the roles of Santa, Mrs. Claus and 10 carolers, knocked on doors to deliver the baskets. The team also delivered a basket and sang carols to the residents at the Johnson City Housing Authority, a low-income housing option for seniors in the area.

Santa, Mrs. Clause and PEC staff deliver bring cheer to a Johnson City-area senior citizen and her grandchildren.
A Meals on Wheels recipient is overjoyed with the PEC team’s special delivery. Pictured in the background is (left to right) Business Analyst Vic McCoy, Information Technology Manager Bernie Dawson, Help Desk Technician Kristi Saenger, System Administrator Jennifer Jones, Network & System Operations Manager Roy Hogsed and Fleet Maintenance Manager Mike Mowrey.

“These are our members we are taking care of — ​it’s part of being involved in the larger community, and that’s why I love being a part of a cooperative,” System Administrator Joy Fernandez said. “PEC allows us to give back, and it makes my heart smile.”​

5th annual Brown Santa toy drive

Remember the excitement of waking on Christmas morning, bursting out of bed and sprinting to the Christmas tree, where gifts had magically arrived in the night? PEC Human Resources Specialist Franciela Marin-Smith wants every child to have that memory. Five years ago, she asked her coworkers to participate in the Blanco County Sheriff’s Department Brown Santa Toy Drive, an activity that has become an annual PEC tradition.

This year, all ‘elves’ were called to bring donations to our PEC headquarters lobby during the first half of December, and about 200 toys were collected. These and gifts from other members of the community were distributed Dec. 17 at the Blanco Emergency Medical Services building.

“There’s always been a great turnout,” Marin-Smith said. “The toy distribution is first-come, first-served, and parents are welcome to take two to three toys, then wrap them in the EMS building.”

Marin-Smith said if there are leftover toys at the end of the day, she calls the parents who came early so they can return for more.

Participation was so strong this year the leftover toys are being donated to children in Mexico. Marin-Smith donates toys, clothes and other items to HOPE International and said the families who receive the gifts are very appreciative.

“These parents get to put a smile on their kids’ faces, and we love knowing that we are all a part of brightening a child’s life on Christmas morning,” Marin-Smith said.

LBJ Medical Center

Marin-Smith also collects donations each year to give one special holiday item to the LBJ Medical Center, a nursing home in Johnson City. This year, she raised money to gift its residents an entertainment center for a television and movies donated the past two years.

Ten years ago, she started an ‘angel’ program, in which she received a Christmas wish list from each resident of the nursing home and assigned it to an individual PEC employee. When this effort became unwieldy to manage, she took a different tack – combining employee donations to purchase one nice item the seniors in the home could share.

Helping people is a cause near to her heart, and she said PEC employees’ kindness inspires her. She loves the way employees come together during the holidays and throughout the year to light up the lives of those in need.

Operation Blue Santa

You better watch out.

You better not cry.

You better not pout — we’re telling you why.

Operation Blue Santa is coming to town!

The Austin Police Department annually hosts Operation Blue Santa. The nonprofit, community-based organization began in 1972 when two officers noticed that some families on their patrol beat would not have gifts or food for their children during the holidays.

Operation Blue Santa gives families in need a full holiday meal, complete with turkey or chicken, and wrapped Christmas presents for each child under the age of 14. This year, Operation Blue Santa served more than 5,000 families, and many of PEC’s Oak Hill staff decided to once again join in on the gift of giving.

A line of PEC employees with a blue Santa and Mrs. Claus.
(Left to Right): Procurement Specialist 3 Christina Garza, Right of Way Agent Kay Jeanes, ​​Senior Electrical Distribution Planner Laurentina Garza and ​Construction/Service Supervisor Karl Keel chauffeur Santa and Mrs. Claus at Operation Blue Santa in Austin.

PEC Right of Way Agent Kay Jeanes, Procurement Specialist Christina Garza and Senior Electrical Distribution Planner Laurentina Garza have volunteered with Operation Blue Santa for six years. PEC Construction/Service Supervisor Grady Vasquez joined Jeanes and the Garzas this year as “Santa’s Helpers” for the Dec. 17 deliveries.

This PEC Oak Hill team worked the “flight line,” which is where cars line up to get loaded with boxes for delivery. Jeanes said they sold Operation Blue Santa shirts and gave out doughnuts. For the first year, the group was able to bring along their district’s Polaris vehicle, and they used it to transport Santa and Blue Santa board members to the many stations set up for deliveries. They also contributed to the breakfast and silent auction held two weeks before deliveries.

“We are just so thankful to be able to be a part of the cause and make sure PEC is making a difference in the community,” Jeanes said.