By DAVID LLOYD JONES
FAMILY GATHERING: The Easley clan recently gathered at Jackie Cooper Imports in front of sacks filled with Christmas presents for the less fortunate last December. From left to right they are Hannah Easley, Robyn Lorentz, Candace Easley, Jim Easley, Lance Easley and Fernon Easley with little Claire Easley rounding out the group.
Last October the vendors and employees of Jackie Cooper Imports got the letter they were expecting from Candace Easley.
“One of the most rewarding things I do,” said this year’s letter, “is to organize Christmas for many of the underprivileged children and families in the Tulsa area. Some of the most memorable, touching times of my life have been watching the faces of the children we help each Christmas.
“It humbles me to see how these children get so excited about a new warm coat, hat and gloves.
“This year I am asking each and every one of you to help me bring the true meaning of Christmas to many more children. So when you get stressed and are trying to find that perfect gift for a family member or friend who already has everything, please remember those who have nothing.”
That letter, or one close to it, has been going out for the past 14 years. The idea was to go through various charities and organizations to try to find children in real need. The organizations select the children and it is up to Easley and her co-workers to come up with the presents.
This year, Candace says, was a banner year. With a second Jackie Cooper outlet added she felt she could shoot higher than ever before, and she did. When the contributions from the employers, and such contributing vendors as McBri Mechanical, Hourglass Collision and Digicut Systems were totaled up, the contributions had made the magic $10,000 mark.
That was just the beginning. Greg Kach, managing partner of Jackie Cooper, matches anything Candace can come up with. This year’s total was $20,100 for 201 children.
“We have each of the children (or their parents) come up with a wish list including their wants and clothes sizes. Then we have volunteer employees go out and shop for them. Often the children get more that was allotted because when many employees see they are going over budget they just reach into their own pockets to make sure someone’s Christmas is a little more joyful.”
Once the presents are purchased the serious business of wrapping begins. The dealership turns the certified pre-owned showroom into a workshop. Employees bring the presents to the dealership already wrapped and delivery begins. Packages are trucked to places of distribution, often picked up by parents.
“Sometimes we see them take off the tags that say ‘from Santa’ and replace them with tags saying ‘Mom and Dad’ because they simply didn’t have the money to buy the child a gift.”
This year the gifts were split up between two religious charities, a public school where the overwhelming percentage of the children are in families below the poverty level, and a haven against domestic violence. In future years the organizations receiving the gifts may change, but Easley is determined to keep the Christmas fund growing.
The reasons are compelling, as seen in the personal information sheet the recipients are asked to fill out.
One little girl wanted a doll house. Her father had just been sent to prison.
“I live with my grandma who is 71,’ says another. “My mom just past away.”
A six-year-old boy asked for dinosaurs and monster stuff. He also wanted Spiderman pajamas. Another boy, just 19 months, needed a winter coat and shoes.
A 12-year-old boy wrote, “I’m poor and I am an artist. 5 crazy brothers. I need shoes.”
Simple wants, yet because of the Jackie Cooper team effort some Christmas dreams really did come true.