For the second time this year, a local company has made a sizable donation to the Sampson County Department of Social Services in an effort to ensure local children in need have a cheerful Christmas.
Still five months away from the holiday, DSS has been able to see its Christmas Cheer Program fund spike with two donations made by Wellman Oil Company Inc. of Clinton, one in January, another last month. DSS director Sarah Bradshaw recognized Greg Owen, president of Wellman Oil, at Monday’s DSS board meeting in the wake of the most recent donation.
Wellman donated $6,500 in January through its participation in the BP Fueling Communities Program, which provides grants to local organizations that are nominated by BP marketers to support the communities in which they do business — that initial $6,500 donation has now doubled to $13,000 with a second $6,500 donation.
The Fueling Communities program allows local marketers to support organizations that focus on health, education, youth, food and housing to spread charity and goodwill among neighborhoods in need. As part of the program, Wellman has twice nominated the Sampson County DSS, notably its Christmas Cheer outreach, and seen both nominations approved.
“We have a grin on our face because Wellman Oil has come through again as a wonderful, wonderful community partner and business and they are becoming our new best friends,” Bradshaw said Monday. “We wanted to thank Mr. Owen. They put in an application again with the BP Fueling Communities Program and were awarded again, and we are getting $6,500 for our Christmas Cheer Program. It’s like Christmas literally in July.”
The Christmas Cheer Program provides Christmas gifts to foster children under the care of DSS. In years past, that has meant well over 100 youngsters receiving presents annually that might not otherwise.
Owen has talked about how deserving DSS is of the donation and how Wellman wanted to do something for the community, specifically the agency. He mentioned that through their work with DSS staff in the Crisis Intervention and Low Income Energy Assistance programs, Wellman representatives were well aware of the many crisis situations families, and in turn DSS, are dealing with — and they wanted to help.
Wellman Oil Company Inc., located on Warsaw Highway in Clinton, is a distributor of gasoline to convenience stores, as well as fuel oil, LP gas and bulk oils, in addition to selling gas heaters, gas logs and gas grills. They have worked closely with DSS in being a local heat provider as part of LIEAP. The cycle for the Fueling Communities program, in its second year, came around early, the reason for the close proximity of the two donations.
“It was a little early this year, they asked us if we would push it up a little bit. It was kind of just starting last year, and it rushed them,” Owen said. “Basically, what the program boils down to is BP is letting everybody know they are still here, and still strong with everything that went on in the Gulf. They are putting money not only in North Carolina, they’re doing it across all states.”
In 2010, the Christmas Cheer program provided for 108 children and 17 adults. In 2011, the program provided for 132 children and 26 adults. The United Way of Sampson County has regularly provided the bulk of funding for Christmas Cheer, however Wellman Oil’s donations have acted to boost private donations.
“They give us the opportunity to pick a program and we just feel, at Wellman Oil, like this is a good program to distribute back to the elderly and people who can’t afford things,” Owen said. “We just feel like it touches (the community). There are a lot of other programs out there we could put it in, but it just works great. You all work good for them, and I think it works good for us, too, so we’re glad we can do it.”
According to DSS officials, in 2010 the program received 82 percent of its funding from United Way and only $1,355 from private donations. In 2011, United Way’s contribution accounted for 70 percent of the total funding with private donations totaling $3,739.
“We are tickled to death,” Bradshaw said. “It is a program area we struggle in, and worry about having enough funds one year to the next anyway, based on the demand and the number of children and adults. I know that those social workers will just be thrilled. We will use it wisely.”
Saundra Hines, services program manager for Sampson County DSS, agreed.
“They will just be delighted,” she said.
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.