Spreading Holiday Joy at HDS


by Kayla Reese, Production Coordinator


For 21 years, VITAC has participated in an Angel Gift program with the Center for Hearing and Deaf Services in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  HDS clients are deaf, hard of hearing, and often special needs, and many look forward to the holiday party and gift exchange every year. Executive Assistant Terri Holman oversees the program every year and sends out a list of clients’ names and suggestions for their gifts a few weeks before the party. VITAC employees choose recipients and add them to their shopping list, often choosing the same recipient year after year.   Realtime supervisor Jonathan Van Sickle has participated in the program every year since he’s worked here and says he always looks forward to it.   This was my first year to buy gifts and attend the party, and it was truly a rewarding experience.

When party day finally came around on December 15th, Terri, Payroll and Benefits Administrator Jennifer Lodovico, Senior Offline Captioner James Elkins, and I piled the presents into Jen’s trunk, crammed some more in the back seat, and held a few more in our laps for our drive to HDS. We had a taste of what Santa’s packed sleigh would feel like.

Clients greeted us with warm hugs and handshakes. The room was decorated with Christmas lights, paper snowflakes, and other handmade decor. After introductions, we played charades while lunch was prepared.  Some of the group even signed “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” for us and performed a dance to “Jingle Bell Rock.”

We definitely learned a whole new appreciation for American Sign Language. (Fun fact: ASL has a lot of French influences.) The VITAC crew picked up on “thank you” and “you’re welcome” but when there wasn’t an interpreter present, a smile and a thumbs up was commonly understood.

HDS Hearing Deaf Services VITAC Angel Gift PRogramAfter lunch, we handed out presents. From Steelers gear to coloring books, blankets to DVDs, everybody was excited to receive their gifts. Jeannie and Alecia, who live together, were excited to latch hook later that night. Richard changed into his Denver Broncos socks immediately and Darrell had everybody smell his new cologne. The Angel Gift program was definitely a success.

Thank you to all employees who donated to such a fantastic event! You brought some big smiles to some of the most deserving people this holiday season.    HDS is VITAC’s chosen charity this Christmas, and will also be receiving a donation from the company.