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Wizards of ‘ahs’
Just like Oz, PK USA employees help give exactly what’s needed to families
By B.J. FAIRCHILD-NEWMAN
PK USA, 600 Northridge Drive and 1755 McCall Drive, entertained the children of employees on Saturday with a Christmas party using the theme of "The Wizard of Oz." Employees rented costumes and dressed up like characters from the play. This season, the company also sponsored four needy families through The Salvation Army, furnishing them food, other necessities and gifts for Christmas. Employees who portrayed Oz characters for the occasion were (from left) Mark Hauk, Kim Randolph, Sandy Day, Gary Reynolds, Teresa Reynolds, Earl Miller, Rick Wortman and Bill Kent. Submitted photo The employees at both local PK USA plants, 600 Northridge Drive and 1755 McCall Drive, have a challenge for other Shelby County companies.
They would like to see a commitment by other businesses in the community to help make Christmas better for the many people who are in need.
At the company picnic in September, employees of the automotive parts manufacturer bought raffle tickets, and the $1,200 profit from the raffle was reserved for groceries for struggling families. The Salvation Army identified four families needing help this year, and PK employees have responded through their Giving Tree with six pickup truckloads of gifts for them.
Suppliers to the company also jumped in to donate television sets and other large items. Company volunteers will divide and bag the presents and distribute them before Christmas.
Bill Kent, vice president of human resources and administrative affairs, remembers a family of four children from last year. The mother had left the family, and the young father was forced to quit his job and stay home with them because he couldn’t afford to pay for day care for four children.
"They had nothing. It was a humbling experience," Kent said. "They literally had nothing. We took a (Christmas) tree and bunk beds and so many presents. If we hadn’t stepped up to help this family, they wouldn’t have had any kind of Christmas. We all feel so good about helping the families who need it."
In 2000, PK employees voted to stop having a yearly bash for the adults in favor of a party for the children of the workers. This idea has developed into an elaborate, fun-filled morning with hundreds of children attending to enjoy breakfast with Santa, treat bags and even a movie, which was added this year.
Each holiday season the party has a theme, and this year on Saturday it revolved around "The Wizard of Oz," with several employees dressing up like characters from the film. Five hundred employees and their children attended on Saturday — the most successful party for the company so far.
"They asked me to dress up like the Wizard," laughed Kent. "At first I was flattered, thinking I was chosen because I was wise and caring, and then I realized that the wizard in the movie is a charlatan who hides behind a curtain."
"Wizard of Oz" costumes were rented from an Indianapolis costume shop with PK workers playing the well-known movie characters of Dorothy, the Tin Man, Scarecrow, the Good Witch and, of course, the Cowardly Lion. No one portrayed the evil witch because party organizers were afraid that she might scare the children.
Earl Miller, vice president of manufacturing, played the famous lion who trembles and holds his tail. The burly, 6-foot-4 Miller was worried about fitting into his lion suit, but he was delighted that it fit as if it were custom made for him.
At previous children’s parties, Miller has dressed as the Grinch, the Cat in the Hat and Shrek.
"I enjoy it; we have a really good time," Miller said.
Gary Reynolds, a five-year PK employee who is the purchasing manager, played Santa at the company party again this year. In fact, playing Santa is a hobby for Reynolds and his wife, Teresa, who dresses up as Mrs. Claus. They always donate their services, and Reynolds has purchased a nice suit and beard for his appearances.
"I started doing this (playing Santa) about 12 years ago. I love it; I want to do this indefinitely," Reynolds said.
He will play Santa at least four times this December and has even made a gold-and-red chair to sit on when he listens to children’s lists of requests.
Jan McDaniel, a nine-year PK USA employee, is one of the major party organizers each year. She coordinates the nine volunteers in the company kitchen who make the enormous breakfast for the children and their parents or other relatives. The large party also requires 13 or 14 volunteers to help with the crowd on the day of the event.
"We never have any trouble getting volunteers," McDaniel said. "Everyone pitches in and helps; we love doing this for the children."
All the party organizers agreed that holding the party for the children as well as helping the families who need assistance is a great way to celebrate the holiday and increase their Christmas spirit.
"If all the companies in town did something like this — adopting families — think what a difference it could make in the lives of people who need help so badly," Kent added.
Copyright 2018 PKUSA Inc.