Bringing Christmas cheer

Special to the Taft Midway Driller
Aera field administrator Susan Fisher,  West Side Outreach & Learning Center family success coach Terra O'Neill,  WSOLC family advocate Teena Crabtree,  Aera logistics specialist Alicia Price and Aera process specialist Brian Jameson with the gifts distributed to families in the area.

About 10 Taft families will get a little bit of holiday cheer delivered straight to their doorstep this year, thanks to the West Side Outreach & Learning Center and Aera Energy.

Toys, household items and other essentials will be delivered to the families’ homes on December 22 by center staff, providing one less thing for families to worry about this holiday in what has already been a stressful year for many.

Aera Energy usually adopts several families during the holidays with the guidance of the Taft Family Resource Center but was unable to this year with the center’s closure earlier this year. Aera employees were still determined to support families that might not otherwise be able to afford Christmas, and connected with West Side Recreation & Park District, who also coordinates the West Side Outreach & Learning Center (sponsored by First 5 Kern, funded by Proposition 10). The center identified 10 families who needed the most help in the Taft community and gathered wish lists from the families who asked for everything from toys and clothing, to kitchen items and toiletries.

Though a majority of Aera’s employees continue to work remotely due to COVID-19, their giving spirit hasn’t waned.

“With the challenges of 2020, we were unsure if people would be able or willing to give this year,” said Jamie Swetalla, Aera public affairs coordinator for Kern County. “However, our employees eagerly stepped up this year to make Christmas merry for families who really need it.

“This is especially heartwarming as we know that some of our employees have gone down to single-income households, but they are still giving,” she added.

It’s something the center says the community is incredibly grateful for in a time when families continue to experience joblessness, and have trouble putting food on the table. Holiday gifts this year, would have had to come as a last priority.

“With Aera Energy’s partnership, West Side Recreation & Park District has been able to positively impact hundreds and hundreds of youth and families in our community,” said District Administrator Les Clark III. “We appreciate Aera’s furthering of their positive impact by working with West Side Outreach & Learning Center in selecting families on the west side that are in need of a few things to make their Christmas and holiday season a great one. On behalf of the entire west side of Kern County, thank you Aera Energy!”