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Holiday Traditions Bring Us Together

By Erica Brigance & Michelle Smith

This time of year, we take part in ingrained traditions, from the places we meet, the food we cook or the gifts we exchange. Likewise, the Arkansas Trucking Association’s 40 Under 40 Council has held to a near-decade long tradition of giving back during the holiday season.

The council, which meets quarterly at various locations across the state, always includes an end-of-year volunteer event to allow members to practice acts of kindness and generosity for communities or groups in need of holiday cheer. Previous events have included wrapping gifts for children in foster care and working with the Salvation Army to sort gifts for local children in need.

This year, council members gathered in Fort Smith on Friday, December 7 to partner with Project Compassion’s Hearts of Gold program. Gloria White founded the organization in 1972 after visiting a friend in a nursing home and realizing the number of residents who had no visitors. The program began as a one-to-one visitation with a mission to bring joy, companionship and quality of life to local nursing homes.

Each December, Project Compassion launches its Hearts of Gold holiday gift drive where they collect lap quilts, sweaters and other gifts of warm clothing for nursing home residents, especially those without family. The program strives to provide residents with purposeful and heartfelt Christmas gifts and also coordinates over 300 volunteers for one-to-one visits. For many individuals in nursing homes, these may be the only holiday gifts they receive.

As members of the 40 Under 40 Council, we have the opportunity to learn from each other as well as other industry executives, and build our professional skills while discussing industry changes, trends, technology, laws and regulations. And as aspiring leaders, we envision the future of the industry in Arkansas and around the world.

But as important is what we learn about servant leadership – getting out of our comfort zones and exercising empathy and compassion for the people we work alongside and the communities in which we do business. Our Council’s holiday tradition helps bring these skills together.

Our time with Project Compassion embodied and help spread the holiday season’s most important sentiments of joy and companionship. This year’s event had our members divided into three teams: one group tasked with sorting and packing donated items; another organizing and transporting books for nursing home libraries; and a third visiting with residents at an area nursing home and assisting them at their weekly bingo competition. (And while we thought we knew what competition was from working in the trucking industry, it paled in comparison to the competitive spirit of those residents rushing to be the first to call “bingo!”)

So many of our memories are of holiday traditions shaped by and spent with parents, grandparents and family far and near. Even if some of those individuals are no longer in our lives, we pass on our traditions to the next generation in an effort to keep memories alive. This is why the 40 Under 40 Council holds on to its annual tradition of giving back and serving others. Eventually, each of us will grow out of being “under 40”. It will be our turn to pass down the memories and inspire the next generation of trucking’s leaders, in hopes that they learn as much from these traditions as we have.

For more information about Project Compassion Inc., or to give back, please visit www.projectcompassioninc.com.

Erica Brigance is the associate director for customer experience at ArcBest Technologies and is the current Chair of the 40 Under 40 Council. Michelle Smith is a Council member and serves as project manager for solution design and implementation at ArcBest.

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Arkansas Trucking Association
PO Box 3476 (72203)
1401 West Capitol Ave.
Little Rock, AR 72201

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Our Mission

  • PROTECT the collective interests of trucking companies in the political and regulatory arenas.
  • PROMOTE the dynamics of trucking so that people have a better understanding of the link between America's primary freight delivery system and the standard of living they enjoy.
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