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    Retailers Start Gift Giving Early

    CEFCO Convenience Stores donates funds for children's emergency waiting room; Sheetz continues to grow its Family Christmas program.

    TEMPLE, Texas and ALTOONA, Pa. -- CEFCO Convenience Stores and Sheetz Inc. are getting into the spirit of giving. Next month, thanks to a generous gift from CEFCO, a special children's area will open in the emergency department within the new Center for Advanced Medicine at The Children's Hospital at Scott & White in Temple, Texas.

    Meanwhile, the Sheetz Family Christmas program, which started in 1992, has pulled together more than $350,000 in donations this year and will help more than 3,800 children from the six-state area that the convenience chain serves.

    The Children's Hospital at Scott & White recently announced the naming of the CEFCO Pediatric Waiting/Play Room. The area will be a child-friendly space for children to use while waiting for emergency services. "Coming to the Emergency Room can be a frightening experience for children. With this space, we hope to provide an area of relaxation and normalcy for the kids. We are so grateful to CEFCO for helping us make this room a reality," said Jan Upchurch, the hospital's director of Child Life.

    CEFCO recently donated over $125,000 to the Children's Miracle Network (CMN), which locally benefits The Children's Hospital at Scott & White. CMN is dedicated to saving and improving the lives of children by raising funds for children's hospitals across North America. The money was mostly raised by CEFCO through the sale of "miracle balloons" in individual stores, and from an annual golf tournament.

    The company's Chief Administrative Officer, Kim Fikes said, "We are thankful to have a facility like Scott & White in our community and the children have really touched our hearts. CEFCO supports Children's Miracle Network, and we are proud to be a part of bringing the best health care services to our children."

    In other community service news, Sheetz this year is changing the way shopping is done for the gifts that go to needy families as part of its Family Christmas program, so that the recipients will be more surprised. In the past, volunteers would be paired with a child in the program and would spend a day shopping. This year, families, largely selected by local Salvation Army chapters, made shopping lists that volunteers will fill.

    "I think this new method is going to work better," Tyler Sheetz, vice president of regional operations, told the The Tribune-Democrat. "While the recipients did fill out their own shopping lists, they're going to have a little less idea of what they're getting."

    The company holds more than 40 parties throughout its 28 districts at which the presents are distributed. Most of those parties were held this past weekend.

    The Sheetz Family Christmas program started modestly with just a handful of volunteers looking for ways to aid their communities. But, much like the convenience store chain itself, the Family Christmas program has grown in leaps and bounds since that first year, when it raised $12,000 and aided 126 children, the newspaper said.

    "It was an idea by put together by a couple of our district managers," said Sheetz. "They thought it would be something nice we could do for Christmas. It was done in a very low-key, locally-based manner, and it has now grown to a companywide event."

    Much of the money now is raised for the program through an annual golf event that rotates from one course to another each year, but Sheetz said the program also benefits significantly from individual donations made at the company's stores.

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