Season for Sharing: Impact Networking happily helps children
BY aDRIENNE SAMUELS GIBBS Staff Reporter December 3, 2013 3:40PM
Heidi Cucco (from left), Nick Cucco, Santa Nate Robinson, Billy Fisher and Jessica McClain hand out gifts at Pickard at last year's party. | SUBMITTED PHOTO
The kids don't ask for anything outrageous. They're not in the market for an $800 Xbox One or something from Kanye West's clothing label.
Rather, they're asking for gloves and mittens. Inexpensive toys. Gifts for their little brothers and sisters.
And the people behind Impact Networking are happy to help. In 2005, the digital problem-solving business adopted the children of Pickard Elementary school on the Southwest Side and vowed that, going forward, every child would get a gift in the Season of Sharing program.
"The first year it was rough going because there were many companies involved in giving these gifts and I really wasn't happy with how it was getting done," says Frank Cucco, 51, CEO of the company that provides a number of services, including digital office and printing equipment sales, creative web design and logo services, IT services and implementation of document management systems. "Some kids weren't getting gifts, and it was heartbreaking. So, we talked to the school about taking over and we probably have done that since 2009. We [provide] at least 500 gifts a year and we provide a lunch for the whole school."
Nate Robinson, who swears he has the Santa "physique," plays the big-belly gifter every year.
"The first year I did it, I went to the [costume] store the day before on a whim," says Robinson, one of the company's founders. "I thought I'd have it just in case. I feel like if we didn't do it, then this part of Christmas would be missing for me personally."
The entire company participates, with many of them bringing their children out to the "wrapping parties" held in the corporate warehouse. "I think our company gets much more back from [the kids] than we give," Robinson says.
The employees donate about $25,000 worth of gifts each year, says Cucco, whose wife, Heidi, is in charge of the shopping. It takes her about three months to gather everything together from repeated trips to Wal-Mart, Target and various online retailers. She then drops all the gifts at the company's warehouse, where they are sorted, wrapped by employees and packed for transport to the Little Village school.
Heidi Cucco makes sure each child gets a "want" and a "need." Parents might want the children to get boots or mittens, but Heidi ensures they get a toy plus an article of clothing.
"It's a lot of work but it's really rewarding because it's just done the way I want to do it," says Frank Cucco. "That's why I'm an entrepreneur. I want to do it the right way. It's very organized. We don't miss any of the children. We don't buy a bunch of generic gifts. It's specific to that child. Every single one is purchased separately and wrapped for that child. It's the real deal."
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HOW TO HELP
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Donate money by going to www.suntimes.com/santa or by sending a check or money order made out to the Sun-Times Foundation to: Sun-Times Season of Sharing, Box 3596, Chicago 60654.
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