Stan Connally, Chairman, President and CEO of Gulf Power, presents a check for the estimated amount of the Gulf Power donations to Sue Straughn, (center) news anchor at WEAR and founder of Communities Caring at Christmas, and Sandy Sansing from Sansing automobile dealerships. The estimated total of all the donations is more than $41,000 from Gulf Power employees — including more than $17,000 in cash donations, and184 bicycles and helmets

The Communities Caring at Christmas caravan rolled into the Gulf Power headquarters on Friday amid festive fanfare and collected hundreds of toys, bikes and other gifts — all donated by Gulf Power employees.

The estimated total of all the donations is more than $41,000 from Gulf Power employees — including more than $17,000 in cash donations, and184 bicycles and helmets – two dozen more than last year.

Gulf Power employees raised money through two golf tournaments and made personal donations to support the event and purchase the bikes at the Gulf Breeze Walmart. Plant Crist’s golf tournament combined with a matching grant raised nearly $17,000 — 7,000 more than last year — and the Environmental Affairs department’s golf tournament raised approximately $16,000, the most the tournament has ever raised.

Communities Caring at Christmas, sponsored by WEAR-TV and Sandy Sansing Automobile Dealerships, provides new toys, clothing and daily living needs for low income and abused, neglected and abandoned children living in foster care in Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa and Walton counties.

“We know the holiday season can be a difficult time for so many families in our area who have a hard time making ends meet, let alone providing gifts for their children,” said Kimberly Blair, Gulf Power spokesperson. “Communities Caring at Christmas is a great way to directly help those in need. Every year our employees reach into their own pockets to help make sure as many children as possible have a great Christmas. This year when we learned there’s a greater need for bikes for older children, our employees made sure 70 percent of the bikes fit that need.”

Amid a festive atmosphere, Gulf Power employees helped the Caravan team, which included Cat Country radio, load bags of toys and roll bicycles into an 18-wheeler. Once loaded the caravan escorted the truck to the Pensacola Interstate Fairgrounds to sort and process the gifts to be distributed to families and children in need.

“This is the highlight of the year when we get to come to Gulf Power because the team works hard to help us make sure children who might go without have a gift at Christmas,” said Sue Straughn, news anchor at WEAR TV 3 and founder of Communities Caring at Christmas. “It is because of their generosity children in foster care will have a merry Christmas.”

Gulf Power was one of the first major sponsors of Communities Caring at Christmas. Gulf Power has participated in event for 22 years, making it one of the employees’ holiday traditions.