Janel Rykert’s official title at Nord Orthodontics in Orem is “treatment coordinator.” Her job involves meeting with patients, developing an orthodontic treatment and ensuring the process goes smoothly.
However, when the air begins to cool in the fall, Janel extends her “treatment coordination” beyond bended wire and rubber bands. She coordinates the office’s Sub for Santa drive that improves the holiday treatment for dozens of children every year.
“Here in our office, we’re all very blessed,” Janel says. “Plus, we couldn’t help near the number of children that we do without our patients’ help.”
This Christmas story began about seven years ago when Janel approached Dr. Scott Nord and asked if she could coordinate a Sub for Santa program for the office. With his enthusiastic support, she reached out to the United Way of Utah County and received information on several families needing assistance.
“I put up a Christmas tree in the lobby — a little earlier than we would normally — and made a sort of ‘Angel Tree,’” Janel says. “Then our patients could take a needed item off the tree and participate.”
The United Way gives Janel guidelines for what to get each child. She lists the age and gender of the child, along with the needed gift description, on a piece of paper and places it on the tree. Patients will often take children’s descriptions that reflected their own family’s ages and genders and then together pick out gifts. Other patients donate cash to the effort.
“Our patients are very generous,” Janel says. “Often, they will take more than one off the tree. We have patients who are done with treatments with us, but they still come by every Christmas season and take some things off of our tree. They love being involved — and we love having them stay involved.”
The first year, the staff and patients at Nord Orthodontics helped 10 local children with Christmas. Now, they consistently help between 15 and 20 children. Each child gets a variety of gifts, including toys and books, as per guidelines from the United Way.
“The United Way is a great partner,” Janel says. “They screen the names, supply a list of gifts and work through any challenges.”
“It takes a lot of organization and space to keep track of things as they are coming in, but it is so worth it.” — Janel Rykert, Nord Orthodontics
When patients return the gifts, Janel and the staff at Nord coordinate preparation and delivery. Staff members also take care of any unreserved gift requests still on the tree, ensuring the commitment to the United Way is always met.
“We’re always busy during those last few days, but it is so rewarding,” Janel says.
Janel finishes the shopping using donated money and personal monetary commitments from staff members.
“It takes a lot of organization and space to keep track of things as they are coming in, but it is so worth it,” Janel says.
The payoff for the staff is delivering the gifts to the local families.
“Not only do you see the appreciation from the families, but most of the time, we get something back from them,” Janel says. “They will give us baked goods or pictures drawn by the children. It’s not why we do it, but it adds to the experience to see their gratitude.”
Janel believes other small businesses could do something similar.
“When everyone pitches in, it doesn’t overwhelm any one person and you can help a lot of people in our community,” she says. “It’s a way we can show our appreciation and do something outside of ourselves for the holidays.”
A family affair
In addition to the Christmas efforts she coordinates at work, Janel Rykert also sponsors a family through Sub for Santa with her own family.
“A few years ago, my husband and his siblings got tired of swapping gift cards at Christmas and decided to use that money to help others in some way,” she says.
On Christmas Eve, the extended family gets together over dinner to share what they did to help others that holiday season. Janel and her family picked the Sub for Santa program and had a positive experience. That led her to create a similar program at Nord Orthodontics.
How to get involved
To start your own Sub for Santa program, reach out to the United Way of Utah County at unitedwayuc.org or by calling (801) 374-2588.