Employee Voices

Sending Holiday Cheer to Our Nation’s Heroes

For the third year in a row, Nicole Bell is heading up McKesson’s Holidays for Heroes drive, sending seasonal messages of thanks to our troops and veterans.

Read time: 3.5 minutes

It’s a song we all know. “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” is considered by many to be a classic hallmark of the holiday season. But for the thousands of U.S. troops stationed far from home this time of year, Bing Crosby’s melancholy lyrics can be a particularly sentimental reminder of the many sacrifices they make to defend our nation.

Their unwavering dedication is something McKesson employee Nicole Bell doesn’t take for granted. Her husband Tim has been on active duty in the United States Navy for 22 years. While she’s spent a few holidays without him by her side, she’s grateful to troops like him who have selflessly given up their own safety at home in order to protect that of their friends and families from afar.

That’s why she’s especially passionate about seizing any opportunity to show her appreciation, especially during the holidays.

Nicole and Tim Bell

Nicole and Tim Bell

Nicole is an import specialist for McKesson, a role that entails working with U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Food and Drug Administration to gain approval for imported McKesson-branded supplies. Beyond her day job, she also serves as the southeast communications chair for the McKesson Military Resource Group (MMRG), a nationwide employee resource group dedicated to supporting military veteran employees and their families. Additionally, she volunteers with the McKesson Ambassadors Program and distributing food to local Veterans Affairs clinics.

But there’s one campaign that’s particularly close to Nicole’s heart. Through her involvement in MMRG, she was tapped to lead McKesson’s annual Holidays for Heroes drive, a volunteer initiative that McKesson has run in partnership with the American Red Cross for several years. The program invites volunteers to send care packages and holiday cards with messages of gratitude to active members of the military all over the world, as well as to veterans and their families within their own communities.

“Being a military spouse, my husband has been deployed a lot,” she says. “Sometimes they're stuck in spots for long periods of time, so I know receiving these care packages is deeply appreciated by those who are away from their families during the holiday season, as well as by the veterans who have done the same.”

When she took over the program for McKesson in 2018, its reach was limited only to employees within the company’s Medical-Surgical business unit. Despite that, she collected more than 5,000 cards to send to the Red Cross her first year, and more than 6,000 during the next.

“When I email employees to introduce them to the program, there are so many who are eager to share their family members’ experience in the military,” she says. “They’re all so happy to be helping with this holiday event.”

Deeply moved by their overwhelming response, she became determined to expand its reach across the entire company.

“In my two short years running this initiative, I started to wonder how many other teams we had that didn’t even know McKesson was leading this incredible cause each year,” she says. “How many more troops and veterans could we bring joy to if more of our employees became involved?”

Employees’ holiday cards

Employees’ holiday cards

So earlier this year, Nicole expanded the program for all of McKesson’s U.S. business units. Not surprisingly, she received widespread enthusiasm from almost everyone she contacted.

But as the pandemic took hold, Nicole realized she’d have to do things a little differently this season. In a typical year, she’d print out all of the cards and send them to each participating office location. This year, the Red Cross opted to make the campaign digital, so she sent volunteers card templates that they could print out and sign from home.

In spite of these new challenges presented, Nicole has so far received more than 1,000 cards back from employees to send back to the Red Cross.

“Many people have enough to worry about in their own lives because of COVID-19, so while we didn’t get as many as I think we would have under normal circumstances, I’m truly touched that so many employees still took time this year to send messages of thanks to our armed forces,” she says. “It’s really special, because to them, receiving these heartfelt cards feels like getting a little piece of home.”

And in a difficult year that’s already keeping many families apart this holiday season, this effort serves as one of the many ways McKesson remains dedicated to giving back to the heroes in our communities, whether they’re thousands of miles away or just a few doors down.

Originally published December 2020