Trucker answers the call to help Christmas drive

| 12/10/2009

After 11 successful years, Andrea Ciniero was worried her annual donation drive for charity might have to be scaled back or canceled. That was until a kind-hearted trucker named Bob Ruckman felt the calling and offered to make the 450-mile delivery.

Ciniero’s collection of toys, clothing and non-perishables in Ellicott City, MD, which is destined for Starting Points Family Resource Center in Crum, WV, requires much more than a box truck.

Ciniero has routinely filled two pup trailers or a 53-footer and compares her street on packing weekend to Black Friday at Kmart.

“It’s just something I started 12 years ago, and it just fell into place year after year after year,” Ciniero told Land Line on Thursday, Dec. 10, the eve of packing weekend.

“The people in Crum really rely and depend on this. This is the biggest donation they get in the entire year.”

For 11 years she relied on UPS for the donation of trailers and a driver, but a change at the company led to their pulling out.

“I was beside myself when UPS told me they couldn’t do it. I can’t say anything bad about UPS because they have done this for 11 years … but I panicked,” Ciniero said.

She went to her local paper, the Howard County Times, in hopes of finding a trucker to make the delivery. That proved to be a good strategy.

One of the calls came from Norita Taylor, media spokeswoman for the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, who in turn asked Association Life Member Bob Ruckman of Leivasy, WV, if he would be interested. That was also a good strategy.

“I figured it was divine intervention because I was looking for something to do at Christmastime because I lost my wife four and a half years ago,” Ruckman told Land Line.

“Number one, there was a need, and number two, the good Lord put us on this Earth to help one another out. And if you can’t be of some help to somebody when they need it, what good are ya?”

Ruckman has been a trucker since 1980, but is only a part-time driver these days. He owns three trucks and 50 trailers that haul woodchips and sawdust from area mills, but he spends most of his work days managing a repair shop. He has been an OOIDA member since 1987.

“I don’t like the commercialization of Christmas; I like the spiritual calls of Christmas,” he said. “I think maybe it was just something to get my mind off of everything else and give me something to do.”

Ruckman will park his truck Friday on Ciniero’s street, and the loading will begin around 3 p.m. By Saturday, the trailer will most likely be full and ready to depart for Starting Points.

“It only takes one person to make a difference, and OOIDA and Bob have done that for an entire town,” Ciniero said. “I’m grateful that they came to me with support when I thought we weren’t going to be able to pull it off this year.”

Ciniero, humble about her own role in the equation, gives credit to the people who bring the donations. The common goal is to help the children served by Starting Points.

“They have 100 kids on their list waiting for Christmas,” she said. “So how could we not do this?”

– By David Tanner, staff writer