The spirit of Christmas: Pittsburghers follow their own star to good will

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It’s a cliche to say that the spirit of the holiday season should last the whole year long, but don’t tell that to George Vorel.

Mr. Vorel has transformed sadness into joy in a most unlikely location, at the industrial painting and abrasive blasting company that he and his son own in Carnegie. What sets Envirosafe Stripping Inc. apart is the firm’s approach to hiring and training new employees. The Vorels focus on finding workers who have criminal records or histories of drug addiction, conditions that normally would pose barriers to employment.

Why go out of their way to find such challenges? For the elder Mr. Vorel, it’s personal, very personal. His daughter was a heroin addict who got in trouble with the law and could have wound up dead, but she now is clean and attending college. Her father is grateful, and eager to give back.

It’s not magic. The work at Envirosafe is demanding and dirty, and not all of the hires are successful. But over the years, managers have learned to provide guidance to their employees about what is expected, and many come to understand that succeeding at Envirosafe may offer their last, best chance.

Now the company is trying to expand the mission with a program the Vorels and company vice president Josh Inklovich are developing called Focused Industrial Training, which they hope will become a skilled trade training and employment center.

Providing opportunities for those in need, out of gratitude, certainly sounds like the theme of a holiday story.

A far more typical Christmas tale involves the generosity of strangers who share a common goal of putting presents into the hands of needy children throughout the region.

The Marine Corps Toys for Tots program makes a success of it every year, with the generous help of Post-Gazette readers through the long-standing Goodfellows Fund. Other worthy charities share in the mission, but the folks at the Salvation Army in Monessen had a particularly tough time of it this year.

Thousands of dollars worth of toys were being stored in the basement of the Monessen Worship & Service Center on Schoonmaker Avenue, but the facility was flooded due to heavy rain on Saturday, ruining many of them.

In typical holiday fashion, though, the community came through. By Sunday evening, new donations had poured in, with people traveling from as far away as Greensburg, Cranberry and West Virginia, leaving more than enough toys to replace the damaged items. Another happy holiday ending.

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