Marine Gunnery Sgt. Albert Roman gives a pep talk to the Dunkin’Donuts volunteers before the $20,000 shopping spree at ToysR Us in Albany.

Marine Gunnery Sgt. Albert Roman gives a pep talk to the Dunkin’Donuts volunteers before the $20,000 shopping spree at ToysR Us in Albany.

Forget the long lines at the mall, the constant barrage of commercialism, and the pressure of searching for the best deal for Wii RockBand. The true holiday spirit is alive and well at Dunkin’ Donuts, and employees are finding that giving back to the communities may be the best way to enjoy the season.

Just ask Eric Stensland, field marketing manager for Dunkin’ Brands. He and some upstate New York franchise owners went on the ride of their lives last weekend with the U.S. Marines on the Toys for Tots Holiday Train, dropping off toys and warm clothes to children waiting at the several stations across the state.

 “It was incredible,” said Stensland. “At every stop there were over 100 kids, some with as many as 400 to 500, waiting in a snowstorm to see Santa. We were able to give each of them a gift.” The train also provides toys and clothing to area non profit organizations.
“Anytime you see families go without, especially with the economic times these days, bringing a smile to their faces or making their holiday special is rewarding,” Stensland said.

That fact that the train left the station at all is a tribute to the generosity of the franchise owners who donated $20,000 to keep the train on track after a Wall Street investor backed out of the financing.  “Dunkin’ Donuts literally came to the rescue,” said Marine Gunnery Sgt. Albert Roman who heads up the toy drive locally. “Their generous support shows the true nature of the holiday spirit.”

But giving can be fun, and what’s better than $20,000 shopping spree?  To stock up the train, Stensland and 25 other franchise volunteers, including the Dunkin’ Mascot went shopping at Toys R Us in Albany. Sporting their Dunkin’ Donuts Santa hats, volunteers Kevin Garcia, Ivo Garcia, Lucy Prudencio, David Leal, Christpher Camelo, Matasha Teixeira, Chrsitan Prudencio, and several general managers and employees shopped ‘till they dropped, loading train with over 30,000 toys.

The generosity doesn’t end there. So far this season, Dunkin’ Donuts has provided wish-list gifts for more than 175 local families in need. They’ve provided over 250-volunteer hours for charities such as Cradles to Crayons, Boston Animal Rescue League, and Keeping Pace with Multiples. On top of that, employees have donated 1,600 lbs of coffee to send to the troops overseas.

McCall Gosselin, communication manager, volunteered her time by sorting shoes for Cradles to Crayons at their warehouse in Quincy, Massachusetts. “Volunteering gives you an appreciation for the amount of work these charities do to reach out to those in need. It also makes you realize how lucky you are,” she said.

The culture of giving continues all year with the Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin- Robbins Community Foundation. This year DDIFO has donated $4,000 to the foundation toward grants for Feeding America, the nation’s largest food-bank network, and Do Something, an organization that rallies kids to be activists for their communities.

Gosselin hopes that these partnerships will provide more opportunities for the franchise owners to pitch in and volunteer. Feeding America, for example, sponsors The Backpack Program, which provides nutritious food to kids via their school backpacks. The program is being rolled out in 14 markets nationwide in 2010.

“We know that our franchise owners are very generous in their communities, giving back to sports teams, emergency responders, local schools, and town programs,” said Gosselin. “We’re doing what we can to continue to foster that spirit of giving.”