Workers at Wise-Mack in Omaha usually pool their money to get the boss a Christmas gift.
One year, they bought company owner Bert Wise a television set for his office.
He figured his 40 employees might be cooking up something for this year, so he paid a visit to general manager Peggy McLarney.
She said he asked if they'd gotten anything yet.
Not exactly, she replied.
“I have a proposition for you,” he answered.
Wise, 51, asked employees to donate whatever they could to a fund he would more than match. The money would go to The World-Herald's Goodfellows charity, which provides one-time emergency aid and holiday meal vouchers to people in the community.
Wise's family has owned the Mack Truck distributorship since his dad, Bert Sr., bought it in 1976. The senior Wise had a long history of Goodfellows donations, dating to holiday parties for the Nebraska Trucking Association in the late 1970s.
Association members thought a charitable collection should be part of the gatherings, and a tradition of giving was born, the younger Wise said.
That history with Goodfellows prompted him to issue this year's challenge. For the first time, Wise-Mack donated under the company name instead of through the association because Wise wanted to raise awareness and perhaps influence others to give.
“Anonymity makes sense in some cases, but certainly there's times to say, 'We did it, so why don't you get on the bandwagon?' ” he said.
Wise wasn't sure why the truckers group initially chose Goodfellows, but he said he likes the fund because all donations go directly to people in need. The World-Herald pays all administrative costs.
Employees embraced the project, raising $600 in a week, McLarney said. Wise donated $1,200 for a total of $1,800.
They also outsmarted the boss. McLarney said they had planned to get a portrait of the younger Wise to hang alongside his dad's picture in the lobby of the business at 72nd and L Streets.
They're getting it anyway.