What began as a simple office collection of Christmas toys among Rice Energy employees has grown into a multi-community toy drive for the gas and oil company, providing hundreds of gifts to Toys For Tots.

Rice Energy’s “Blue Crew” spreads holiday cheer from Thanksgiving through Christmas with their annual “Plate of Plenty” and winter coat drive in November to the annual Reindeer Rally in December. Rice Energy Inc. is an independent natural gas and oil company engaged in the acquisition, exploration and development in the Appalachian Basin.


Rice Energy employees and family members served hundreds of meals in Washington County and Green County, PA, this Thanksgiving. Photo courtesy, Rice Energy.

The company hosted its Second Annual Reindeer Rally Gift and Greet benefitting Toys for Tots at the Ebbert Farm Market Saturday, December 17, in St. Clairsville, Ohio. More than 700 adults and children attended the event, which collected some 1,400 toys for Belmont County Toys for Tots.


Rice Energy’s “Blue Crew” volunteers contributed more than 300 hours preparing for the return of Santa Claus and a crowd of adults and children yearning to share their Christmas lists. The market is transformed into a picturesque winter wonderland, complete with freshly cut pine trees, Santa’s sleigh and a workshop full of toys.

“We strive to give back to the communities that have provided us the opportunity to pursue our mission,” commented President and COO Toby Z. Rice. “Our company is proud of our ability to enrich the world around us while working in southwestern Pennsylvania and southeastern Ohio. From providing family-sustaining jobs to our nearly 500 employees and several thousand contractors, to improving local neighborhoods through volunteerism and charitable contributions, our community enrichment profile has grown year over year. We intend to continuously find new, innovative ways to engage our neighbors and give back.”

Upon arrival at the Reindeer Rally, guests were greeted by volunteers who accepted their donations of new, unwrapped toys. From there, crowds of families walked through a maze of wrapped gifts in Santa’s workshop, where they were served hot chocolate and cookies before visiting with Santa Claus.

In November, Rice’s Blue Crew served about 550 adults and children a traditional Thanksgiving meal, complete with trimmings, through the company’s Plate of Plenty. Hundreds of new and gently used donated coats were given away along with the meal.

About one hundred Rice employees and their relatives volunteer their time each year for Thanksgiving event. Attendees lined up 45 minutes prior to the sit-down dinner this year, so the doors were opened ahead of schedule. One hundred meals were served in the first 30 minutes, said Price.

The Plate of Plenty was held in two locations in Washington County, PA, this year and at another location in Greene County, PA.

The company’s first Reindeer Rally generated about 1500 toys for the region in 2015.

“Our partnership with Toys for Tots has grown from a small group of employees managing a collection in our office space to a full-fledged event that encourages community-wide participation,” commented Kimberly Price, Manager of External Communication and Community Relations for Rice Energy. “We’re proud of the employee volunteers who have come together to create a memorable experience for our neighbors who share Rice Energy’s vision of allowing each local family to experience the excitement of the holiday season.”

Inclement winter weather, however, kept many of the guests home this year, as some 1200 had signed up to attend. Early morning freezing rain prevented a couple of reindeer from making it to the event, as well.

“The kids were understanding, and realized that Santa’s runway was too icy and the reindeer need a running start to take off,” said Price.

Rice volunteers call themselves the Blue Crew, and their goal is to spread the power of positive energy, according to a company press release.

Santa’s Reindeer couldn’t make it to Rice Energy’s Reindeer Rally due to a winter storm, but Santa was on hand to meet with children and hundreds of toys were donated to benefit Toys For Tots.

Rice Energy was recognized as a 2016 Top Workplace in the southwestern Pennsylvania region by The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

WorkplaceDynamics, LLC, annually ranks companies based on the opinions of people who work there. Employees are asked to confidentially rate their employers on a wide range of attributes, including pay and benefits, opportunities for advancement, flexibility of schedules, and other key aspects like executive leadership and communication.

“By working together as a team, we can achieve a vision that cannot be achieved as individuals,” said a statement on the company site. “We strive to be a protector of the environment, to foster a safe and professional work environment, and to give back to those communities that have provided us the opportunity to pursue our vision.”

Deborah Oberlin, Local Coordinating Officer for Toys for Tots, noted that more than 150 families in Belmont County will benefit from this year’s toy collections.

“If it weren’t for the efforts of Rice Energy, Christmas would not be possible for many kids in Belmont County,” commented Oberlin.

Owners of the Ebbert Farm Market, Lova and Jerry Ebbert, have made the Reindeer Rally a new holiday tradition.

About The Author Chaye Stephen

My dad was a news reporter and later published Coal & Energy News, a magazine covering the Ohio Valley Coal industry. That's where I first honed my writing skills. I studied journalism in college but soon found that writing doesn’t always pay well. So through the years, I've functioned in many other capacities, including business owner and entrepreneur. Most recently, I've worked in the oil & gas industry leasing and buying minerals. I have two sons, and we live in the heart of the Utica Shale play in East Ohio. We live on 85 rural acres surrounded by the beauty of nature and lots of critters. Even here, the need to write still flows through my veins.