A Christmas Epiphany

“Why don’t we take our blessings and share them with our community?”



If there’s anyone that knows the United Way “family” inside and out, it’s Shelly Langona.


Years ago, she threw her cap in the air as an Indiana State University graduate, celebrated her achievement, and ran smack into that question of “now, what should I do with my life?” She had a business degree in hand.  She had the drive. She even had what most would consider an easy choice:  joining her family’s business, RJE business interiors.


“No way!” Shelly laughed. “That was definitely not an option for me at that time. As a child, I always said ‘the family business was so boring.’”


Instead, Shelly jumped at the chance to join the fundraising team of United Way of Central Indiana. Seeing first hand United Way’s impact in the community, Shelly’s involvement grew from employee and volunteer to advocate and donor. Then, in 2008, she got a call from the VP of Sales at – you guessed it – RJE business interiors. For Shelly, the call to join the family business at that time was an offer she couldn’t refuse.


“I knew I could make an impact at RJE,” said Shelly, “and I could still be attached to my family at United Way. RJE business interiors is a proud supporter of United Way, so it was my perfect outcome.”


Shelly joined RJE business interiors nine years ago and has since been promoted to General Manager and Vice President. More importantly to Shelly, her list of United Way involvement has increased.  At this point, Shelly has held six (!) titles of United Way service:  employee, volunteer, Emerging Leaders member, Tocqueville member, board member and now, United Christmas Service supporter.


With United Christmas Service, Shelly, her husband Stephen, her parents Denny and Cathy Sponsel, and her extended family chose to look at the holiday season differently. After years of the shopping stress of finding the “perfect gift” for someone in their family, the Langonas had a Christmas Epiphany.


“We all said ‘why don’t we take what we normally spend on each other do something good with it, especially for those families who aren’t asking for toys and games — they are asking for coats and clothes.’”


So, they did. Going a step further, Shelly has referred friends to the program, and her United Way Tocqueville Society colleagues are donating the supplies needed – wrapping paper, tape, and gift tags – so that every family who receives a United Christmas Service voucher also has the essentials to truly “play Santa” on Christmas and create their own family traditions.


“United Christmas Service is all about families helping families. To me, that’s really the true meaning of the holiday season.”

Ready to sing? On the sixth Day of Giving, United Way gave to me … six ways to support United Way, five volunteer hours, four Christmas ornaments, three Merry Money vouchers, two cheerful bothers, and one way to help my community.



Speaking of holiday traditions, we played a game of “This or That” with Shelly, with a special holiday theme. Shelly’s picks are in bold.


Which do you love to sing, Silent Night or Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer?


Which movie, It’s a Wonderful Life or A Christmas Story?


On Christmas Day, Ham or Turkey?


Opening presents on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day?*

*Shelly said, “Although this year, since my husband is a pilot and is working on Dec. 25, we told our boys, Brody (5) and Bennett (2), that Santa said he could come a day later so that dad could celebrate with us!


Should holiday decorations go up before Thanksgiving or definitely after?


Would you rather go sledding or sip hot cocoa by the fire?


Shop on Black Friday or stay inside and eat leftovers?


Bake from scratch or buy Christmas cookies?


Store-bought gifts or handmade?*

*Shelly laughed, “If I can find the time between work and being a mom!”


Go see Christmas lights or put up your own lights?  Both!*

*Shelly added “we’re southsiders and our favorite Christmas Light display in town is right by Long’s Bakery. It really gets us in the spirit!”


Donate money or time during the holidays?  Absolutely, both!*

*Shelly concluded, “we do so many volunteer opportunities through work and church. While monetary donations are essential to organizations like United Way, volunteering adds that special connection. You can interact, get your hands dirty, so to speak. Donating both time and talent gives you the whole picture of what you can do to truly make a difference.”