Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

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December 18, 2013

Santa's campers

Campers help Amazon keep up with holiday rush

CAMPBELLSVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Twinkling lights, ornament-strewn trees and bustling campgrounds. Those are signs of the Christmas season in this Kentucky town, where the Amazon.com distribution center recruits an armada of RV owners as seasonal workers to help fill holiday orders.

They're dubbed the "CamperForce" by the world's largest online retailer. Hundreds of campers are assigned packing, sorting and collection duties at Amazon warehouses in Kentucky, Kansas and Nevada — roles meant to keep orders flowing during the yuletide rush.

Swarms of workers take up temporary residence in campgrounds. For many, it's another short-term stint on a nonstop journey. It's a lifestyle and mindset for retirees, empty nesters and younger parents who shuck traditions of home and work to roam from campsite to campsite, job to job.

"It's a job, it's not a career, so you don't have to take it so seriously," said Ron Dale, a college graduate with a business degree. "Go and have a good time. ... You don't have the stress of thinking, 'I've got to perform at an unbelievable level. I've got to work extra hours so the boss knows I'm dedicated.'"

It gives him more time to spend with his wife, 7-year-old son and 18-month-old daughter, he said.

Since 2010, Amazon has recruited campers for its distribution centers in Campbellsville, Ky., Coffeyville, Kan., and Fernley, Nevada — places with modest populations where the company has to cast a wider net to bring in enough temporary workers to fill its needs.

The stints last about three months, and the hours on the job tend to grow longer as Christmas nears.

Dale, who just logged a 60-hour work week, said: "I'm the guy who grabs the presents and sends them to the kids for Christmas."

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