The food purchased will then be delivered to target clients a few days before Christmas by volunteer employees who will once again be donating a few hours of their personal time. Lacking reindeer, the STM will lend them buses to accomplish a major part of Santa’s work and thus give him a serious helping hand as well!
Sound Transit employees are some of the most generous, open-hearted people I know. I’m always delighted to hear about our staff’s year-round volunteer efforts in charitable giving and events including the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. At the holiday season, one special project boosts our employees’ holiday spirits and makes a huge difference close to home.
Sound Transit headquarters are located in historic Union Station in Seattle’s International District. This neighborhood’s residents are among the city’s poorest. People served by the International District Housing Alliance (IDHA), which provides housing and community-building services, have average incomes of $600 per month. Most of those served are low-income senior citizens, many from minority populations, along with some families with children. They live very modestly in this neighborhood of historic buildings constructed a century ago to house immigrants from China, Japan and the Philippines.
Each fall the IDHA asks its residents what they need most. Their responses are very basic; most request a warm winter coat or blanket. Teens in the IDHA youth program then design and build a festive display for Union Station featuring gift tags that include a resident’s age, gender and gift request.
Sound Transit employees select tags, then shop and return to work with unwrapped gifts, tags attached. Staff is always generous, and each year we fulfill every one of the 100 to 150 gift requests. Knitters here make extra hats, scarves and mittens as bonus gifts to bring extra warmth and smiles.
In mid-December, employees are invited to volunteer their lunch hour to help wrap gifts at the nearby IDHA offices, and to come back during lunch to help deliver those gifts. Interpreters accompany the gift-giving team to help relay season’s greetings to recipients who don’t speak English. This project provides a unique opportunity for our employees to visit our neighbors and to give back to the community where we spend our working days.
Grand Rapids, Mich.
Like many agencies, The Rapid has looked at ways to reduce expenses over the past several years. As part of that effort, we eliminated our winter awards banquet, which also served as our employee holiday party, after holding it for many years. We’ve replaced the banquet with more cost-effective, scaled down events that still provide all our employees with a sense of camaraderie and celebration.
We hold an all employee potluck in mid-December. The Rapid provides the main dishes, usually ham and roasted turkey, paper products and utensils and the employees do the rest.
And what a job they do — the potluck brings out tables of fabulous food, including temping desserts from a bus operator who is also a professional baker. Because we are a smaller agency, most employees are able to participate, but we make arrangements for our second and third shift mechanics and others whose work schedules preclude them from participating.
We also select a local charity each year and encourage employees to make a donation. We assist in the collection and delivery of the donations, which in the past have benefited Toys for Tots, a local veterans’ home and the Salvation Army. Providing an easy way for employees to give back to the community and to remember those that are less fortunate reminds us of the true spirit of the holidays.
Finally, we have a year-round wellness initiative to promote healthy eating choices, encourage exercise and help employees quit smoking. During the holidays, we focus on how to provide healthier alternatives for holiday meals and treats, strategies to avoid weight gain during the holidays and ways to cope with the stress that can sometimes be a problem around this time of year.