For the past 12 years, winters at AbelsonTaylor have been highlighted by Winterfest, an employee-driven initiative that provides comfort and joy to Chicagoans in need while uniting us in the fellowship of sharing with others. We’re doing things differently this season, but we’re not letting the pandemic prevent us from observing Winterfest. In fact, the pandemic makes philanthropy all the more important in 2020.
COVID-driven insecurity – in health, employment, and the fundamental needs for food and shelter – is hitting our country hard, and the number of Americans suffering is growing at an alarming rate. Most AbelsonTaylor employees are able to work from home, relying on technology and resourcefulness to keep us going despite the pandemic. But many people lack that luxury.
So this time around we’re focusing Winterfest on health and food insecurity and conducting most activities virtually rather than in person. But don’t think that means this season’s Winterfest will be impersonal. Just as “Virtue” and “Virtual” look a lot alike, kindness and generosity can be almost as beneficial to receive and as gratifying to give whether presented face-to-face or via tech-mediated contact. Another one of those “silver lining” lessons from the pandemic.
Our primary Winterfest activities this year are:
Christmas Without Cancer – We’ve partnered before with this outstanding nonprofit, which helps create a brief respite for Chicago families dealing with cancer. In December, working with the nursing staff of several Chicagoland hospitals, we sponsored two families who have kids battling cancer, providing gifts for all members. We gave more than 70 carefully chosen presents as well as gift cards for personal purchases.
Southern Smoke and the Chicago Restaurant Worker Relief Fund — Southern Smoke, a relief organization for food and beverage industry workers, created a fund to help Chicago restaurant, bar and coffee shop workers who’ve lost their jobs or had their incomes slashed because of the pandemic. They were the beneficiaries of this year’s AT Booze Raffle. Each year, agency staff donate a wide array of spirits, wines and other alcoholic beverages for a raffle benefiting a particular charity. We raised $5,000 this year, greatly aided by our president, Jeff Berg, who earned $1,500 in five minutes for drinking four shots of Jeppson’s Malort, a brutally bitter Chicago liquor believed by some to be flavored with gasoline.
Chicago Help Initiative – We’re proud to continue supporting this organization, donating $2,600 to help provide hot meals for homeless Chicagoans.
Greater Chicago Food Depository – This is another long-term partnership we’re proud to support, this time with a $2,500 contribution.
Lakeview Pantry – One of Chicago’s largest and longest-operating food pantries, this organization not only provides food to the hungry, but also nutrition education and referrals to other forms of assistance. AT staff volunteered at the pantry for a day, in addition to AT making a $1,000 donation to the group.
Heifer International — This is the 18th year AT has supported this unique organization, which helps disadvantaged families throughout the world gain greater self-sufficiency. This Winterfest, we’re sponsoring the Heifer Future of Food project in Ecuador, which teaches farmers how to increase the output of their sustainable farming efforts and create urban markets for selling their produce. This is our second year of sponsorship and we’re proud to report that Ecuadorian farmers working with the project have built a new sales channel during the pandemic, making home deliveries of farm-fresh produce during quarantine.
While 2020 was a painful, uncertain, challenging year, the glimmers of hope for better days ahead are getting brighter. Always make time for kindness. Happy 2021.