Hearts Full of Joy at Winterfest
Every December since 2008, AbelsonTaylor employees have helped bring some cheer to hundreds of Chicagoans through Winterfest, the crowning event of our Hearts AT Work corporate social responsibility program.
Winterfest isn’t a single day or activity – it’s several giving-back activities during the month, chosen and driven by employees. Bringing things in-house makes it easier for staff to give time during the busy holiday season and increases the total contributions we’re able to make (the agency contributes generously to our efforts).
In the beginning, Winterfest focused on Chicago children, with activities ranging from fulfilling letters-to-Santa wishes in partnership with local Postal Service offices to hosting a holiday party for members of a Chicago youth organization. Today, we partner with more than a dozen local and national organizations, all of which ladder up in some way to health and wellness, and we’ve expanded our focus beyond children, although they still figure prominently in everything we do.
Key Winterfest partners and activities for this year include:
Chicago Hope Initiative http://chicagohelpinitiative.org/ – This organization serves meals to those who are homeless or otherwise lack access to healthy food. We’re sponsoring and serving a meal on Dec. 11, with about 20 staffers on hand. We’re also running a cold-weather clothing drive to help provide coats, scarves, hats, gloves and boots to those facing a cold Chicago winter without guaranteed shelter.
Christmas Without Cancer http://christmaswithoutcancer.org/ — This group helps create a period of respite for Chicagoland families dealing with cancer. We’re working with the nursing staff of Advocates Hospital on the southside of the city to adopt three families and fill a gift wish list for each member.
Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago https://www.luriechildrens.org/ — We support this top-ranked hospital through our annual Booze Raffle. Staffers donate a bottle or six-pack of something (from rare wines to home-made libations), we sell raffle tickets for all, and everyone gathers in the AT Café for what’s always one of our favorite activities.
AT original artwork sale – Every October, staffers take part in the global Inktober challenge, producing a gallery of original drawings. After displaying them in an in-agency exhibit, we custom-frame some, transfer others onto practical items like tote bags and coffee mugs, then sell the Inktober works during Winterfest. The year’s two or three most prolific artists (participants can create as many drawings as they want), choose which charities the proceeds of the sale will benefit. This year’s art sale will be held Dec. 11th and 12th in the AT Café.
Corporate giving is a long-established part of AbelsonTaylor’s culture. Since 2002, the agency has commemorated the December holidays by making contributions in client names to Heifer International, helping disadvantaged families around the world gain greater self-sufficiency. The agency also makes substantial contributions to the Chicago Food Depository through a weekly company-sponsored “Free Friday Lunches” program, although employee donations also make up a significant portion of the contributions.
What’s different about Hearts AT Work and Winterfest is that they are totally employee-driven initiatives, rooted in volunteerism by the entire staff. Giving and sharing from the desire to help another human being creates incredibly powerful emotional bonds between people, but there’s also a practical aspect of working together across job titles, account responsibilities and areas of expertise. A new AT staffer working on his first Winterfest remarked that it was a great team-building exercise because he got to know people who were otherwise just faces in the hall. “We represented a wide range of ages, backgrounds and experience,” he said, “and we all worked together successfully toward one single goal – to help as many as we could.”
That sense of fellowship is the essential spirit of Winterfest and has long-term payoffs for the agency and staff as well as the communities we serve.