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In addition to our charitable efforts around the world, giving back closer to home is a big part of life at Grand Circle and OAT. All year long, there are community service projects underway—and over the course of each year, more than 95% of our associates donate their time, money, and even pints of blood to help better the lives of those in need.

Every time we participate in community service, we discover something new about teamwork, personal accomplishment, and citizenship. We also get a different perspective on the work we do every day.


Food, Glorious Food

The annual food drive was launched in 2010 by associate Tom Whearty. Since 2008, Tom has been organizing a team of volunteers to spend a few hours every quarter at the Greater Boston Food Bank's (GBFB) distribution facility, to sort and box food for distribution to local food pantries, community meal programs, homeless and residential shelters, youth programs, senior centers, and day-care centers throughout this part of the state.


Gifts from the Heart

The semi-annual blood drive at Grand Circle headquarters is a rousing success this Valentine's Day. Giving back to the community in this way also has special meaning for one associate.


Giving Back Locally in 2012

For more than 20 years, Grand Circle Corporation has engaged everyone involved with the company—associates, Trip Leaders and Program Directors, community partners, and travelers—in service to others, at home, and around the world. In 2012, 84% of our Boston associates have participated in Community Service Events.


Backpacks Take Front & Center

At the start of every school year, Grand Circle associates Kathy and John Wilder think about the challenges many students face at this normally exciting time of year. While some classmates are comparing brightly colored notebooks and pencils, others feel a sense of embarrassment or inadequacy. To help bridge this gap between those who have and those who have not, Kathy and John host an annual back-to-school backpack and supply drive.


Cycling for a Cure

Grand Circle Corporation's Boston associates have very personal reasons for helping fight cancer through the Pan-Mass Challenge, a bike-a-thon that is America's single most successful athletic fundraising weekend.


Our Interns Take Charge

There are children living in underserved neighborhoods who face enormous challenges, including finishing high school and going on to become successful in college. In Boston, there are seven remarkable young people—Grand Circle Foundation's Next Generation Leaders Class of 2012—who are working hard to accomplish these goals, and then they are using their skills to help their peers in another land.


Putting the Fun in Fundraising

The marquee fundraiser of the oldest and largest AIDS service organization is the annual 5K Walk & Run around Boston. This year, Grand Circle associates joined in the event and raised funds for HIV and AIDS research—one burrito at a time.


Home Is Where the Heart Is

As every traveler knows, there's no place like home after a long journey. But what about those who have no home to return to? Thanks to 113 Grand Circle and OAT associates who participated in Rebuilding Together Boston, formerly homeless women can rebuild their lives in newly renovated quarters in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston.


Up & Out in Honor of a Colleague

When a Grand Circle Associate's veteran father passed away, his whole department came together to pay tribute to his service in a way that seemed most appropriate: They helped a homeless veteran move into a new apartment.


Too Many Cooks? Not This Time.

When Grand Circle Foundation co-chair Alan Lewis was a young boy growing up in inner-city Boston, he found a haven at West End House Boys & Girls Club. As an adult, he has been a strong supporter of the organization, and its executive director, Andrea Howard, serves on the Foundation's Community Advisory Group. So it should come as no surprise that the West End House is also a beneficiary of the community service team at Grand Circle's Boston headquarters.


Grand Circle Associates Learn to Be a Big Sister

Big Sister helps girls between the ages of 7 and 15 realize their full potential by matching them with a mentor who will give them the attention, care, and support necessary to make healthy choices in their lives. The focus of the community service team was the "Big For a Day" (BFAD) program, under which women can support Big Sister without the more intensive commitment of becoming a Big Sister.


Boston Associates Say "Yes, We Can" Help End Hunger

For this year's annual food drive, associates carried can after can of non-perishable food into the office each day, piling their contributions around the reception area. In all, the 2012 food drive yielded 130 pounds of canned and boxed goods for the Greater Boston Food Bank, which a team of 30 associates delivered personally on January 18. 


Giving Back to Boston: 2011 in Review

Giving back at home is a big part of life at Grand Circle and OAT. All year long, there are community service projects underway, and in 2011 alone, 97% of our Boston staff participated in community service. Because of this dedication, Grand Circle Foundation is able to organize a wide variety of events each year—with confidence that each one will be a success.


Serving Veterans of Military Service

The New England Center for Homeless Veterans (NECHV) has a special place in the hearts of Grand Circle associates in Boston. The NECHV serves more than 1,000 veterans a year—veterans who have battled substance abuse and PTSD, and who are now committed to getting their lives back on track.


A Day of Appreciation with the Greater Boston Food Bank

It's sobering but not surprising that the Greater Boston Food Bank has seen a 23% increase in patronage since the start of the economic downturn. Last year alone, the Food Bank served more than 545,000 people. It took more than 16,000 volunteers and 50,000 hours to make it happen—and now, the support of volunteers is more crucial than ever.


Supplying Students for Success

Each year, as summer draws to a close and families prepare for the back-to-school season, Grand Circle associates Kathy and John Wilder are thinking about the many families in Massachusetts who face challenges during this normally exciting time of year. For parents in low-income households, the annual expense for new school supplies is often more than they can afford.

Cycling for a Cure

It's the nation's original bike-a-thon, and America's single largest athletic fundraising weekend—and in August of 2011, it took place during one of Massachusetts' wettest days in recent memory. As a result, this year's Pan-Mass Challenge was even more challenging than usual… but that didn't deter the team of ten riders representing Grand Circle Foundation, who raised a total of $13,000 to benefit the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.


Stepping Out Against AIDS

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the AIDS epidemic. When the disease was in its infancy, a diagnosis was a death sentence. Those who lost loved ones to this poorly understood virus yearned for a way to make a difference—and to this end, in 1986, the AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts held its first annual AIDS Walk in Boston.

Serving Students & Seniors

The active community service team at Grand Circle's Boston headquarters participated in two events recently, brightening lives in their community at both ends of the age spectrum, from kindergarteners to seniors.


26 Miles and 50 Cakes

Kara O'Toole, Grand Circle's Senior Vice President of Traveler Support and Operations, put foot to pavement on Patriots' Day, 2011, running in her third Boston Marathon. Qualifying times and personal glorification were far from her mind, however. Instead, Kara uses one of Boston's most cherished athletic rituals as a lightening rod to draw attention to a worthy cause: raising money for the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.


The Long Journey Home

On Saturday, April 9, 2011, a team of Grand Circle associates gathered to help a deserving armed forces veteran turn the page and begin a positive new chapter in his life. Through the efforts of Grand Circle Foundation's Up and Out program, Marine Jim Duffy made the move from the New England Center for Homeless Veterans to his own apartment in Boston's South End—lovingly furnished and prepared for him by the donations and efforts of Grand Circle associates.


Grand Circle Associates Truly Give of Themselves

As everyone who works at Grand Circle headquarters knows, a snowstorm can create all kinds of emergencies. And the winter of 2011 saw a lot of snowstorms. It also saw one associated emergency a lot of people aren't aware of: an acute shortage of blood donations.


Driving Out Hunger, One Can at a Time

Braving slippery sidewalks, Grand Circle's Boston associates brought in can after can of non-perishable food in January 2011, piling their contributions around the reception area. The goal, according to tradition, was to not even be able to see the desk by the time donations were complete. And with the effort serving to benefit the Greater Boston Food Bank, everyone was willing to rise to the challenge, donating a total 456 pounds of canned and boxed goods.

Giving Back to Boston: 2010 in Review

As a whole, Grand Circle associates are a committed bunch, eager to give of their time, talent, and resources to help a neighbor in need—in fact, 97% of our Boston staff participated in community service this past year. Because of this dedication, Grand Circle Foundation is able to organize a wide variety of events each year—with confidence that each one will be a success. As we look forward to another successful year of giving back, here's a look back at some of our favorite events in 2010.

One Dessert, a Week of Healthy Meals

Each year, 1,450 clients who are too ill to shop or cook for themselves rely on Community Servings to deliver free, medically appropriate meals to their homes. And every Thanksgiving since 1993, the Boston community has joined forces to help make it happen through an event called Pie in the Sky.

Veterans Day: Serving Those Who Served

Sometimes the simplest gifts can be the most meaningful—particularly when the things we often take for granted, like a hot meal and everyday toiletry items, can make such a huge difference in another's life. Such was the case for Grand Circle Foundation this past Veterans Day.

Harvesting Hope with the Food Project

About a mile past Walden Pond in Lincoln, Massachusetts, The Food Project is cultivating more than just carrots and squash—they're cultivating a new generation of leaders and healthy food for the hungry.

A Step Up & Out for Two Homeless Families

For the recently homeless, finding an apartment is just the first step on the long and costly path to independence. Acquiring items like furniture, bedding, kitchen appliances, and even cleaning products can seem insurmountable for families struggling to get back on their feet. The Up & Out program relieves them of this burden.

All the Tools for Back-to-School

"For families who are struggling to put food on the table, back-to-school time—which should be an exciting time—is a stressful time," says Kathy Wilder, Grand Circle's Director of Data Warehouse. "They can't afford to equip their children with the proper school supplies. Starting the school year without the proper learning tools has a negative impact on a child's self-esteem and starts them off on the wrong foot at school."

Life Lessons on the Serengeti Plains

Send a group of teenagers to the Serengeti, and you might expect them to return with enthusiastic tales of big game sightings—extraordinary moments that bring childhood fantasies of the wilderness to life. It's a powerful experience for a traveler of any age … but for the 2010 Next Generation Leaders, a very different facet of Africa proved far more meaningful: the encounters they shared with the local people.

2010 Pan-Mass Challenge

The Pan-Massachusetts Challenge® (PMC), is the nation's original fundraising bike-a-thon. Since its launch in 1980, this annual long-distance bicycling challenge has contributed $270 million to lifesaving cancer research and treatment at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute through its Jimmy Fund. This year, nine Grand Circle associates embraced the challenge, raising more than $30,000 to help find a cure.

Developing the Gutsy Leaders of Tomorrow

"Academic excellence lays the foundation for success," says Harriet Lewis. "But there are so many other experiences that I consider valuable, like community service, professional employment, and, of course, international travel." To this end, Harriet channeled her passion for education and leadership development into the Next Generation Leaders program, dedicated to providing a richer experience for promising college-bound students.

AIDS Walk Boston

As the Chinese proverb reminds us, "The longest journey begins with a single step." The road to ending the scourge of AIDS and HIV remains a long one—but on Sunday, June 6 in Boston, 12,000 men, women, and children stepped out to do their part to raise funds and awareness about the disease.

Rebuilding Together Boston

Living alone on a fixed income, Donna Shepard could never afford to make some much-needed repairs to her beloved family home—until 140 Grand Circle associates and their families intervened. Donna's home was chosen as the site of our 15th annual Rebuilding Together Boston (RTB) event—our biggest company-wide community service event of the year. View a photo gallery featuring the event, which left Donna's home sparkling almost as brightly as the smiles on the faces of our volunteers.

Mothers DayLittle Brother's Mother's Day Lunch

Beth Goldberg, an Air Auditor at Grand Circle Travel, has helped out at the Little Brothers' Mother's Day lunch for the past six years. "Little Brothers," she explains, "aren't actually brothers at all—they aren't even little; they are men and women who belong to a national organization that calls itself 'Friends of the Elderly.'" It's become a Mother's Day tradition for some Grand Circle employees and their friends and families to join forces with the Little Brothers of Boston and throw a fancy lunch for twenty-five to thirty low-income elderly women every year.

Support for Squashbusters

How does an athletic activity foster not only good sportsmanship, but also academic excellence and a sense of social responsibility? At SquashBusters, these values go hand-in-hand as part of an innovative afterschool program that combines the game of squash with academic tutoring and community service for inner city youth. Now in its 14th year, the program serves nearly 115 students from grades six through 12 during the school year, and another 60 students over the summer.


2010 Blood Drive: A Gift from the Heart

Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) estimates that one in ten of their admitted patients will need a blood transfusion—each of whom could require anywhere from one to one hundred units of blood. Finding enough volunteers to roll up their sleeves and donate is as crucial—and challenging—as ever. So on March 3, 2010, the MGH bloodmobile pulled up to Grand Circle headquarters and welcomed associates to give a pint to save lives.

Julie gives blood

Feeding Hope for Hungry Neighbors

Beginning on January 19, 2010, Grand Circle and OAT associates were greeted by a heartwarming site upon arrival for work each morning: a collection of non-perishable food that grew larger and larger every day, until it threatened to completely engulf the reception desk. Every can, box, and bag served as a constant reminder of their collective generosity—and of the fact that even a simple gesture can make a huge difference for someone in need.

The Lewis Family

Home for the Holidays

On December 12, 2009, a woman named Alketa and her two-year-old daughter, Deniz, received
an early Christmas gift that they won't soon forget. They moved into their very own apartment—which was cleaned, furnished, and a world away from the last place they called home.

Alketa and Deniz were the 24th family to move out of the Boston Family Shelter (BFS) with the help of Up & Out, a program begun in 2006 by Grand Circle associate Chris Penn. For the recently homeless, finding an apartment is just the first step on the long and costly path to independence.

Community of Friends' Backpack Drive

Each year, OAT associate Kathy Wilder helps more than 500 students get a head start on the school year through her charity, Community of Friends—and she can always count on her colleagues to donate backpacks and supplies.

The 2009 Pan-Massachusetts Challenge

This past August, six OAT associates—including Alan and Harriet Lewis—each biked up to 192 miles across Massachusetts to raise more than $20,000 for the Jimmy Fund.

Rebuilding Together Boston

Our largest annual community service event is called Rebuilding Together Boston, and each year more than 100 associates recruit their friends and family to help renovate the home of someone in need. A complete home transformation occurs in just one day, thanks to the spirit and drive of our associate volunteers.