Giving Back to Boston: 2011 in Review
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Giving Back to Boston: 2011 in Review

A look back at what associates at headquarters did to give back to our community

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.

As we look forward to another successful year of giving back, here's a look back at some of our favorite events in 2011.

Holiday Raffle:
Every year, at the company holiday party, a raffle is held to benefit one or more of our most beloved community partners—and in 2011, the honor went to the Kid's Café at the West End House and the Up & Out Program at the New England Center for Homeless Veterans (see below). We are grateful to our neighborhood businesses and travel vendors for donating everything from restaurant gift cards to airline tickets for this event. This year, we were able to raise $19,400, promising a brighter year ahead for the children of the West End House and residents of the New England Center for Homeless Veterans.

New England Center for Homeless Veterans:
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. Grand Circle first partnered with NECHV in April 2009, and has since made serving its residents around Veterans' Day an annual event.

This year, when the Grand Circle team asked what residents needed most, shelter staff asked for warm socks and clean underwear. So, on the evening of November 16, Grand Circle associates delivered a total of 2,245 pairs of socks and underwear to NECHV—and, just as they did the previous year, they also served dinner to the shelter's residents, grateful for the opportunity to give back to those who have served our country.

NECHV is also the focus of the Boston community service team's Up and Out program, in which company volunteers help about families relocate to—and even furnish—new homes. By the end of 2011, the team will have orchestrated seven different moves—including a family of seven.

Greater Boston Food Bank:
It's sobering but not surprising that the Greater Boston Food Bank (GBFB) 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—which translates into 35 million pounds of food that needed to be inspected, sorted, packed, and distributed from the GBFB facility. Since 2008, under the leadership of Tom Whearty, Grand Circle's director of business solutions, more than 100 Grand Circle associates have helped sort and package food at quarterly community service events.

In addition, again under Tom's leadership, Grand Circle holds a food drive to benefit the GBFB in January. This year's food drive yielded 456 pounds of canned and boxed goods for the GBFB. Since 1.3 pounds of food is roughly the equivalent of one meal, Grand Circle's contributions translate to 351 meals for hungry Massachusetts residents.

Grand Circle was proud to accept the Volunteers of the Year award at the Greater Boston Food Bank Partner Appreciation Luncheon this year, in honor of the consistency and commitment of our associates who regularly donate their time at GBFB's warehouse facility. Fittingly, it was Tom Whearty who accepted the award on behalf of Grand Circle volunteers.

Backpack Drive:
To help bridge the gap between those who have and those who have not, Grand Circle associates Kathy and John Wilder host a community service event that has become an annual favorite at Grand Circle: a back-to-school backpack and supply drive. Volunteers receive a school supply list, and purchase and fill a backpack with grade-appropriate materials, including pencils, notebooks, highlighters, three-ring binders, and scissors. In 2011, associates filled and donated 152 backpacks.

Pan-Massachusetts Challenge:
Ten Grand Circle associates participated in the nation's original bike-a-thon this year, along routes that range from 25 to 192 miles over just two days. A raffle, a hotdog-eating contest, and a matching gift from Grand Circle Foundation helped the team raise nearly $30,000 for Dana-Farber Cancer Institute last August.

AIDS Walk & Run:
This year marked the 30th anniversary of the AIDS epidemic, and for the past 26 of those years, the AIDS Action Committee Boston has held an annual AIDS Walk & Run to raise funds and awareness of the disease. This year, more than 40 walkers and runners from Grand Circle stepped out for either the 5k run or 6.2 mile walk, raising $9,000. In all, associates have raised a total of $367,000 for the AIDS Action Committee since 1994.

Rebuilding Together Boston:
Every year, Grand Circle selects a single site for refurbishment during a one-day event in support of Rebuilding Together Boston (RTB), the local chapter of the nation's largest volunteer nonprofit that helps repair and restore homes and nonprofit facilities in an effort to stabilize Boston neighborhoods.

In 2011, the 18th consecutive year that Grand Circle has participated in this annual community service event, associates gathered at the Parkside Christian Academy, which serves 150 inner-city Boston students from pre-school to 9th grade, to paint 20 classrooms, two hallways, and two after-school rooms, and completely transform the teachers' lounge and clean out the lockers. Outside the school, crews removed a very large old wooden playground, planted flowers, put down 30 bags of mulch, and replaced two exterior emergency exit doors.

Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly:
Grand Circle Foundation has partnered with the Boston chapter of Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly since 1994, donating a total of $148,500 to the organization. A highlight of that partnership is an annual catered Mother's Day lunch for low-income women, many of whom are without families to help keep them from loneliness. This year, volunteers from Grand Circle treated 25 elderly women to lunch, complete with entertainment, and sent them home with a gift bag of homemade baked goods.

"Kakes for Kara":
In April, Kara O'Toole, Grand Circle's senior vice president of traveler support and operations, completed the Boston Marathon, raising $15,000 for the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in the process. Of that total, $11,000 was raised by a fundraising event organized by Grand Circle executive vice president Joe Cali, in which nearly 200 cakes—nearly all homemade by Grand Circle associates—were sold by the slice or raffled off. "The event was a great example of our company's culture at its finest," says Joe.

Blood Drive:
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. In response to the crisis, Grand Circle hosted a blood drive at its Boston headquarters on February 11, in which 79 associates lined up to give. Of those, 64 donations were successful. As three patients' lives can be saved by each donation, a total of 192 people were helped as a result of these generous contributions.

Featured in our December 2011 E-Newsletter. Read the full issue here.