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'Tis the Season

Companies Celebrate the Holidays by Giving Back

Jared Preusz

December 1, 2008

Christmas only happens once a year and many Utah businesses celebrate with one-of-a-kind parties. While these parties often celebrate a year of hard work with gifts and games, many companies are choosing to go beyond usual celebrations by giving back to the community. Some are donating money to charities, holding food, clothing and toy drives or giving in other ways while still finding time to honor star employees and celebrate the holiday season. Orem-based Omniture, a Web analytics company, is one company that knows exactly what it means to celebrate during the holiday season. At the end of each year, the company holds a state-of-the-art black tie event at the Grand America Hotel, celebrating employees and their hard work. The event includes live entertainment, employee spotlights and more. At the event’s end, all employees play “rock, paper, scissors” for a grand prize. Last year’s winner walked away with $10,000 and this year the award is expected to be even higher. “We are really the epitome of a work-hard, play-hard culture,” says Cathy Donahue, director of human resources at Omniture. “We are the fastest growing software company in the world. You don’t get there without working really hard, so we play hard too.” But the celebration isn’t limited to Omniture employees; each year the company also donates money to charities, including Red Cross, Toys for Tots, PJ’s Forgotten Children and many other organizations, which employees select themselves. “It is important for us to give back to the community and we do that through charitable contributions that resonate well with our employees,” Donahue says. Along with Omniture, DOBA, an online drop ship solution company, finishes off the year by thanking its employees with a grand Christmas party. Last year, the company celebrated at Thanksgiving Point, where a new theme for the next year was presented and gifts were also given out to employees based on tenure. As for its charity efforts, the company donates money to organizations throughout the year rather than only during the holiday season. Meagan Ridley, executive assistant at DOBA, says the company also donates funds to United Way for its Sub-for-Santa program. Like DOBA, CHG Healthcare realizes the importance of donating to charity. The health care organization used to have a corporate party in December every year, but its employees wanted something else. The company responded by allocating its entertainment funds to teams, based on the departments each employee works in. Each team now plans their own parties or makes a donation to a charity of their choice. Jennifer Mayhew, director of corporate events for CHG Healthcare, says the organization as a whole also donates money to the United Way and gets into the Christmas spirit by giving a portion of the fund to Sub-for-Santa. This year, the company raised over a quarter of a million dollars for United Way. Mayhew also says that CHG Healthcare makes the spirit of giving fun for its employees.“We have a United Way week and there are many different activities,” she says. “Every day we have different fundraising opportunities. So instead of writing one check to United Way, employees participate in one of the activities. We try to give them a million different opportunities to give.” Past events for the United Way week included a Wii competition, a Dynobite chicken nugget eating contest and a breakfast. Mayhew says employees love this week more than any other because it brings the company together. For some companies, like Zions Bank, donating money and other needful items to charity can be more important than the party celebration itself. For the past seven years, the Utah-based banking corporation has conducted a donation drive, which accepts cash, toys, gifts and non-perishable food items. Each employee has the opportunity to donate the items, with contributions adding up to impressive results. Last year, Zions Bank raised nearly $4,800 in cash donations, 3,575 non-perishable food items and 1,314 toys and gifts from the drive. On top of its donation drive, the bank makes donations to local schools in its Lights On program, which allows students to make ornaments, decorate Christmas trees and sing carols at Zions bank branches. In turn, each participating school gets a donation from the bank. “It’s a tradition we have been doing for more than three decades and employees just love it,” says Heidi Prokop, public relations manager for Zion’s Bank. The Lights On program also hosts a community party at each Zion’ Bank branch office. The party features Santa and Mrs. Claus, live entertainment, food and a celebration of the holiday season for all local students and families. Reaching out to the community, especially to those in need, is what makes Zions Bank unique and also helps to strengthen business relations, Prokop says. “At Zions Bank, we recognize that banking is a local business and in order for us to be successful we have to maintain strong ties to the communities we serve,” Prokop says. “We give to charities during the holidays as another way to help meet the needs of our neighbors and clients.”
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