Christmas came a little earlier than usual for the families served by the Exchange Club of Vicksburg’s Child and Parent Center. The Mississippi-based nonprofit, which teaches parenting skills and provides advocacy for child-abuse victims, gathered with about 75 local youngsters recently at the Southern Cultural Heritage Foundation for a holiday party that Joann McPhaul, a board member of the child and parent center, was proud to have helped organize.
McPhaul, general manager of the Lady Luck Hotel & Suites in Vicksburg, Miss., knows that while luck is what draws her hotel’s guests inexorably to the casino next door, love is what creates the very best kind of good fortune – the kind that turns around the lives of parents and children in turmoil.
“It is my passion, helping others who can’t help themselves,” said McPhaul, who is also president of the Exchange Club, the local civic organization that supports the parenting center, among its many other local charitable activities.
For McPhaul and so many other hotel professionals, these acts of selfless giving aren’t limited to the holiday season:
In Britain, Four Pillars Hotels has devoted much of 2013 to involving employees and managers alike in fundraising activities for Cardiac Risk in the Young, which funds cardiac research, support to patients and outreach to families affected by heart disease in young people.
At Marriott, worldwide involvement of employees includes hands-on volunteer efforts in their hotels’ various communities as part of Marriott’s “Spirit to Serve Our Communities” program.
In September, Fairmont Hotels & Resorts embarked on “Community Connections Month,” encouraging employees to clean local beaches near warm-weather properties such as those in Mexico and Bermuda, and help out at senior citizens centers and volunteer at food pantries in various other locations.
And a local school in Malaysia was adopted by the Four Seasons Resort Langkawi, encouraging staffers to mentor students, even inspiring them to careers someday in the industry.
Not all charitable acts stay local, however, or even have its origins with a hotel-sponsored program. This holiday season has found Chris Keyes a long way from his Montana home. The shuttle driver for the Red Lion Hotel Kalispell left earlier this month for almost three weeks in Leyte, a storm-shattered part of the Philippines. His goal: to help people there get back on their feet after the recent typhoon.
“This did not surprise me one bit,” said Lisa Brown, the general manager of the 170-room hotel, who said management threw its support behind him when he mentioned what he would be doing.
Brown was aware that Keyes had done some mission work in the Philippines years ago and the newlywed’s wife is from there – although her home island was left undisturbed by the recent typhoon. She said the hotel didn’t think twice about giving unequivocal support to Keyes as he took his vacation time to help in the recovery effort.
“I was very proud that he wanted to do that,” said Brown. “It shows that we are a hotel but we are also family, and when we can help someone out, we do. All of us are really close at the associate level and to be able to help someone out with something like this is a proud moment.” So while the Red Lion was occupied with hosting holiday catering events and winter weddings, Keyes was preparing for his trip.
She said that while the hotel has been a part of its parent company’s charitable ventures, including donations of packages to troops overseas, an individual effort such as Keyes’ is standout.
Keyes’ efforts with the faith-based California charity, Giving Children Hope, will include providing assistance with shipments of food, clothing, water and medical supplies. “This island is considered the poorest place in the Philippines,” he said, just days before departing on the 15-hour flight.
Keyes, a six-year employee at Red Lion, is more accustomed to shuttling travelers on the hotel’s complimentary van than moving life-sustaining supplies: His regular job is the transport of guests to and from Glacier International Airport and Glacier National Park. He expected the work to be grueling and emotionally wrenching “but it is definitely important, for sure,” he said.
Keyes said he expected to be back home again for the holidays. “It is definitely not a fun trip but it is needed.”