A WinterFest That Celebrates Giving

AbelsonTaylor Marks Holidays With Projects to Help Needy Kids

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AbelsonTaylor's Matt Schildmeyer and Marie Mikulskis sort gifts for children who wrote letters to the U.S. Postal Service's Letters to Santa program.
AbelsonTaylor's Matt Schildmeyer and Marie Mikulskis sort gifts for children who wrote letters to the U.S. Postal Service's Letters to Santa program.
The staff at independent healthcare agency AbelsonTaylor are working hard this month to prepare for the company's second annual WinterFest on Dec. 18 -- the culmination of multiple projects aimed at helping children in need.

The Chicago agency, through its Hearts AT Work corporate social responsibility program, is working on six separate efforts:

  • Jane Addams Hull House Association: Agency staffers staged a diaper drive for this social services organization, collecting disposable diapers, wipes, baby lotion, diaper rash cream and related items.
  • Kids Fight Cancer: Agency employees contributed items from art and craft supplies to toys, books and games to this organization, which funds the Oncology Activity Center at Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago.
  • Sue Duncan Children's Center: Hearts AT Work members are giving new backpacks for 80 children who attend the center, a year-round weekday program offering academic tutoring, psychological counseling, recreational activities, fine arts exposure and a daily hot meal for children living in unsafe neighborhoods on Chicago's South Side. Each backpack includes school supplies, a hat and scarf, a card game or flash drive, candy and a $25 gift card for an area grocery store.
  • U.S. Postal Service Letters to Santa Program: Hearts AT Work volunteers participated in the U.S. Postal Service's Letters to Santa program. Last year, employees played Santa to 115 children, buying them more than 600 gifts.
  • Warm Woolies: The company's Knit Wits, a lunchtime knitting circle, made vests for Warm Woolies, an organization that gives hand-knit clothing to children on native tribal reservations as well as in Asian and Eastern European orphanages.
  • Youth Outreach Services: Employees bought $20 to $25 gifts from wish lists compiled by this state agency that works with impoverished teenagers. Teens are often overlooked by toy drives and holiday programs, which are mostly geared to younger children.

The agency's WinterFest marks the end of the projects, when employees get together to package all the gifts for donation or delivery.

"Our program was created by employees who share the common desire to donate their time, skills and energy to benefiting the health and well-being of others, especially children," said Cindy Stone, VP-account director, in a statement. Ms. Stone is co-founder/co-chair of Hearts AT Work along with account director Geri Vena-Shores. "We work at this year-round, but make a special effort with WinterFest, when we want to help as many children as possible enter the new year with new hope."

More than 20% of the agency's almost 400 employees are active members of Hearts AT Work committees or subcommittees, and almost all employees support one or more Hearts AT Work initiatives.

The company began its tradition of giving eight years ago by honoring its clients with annual contributions in their names to Heifer International, an organization that fosters self-sufficiency within disadvantaged communities around the world by providing families with livestock, plants and training in sustainable agriculture.

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