SANTA MONICA, CA—This holiday season, WCG Hotels is inviting guests to give a gift that will matter in the lives of children and their families by partnering with Toys for Tots.
“We started in 2009 and it’s our eighth year now. It’s associated with the Marines and it’s a worthwhile cause; the end result is helping children who are in poverty. These are children who typically wouldn’t have a great Christmas. To get them toys for the holidays is a no-brainer,” said Paul Francisco, COO, WCG Hotels, an operator of full-service, select-service, focused-branded and independent hotels throughout the U.S. “I’ve been in this business for 40 years and I’ve seen a lot of different opportunities to do charitable work, but this one in particular seems to touch the hearts of employees because they have a real passion for it.”
One of the programs WCG Hotels has executed is a special Toys for Tots room rate, available through Jan. 5, 2017, which donates $10 to Toys for Tots from each guest’s stay at any property in the portfolio. Francisco has also witnessed an eagerness to be involved from the guest perspective and, in return, properties will take an extra step to make it easier for guests to give back.
“It’s been amazing to see the transformation and involvement; guests staying at the hotel see the donation box for our Spare Change Drive and want to be involved. They’re jumping at the chance to do something,” said Francisco. “Some of our hotels will go out and buy two-dozen toys in the $5-$10 range and put them near the collection. The guest will want to buy a toy and put it in the box right then and there. It’s been rewarding to see guests jump on it, and the community gets involved.”
Under the guidelines of the program, toys must be unwrapped, new and a minimum of $10. WCG Hotels often receives a variety of presents, ranging from $10 up to $70-90, he noted.
A project of this size and scope requires company-wide support, and it’s something WCG Hotels has taken under its wing as a management company. Francisco explained that the first couple of years were a slow start, but now, there’s a momentum built over the last four years to the point they have exceeded 5,000 toy donations each year. In addition, each property has its own way of infusing meaning into the charitable effort.
“During a grand opening at a Denver property, we had 2,500 toys donated. We’ve set a goal again of at least 5,000 toys and another $5,000 in cash. We’re hoping to blow those numbers away again,” he said. “The hotels are very creative and come up with an assortment of ideas. At a lot of hotels, the management team would get together during the holiday for a gift-exchange party and they quit doing that; instead, they are buying three or four bikes. They’ll have a team-building exercise where they break off into teams to see who can build bikes the quickest.”
Elsewhere, the culinary team at a Renaissance property in Asheville, NC, created a special menu for the lounge and restaurant featuring tater tots with a variety of dipping sauces. They came up with recipes to share with the community and 50% of the proceeds go to Toys for Tots.
Francisco noted that their recipe for success lies within the company culture and the carefully vetted team members hired at each hotel.
“It’s exciting for me to see we’ve built a great team of solid performers and when people are happy at work, are happy doing what they’re doing and feel good about doing what they do best—it all tends to lead back to being happy employees,” he said. “It’s one of those things about working with Toys for Tots.”