Many families struggle to make ends meet during the Christmas Season. That problem can come from various sources, but often it’s because of the economic drain on a family’s budget because of the desire of a loving parent to provide some fun surprises on Christmas morning for those in their care. Besides the financial pain, it causes a lot of emotional pain for parents who deal with that strain on an already-limited budget.
Those pains know no boundaries and inflict themselves on every age, race and religion—everywhere. Gratefully, some organizations exist throughout the world with the sole purpose of relieving some of that pain, and they do it very well. One such organization is the YWCA of Utah. Its mission is to help women in abusive environments get back on their feet and stay safe from their perpetrators. They provide a safe place, even a shelter, where women can come to escape from unsafe situations and begin the recovery path to a new and better life. They provide classes, counseling and other services to help these women however they can.
Candy Cane Lane
The YWCA of Utah held a five-day event in 2018 called Candy Cane Lane, a makeshift department store where women who had fled abusive environments could come and choose different merchandise they and their children needed. The women in the program were able to come to the store and walk through with a host helping them choose various items they felt they and their children needed, such as new clothes, a new winter coat with a hat and gloves.
But it didn’t stop there. The women also could choose a couple of new toys and a book they felt their children would enjoy unwrapping on Christmas morning. As they went through the store, the host checked the items off a list to make sure every member of the family was covered.
When Rodger Smith, the CEO of Exigo, heard about this program, he knew it was perfectly aligned with not only Exigo’s mission, but also his personal passion. Smith has an undeniable passion for enabling people who want to help themselves. That passion played a critical role in Exigo’s founding. It was founded to help those who want to make a better life for themselves by creating a better income. Exigo achieves this every day by providing the most powerful and helpful direct-selling platform available to those in the industry trying to build better lives for themselves and their families.
After deciding he wanted to help that organization, he realized he didn’t want to just enlist in the effort by himself. He saw the big picture of what the YWCA was doing. So he took what to him was the next logical step: he invited the entire company to participate by bringing in new unwrapped items that could be donated to the cause. Not only did he invite his employees to participate in that Christmas Spirit, but he also asked them to volunteer to help set up and run the event on company time.
It gets even better; Exigo also sponsored a couple of employee shopping sprees to buy the needed items on the YWCA’s shopping list. They actually went in groups to buy on the corporate card what would be given away in the store. And that is typical Rodger Smith passion at its finest.
“The goal and purpose of the event was to give displaced mothers a sense of autonomy and choice when they might not feel like they have it at that time of year—when they want to provide for their children but probably don’t have the means,” said Madeline Gardner, marketing and communications manager of YWCA of Utah. “Taking a name from a Giving Tree and providing Christmas to a family is a wonderful idea, and it helps a lot of families, but we hope to add the elements of autonomy and choice to help the mothers in these special situations feel stronger and better about themselves.”
The YWCA recruited other local businesses to help provide merchandise for the event and received generous donations. The setup took two days to organize all the merchandise to look and feel like a department store.
Exigo Passionately Participates
Exigo was honored again to participate in the 2019 event in the same ways, by donating their time and resources as well as clothes of all types for women and children, toys, toiletries and diapers as well as other items families need and want in times of trial.
“Exigo was an integral part of the event this year,” said Gardner. “You really stepped forward in your community outreach and went above and beyond most others in donations and volunteers. Your help really made a huge difference to the success of the event. And it’s so rewarding to have such great support from companies like Exigo. We really appreciate it!”
In all, the 2019 event served a total of 495 people, of which 157 were adults, 338 were children, and they also served 13 pets, such as service animals. In addition, 450 volunteers helped throughout the entire week, sorting merchandise, setting up the racks, displaying the merchandise, hosting each woman coming through the event, and even checking them out like in a department store, only without the cash registers. Everything is free to the families!
“Donations came in several ways,” said Gardner. “Companies donated money, merchandise and volunteers. It’s amazing to see the community come together to help those less fortunate when they’re aware that the need is there.”
Celebrities in the Game
Even area celebrities get in the game of helping out. For example, Georges Niang and Royce O’Neale, who both play for the Utah Jazz as Forwards, generously supported the event by supplying a hefty amount of gift cards that families can use to buy what they need in the future to help them get resituated into a new healthy environment.
The donated merchandise that remained after the event will be used to help those in need throughout the holidays and as long as it lasts. “People come through our doors every day, and if they’re in need, we try to help them,” Gardner said. “Some families stay right here in our shelter. Several rooms are available for families to get some respite from their past environments and start down their new road in life.”
Gardner said there’s an element of healing that needs to go along with all they provide. “The YWCA is focused on disrupting the cycle of violence and abuse, and not just putting a band-aid on the wounds. We try to help the women break that cycle so it’s not perpetuated from generation to generation.”
The abuse these women have suffered comes in many forms, from the obvious physical and sexual abuse that many suffer to mental abuse, such as emotional and verbal abuse, which takes a heavy toll on self esteem.
The Candy Cane Lane event was so successful, they decided to make it an annual event, and are already planning how to make next year’s event even more successful by helping more people. “With more publicity, we’re confident we’ll be able to help even more people with future events,” Gardner said.
What Can Your Company Do?
So here’s your challenge: in this new year, commit to a corporate resolution to make a difference in the lives of the people in your area who may be a little less fortunate. Help improve someone’s life who is going through a hard time. Your company can donate to causes in your area by providing:
- items the organization needs to operate itself or an event like Candy Cane Lane (For example, fixtures, racks, tables, furniture, etc. All those were donated or loaned from local businesses to the YWCA.)
- items the organization provides to those in need (such as clothes, toys, toiletries, diapers and books)
- monetary donations (An actual dollar amount lump sum paid to the organization is very helpful so it can buy needed items. Gift cards to large retailers are a great way to donate, and prepaid credit cards are perfect because the organization’s clients can use them anywhere credit cards are accepted.)
- time and resources (Encourage your employees to volunteer on company time)
Ask the organization what types of help they need and decide how your company can play a part. And to make the experience more meaningful to your company, get your employees involved. Make the commitment to help relieve some of that pain some people feel during the holidays and take a lead from Exigo’s passionate and caring leadership: find a service organization in your area and help them in their cause. Your entire team will benefit, let alone your company, just like Exigo does. It will probably become an annual tradition your employees look forward to as it has at Exigo.