Preparations for the meal, which includes roasted turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, green beans, and pumpkin pie, began on Sunday, when the team started making sauces, gravy, stuffing and cranberry relish – all from scratch.
“It is an extremely rewarding experience to be able to provide a sense of family and involvement for those who would have otherwise missed out on this time of year, when sharing a meal and giving thanks as a family is so important,” said Marotta, who has also made Thanksgiving meals for the organization in previous years.
In addition to the holiday meals, Walt Disney World Resort and Disney VoluntEARS support Coalition for the Homeless throughout the year in a number of ways.
For more than 10 years, food and beverage teams across Disney property have taken turns preparing meals for the organization’s clients twice a month – a total of 9,000 meals each year.
The organization also receives meals from Disney Harvest, a program in which excess prepared and unserved food from locations throughout Walt Disney World Resort are collected and delivered to more than 60 nonprofit organizations located in Central Florida.
Engineering Services Cast Members often perform maintenance work, such as cleaning air-conditioning units in the housing complex, and Disney VoluntEARS also visit the Coalition to help babysit children while their parents attend meetings or workshops the organization provides to help them back on their feet.
“We can’t thank [Disney] enough for their financial support of our children’s programs, donations of in-kind items and services, and amazing number of VoluntEAR hours given so freely by so many employees on all types of projects,” said Brent Trotter, president and CEO of the Coalition for the Homeless. “The time Disney spends in preparing and serving our homeless residents the evening meal on Thanksgiving is the icing on the cake.”
For the past three years, Coalition for the Homeless has been recognized as one of the top Disney’s Helping Kids Shine grant recipients. As part of this recognition, the Coalition continues to receive funding and ongoing comprehensive support from Disney, which includes board service, assistance in the maintenance and improvement of Coalition facilities, meals prepared by Disney chefs and donations of warm clothing in the winter.
Photo courtesy Walt Disney World Resort.
Operation Uplift was founded in 1995 by a Disneyland Cast Member after reading a letter from a soldier during Operation Desert Storm explaining that troops didn’t receive much mail.
Since that time, Disney VoluntEARS around the country have sent more than 90,000 postcards of support, encouragement and thanks to servicemen and servicewomen serving domestically and overseas.
One of those VoluntEARS is Karalynn Rieff, a training analyst for Global Business Technology Strategy who co-chairs the Operation Uplift drive for her team at Walt Disney World Resort.
“This year I was pleased to carry more than 1,000 postcards to the post office,” Rieff said. “In the four years since our team has participated, we’ve sent postcards to service persons in Germany, Saudi Arabia, Italy, Japan and many other locations.”
Rieff said the most rewarding part of participating was the opportunity to share the magic of Disney with military men and women who are serving far from friends and family.
“It’s nice to know that a little postcard with Mickey saluting in front of the flag and a few words can bring some happiness to someone, even when you don’t know where – or who – they are,” she said.
Minnie Mouse joined Disney VoluntEARS today to deliver bushels of green to Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida in the form of a $500,000 gift for the organization’s expansion. Disney also pledged 20,000 pounds of fresh produce during the next year as part of the commitment.
As part of Disney’s efforts to support organizations and programs that make a positive impact on children in the local community, this gift will fund Second Harvest’s “Building Solutions to Hunger” capital campaign. The contribution will help the organization build a larger facility so it can accept and distribute significantly more food and reach more Central Floridians in need.
“We’re confident the new facility will help Second Harvest reach even more neighbors in need,” said Nancy Gidusko, director of community relations for Walt Disney World Resort. “Our goal is to help bring an end to hunger in this community, and we are proud to join with other generous donors to bring this new facility to life,”
According to Second Harvest, the need for additional space at the organization’s headquarters is critical in reaching more children who are hungry in the community.
“The harsh reality is that the demand for our services continues to grow, and our infrastructure must grow with it,” said Dave Krepcho president and CEO of Second Harvest. “Capacity is king in the world of hunger relief, and a new facility will provide the ability to more than double our current distribution over the next 10-15 years. The gift from Walt Disney World Resort will directly help many thousands of Central Floridians.”
Second Harvest Food Bank will more than triple its cooler and freezer capacities in the new building, enabling the organization to accept and deliver thousands of pounds of additional food when then facility opens.
One way in which Second Harvest collects food for donation is the Disney Harvest program, in which excess prepared and unserved food from locations throughout Walt Disney World Resort are collected and delivered to the food bank five days a week. Since 1991, Walt Disney World Resort has donated several million pounds of food to the Second Harvest Food Bank as part of this program.
The food donated from Walt Disney World Resort feeds more than 1,000 local kids a week at more than 60 nonprofit organizations located in Central Florida, including homeless shelters, soup kitchens, after-school centers and day care centers for children and seniors.
By serving as the food bank’s pilot 20 years ago, Walt Disney World Resort helped establish the prepared and perishable food program at Second Harvest.
Earlier this year, Walt Disney World awarded a $50,000 Disney Helping Kids Shine grant to Second Harvest. The organization is one of many local groups Walt Disney World supports through the outreach efforts of Disney VoluntEARS, collaboration with local community leaders and millions of dollars in cash and in-kind support to local organizations. In 2010, Walt Disney World Resort donated $28 million in cash and in-kind support and provided 228,000 hours of volunteer service from Disney VoluntEARS.
Nearly 300 volunteers from the local community, Disney, city of Anaheim, Thomas Edison Elementary School and Anaheim Family YMCA joined together to build a new KaBOOM! playground and learning garden for hundreds of Anaheim children.
The new playground, which was based on designs created by the children it will serve, was fully assembled in two days. The new learning garden at nearby Thomas Edison Elementary School will teach children how to grow vegetables, furthering their knowledge about healthy food and nutrition.
“Projects like building this KaBOOM! playground can make all the difference in a community,” said Disneyland Resort President George A. Kalogridis. “We are proud to work alongside our community partners and our Disneyland Resort neighbors to build a place where families can enjoy time together and be active – inspiring our children toward a healthy lifestyle.”
Companywide, Disney is championing the well-being of kids and families, contributing more than $1 million in 2011 to assist KaBOOM! in building playgrounds and learning gardens in 13 communities across the U.S. These playgrounds are part of Disney Magic of Healthy Living, a multimedia initiative designed to partner with parents in their quest to raise healthy, happy kids by reinforcing their work and inspiring kids to make healthy lifestyles fun. As part of the initiative, First Lady Michelle Obama and stars from Disney Channel and Disney XD are featured in Disney Magic of Healthy Living inspirational public service announcements, which provide tips on nutrition and activities that make healthy living fun.
“This collaborative project embodies the Y’s commitment to youth development, healthy living and social responsibility,” said Paul Andresen, president and CEO of the Anaheim Family YMCA. “Through our work with Activate Anaheim, the Y and its partners are making improvements that promote healthy, active lifestyles for families throughout our community.”
Planning for the playground began in April when local children and community leaders met with organizers from Disney and KaBOOM! to design their dream playground. The children’s drawings were used to create the final playground design.
“There is nothing more exciting for a neighborhood than the creation of a new place to play,” said Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait. “Thanks to the hard work of hundreds of volunteers, Anaheim children now have a new park playground to safely enjoy. On behalf of all our residents, I would like to thank the Disneyland Resort, KaBOOM!, the Anaheim Family YMCA and Thomas Edison School for making this project a reality.”
“The Thomas Edison School community—from parents to students and staff—are excited to be part of this collaborative effort that brings additional learning opportunities about healthy living to the children of this community,” said Dr. Patricia Sandoval, principal of Thomas Edison Elementary School.
In addition to the community-built playground and learning garden, the new play area also includes Imagination Playground in a Cart – a breakthrough playspace concept designed by architect David Rockwell to encourage child-directed, unstructured free play. Via manipulable loose parts and natural elements like sand and water, Imagination Playground in a Cart allows children to constantly change their environment and design their own course of play.
Adults are also able to visit the park and be active with five ENERGI fitness stations, which combine to offer 120 total exercises. These stations provide a workout that offers three levels of intensity so that everyone can custom-build their workout.
KaBOOM! is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to saving play. For 15 years, KaBOOM! has been fighting the Play Deficit, and this project is one of more than 200 playground builds KaBOOM! will lead across the country in 2011 in an effort to provide a great place to play within walking distance of every child in America.
Photos courtesy Disneyland Resort.
A teddy bear is special gift. In an instant, it can become a child’s best friend. Partnering with the Salvation Army of Central Florida, Disney VolunEARS dressed more than 2,000 bears during this year’s Dress-A-Bear program.
Walt Disney World cast members have been participating in the Dress-A-Bear program for the past 14 years. Janice Jones, Walt Disney World Costumer and Workroom Manager, has coordinated Creative Costuming’s Dress-A-Bear efforts since the program’s beginning.
“It’s a creative outlet for cast members and it provides something special for children,” said Jones.
Many of the bears receive one-of-a-kind outfits, handmade with great care by cast members on their own personal time. Using scraps of fabric and creativity, VoluntEARS craft cuddly ensembles for firemen to princesses. Buzz Lightyear, Rapunzel and the Mad Hatter were found to be “beary” fashionable this year. All of these efforts are done in hopes of connecting with a child in need.
“To be able to share our talents with children, and to make one of kind unique clothes, is a labor of love,” said Elizabeth Lau, Creative Costuming Workroom Manager.
The special bears, along with 393 filled stockings, will be distributed by the Salvation Army of Central Florida to local children who are in need of holiday gifts.
With approximately 20,000 brand new toys in tow, Walt Disney World Resort VoluntEARS were on a mission this morning to make the holidays brighter for thousands of local children. Joined by Mickey Mouse and Duffy the Disney Bear, Disney VoluntEARS made a special delivery to the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve’s Central Florida Toys for Tots headquarters to drop off the sizable donation.
Walt Disney World Resort cast members have spent the past few weeks playing the role of Santa’s helpers by collecting tons of new toys as part of the resort’s annual effort to support the Toys for Tots campaign.
Items appropriate for infants and teenagers alike, ranging from dolls to bicycles, were transported from Disney today via military vehicles. Upon the convoy’s arrival at the Central Florida Tots for Tots warehouse, Disney VoluntEARS assisted a squad of U.S. Marines in unloading and sorting the thousands of donations.
“We are so grateful to Disney for their generous support of Toys for Tots,” said First Sgt. Michael Diaz, who heads up the 2010 Central Florida Toys for Tots campaign. “Their donations will make holiday dreams come true for thousands of local kids.”
In addition to contributing 20,000 toys, Disney VoluntEARS have given thousands of hours toward helping the U.S. Marines register families in need, sort and stock toys and assist with toy distribution.
This year, Central Florida Toys for Tots expects to assist 7,200 families from Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties in celebrating the holiday season with gifts for more than 20,000 children. The annual toy drive is meant to send a message of hope to youngsters by ensuring they have at least one new gift to open during the holidays.
The Walt Disney Company’s involvement with Toys for Tots began more than 60 years ago when Walt Disney and his animators designed the original Toys for Tots logo that is still used today.
The annual toy drive is one of many charitable activities underway at Walt Disney World Resort during the “Season of Sharing” that focuses on improving the lives of local children and their families during the holidays and beyond.
Walt Disney World VoluntEARS prepare and serve nearly 750 meals a month at Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida, a tradition that spans at least a decade and one of many ways that Disney lends a helping hand at the Coalition, which provides food and shelter to approximately 650 people a night. Many of them are families with children.
The Walt Disney World Resort takes care of dinner service twice monthly at the Coalition. When a holiday falls on the schedule, Disney chefs find great delight in making the meals even more magical.
Chef Leonard Thomson, Chef de Cuisine with Epcot Catering, recently oversaw the Coalition’s Thanksgiving dinner preparations, which began two days prior to the holiday. Creating a feast for approximately 700 people, Chef Thomson and team made a culinary cornucopia that included roasted turkey with gravy, cornbread stuffing, cranberry sauce, braised beef tips, four-cheese baked pasta, steamed vegetables, mashed potatoes, salad greens, rolls and desserts such as pumpkin cheesecake.
“When Disney chefs are onsite for their regular meal service, the delicious aroma is unmistakable,” says Muffet Robinson, director of communications for Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida. “Our staff and clients are so very grateful for the support of Walt Disney World.”
Coalition for the Homeless is more than a shelter; it is a comprehensive program designed to help homeless individuals and families get back on track to self-sufficiency. They offer numerous support services including job skills training, licensed day care, children’s programs and housing placement.
For the past few years, Coalition for the Homeless has been recognized as one of the top Disney’s Helping Kids Shine grant recipients. As part of this recognition, the Coalition continues to receive funding and ongoing comprehensive support from Disney, which includes board service, assistance in the maintenance and improvement of Coalition facilities, meals prepared by Disney chefs and donations of warm clothing in the winter.
“We sincerely value Disney’s generosity and commitment to making a difference in the lives of homeless individuals and families,” says Coalition for the Homeless President/CEO Brent Trotter. “Thanks to community partners, such as Walt Disney World Resort, we can extend our reach to help those who need it most.”
To learn more about how you can help, visit http://www.centralfloridahomeless.org.
Walt Disney World Cast Members are lending a helping hand to Central Florida students in need this week by giving them the right supplies to start the upcoming school year with confidence. Stocking up on boxes of crayons, rulers, folders and packs of notebook paper, Disney Cast Members hit an all-time high by donating more than 2 million school supplies through Walt Disney World Resort’s annual back-to-school supply drive.
“I’m so proud of our Cast Members who gave a record number of school supplies to benefit our community, which is encountering a record level of need,” says Nancy Gidusko, director of Community Relations for Walt Disney World Resort. “By contributing these back-to-school basics, Disney Cast Members are making a difference in the lives of many local students and reaching more students, teachers and classrooms than ever before.”
This week, hundreds of Disney VoluntEARS sorted school supplies and distributed them to local students and teachers through partnerships with A Gift For Teaching and S.T.A.R.S. (Supplies to Assist Our Students). The annual campaign expanded beyond Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties this year to include Lake and Polk counties.
On Tuesday, Disney VoluntEARS gave nearly 1 million school supplies – ranging from pencils to scissors – to A Gift For Teaching. Walt Disney World Resort’s donation is annually the largest contribution received by the organization. Local teachers can pick up the supplies year-around through A Gift For Teaching’s free store, which benefits students in need in Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties.
“With their substantial donations, Walt Disney World Resort Cast Members are at the forefront of helping us collect as many school supplies as we can for students in struggling families and the teachers that are compelled to help them,” said Jane Thompson, president of A Gift For Teaching.
Later this week, Disney VoluntEARS will distribute 6,460 backpacks, filled with 1.3 million school supplies, through S.T.A.R.S. The backpacks will be given to students at 13 Orange County public elementary schools in areas of high need.
“Disney is making a difference in the lives of thousands of young local students by donating the necessities for school,” says Chesta Hembrooke, president and founder of S.T.A.R.S. “For many, the backpacks are the only new item they receive to start the school year.”
Disney to Donate $627,050 to Central Florida Community in August in Recognition of Walt Disney World Resort VoluntEARS Work in 2009
Throughout August, The Walt Disney Company is donating $627,050 to the Central Florida community in recognition of the 251,000 hours given by Walt Disney World Resort VoluntEARS in 2009. From schools to shelters, Cast Members selected approximately 250 local non-profit agencies and community service groups to receive Disney’s EARS to You grants. Top recipients include Orange County Public Schools, A Better Life Pet Rescue and local chapters of the American Cancer Society.
“Disney VoluntEARS enjoy sharing their time and talents and have a vested interest in making Central Florida an even better place for all who live in our community,” said Nancy Gidusko, director of community relations, Walt Disney World Resort. “The collective contributions of these Cast Members are impressive and impactful; they are truly making a difference during a time when it’s needed most.”
The Walt Disney Company, through the Disney VoluntEARS program, provides opportunities for Cast Members to give their time and expertise toward positively impacting their communities. Each year, the Company recognizes VoluntEARS who donate at least 10 hours of service with EARS to You grants, which are financial contributions of up to $1,000 to the non-profit organization of their choice.
This year, Walt Disney World Resort awarded more than 800 EARS to You grants. Disney dollars will go toward a wide array of worthy causes including local youth development groups, health and social services programs, environmental causes, community theatres and pet rescue organizations.
Disney VoluntEAR Maria Kirkland received an EARS to You grant of $500 for her active support of Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida. “I feel very fortunate to be able to provide not only my time but a financial contribution to such a worthy organization,” said Kirkland. “It makes me feel so wonderful to know that I was able to help a family or individual to have one less stress in their life.”
Walt Disney World Resort is celebrating the accomplishments of Disney VoluntEARS, which gave a record 251,000 hours toward improving the lives of Central Floridians in 2009, by recognizing top standouts with awards and charitable donations.
This week, high honors were given to Steve Luttrell as VoluntEAR of the Year and Disney’s Vero Beach Resort VoluntEARS Team as the VoluntEAR Team of the Year. Both received $2,500 cash donations to the charity of their choice.
By day, Steve Luttrell works as a member of Disney’s Engineering Services team. Nights and weekends, you’ll find him on the baseball field, helping kids learn the values of teamwork and sportsmanship. Luttrell has dedicated hundreds of service hours to Dr. Phillips Little League and has changed the lives of hundreds of youth during his six seasons of involvement. Known for maintaining composure under pressure, Luttrell coaches young boys and their parents beyond the basics of baseball and demonstrates the importance of personal responsibility. A donation of $2,500 will be given to the Dr. Phillips Little League in honor of Luttrell.
A small but powerful team, Disney’s Vero Beach Resort VoluntEARS Team increased their Cast Member participation from 51% to 89% within a year; completing 29 projects in Indian River County in 2009. Activities range from a Habitat for Humanity build to a March of Dimes walk to involving youth in a beach cleanup event to help them gain environmental awareness. In honor of the team, $2,500 will be donated to the March of Dimes Treasure Coast Division.
The Walt Disney Company, through the Disney VoluntEARS program, provides opportunities for Cast Members to contribute their time and expertise toward positively impacting their communities. Later this summer, the EARS to You program will recognize Disney VoluntEARS with thousands of dollars in grants for local non-profit organizations. More information will be revealed near the end of July.