Children were all smiles at a pair of back-to-back holiday parties thrown by WeWork on Dec. 21 as they donned reindeer antlers and elf caps, had snowflakes painted on their cheeks, and decorated cookies with globs of red and green frosting and star-shaped sprinkles.
The parties in Upper Manhattan were a highlight of WeWork’s monthlong Season of Service initiative, a global program that gives our thousands of employees a day off to support their local communities and give back in a way that feels personally meaningful. They were co-hosted with Children’s Aid, a nonprofit providing a variety of resources to children from financially challenged families. “This might be the only Christmas party the kids attend and the only Christmas gifts they get,” says WeWork head of operations Nicole Mozeliak, who has been volunteering with Children’s Aid for more than 16 years.
Many WeWork employees and members around the world have focused their Season of Service volunteer efforts on children’s causes. They made holiday cards in Australia, visited orphanages in India, and delivered supplies to underfunded public schools in Mexico. And, of course, they gave out thousands of toys.
On Dec. 18 and 19, about 20 employees at WeWork Boston volunteered to distribute children’s toys and winter coats to needy families at an event called Christmas Castle held by the Salvation Army. The team helped families shop for presents for their children. “You could see their faces light up when they saw the gifts to pick out for their kids that they may not have been able to give otherwise,” says Emma Loeb, a community lead.
In San Francisco, WeWork 995 Market St partnered with Glide, a social service organization based in the Tenderloin neighborhood, for an event called Toy Wonderland at the Union Square Hilton. Employees from 18 WeWork locations in the Bay Area joined in the effort, collecting hundreds of toys that children were able to pick out themselves.
“It was a really great experience,” says Thara Zulueta, a community lead at San Francisco’s WeWork 535 Mission St. “The room was decked out with amazing decorations and music. At the end of the night, we all left with a grateful heart and the attitude of, ‘we can only do more.’”
At Harlem’s Dunlevy Milbank Center in New York, the music was playing when about 175 children arrived. Throughout the room, kids danced in unison or broke out to dance on their own. “It’s wonderful, especially working with WeWork,” says Kate Brennan, manager of volunteer services for Children’s Aid.
At the face-painting station, WeLive director of operations Fatima Duran drew candy canes and snowmen on children’s cheeks. “I remember when I was a kid, and I loved anything related to arts and crafts,” she says. “To do this now that I’m older makes me feel like a kid again.” Software engineer Katherine Flores, who manned the cookie-decorating table, says that “it feels like I’m reliving my childhood dreams.”
The second party of the evening took place at the Frederick Douglass Center on the Upper West Side. Though smaller in size—about 100 children in total—the event was no less joyous.
At the cookie-decorating station, WeWork’s Jillian Ricciardi and Bobby Grayson were surrounded on all sides by kids with a creative streak. Some were neat and careful with their designs, while others applied huge globs of frosting. “It’s so fulfilling,” says Ricciardi, executive assistant to WeWork co-founder and chief culture officer Miguel McKelvey. “It’s exciting to see everybody having fun and making things they enjoy.”
Lia Zneimer, WeWork’s director of international social media, said the events underscore WeWork’s belief that all of us can have a positive impact on our communities. “It’s so fun to see the kids’ faces light up,” she says. “At WeWork we talk so much about giving back, it’s great to get to put it in action.”