University of Phoenix is no stranger to giving back to the community. Each year, the University provides financial and volunteer support to 15 to 20 non-profit organizations.
But this year, Harper Lines, senior manager of corporate social responsibility, wanted to give back in a way the University never had before – on Christmas Day.
As part of its community-focused philanthropic and volunteering efforts, the University participated in the Salvation Army of Metro Phoenix annual Christmas dinner on Dec. 25 at the Phoenix Convention Center. During the event, families and individuals in the greater Phoenix area were treated to a traditional Christmas dinner, served by volunteers, and had the opportunity to receive free haircuts, listen to live music, take family photos and make free long-distance phone calls to family and friends. Children took photos with Santa and every child left with a gift.
A dozen University employees and their families were part of the 1,500 volunteers at the Convention Center Christmas morning to serve dinner and spread holiday cheer. The University also gave back by donating nearly $70,000 to help pay for food and festivities.
Lines said that this is one more opportunity for them to serve their community.
Our Christmas dinner is an event that brings the whole community together and often our volunteers are the ones who benefit the most. Demonstrating compassion, feeling gratitude and giving back makes their holiday all the more blessed.
— Major David Yardley
Metro Phoenix coordinator for the Salvation Army
“We try to branch out every year and work with organizations we haven’t worked with before that also have a positive impact on the community,” he said. “This year is special because the University is not only working with a new organization but giving back on one of the most special days of the year.”
The main draw of the event is, of course, the Christmas meal. But the Salvation Army believes it is much more than a meal; the focus is on maintaining dignity.
When the guests were ready to eat, they were escorted to their tables for a traditional Christmas meal served on tablecloths with real dishes and silverware. There is no buffet line and no charge. But the giving is not contained to the Convention Center. Some people were not able to leave their homes to attend the Christmas dinner, so the Salvation Army’s volunteers delivered 2,700 meals, taking the time to chat a bit with those they serve as they make their rounds.
The Christmas dinner is the biggest event the Salvation Army hosts each year in Phoenix not only in terms of guests, but also volunteers.
Major David Yardley, Metro Phoenix coordinator for the Salvation Army, said one memory he treasures after every Christmas dinner is the impact on the volunteers who give up part of their Christmas Day to serve.
Yardley said that he is thankful for the support of University of Phoenix to help make the community dinner more than just a meal.
“Our Christmas dinner is an event that brings the whole community together and often our volunteers are the ones who benefit the most,” he said. “Demonstrating compassion, feeling gratitude and giving back makes their holiday all the more blessed.”