Viacom employees set aside the days around Thanksgiving as a Week of Giving, combating hunger both locally and abroad by assembling meal kits and delivering meals to homebound local elders. As a new hire, I chose to join volunteers in order to better immerse myself in Viacom’s unique corporate culture during a time of year when the company emphasizes care and compassion for others.
On the Monday before Thanksgiving, employees gathered at long tables bunched into the cafeteria at our Times Square headquarters. In partnership with international hunger relief group Stop Hunger Now, we boxed meals that consisted of rice, soy, and fortified vegetables onto pallets. Volunteers sang along as music blasted through the room, and an emcee rang a giant gong for every two thousand meals that we packaged. In just two hours, our group of energetic Viacom employees boxed 20,000 meals. After the event, the organization sent them abroad to be distributed to some of the world’s most vulnerable communities.
The next day, I joined my coworkers to help deliver meals to homebound elders in partnership with Citymeals-on-Wheels, an organization that aims to ensure that no homebound elderly New Yorker will ever go a day without human interaction and a hot meal. A group of 15 of us met at St. Malachy’s Church at West 49th Street to deliver hot and cold meals to more than 150 seniors in the area.
A staff member at St. Malachy’s briefed us on the food delivery process while we awaited our routes. “Most people do not understand that you are not solely providing meals to these seniors,” she said. “In many instances, you will be the only person they see or even speak to all day. They look forward to that connection every day.”
She told a compelling story about an elderly woman who fell in her apartment one evening and could not lift herself back up. Surprisingly enough, the frail woman’s first instinct was not to panic. She remained calm and patiently waited all through the night. She remembered that Citymeals-on-Wheels had her on its delivery list, and the woman trusted that a volunteer would come find her the next day. Hours later, a volunteer knocked and got her the help she needed. This narrative fueled my group and I to go the extra mile and empathize with the seniors whom we delivered meals to. I took extra notice of their reactions as they opened their home to us that day, and they made me realize the sheer importance of our volunteer work on a deeper level.
With this heartfelt narrative in mind, I looked back on my volunteer experience over the week as a whole. Through a broader lens, Viacommunity’s Week of Giving ended up being about even more than maneuvering a rickety cart through congested Manhattan sidewalks, climbing up to fourth floor walkups with meals in hand, and packaging nutritious meals in boxes to be shipped. I reflected on the warm smiles and positive connections made over those few days. The true gifts were given in fostering a sense of community and finding fulfilment in doing good for others as well.