Turning away from the abundance of our lives, this is the time of year we focus more on ways we can enrich other people’s existence. Besides modeling this kindness for our children, we can show them we support travel-related businesses that take care of the community and contribute jobs. These enterprises make it their mission to help locals throughout the year and, by supporting them, we act as an extension of their efforts.
Home Is Where the Heart Is
Although the beauty of the Dominican Republic draws visitors from all over the world, it is a different reality for some of the locals living and working on the Caribbean island. Many struggle to get by and live in rickety dwellings. The Hilton La Romana, an all-inclusive luxury resort located by Bayahibe Beach, couldn’t sit by and watch employees struggle. The resort periodically chooses an employee with an extraordinary commitment to their workplace and builds them a home. Yes, they construct an entirely new home in a nice neighborhood close to work for the hard worker. Because the spirit of giving is so contagious, the resort allows guests to get in on the fun by placing donation boxes around the property for them to leave behind possessions or bring school supplies to donate. All this in between indulging at the Hilton La Romanathe’s full-service spa, being guided through a meditation while getting manicured and just enjoying the ocean or surrounding jungle.
Flying to Higher Skies
An organization centered on facilitating the volunteer experience, Points of Light puts out a yearly summary of the top corporate contributors to charities and celebrates the company’s overall commitment to helping. This year, Delta Air Lines was on the Civic 50 for the mind-boggling number of projects they execute to makes this world a cleaner and happier place. One of the goals: cut emissions in half by 2050. They purchased 20 planes that will operate in a carbon neutral atmosphere, using biofuel and carbon offsets. They are also trying to eradicate poverty by participating in profit-sharing with employees and making female employee wages equal to their male counterparts. Also, all 80,000 Delta employees are paid to volunteer for one day. Delta also donates 1 percent of profits to local charities. They build homes with Habitat for Humanity and build playgrounds for underprivileged kids.
Southwest Airlines is not only changing lives but also extending them. They’ve partnered with five medical transport charities, like Miracle Flights, connecting people who cannot afford the journey to the best medical treatments throughout North America. This year alone, Southwest donated 10,000 round-trip tickets to 76 hospitals and medical transportation charities through the airline’s Medical Transportation Grant Program. Since the program began in 2007, they’ve provided more than 79,000 round-trip flights costing almost $32 million.
Not everything that happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. One hotel on the Strip, the MGM, also earned an honorable spot on the Civic 50 pedestal for extending good deeds beyond Las Vegas. By 2025, the company hopes to award 600 college scholarships to the children of employees. In the same timeline, its ambitions to make the world a better place that includes encouraging employees to collectively exceed 1 million volunteer hours and get 75 percent of them to donate to community charities.
Jamaican You Smart
Visitors to the all-inclusive Hyatt properties of Ziva or Zilara Rose Hall can volunteer at a nearby school by joining resort employees in helping to restore natural damage. Hyatt supports Granville 404 Project, which supports Granville All-Ages School in the mountains of St. James, about a 45-minute drive from Montego Bay. What started in 2015 as a plea for the donation of wire to rebuild a school fence from one of the resort employees turned into an altruistic partnership. Although the resort subsidizes part of the hours employees work to build a fresh water well, create a farm-to-table garden and construct a soccer field for the more than 40 students at the school, the hotel workers volunteer largely on their own free time. Guests are invited to get involved by bringing school supplies and clothes to leave behind.
Santa Barbara is perfect for couples. It’s no wonder the city nicknamed the American Riviera is a place to walk hand-in-hand through the urban wine trail, gaze lovingly into each other’s eyes over dinner at an award-winning restaurant or listen to the crash of waves and call of seagulls along the country’s oldest operating wharf. Yet, it’s also a great place to bring kids.
While urban wine country might sound like an oxymoron, it’s actually a reality at the stunning City Vineyard in New York City’s Tribeca neighborhood. The water-side venue is the perfect host for your next event — whatever that may be, from 20 to 200 guests and from cocktail party to plated dinner.
Walking across The National Mall, I literally crossed paths with Lonnie G. Bunch III, the Smithsonian Institution’s first African American CEO. Dr. Bunch, who first visited the Smithsonian as a 10-year-old Civil War buff, was told by his father, “Here’s a place where you can understand yourself and your country and not be worried by the color of your skin.” Bunch, who famously created the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, was quoted as saying, “I wanted to give back to those institutions that shaped everything I am.”
Sure, we’re barely dipping our toes into winter weather, but isn’t it more fun to think ahead to the warm weather family fun your crew could have at the Jersey Shore? Luckily, Atlantic City, New Jersey, offers far more than sandy beaches and casinos — enough to entertain all ages in all sorts of weather.