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Companies giving to charities, planning parties

If the holidays are coming, the office party can’t be far behind. Some companies are doing things differently, opting against the old stereotypical office party where adult beverages may loosen tongues a bit too much and embarrassing situations may occur.

The McCarty Company of Tupelo, made up of the construction group and the design group, had an extended luncheon at a local restaurant for its 60 employees last year. It was a time for employees to be honored for their years of service.

According to Laura Pannell, director of business development and community relations, the company has not decided what it will do this year. No matter what form the celebration takes, she says the company is service minded and that’s what it thinks of during the holidays.

“A lot of that comes from our CEO, Richard McCarty. He leads by example,” she said. “Each year, we have a charity project in honor of our clients and staff.”

For several years, the employees raised money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation to grant wishes for children with life-threatening illnesses. For last year’s and this year’s project, it sponsored a handicap accessible house for Habitat for Humanity with all employees donating two Saturdays to work on it.

“It’s a lot of fun and we do that instead of giving employee and client gifts,” Pannell said. “The nice thing is that there’s an opportunity for everyone to participate. Everyone contributes, no matter how small.”

Of course a construction company has employees with building skills, but she said others contribute to the effort by carrying wood, painting and other tasks.

The 1,000 employees of Ameristar Casino in Vicksburg are treated royally this time of year. Human resources director Annie Jenkins says each team member is given a choice of a turkey, ham or having a charitable donation made in his or her name. But there’s still a big, festive party. The party runs to 12 p.m. so that no matter what shift employees are working, they can attend.

“For the last four years, we’ve gone off property and had it at the Vicksburg Convention Center,” she said. “The employees can dress in their finest fashions, and they love it because many of them wear uniforms at work.”

Ameristar rents a band, gives away prizes every 45 minutes and has mounds of food catered by outside sources. There’s even a photographer set up to capture the moment on film. Jenkins said prizes are desirable items such as big-screen television sets, DVD players and stereo systems. “We give away anything new and exciting that’s coming out,” she said.

The H.R. director added that team members do not have to lift a finger. They just come and have fun.

Jim McDonald, human resources director of Baxter Healthcare in Cleveland, says the manufacturer of medical devices has no official party but some departments have parties and luncheons. All employees receive gift certificates instead of turkeys or hams.

At Memorial Hospital in Gulfport, part of the employee recruitment and retention activities are planned around the holiday season, according to Diane Gallagher, director of community and corporate relations.

“We have a Christmas buffet that the cafeteria staff does, and that’s our annual employee awards banquet when we recognize the employee of the year,” she said.

The Old Capitol Inn on North State Street is a popular place for elegant holiday events in Jackson. Owner/manager Mende Malouf Alford says the boutique hotel is already booked for November and December except for some open Mondays and Tuesdays. She advises anyone wanting to have a company party to start planning early.

“We can do everything so that employees can socialize, mix and mingle,” she said.

That includes setting up a bar, providing background music or renting a combo or dance band with dance floor. They can provide seating for 65 to 600.

Chef Bruce Cain says the Vieux Carre area works great for small parties and the ballroom for large parties.

“We do a ton of parties, and the place looks like a Christmas wonderland,” he said. “It’s dazzling, and everything we do is great with fresh food.”

He says they like to do things other people don’t do. That might include handmade sushi, baby lamb chops, artichoke dip and sweet potato martinis.

While all companies can not be so elaborate, nationally known event planner Donna Pilato says on her Web site that small business owners should resist having parties in their homes. “From the employees’ perspective, it is not as comfortable as a party held on neutral territory. The corporate hierarchy is still apparent when you’re on the boss’ turf,” she said.

The affair can be as simple as catering lunch from a deli to taking employees out to a restaurant for lunch or dinner. Other tips include:

• Be as generous as your budget allows.

• Have enough food.

• Make your policy on drinking clear and known in advance to avoid any misunderstandings.

• Hire a professional party planner if you’re planning a big event.

• Mingle, mingle, mingle.

Office Party 101

• Be as generous as your budget allows.

• Have enough food.

• Make your policy on drinking known in advance to
avoid any misunderstandings.

• Hire a professional party planner if you’re planning
a big event.

• Mingle, mingle, mingle.

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynn Lofton at mbj@msbusiness.com.

About Lynn Lofton

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