Helping Its Community Is a Year-Round Effort for the San Diego Convention Center
While many exhibition venues may choose the holiday season to carry out acts of service that help their local communities, the San Diego Convention Center has made corporate social responsibility a year-round labor of love.
According to Barbara Moreno, SDCC executive director of communications and outreach, the San Diego Convention Center Corporation has a long-standing commitment to giving back to its Southern California community.
“We believe in being good neighbors and for years have worked together with event meeting planners to connect them with non-profits and charities that they can partner with for donations,” Moreno said.
She continued, “It’s important for our many of customers to give back to their host city. Our staff has always been willing to donate their time to events but over the past two years, we’ve really made a conscious effort to volunteer outside of our offices (and have) devoted more time to looking for other organizations to volunteer with.”
Throughout this past year, the convention center’s staff participated in a host of volunteerism activities, including cleaning up the San Diego Bay via “Operation Clean Sweep,” marching in the San Diego LGBT Pride Parade, joining the Susan G Komen 5K Race for the Cure, collecting dozens of diapers to benefit the San Diego Food Bank’s Diaper Bank program, and helping to donate furniture to 20 local nonprofits.
“Our Communications Department is actively working with organizations in our community on volunteer opportunities throughout the year,” Moreno explained. “One of our core values is ‘service’ and that applies to both internal customer service and external service to our community.”
The SDCC also has a long-standing relationship with the San Diego Rescue Mission and Partners for Hope, to which it has been donating leftover food from conventions and events for more than 15 years. In the last year alone, the facility’s kitchen donated 72 tons of food to assist San Diegans in need, enough to plate 115,000 meals, Moreno added.
Led up by Centerplate Executive Chef Daryl O’Donnell, SDCC’s food and beverage team also donates food by sponsoring community fundraisers including the Living Coast Discovery Center Farm to Bay and the San Diego Food Bank Blues Festival.
All these activities culminate in a festive holiday season of giving for SDCC employees, including teaming up with in-house telecom partner, Smart City, to volunteer at the USO San Diego to benefit military families on Nov. 15.
For three hours, nearly 40 team members donated their time to wrap hundreds of gifts for the USO’s Santa Store event that provides children, ages 4-10, of Active Duty, Reserve and Guard an opportunity to learn the importance of giving by picking out the perfect gift for their parents or guardians.
Over the course of three festive days, USO San Diego reaches over 1,000 military children as a part of its Santa Store, Moreno said.
“What a great honor it is to have our staff be a part of this event that will brighten the holidays for our military families,” said Clifford “Rip” Rippetoe, SDCC president and CEO. “It is important for us to participate in community events. One of our core values is Service and we are committed to donating our time as often as possible.”
Donating time and talent to give back to those in need is something Chef O’Donnell enjoys doing, especially around the holidays. For several years, he and his team have donated 100 pies each Thanksgiving to Mama’s Kitchen, a community-driven organization that prepares and delivers nutritious meals for those struggling with AIDS, cancer or other critical illnesses, for the charity’s annual Thanksgiving Bake Sale.
Each pie purchased from Mama’s Kitchen helps provide eight free, nutritious, home-delivered meals to critically ill community members, with funds from the sale raising enough to provide 47,000 meals, Moreno said.
As if a November pie bake-a-thon isn’t enough for the bustling convention center kitchen, Chef O’Donnell also makes a point of baking and shipping 12 boxes of nearly 1,000 homemade cookies to military servicemen and women stationed overseas in several locations around the world, an effort that started in 2011.
“As convention center chefs, we are ambassadors of our great city, so it is our honor and duty to give back to our community,” O’Donnell said. “Sending baked goods to our troops overseas is a small but effective way to show our love and thank them for their service. ”
He continued, “For me, it feels good to give back and we are fortunate to have the resources in place to pay it forward. The intent is always about giving back to the community and as our team continues to network, it opens up more doors for new partnerships and opportunities.”
As part of its continuing commitment to help members of the military, the SDCC has been partnering with Marine Toys for Tots San Diego since 2000. Each year, staff are encouraged to buy unwrapped toys that are donated to local children in need, and this year the facility collected approximately 200 toys to donate.
The SDCC has also volunteered for many years during the holidays with the San Diego chapter of the Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International at the Holiday Wonder on Wheels event. Earlier this month, the SDCC team, along with its partners at GES Global, sponsored and built a bike that will be donated to a child in need.
According to Rippetoe, the SDCC is very intentional about giving back as well as being an integral part of the San Diego Bay community.
“Volunteering for community activity creates trust, confidence and rapport. Moreover, it opens the doors to the community being involved with us,” Rippetoe said. “Regardless of the time of year, giving to the needs of our community is a priority. Perhaps it gets more attention at the Holiday time but for us, we strive to say ‘yes’ to our customers, ‘yes’ to our visitors and ‘yes’ to our community throughout the year. The way we ‘show up’ matters.”