MERRILLVILLE | White Lodging, manager of the Radisson Hotel and Star Plaza Theatre as well as other hotels in 18 states, is teaming up with a charity to benefit homeless people in Chicago.
A Labor Day weekend campaign that allowed employees to wear sneakers to work for $5 raised $27,000 for Back on My Feet, an organization that uses running as an incentive to get homeless people into job training and independent living.
With a matching grant from the Bruce and Beth White Family Foundation, the total has jumped to $54,000 and counting, as employees throughout the corporation are continuing to contribute in unique ways.
"We have a lot of hourly associates throughout the company that stepped up and participated, and without their commitment we would not be able to do this," said Dave Sibley, president and CEO of White Lodging's hotel management division.
Sibley said while most of the community involvement is done individually by each hotel, White Lodging was looking to do something corporatewide that would engage employees.
It started the campaign about three weeks ago and set a target to raise $54,000 to give Sept. 22 at the launch of the charity's Chicago chapter. Back on My Feet will work with three homeless facilities in the city.
As of last week, White Lodging employees passed the $54,000 mark and have a stretch target of $76,000, Sibley said. It would be the largest donation the nonprofit has received to date, said Erin Serkaian, director of communications and special events for Back on My Feet.
"A lot of the employees -- they didn't just stop doing the Sneaker Day," Serkaian said. "They were having barbecues, hosting happy hours. It was almost a competitive nature as to who could collect more for this organization. You don't find that in every company culture today."
Serkaian said her organization spends $1,800 to put a person through the training program.
Members must run at 5:45 a.m. Monday, Wednesday and Fridays and must maintain a 90 percent attendance rating to move forward in the program and gain access to job training, employment and housing opportunities.
"Last year, more than 120 people were able to move on with their lives and find employment, job training and move into independent living," Serkaian said.
The organization also has chapters in Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and Boston.