HP creates 'Palm Tree Angels' project

by Sonja J. Keith

It was Christmas in May as HP employees in Conway donated fun and educational summer gifts for 53 local children.

Valerie Lane, site program manager for the Conway Customer Contact Center, said a group of HP associates were brainstorming one day when they came up with the idea for “Palm Tree Angels.”

“We wanted to do something for kids,” she said. “There are summer food programs for kids but not many opportunities to provide the kids fun, learning opportunities while at home for the summer. We offered employees the opportunity to adopt a child to provide a fun summer gift to kick off the kid’s summer.”

HP contacted the local unit of the Salvation Army in April to enlist the agency’s help and support. The agency pulled together the names of 53 children and contacted their parents to get suggestions for donated items. “They (Salvation Army) were great to work with,” she said.

Individuals as well as teams at HP adopted all of the angels. Valerie said organizers were uncertain how the project would go over compared to the spirit of giving that is prevalent around Christmas, but there was more interest among employees than there were angels. When all the angels were adopted, employees donated money to help out.

“People want to help kids,” she said.

Donated items included scooters, books, coloring supplies, water toys, sidewalk chalk, jump ropes, balls and outdoor games. Valerie said a lot of the children also asked for fishing equipment.

A $2,500 Impact Grant from HP provided financial support to also purchase basic hygiene items and a book for each child as well as plastic totes or bags to hold the donations.

Valerie said organizers hope that next year’s Palm Tree Angels project will be on a larger scale. HP would like to see other local companies partner and participate in providing for young people. “We would love to see this type of program be community wide next year.”

Local HP employees are also volunteering for other community service projects this summer. During June, HP employees are involved in the summer feeding program in the Pine Street neighborhood in Conway. During June and July, HP employees will also be providing assistance at the Conway unit of the Faulkner County Boys and Girls Club.

Valerie said that not only are HP employees giving back to the community, oftentimes the projects are opportunities for team-building within the company. In addition, the projects offer a chance for HP associates to learn more about the community and its needs. She said a recent project at Bethlehem House showed HP associates about local hunger needs and the assistance provided by the homeless shelter.

Valerie added that HP encourages volunteerism among its employees, providing four hours a month of paid time off to volunteer. “That shows they want to give back,” she said. “It’s been a spirit within the company since day one.”