ATLANTA—Since the coronavirus was declared a global pandemic early in 2020, we’ve relied on doctors, nurses, grocery store clerks, nonprofit workers and other essential workers more than ever. They have kept our communities healthy, fed, sheltered and safe while having to take additional precautions to look after their own wellbeing. As a company committed to True Hospitality, IHG Hotels & Resorts has spent the last few months recognizing and celebrating these people to say “Thank You” for their work.
Catherine Dolton, Vice President, Corporate Responsibility, IHG Hotels & Resorts, said: “We issued a call for nominations of workers who went above and beyond to support their communities, vulnerable populations and colleagues, and the response we received was overwhelming. We’re honored to recognize these workers and thank them by providing complimentary stays at our hotels and exclusive experiences, as well as IHG Rewards Club points to use toward future stays for the rest, relaxation and recovery they so richly deserve.”
To bring one of the experiences to life, IHG partnered with Mastercard to provide a “Priceless Experience at Home” with Chef JJ Johnson, Mastercard ambassador and James Beard-winning founder of the acclaimed FIELDTRIP restaurant in Harlem. Chef JJ led an exclusive virtual cooking class for healthcare professionals and workers from nonprofits, such as St. Mungo’s, Barnardo’s and Good360, in which participants created one of his signature dishes. Throughout the pandemic, Chef JJ Johnson donated rice bowls to New York City hospital workers and forged relationships with nonprofit organizations to develop programs like FIELDTRIP’s Buy-a-bowl initiative, which served over 100,000 meals.
‘All About Community’
Chef JJ Johnson, founder, FIELDTRIP, commented: “It was a treat to be able to lead the class on behalf of Mastercard for these people who have sacrificed so much of their personal lives over the past few months. To me, cooking is all about community, and the essential workers I met during the class have inspired me with their stories of coming together to help their communities get through these tough times.”
Over recent months, we’ve also uncovered incredible stories across the globe of people who have given back to their communities, and we’ve sought to recognize them with relaxing stays at our hotels.
- After 12 weeks apart, IHG helped one couple “redo” their 26th wedding anniversary.—At the start of the pandemic, residential home healthcare provider Tina Brook and her colleagues decided the best way to protect their elderly patients would be to quarantine at their facility. They spent 12 weeks away from their families, and Tina missed her 26th wedding anniversary with her husband as a result. To recognize Tina for her selfless actions, IHG surprised the couple with a makeup anniversary trip to Hotel Indigo Stratford-Upon-Avon, where they spent time exploring the historic town and relaxing at the hotel, which sits across the street from William Shakespeare’s last home.
- Nonprofit quickly shifts to virtual learning to support children’s literacy in Jordan.—As a research and program development specialist for the Queen Rania Foundation for Education and Development, Yasmeen Al Zabalawy had been working tirelessly on a new reading application when the pandemic hit. With the shift to virtual learning, Yasmeen and her team launched the app “Alphabet Journey” three months ahead of schedule to support children in the community. The app was an immediate hit, with 250,000 downloads. After several months of working around the clock, Yasmeen will take some time for a much-needed staycation at an IHG branded hotel.
- A neonatal ICU nurse takes her first time off work in months.—Michelle Horsey has worked in the neonatal intensive care unit of her local hospital for three years, but never has she faced a challenge like caring for her babies during a pandemic. Dealing with a debilitating injury herself, Michelle has spent countless hours meticulously suiting up in her PPE to best protect her fragile patients, working extra hours and spending long periods of time away from her husband, Shawn. The couple will spend a few days at Holiday Inn West Yellowstone, exploring the national park.
- OzHarvest combats wildfires and COVID-19 for families in need.—It’s been a tumultuous year in Australia, particularly for vulnerable populations that found themselves more food insecure than ever before. As Head of Impact for the nonprofit OzHarvest, which diverts more than 250 tons of high-quality food each week from landfills to people in need, Ashley Killeen had to identify new ways to fundraise when their traditional methods were disrupted due to the pandemic. Together with the OzHarvest Impact team, Ashley created a virtual fundraiser that brought in the nonprofit’s highest levels of donations ever. After 10 months of working nonstop, Ashley is looking forward to a weekend away with her daughter at one of IHG’s properties in Australia.
- Goodwill team member takes on a new job to feed his community.—Jeffery Bowman, Facilities Manager for Goodwill Industries of Southeastern Louisiana in New Orleans, took on a completely new role when the pandemic hit. He has been instrumental in organizing a weekly drive-through food bank, arriving at his facility at 5:30 a.m. every Wednesday for seven months to unload food delivery trucks, package food boxes, direct volunteers, and feed thousands of families in New Orleans. Jeffery, his wife and their two children will enjoy a family vacation for the first time this year at an IHG hotel.
These stories represent only a small number of the essential workers IHG has had the opportunity to recognize and an even smaller fraction of the countless people who have stepped up to support their communities through this crisis. Through IHG’s True Hospitality for Good program, IHG has also worked with governments, organizations and hotel owners to help provide accommodation to those who need it, including healthcare workers, delivery drivers and the homeless, as well as supported food bank and food provision charities, among other community support initiatives during the pandemic.
IHG Rewards Club members who are looking to make a difference in their communities can donate their points to several charity partners, including CARE International UK, American Red Cross, Goodwill Industries International and the National Center for Civil and Human Rights. For more information, visit ihgrewardsclub.com.