When Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in 2005, Marriott International and its associates, owners and franchisees around the world rallied to help -- contributing nearly $6 million over five years in donations and vacation time to a fund to support fellow associates and rebuild the city of New Orleans and its surrounding communities.
To date, more than $5 million has been distributed and the remaining $500,000 will support "Marriott's Spirit to Serve New Orleans" employee and guest voluntourism projects leading up to the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.
More than 350 Marriott associates will work side-by-side with hotel guests on August 27 and 28 to build a New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity home and a KaBOOM! playground in neighborhoods still in need. (Watch time-lapse video) Money from the fund will sponsor the future construction of two homes, which Marriott associates may be eligible to own.
"The Gulf and New Orleans have faced extraordinary hardship and challenges over the past five years. This area is our home and we have a vested interest in rebuilding and reenergizing. More than 1,800 Marriott associates and 17 hotels are a part of the greater community that we serve every day," said Joe Blanchek, chair of Marriott's Greater New Orleans' business council and general manager of the New Orleans Marriott at Convention Center.
"We're also in lockstep with our partners in the city of New Orleans and the convention and visitors bureau to build new excitement about this great destination -- and it's working. In fact, in Marriott International's recently reported second quarter, revenue per available room (RevPAR) was up 25 percent for Marriott's full service hotels in New Orleans, and the third quarter is looking solid as well," he said.
Earlier in the week, all 1,800 associates of the Greater New Orleans area will be able to redeem $50 philanthropic gift cards via DonorsChoose.org to fund classroom projects, proposed by local public school teachers working in high-need areas. In addition, Marriott is participating in a "Double Your Impact" campaign on the DonorsChoose.org website -- once donors have funded 50 percent of a classroom project's cost, Marriott will provide the remaining funds needed to complete the project.
Finally, and in response to an associate survey which revealed parents' concern for the future of their children in the workplace, Marriott associates teamed up with the University of New Orleans School of Hospitality to launch a series of classes this fall geared to address the high drop-out rate and increased unemployment rate among kids ages 16-21. Classes will prepare students with job training including wardrobe selection, resume writing, and mock interviews.
Marriott plays an active role in the communities where our associates live and work. It's a philosophy that began with our founders, J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott, more than 80 years ago called "Spirit To Serve Our Communities." Since 2007, Marriott associates in New Orleans completed over 6,000 volunteer hours to build six New Orleans Habitat homes, which were presented to Marriott associates. Companywide, Marriott associates donated more than 320,000 volunteer hours last year to local charities and organizations.