Making History by Making a Difference

Apr 8, 2019

Last Friday, thousands of Marriott hotel managers made a little history in Chicago – and did a lot of good in the process. More than 100 of them did so by volunteering with The Salvation Army – and just before National Volunteer Week, which starts today.

Marriott International executives were visiting Chicago for their 2019 General Managers’ Conference. As part of Marriott’s ongoing emphasis on giving back, part of their Serve 360: Doing Good in Every Direction initiative, conference attendees paused for a day to volunteer throughout Chicago. In partnership with Network Volunteers and 45 Chicago organizations, including The Salvation Army, 4,000 Marriott associates revitalized community parks, replenished public gardens, assisted in shelters and beautified neighborhood schools. This event was their largest-ever volunteer initiative at one location in Marriott’s history.   

At The Salvation Army’s Freedom Center, about 80 Marriott employees made 35 blankets for homeless Chicagoans and also packed 250 hygiene kits, decorated tote bags to hold the kits, and wrote encouraging notes of welcome to people checking in to the Freedom Center’s rehabilitation unit.

Melody Lanthorn, a Marriott general manager from Seattle, Washington, was happy to help at the Freedom Center. “I could see as we were coming here that there are those in this area that might need a little help,” she said. Lanthorn does a lot of volunteer work in her community, but had not served with The Salvation Army before.

Frank Romano, a Marriott general manager from New Orleans, was quite familiar with our work. “The Salvation Army has helped me twice. The first time was when I came back from the Gulf War, the second was when Katrina hit,” he said. “I take every opportunity to help The Salvation Army because they helped me and my family.” 

At our Chicago Temple Corps Community Center, two dozen volunteers created a multi-generational garden. They built eight raised garden beds where seniors, adults and children in the community will grow flowers, fruits, vegetables and herbs.

Major Clara Braddock, corps officer at Chicago Temple, said, “I am hoping it will make a great impact. The seniors in the building next door are waiting for this to happen. This is something, I think, that will bring the community together.”

True to the Marriott volunteer culture, Philip Wright, director of group strategy at the Marriott Marquis Chicago, said, “It’s definitely important for us to get out and give back to the community. The spirit to serve is a huge part of the Marriott culture.”

John Rojan, a general manager from Jersey City and another volunteer at the Temple Corps site, echoed his sentiments. “This is something we look forward to,” he said. “We help our community in our local markets. We look forward every year to coming in and helping other communities.”

Linda Reiter, volunteer resource manager at The Salvation Army Metropolitan Division, helped volunteers at the Freedom Center understand the impact of their work. “On a really cold night next winter, someone in need will be warm because of you,” she said. “You are having a direct impact on people in need. We couldn’t do all we do without you.”

We see the difference volunteers make in the lives of hungry, homeless and hurting people every day. Often, just knowing someone cares means the world to a person in need. Showing up to help our neighbors communicates care and compassion loud and clear to those who need it most.

We offer heartfelt thanks to all our dedicated volunteers. And we invite you to join us in helping your community. Request information about service opportunities by clicking the "Volunteer in This Community" link in the red menu bar above, or by emailing us at

Check out more photos from the Marriott volunteer event

Related Content: Media Alert / Press Release / News, Corporate Partnerships, Addiction / Recovery / Rehabilitation, Housing / Shelter, Volunteering

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