With the economic downturn axing many a holiday affair this year, one company took advantage of what would have been a lost venue deposit to create a charitable donation—and a timely PR push. When New York-based financial institution BlackRock Inc. decided this fall to cancel its annual holiday party at Cipriani Wall Street, corporate events manager Susie Weisenfeld sought to find a way to utilize the nonrefundable deposit.
“These were already sunk costs, and there was money sitting there. Venue contracts are signed years in advance,” said Wiesenfeld, who approached BlackRock execs with the idea of turning the deposit into meals donated to City Harvest. “They loved the idea, and so did Cipriani. Ultimately, the chef there was able to turn our investment into 800 meals.”
Although Cipriani Wall Street didn't host BlackRock's holiday party last night, the venue's kitchen was still abuzz all day, cooking up three-course meals to be packaged in City Harvest's containers and refrigerated. City Harvest trucks were scheduled to pick up the meals and disperse them to three soup kitchens in Manhattan and Harlem this morning. And tonight some 20 BlackRock volunteers, including president Robert Kapito, as well as Cipriani’s wait staff and City Harvest executive director Jilly Stephens, will serve 400 meals to the Momentum Project at St. Peter's Lutheran Church. Media outlets like Fox News are expected to report on the meal service.
“The holidays are always tough, especially with the economy so bad this year. I kept thinking about the charities that always have their big fund-raising events, for which the Lehmans and the Bear Stearns would buy $50,000 tables,” said Wiesenfeld. “It's just not going to happen this year. So for our sunk costs to benefit the greater good, that is really rewarding.”