Christmas parties focus on community

Stephanie Gomes
Employees of Casey’s General Store of Washington throw a party Dec. 12 at Faith Lutheran Church for about 40 underprivileged local children. The company chose to get rid of their company party about eight years ago. Left, Ethan

Why spoil employees with extravagant meals and gifts this holiday season, when there are so many people in need?

That is the question some local employers asked themselves this year when planning their annual company Christmas party.

“I haven’t heard of anybody canceling,”  said Carol Hamilton, director of the Washington Chamber of Commerce.

But, a few have gotten creative with their plans, she said. 

“I think that with today’s economy, it’s important to think of everyone else,” she said. “Now is the time to give.”

Amy DeDecker, general manager for Sleep Inn and Suites in Washington, said her company still planned a small company Christmas gathering.

However, the business focused much of its efforts on putting on a Christmas party for the community Dec. 6.

DeDecker said staff brought in Santa Claus for the kids and provided hot cocoa and treats.

“All they had to bring was a can of food,” she said. “It went well. We actually got some people over from Peoria.” 

The company collected 50 to 60 cans of food, which went to the local organization Washington Helps Its People, she said.

“It was something that we had just never tried,” she said. “We wanted to do something for the community.”

Crystal Hartseil, employee of Casey’s General Store in Washington, said the business eliminated its Christmas party about eight years ago.

“Instead of having an employee Christmas party, we started taking donations early in October,” Hartseil said.

With the money collected, they threw a party Dec. 12 at Faith Lutheran Church for about 40 underprivileged local children.

Employees gave out stockings for gifts and provided pizza, she said. Santa Claus even stopped by.

“This was our best year,” she said. “There were a lot of kids, and they were very appreciative.”

Hartseil added that she and her co-workers do not miss having a company Christmas party. 

“We’re all grown up,” she said. “We don’t need anything.”

Local catering businesses have seen the effects of companies cutting back on their parties during the holidays.

Leri Slonneger, owner of CBS Cakes and Catering in Washington, said her business usually provides the catering for about 75 to 100 company Christmas parties throughout the Peoria area each year.

She said they are still busy with parties, but the amount of food companies now order has declined.

“Some companies have just done the gift cards (for employees) instead of doing the meal,” she said.

Slonneger also said the company has catered to parties this year for which it only caters the meat, and then the employees bring their own side dishes.

Unlike most businesses, the employees at CBS Cakes and Catering wait until after the Christmas season to have their company party.

“We’re too busy at this time to do anything,” she said, adding that they celebrate after Christmas for “surviving the season.”