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Company continues its tradition of holiday giving

If any guest were to walk into the main atrium of the Massimo Zanetti Beverage USA building, they would see a giant Christmas tree with paper angels adorning each massive branch. Inscribed on these angels are the holiday wishes of needy children from all around the area. While these unique ornaments have the same look and design of heavenly beings, it is arguable, however, that the true angels are the real life employees and staff working within the building.

As of yesterday, the company erected their angel tree in the entrance foyer and employees began choosing lists from its branches to help fulfill the dreams of local children for their Christmas morning. Event planners met with officials from Children’s Hospital of the Kings Daughters, Suffolk Shelter for the Homeless as well as Social Services to create a list of 250 names and gift requests from children in Suffolk and Portsmouth.

“Our belief is a very simple belief,” said Vice President of Operations Felix Venezuela. “(We believe) every child deserves at least one day where they have peace of mind; one day they get everything they ask for.”

For six years, Massimo Zanetti has adopted the Angel Tree program and created an all-out gift-giving extravaganza within the company.

The Angel Tree program has been around since 1975, and has been adopted by organizations and businesses across the country. Yet, what makes Massimo Zanetti unique is the initiative and desire to do the giving.

The program is not a management function instituted to fulfill a requisite community project, but rather, it is a reflection of the generous spirit dwelling within the employees themselves.

For example, two years ago, requests were pouring in for bicycles. Bicycles are not cheap gifts, and can be hard to store and transport. Yet, there were more than 125 children who asked for a new bike for Christmas. Unwilling to let one of those children be disappointed, the company helped fulfill the daunting task of housing that many bikes by using the main atrium as a loading dock for every employee to bring a child’s bike. One by one the foyer became home to approximately 150 makes and models of dirt bikes, tricycles and beach cruisers, well over what was needed.

“This program has been healing for the employees,” said Beverly Nedab, director of Human Resources. “It has helped the employees realize the true value of giving back.”

The program has also sent a message into the community. As business partners and community members came into the Massimo Zanetti office building, they saw the vast collection of bicycles and gifts that employees had brought in. Then, they would go up and pick an angel off the tree to sponsor for themselves.

“It grew legs inside the organization,” said Nedab. “(Now) the people in the community know what we’re doing in here. This year, we’re already getting phone calls asking if we’re still doing the angel tree.”

On Dec. 14, all of the angel tree gifts will be compiled at the office and the staff will begin turning conference rooms into gift wrapping stations where employees can wrap their presents. On Dec. 21, Massimo Zanetti will throw a Christmas party, complete with Santa and gifts at the Suffolk Shelter for the Homeless.

“We’ve been very fortunate in this company,” said Venezuela. “With all the issues in the world, we haven’t missed a beat. We’re very fortunate. I also believe the day we stop doing (programs like Angel Tree), things will become more difficult.”

It isn’t all about Christmas

To kick off this holiday season of giving, and to yet again offer assistance to the families that have helped make Massimo Zanetti the success it is, the company will serve their seventh annual Thanksgiving Dinner on Nov. 22.

The dinner will be held at the Salvation Army Corporation. Company officials hire an outside catering service to bring meals to more than 200 people. Employees then take time out of their Wednesday evening to serve and spend time with all who attend. The next day, the company provides meals for another 150 people who need food for their Thanksgiving dinner.

Seeing the contagious effect of the Angel Tree, and wanting to touch as many people as possible within the area, officials in the company are looking to local businesses to help launch the largest single event in the city of Suffolk. Envisioning the collected efforts of some of Suffolk’s largest corporations, event coordinators at Massimo Zanetti can see the type of day that could provide more families, more children and more people the extra help and extra joy that every holiday season could use.

“We do it because sometimes people just need a break,” said Venezuela. “Children need a day to smile without having to look over their shoulder. Wouldn’t it be nice if all the businesses out here got together and embraced this Suffolk area? That would be the ultimate.”

However, until that day comes, workers at Massimo Zanetti are going to keep up the hard work and giving tradition that has become a staple in the company’s reputation.

As they prepare for the turkey dinner next week, they are already hard at work shopping for the hundreds of boys and girls who submitted their paper angels.

Little did the children know, the real angels have been waiting for them all year long, and will be waiting for years to come.

Lauren.wicks@suffolknewsherald.com