Thrive Thursday: A Big Heart Goes a Long Way in Salt Lake City
When Minda Zoloth joined Hyatt as the general manager of Hyatt Place Salt Lake City Downtown, she was looking for a way to give back to her community and those in need. While reading about Blessings in a Backpack through a feature in a magazine, the cause struck a personal chord with Minda and she knew she’d found the way to make a real difference in her community.
Blessings in a Backpack targets youth in America who are on the federal Free and Reduced Price Meal Program – they provide these impoverished elementary school children with a backpack of food to take home for 38 weekends during the school year to ensure they are well fed each and every day. Those involved with Blessings in a Backpack have seen a profound difference in academics, school attendance, behavior and health between a well-nourished child and a hungry child.
“I grew up as one of the kids I currently help feed and I know what it’s like to try to concentrate in school when you are very hungry,” explains Minda. So, after doing further research and finding a partner school, Minda started the first Blessings chapter in Utah. Partnering with Backman Elementary, where 98% of their students qualify for free or reduced lunch, Minda and her team committed to feed at least 50 students for three consecutive years.
“Blessings sent us the backpacks which we labeled 1-50, and the school selected the most in need students. We raise money through various fundraisers and this money helps to fund our monthly grocery bill,” said Minda. While they initially committed to 50 kids, that number has quickly grown to 65 students, and the team does not plan to stop there. They hope to be supporting 100 kids by next year!
Minda and her team buy the food monthly and store it at the hotel. The meals consist of easy-to-prepare, shelf-stable food items, like soup, oatmeal, and macaroni and cheese, which the kids are familiar with and can prepare themselves if needed. Every Friday hotel associates, community volunteers and even the hotel’s ownership group come together at the hotel to pack and deliver meals to each of the 65 students at the school.
“It’s a lot more work that handing over a check to a big organization, but all of us at Hyatt Place Salt Lake City Downtown feel really good about the impact we are making in these children’s lives,” said Minda. “One of my favorite quotes is ‘make a difference, not just a living’. Although we want to feed the 98% of the 750 kids who are on reduced or free lunch at the school, we know that doing our part is crucial to those 65 families. I think it’s important that Hyatt is viewed as a company who understands that to truly be a part of the community, we the people who represent Hyatt must also give back.”
It’s without question that this Hyatt Place teams is giving back in a big way! To date, Minda and her team have helped to donate 9,495 meals to students at Backman Elementary. The hotel’s story is one of the many examples of the care and compassion extended by Hyatt colleagues in the communities around the world that we call home.
To learn more about Blessings in a Backpack and to help support the incredible work of volunteers like Minda, click here.