SAN JOSE, CA – While the pandemic has been tough on everybody, there are certainly those who have been hit harder than others. VTA employees dug deep to raise a whopping $20,716 during its annual Thanksgiving drive to benefit Second Harvest of Silicon Valley! Of more than 300 teams in Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties raising money during this campaign, VTA was among the top five fundraisers.
VTA has a longstanding tradition of raising awareness of poverty and hunger in Santa Clara County through employee donations. With the pandemic doubling the need for food and volunteer opportunities, many employees also pitched in their time to help Second Harvest sort and distribute food in the community.
“We are fortunate to work for a great company like VTA and are able to have what we need and also a few things we want, but we can’t forget about those who don’t even have what they need,” said Lucas Perez, a customer service supervisor who has been instrumental in increasing VTA’s participation over the years through friendly competition between departments.
Mimi Nguyen, who works in the Cerone Yard office is one of Perez’s former customer service co-workers and now chief competitor who goes out of her way to make sure her division is well-represented. For Nguyen, it is personal, having come to the U.S. as a Vietnamese refugee.
“My family wasn’t well off as a child and there were times when I was in need of food,” said Nguyen. “If it wasn’t for programs like these, I probably would have been homeless.”
“This is my way of giving back to the community. I’ve told my co-workers my story, this is why I push it. I also came to find out that other people had similar experiences and knew where I was coming from,” she said.
Nguyen says creating intradepartmental competition among the different segments of workers at her yard is key to making Cerone competitive with the other VTA sites. She even collected funds from coworkers and then donated online for them because she said a lot of people either don’t like to give online or might not get to it. But she is quick to deflect credit to herself, saying it is more about “Team Cerone” and the willingness of her colleagues to donate.
This year, in lieu of barrels around VTA’s five campuses to collect nonperishable food items, Second Harvest provided a donation portal for online giving. VTA set an internal goal to raise $10,000 among our 2,100 employees, and the goal was exceeded by more than double. VTA’s contributions will help Second Harvest provide 41,432 meals this holiday season.
Second Harvest has seen the demand for food assistance double to 500,000 people a month since the start of the pandemic. Their donation collection does not end with the holidays, as the need exists all year round.