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Red Hat cancels party; will feed needy instead
[November 30, 2008]

Red Hat cancels party; will feed needy instead

(News & Observer, The (Raleigh, NC) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Nov. 30--Red Hat recently scrapped plans for a massive holiday party.

Instead, the Raleigh software company will donate the money it would have spent to a food charity chosen by employees.

The move comes as the slumping economy is hurting philanthropic donations and increasing demand among the needy.

"We felt it was the wrong time to be spending a lot of money on ourselves," said DeLisa Alexander, Red Hat's senior vice president for people and brand.

She declined to say how much money Red Hat will donate, but it's enough to pay for about 800,000 meals at food banks run by Feeding America. In the Triangle, the group runs the Food Bank of Eastern and Central North Carolina and the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle.

SETTING A TREND: "Doing something so clearly needed at such a time of year can cause employees to feel united in a cause," said Lisa Jones Christensen, assistant professor of sustainable enterprise and entrepreneurship at UNC-Chapel Hill's Kenan-Flagler Business School. "I think that it is quite likely we will see more of this."

While some companies are scaling back or canceling holiday festivities, it's possible to "celebrate the holidays in a way that's appropriate in this economic downturn," said Andrea Bazan, president of the Triangle Community Foundation.

The foundation, for example, is asking the 500 guests at its party Thursday to each bring five cans of food.

POSH PARTIES: As Red Hat has gotten larger, its bashes have gotten fancier. Last year, the company rented the Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts. Workers and spouses dressed up, drank cocktails and danced.

This year, the party was booked for the Raleigh Convention Center. "It was a big deal to make the switch," Alexander said.

PICKING A RECIPIENT: Managers asked employees at its 20 U.S. offices to nominate charities. About 40 suggestions came in. Workers voted. Feeding America, previously known as America's Second Harvest, was the overwhelming pick.

FURTHER GIVING: Red Hat workers also are organizing canned food drives and other efforts in conjunction with the food bank donation. In Raleigh, executives will give cash for every 500 cans collected, Alexander said. Again, she declined to name a dollar amount. The company's Dallas office is organizing a coat drive.

MODEST GATHERING: The 500 or so workers at Red Hat's headquarters will have a small holiday get-together Dec. 12 at their offices at N.C. State's Centennial Campus. Plans call for selling glasses and coffee tumblers with the Red Hat logo and giving those proceeds to charity, too.

NEXT YEAR: "I really don't see us going back" to holding a big party, Alexander said. "People want to work for a company that is socially responsible."

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