CIRI encourages employees – and you – to give back this holiday

When CIRI employee Rhonda Oliver volunteered for a November afternoon spent helping students at Muldoon Elementary with their homework, she was taken aback by a third-grader’s response when she offered to quiz him on spelling words.

“He said to me, ‘No, I want to read while I’m here because I don’t have books at home,’” Oliver recalls. “That moment and that comment took my breath away.”

It also inspired her to solicit donations of children’s books from her coworkers. From Nov. 5 through Nov. 18, CIRI collected picture books and chapter books, as well as monetary donations, for Muldoon Elementary School, where CIRI employees have been volunteering for more than ten years. CIRI employees also participate in The Children’s Lunchbox, a program that supplies healthy snacks for kids who wouldn’t otherwise have food available after school or on the weekends.

CIRI employees volunteer for the Children's Lunch Box program, one of several ways the company gives back to the local community. Photo by CIRI Alaska Tourism employee Kathleen Stewart.
CIRI employees volunteer for the Children’s Lunch Box program, one of several ways the company gives back to the local community. Photo by CIRI Alaska Tourism employee Kathleen Stewart.

“Volunteering to cut vegetables or read to kids is an easy way to help, and you feel like you’ve truly made an impact,” says Rachel Batres, manager of CIRI Community Relations. “As a corporation, CIRI has a strong commitment to the community. By encouraging employees to volunteer and supporting fundraising events, we’re helping to build a stronger community.”

Though CIRI emphasizes giving year-round, the holidays provide a special opportunity to make an impact on the community. Each year, CIRI organizes a United Way Campaign to raise funds to support the organization’s programs. Employees are able to arrange payroll-deducted contributions to United Way, with the company matching 50 percent of each contribution.

Batres cooked up a football theme for this year’s campaign, and employees paid small fees to wear jeans and football jerseys to work, guess the number of football candies in a jar or dine at a chili cook-off “tailgater” party.

Two- and five-dollar donations quickly added up: Combined with payroll donations and the corporate match program, CIRI expects this year’s campaign to contribute approximately $100,000 to United Way.

You don’t have to be a big corporation to make a difference in the lives of others this holiday season – as exemplified by CIRI’s own President and CEO Sophie Minich. On Thursday, Nov. 20, Minich spent a night outside at Anchorage’s Covenant House facilities. The Executive Sleep Out event raises money and awareness to combat the problem of homeless teens in Anchorage.

Looking for ways to give this holiday season – and beyond? Here are some ideas:

  • When you file for your 2015 PFD, giving is as easy as Pick. Click.Give. You can select a nonprofit to donate any portion of your Permanent Fund Dividend to – large or small. The 2015 Pick.Click.Give recipients include the following CIRI affiliated nonprofits: the Alaska Native Heritage Center, The CIRI Foundation, Koahnic Broadcast Corporation and Southcentral Foundation. For more information, visit
  • Check to see if your employer offers a match program to double your payroll-deducted donations.
  • Throughout Alaska, the Salvation Army offers Angel Trees covered in tags that represent children in need. Choose a tag from the tree, purchase a gift and return it, unwrapped, to any Angel Tree location. For more information, visit
  • By donating to Cook Inlet Tribal Council’s annual Christmas Basket program, you can help the organization provide gift cards to low-income families.
Crock pots line the table as CIRI employees sample each of the chili recipes during the United Way fundraiser event. Photo by Jason Moore.