Lazard Honors Employees While Giving Back

Beneath the steel-gray Manhattan clouds, two million hands clutched hot coffee, briefcases or scarves as walkers rushed to beat the traffic to work. But something was different on December 16, 2016. A handful of individuals had a different purpose this day. Instead of heading to their offices in the iconic Rockefeller Center, employees of Lazard found their way, instead, to the neighborhood known as Hell’s Kitchen.

In this center of one of New York’s most diverse communities rests Elias Howe School, better known as P.S. 51. As a Title 1 school, the school receives state and federal funding to provide meals to 80 percent of its student body. More than 75 of the 400 children who attend live in local homeless shelters with their families. This is where employees of one of the world’s preeminent financial advisory and asset management firms were headed.

Honoring Employees While Giving Back

Alex Stern, Lazard’s COO and head of its Financial Advisory business, has been seeking to boost employee engagement within the company. He knew that employees wanted to give back in an effective and powerful way. Stern was concerned that employee volunteer events were prone to be time-consuming to organize and execute. He also wanted to ensure that Lazard’s employees enjoyed their time volunteering. Seeking the right partnership for an employee volunteer program led Stern to Operation Warm.

With the experience of hosting hundreds of coat giving events all around the country, we could create a custom volunteer event with Lazard that honored their goal of providing a new coat to every one of the 400 students in nearby PS 51.

By the end of the event, every child would feel loved and be given hope regardless of their family’s financial status. Additionally, a new coat makes a tangible impact for the children and allows them to attend school and play outside during the colder months.

The Magic of a Coat Giving Event

Kids at Lazard Operation WarmFifty employees arrived early, before the start of classes, to set up the gym, organize coats, hang signs and review their roles for the day. The next four hours had a magical effect on all, and the bitter weather outside was no match for the joyful atmosphere inside.

“You had smiles ear to ear; you had kids jumping up and down. Kids were saying thank you repeatedly,” says David Jauregui, a product manager at Lazard. “It was amazing to see how happy the kids were and how excited they were just to take pictures and to try on a coat. The difference – and the impact – was pretty strong.”

PS 51 Principal Nancy Singh-Bock said children not having necessary warm clothing in winter was a frequent problem. For many of the students, this was the first time they had ever received a brand new coat. “This is what I really feel the holidays are about,” she says.

A Gift of Warmth that Kept Giving

Thanks to Lazard’s generous giving, there were additional coats on hand after the original 400 were provided to the school. To spread the warmth, PS 51 invited PS 94, which resides in the same building, to join them.

“Just seeing the kids’ smiles and joy, and knowing they felt so special was the highlight of the event for me,” says Parent Coordinator Giselle Leon. Leon acts as an intermediary between the administration, the staff and the parents of PS 51. She was bubbling over with excitement and praise of the event.

In a few brief hours, Lazard volunteers changed the lives of others for good. The overwhelmingly positive experience reinforced the necessity for ongoing employee volunteer events, and it reminded those living with little or nothing that someone cares about them.

“You’re not just donating something or giving money to a cause. You’re actually meeting the children and having that emotional connection. You see the looks on their faces. It’s just perfect,” said Paul Aristy, a Human Resources director at Lazard.

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