By Jane A. Marlowe
Marco Island Marriott Beach Resort and Spa is a star in the crown of Marriott Resorts. Visitors come from all over the world to our Paradise to enjoy the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, the smooth, sandy beaches and the first class accommodations of the Marriott.
The guests’ every need is met, more accurately, anticipated by an expertly trained staff. There are four restaurants on site from fun casual at Pazzi’s to the elegance of Kurrent’s fine dining.
Rooms are well appointed with private balconies overlooking the Gulf and beach, the carefully manicured grounds or views of the Marco Island skyline. It is no surprise that the Marco Island Marriott is one of the most successful resorts in the Marriott family of hotels and resort destinations.
The Marriott philosophy is not only about profits and corporate financial success, however. Certainly they have met success here in Paradise with more than 85 million dollars in sales in the past year. “The Marriott is one of the few corporations which has an incredible brand presence that has carried its culture all the way through the company since Mr. & Mrs. Marriott opened their first root beer stand,” commented Chris Major.
Chris is Chairperson of Spirit To Serve at the Marco Island Marriott and Spa. There is a corporate commitment to every community where the Marriott has a presence. Spirit To Serve provides the vehicle to deliver services to the community following its Mission Statement.
“We pledge that our community will be a better place to live and work because of our efforts and support towards: Environment, Social Responsibility, Fund Raising”
Chris is assisted by Co-Chairs, Cathy Nelson and Susan Ryziw. Active committee members include: Mike Tighe, Rich Lutz, Steve Lawrence, Dace Stewart, Dao Tran, Hilda Aviles, Melissa Pronovost, Mary Benedict, Savannah Landry, Nikki Di Pietro, Judy Mayo, Cat Drake and Oana Stanoui.
All of Spirit To Serve activities are centered around one of their three core commitments. In the area of the Environment, the team and the Marriott Associates who sign up to assist, do a “Clean the Beach” Walk on multiple days at the Marriott property. A crew of volunteer associates clean up a section of Route 951 quarterly as part of a community wide program called Adopt-a-Road Clean up.
Guests at the Marriott were invited to join associates in a clean up project at Rookery Bay or a building project at Habitat For Humanity. “Give and Get” is a new promotion which offers guests attractive discounts in return for donating volunteer hours at these local community sites. Cathy Nelson noted: “This is such a great opportunity for guests to get to know the staff and the community in an entirely different perspective.” Chris commented, “the team is very keyed in on this new aspect of giving and we think it will build over time and become part of the Marriott culture.”
Social Responsibility is taken seriously by the team and the entire Marriott family. This year Spirit To Serve pledged a goal of 250 volunteer hours of service to Habitat. The team reached 212 hours by mid-September and look forward to surpassing its own expectations. Volunteers work on Saturday mornings performing whatever jobs are required on site. They paint, do carpentry, install roof supports, hammer nails and assist with landscaping.
Cathy shared good news. “A Marriott associate has just been approved for a Habitat home and we will send out a call for volunteers to participate in ‘raising her house,’ hopefully by the end of the year. Home for the holidays is our goal!”
Cathy and Susan are spearheading a new project, a cookbook with recipes submitted by Marriott associates. Benefactors will be Tommie Barfield Elementary School and Charter Middle School. Susan and Cathy revealed that the recipes coming in are unique and represent foods of many cultures which reflect the ethnic diversity of the Marco Island Marriott staff. The cookbook should be available for sale in time for the holiday season.
Spirit To Serve assisted with the design and planting of the ‘Garden of Hope’ at St. Matthew’s House in Naples. A front desk associate suggested the idea and the Marriott team developed a plan and provided the financing for seeds and start up costs. Residents of St. Matthew’s have taken over the care of the garden and, two years later, its yield has been so successful that the chef at St. Matthew’s reports he has produce all year long. The Marriott team continues to provide funding and technical support whenever it is needed.
Another very special commitment is the team’s work weekly with the Harry Chapin Food Bank. The Mobile Food Pantry is a very well organized program which provides food to families who qualify in advance and submit their shopping lists. Marriott associates sign up for a time and location to assist with handing out food supplies.
The Marriott also sponsors a major food drive with associates bringing in thousands of pounds of food which is transported to the Harry Chapin Food Bank. The need has doubled in the past 2 years. Cathy commented: “It is so satisfying to be able to help people who are working hard to maintain their families.”
The Spirit To Serve team is involved with projects all through the year including a lunch prepared and served at the Marco Island Fire House to express appreciation for the First Responders in our community. The team put together 100 school bags filled with supplies, enough for St. Matthew’s House to provide one for every child in residence, with several left over which they shared with other families in need.
During the holidays last year, associates visited residents at Lely Palms, sang Christmas Carols and handed out cookies. The Carolers were well received and plan to include the event in this year’s activities. An annual Christmas Toy Drive in conjunction with the Marco Island Fire Department inspires Marriott associates to donate hundreds of gifts for children and assist with their distribution.
A project to benefit the Humane Society of Collier County was a favorite with Marriott associates. They brought in toys, food and related items for delivery to the Humane Society’s new facility in Naples.
Spirit To Serve has a third goal: Fundraising. The Marriott is legendary for its support of the American Cancer Society. Relay For Life took place on the beach in front of the Marriott in 2009 and 2010 followed by a memorable Luminary service in the courtyard of the Marriott. The American Cancer Society was the recipient of the funds raised and will benefit from a “Power of Pink” breast cancer prevention campaign currently running for the month of October at the Marriott Spa.
St. Matthew’s House, Harry Chapin Food Bank, YMCA, All Children’s Hospital in Tampa, Marco Island Academy, Susan G. Komen Cancer Cure, Friends of Rookery Bay are direct beneficiaries of fundraising events held throughout the year. Make A Wish Foundation received funds and accommodations for a family in order to fulfill a special “wish.” Pumpkin pies are baked by pastry chefs in the Marriott kitchens and sold to associates before Thanksgiving. Monies raised benefit the Harry Chapin Food Bank.
The next big event will be the Marco Island Beach Music Festival on October 29 beachside at the Marriott. Monies raised will benefit the American Cancer Society, Marco YMCA, Marco Island Academy and Friends of Rookery Bay. A beach run and torch relay to benefit Children’s Miracle Network is scheduled for November 11.
Chris Major reports that the committee’s fundraising goal for 2011 is $70,000 which has been surpassed already. He expects to reach close to $100,000 due to the outstanding commitment of the Marriott staff. “We are very engaged in the community. It is so fulfilling to help people who need our support. It makes me proud that we can count on our associates to come through and help out whatever the need.”
The Marco Island Marriott Beach Resort and Spa is fulfilling the Marriott commitment to our island community with amazing good will and generosity. Spirit To Serve has become a way of life for the Marriott family, a way to look at what needs to be done, what is required and “let’s get to it.”