Giving Back: Hilton’s Blue Energy Committee focuses on community

Vancouver Hilton team member Merribeth Greenberg has been president of the committee for years

Vancouver Hilton team members David Henderson, Merribeth Greenberg, Rickie Derrey, Nathan Klavano and Justin Quatarolo are shown here volunteering at the Clark County Food Bank. Courtesy of Christie Rust

Although the Hilton hotels are fairly well known for their expertise in hospitality, something that many people may not know about the team members at the Vancouver Hilton is their continual commitment to community service.

“Team members have been volunteering for organizations such as Share, Clark County Food Bank, Vancouver’s Downtown Association and the Parks Foundation for the past 13 years,” said Christie Rust, director of sales and marketing at the Vancouver Hilton. “Here at the Hilton, we have our Blue Energy Committee. Being out in the community is really almost second nature to our team members.”

Since the opening of the Vancouver Hilton 13 years ago, Rust said the hotel has had their Blue Energy Committee in some form or another, although it has had several different names in the past. Merribeth Greenberg, communications operator at the Vancouver hotel and president of the Blue Energy Committee, said the committee is made up of one team member from each department at the hotel, usually at least 10, and a couple of managers.

The members of the Blue Energy Committee help plan the different community service activities that the Hilton team members can participate in annually. In addition, Greenberg said they also plan different team member activities for the year such as the annual pumpkin carving contest, holiday parties and more.

Each year, the Blue Energy Committee chooses one nonprofit organization in the Clark County area that team members from each department at the hotel can volunteer at. The hours volunteered by each team member are structured, paid volunteer hours. Rust said they rotate between different departments once a month, and team members from those different departments volunteer for a set number of hours. Collectively between their 150 team members, Rust said this averages out to about 210 paid hours of volunteering for their team members each year, just from one of their efforts.

For the past 12 years, the Hilton chose Share as the local organization that team members could volunteer at for those paid volunteer hours. However, at the tail end of last year, Rust said they decided to try something different and chose the Clark County Food Bank as their organization to volunteer at for the year. One reason for this change was the fact that one of the biggest community service efforts done each year among the Hilton team members is their annual food drive.

“We’ve been doing the food drive since 2008 and it started out small as a quarterly thing,” Rust said. “During the first one, we collected about 41 pounds. Now, we’re up to about 7,000 pounds that we collected this year. We expanded (the food drive) over the last few years and made it into a regional competition on the West Coast with the other hotels.”

“The food bank tells us 7,000 pounds is one of their largest donations of the year for team member-led donations,” Rust continued. “We don’t go out and ask customers for donations, it’s all driven by our team members. We found we were getting such a connection with our team members for the food drive, so we figured why not go and see how it’s benefiting others (at the food bank).”

Rust said the Vancouver Hilton has been recognized with Best Practice Blue Energy awards by Hilton Worldwide in both 2011 and 2014 for their volunteer efforts.

Aside from the food drive and volunteering with the food bank, Rust said team members also participate in Youth and Hospitality each May, when they host the Vancouver Public Schools Luncheon. They also participate in Earth Week and World Water Day each year, and they work with the Parks Foundation annually to help with their flower planting. When all of this other volunteer work is added to the paid volunteer hours, Rust said this equates to about 36,000 volunteer hours annually between all team members.

Vancouver Hilton team members Merribeth Greenberg and Dorothy Hendricks help the Parks Foundation with their annual flower planting. Courtesy of Christie Rust

Rust said the Hilton also offers a community event discount to nonprofits and through that, along with some donations of gift certificates and other items, the Vancouver Hilton has donated about $1.2 million over the past 13 years.

Greenberg’s role as president of the committee

Something that Rust said is unique about Greenberg’s role as president of the Blue Energy Committee is the longevity in her position.

“She is the go-to in this hotel if you want to know what’s going on or what we’re focusing on,” Rust said.

“Merribeth has been the dedicated president of our Blue Energy Committee for over seven years,” said Mike McLeod, general manager at the Vancouver Hilton. “She fosters a community-centric culture by inspiring the team to volunteer for the Park Foundation’s annual flower planting in Esther Short Park, collecting trash during Vancouver’s Downtown Association clean up and encouraging others to donate to our annual food drive, which has generated over 7,000 pounds of food to Clark County.”

In addition to her role at the Hilton, Greenberg, who has been visually impaired since birth, also participates with a variety of other nonprofit organizations, including the National Federation of the Blind and the Washington Council of the Blind. Because of Greenberg’s advocacy for these organizations, Rust said both organizations have held conventions at the Vancouver Hilton and have returned to hold those conventions a number of times.

“Knowing Beth is here as a team member, it helps them (the blind organizations) feel confident that we share in their values,” Rust said. “Both of those conventions have come back multiple times.”

Greenberg was also with the Girls Scouts of the US organization for about five years as a troop leader and as a registrar, and also participates in volunteer activities at her church, Church of the Good Shepherd.

“All of these things that we do, Beth is the number one volunteer out there. You can always depend on her, she shows up early, she’s brought family to help … It’s that culture that the Blue Energy Committee tries to create that keeps your job fun, that we’re here for a bigger purpose than just coming in to do your job.”

Joanna Yorke-Payne
Joanna Yorke is the managing editor of the Vancouver Business Journal. She has worked in the journalism field since 2010 after graduating from the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University in Pullman. Yorke worked at The Reflector Newspaper in Battle Ground for six years and then worked at and helped start

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