Creativity Spurs Charity with Annual Food Drive | WESTCHASE DISTRICT

Last year the Geo/New Ventures department at VAALCO Energy won their office “lunch and build” competition, held in conjunction with the annual Summer Food Drive. Each department at VAALCO’s Westchase office built replicas of offshore platforms using the items that each department had donated to the food drive.


Every May, Westchase District teams with West Houston Assistance Ministries (WHAM) for its Summer Food Drive from May 1 – May 31. Donated food and toiletry items are collected at donation locations throughout Westchase District to restock WHAM’s food pantry for the summer months.

To get you in the giving mood, we thought we’d share some tips from last year’s top four givers on how to stage a successful drive:


For the second year in a row, GBH CPAs, an accounting firm located on Rogerdale Road, crushed the competition with a whopping 3,261 pounds collected. The firm’s secret? Competition among departments and prizes, such as gift cards and even an iPad, for top contributors. “I don’t know a more competitive group of people than accountants,” said Gail Prather, CEO. “That said, we have fun with it. We know how to have fun with it. We’re not just pencil pushers, y’know!”

Prather said creative presentations such as making statues from food items also get her employees into feeling generous. “One department made a map of Houston out of food items, including using peanut butter jars to highlight where employees lived,” she said. “My group made a bank – a food bank, get it?”

Zurich Insurance

First-year participant Zurich Insurance, a Swiss risk management and commercial insurance company with Houston offices located in the BriarLake Plaza office building, claimed second place by donating 2,834 pounds. “Globally, community investment efforts are huge in the company,” said Jason Sauer, vice president with Zurich.

“We grouped our various business units into four teams and the winning team received an office-sponsored lunch,” he said. “We promoted the drive on our kitchen bulletin board and sent emails throughout the month. All four bins were labelled and publically displayed so that employees could see who was doing what. It encouraged some banzai shopping among our more competitive employees.”

Houston Marriott Westchase

Sometimes employees may not be able to go banzai shopping. The Houston Marriott Westchase decided what worked best was to measure departmental competitions by number of pieces rather that by poundage. “If someone buys a six pack of toothbrushes, it counts as six rather than one,” said Sally Brewer, executive assistant. “It lets everyone participate without breaking anyone’s pocketbook.” And those pieces add up to pounds as well, more than 1,000 for the Marriott last year.

Pape-Dawson Engineers

Meanwhile, the folks over at Pape-Dawson Engineers have divided their office into two teams: the Hunger Busters and the FOOd Fighters. Teams competed to win bragging rights in three categories: Money Bags (cash collections), Happy Tummy (food) and Clean-Bling (hygiene/toiletry items). The result? About 850 pounds.

Your Turn

Now that you know how the top donors do it, feel free to borrow, steal and otherwise appropriate these tactics to help make this year’s Summer Food Drive our best yet. For more information, contact Jonathan Lowe, 713-780-9434.