Last year, employees at WholeStone Farms were able to fill four pickup trucks with toys for the Salvation Army’s Adopt-a-Family program.
“We’ve got six trucks this year,” WholeStone COO Steve Weers said. “So it’s a record year for us, and we’re excited to be a part of it.”
Weers and other WholeStone employees shopped for $17,000 worth of toys and clothing at Gordmans for its Adopt-a-Family campaign Friday morning.
“It was really an amazing experience and we’re really lucky to be a part of it,” said Racheal Jensen, service desk lead at Gordmans. “It’s going to make a lot of families really happy on Christmas morning.”
WholeStone Farms, founded in 2017, bought a Fremont facility owned by Hormel Foods Corp. in December 2018. The pork processing company is currently planning a $200 million expansion.
Weers said even when the facility was owned by Hormel, it has contributed to organizations like the Salvation Army, United Way and Habitat for Humanity. Its employees also assisted after flooding in the state last March.
“Our people want to make a difference,” he said. “And it’s exciting when you have a company like WholeStone who understands that commitment to the community.”
The Salvation Army’s Adopt-a-Family program allows community members to match with families living in poverty to provide them with food and Christmas presents.
This year, WholeStone agreed to match up to $10,000 of any money raised by its employees through fundraising with a spin-the-wheel, raffle and funds taken from paychecks.
All in all, the employees raised $8,300 for the Adopt-a-Family campaign, which was matched for a total of $17,000, Weers said. He said he wasn’t sure how many families would be affected, but it’s been over 300 in years prior.
On Monday morning, WholeStone employees shopped at Gordmans for items that the Salvation Army was in need of for the families, including clothing sizes and popular toys.
Sasha Womeldorf, production professional at WholeStone, said although she had done previous community work, this was her first time shopping for the Adopt-a-Family program.
“It’s just great,” she said. “I feel really good, and I’m really happy that all these local kids are going to benefit from this.”
Womeldorf said the hot items this year are “Fortnite” and “Star Wars” toys, as well as Nerf guns, but she made sure to get educational toys for the kids as well.
“I have three kids of my own, so when I shopped, I thought of them, and I feel really great about everything that we picked out,” she said. “I know that it’s going to make a lot of kids here in this town happy.”
Fabi Hernandez, who works in the quality control department at WholeStone, said she’s been involved with both the Salvation Army and United Way.
“I loved getting involved today,” she said. “It’s an experience that I’ll never forget and I hope to come back next year to help out.”
Hernandez said she tried to focus on winter clothing like leggings, scarves and gloves with her shopping.
“I did a few toys, but I think that a lot more people would probably need the warmer clothes around this time of year,” she said.
After shopping for the gifts, the employees loaded the bags into the pickup trucks and drove to the Salvation Army to drop them off.
Salvation Army of Fremont Capt. Stephen Hansen said WholeStone did an incredible job with their donation and has always been a great supporter.
“They filled up our whole chapel with toys, and we’re excited it’s going to help a lot of kids this Christmas,” he said. “We’ve got over 600 kids signed up for Christmas this year, and so we’re going to be able to help a whole lot of needy people in our community because of the support of WholeStone and their employees.”
Hansen said the donation this year more than doubled last year’s donation, which he said keeps getting bigger and bigger every year.
“The employees really stepped up and gave a lot of money and gave back to this community in a big way,” he said. “Without community partners like that, we couldn’t get the things we do done.”
Hernandez said seeing the reactions of the Salvation Army staff was an emotional moment for her.
“It doesn’t hit you until you do things like this that you know that there is a lot of need in the community,” she said. “So it’s good to experience this.”
With this volunteer work, Hernandez said she believes that no matter who a person is, they can always make a difference.
“The time that it takes to do the shopping for the families, it’s time that they need, so anybody can give time,” she said.
Womeldorf said she hopes she can take part next year with the Adopt-a-Family campaign, which shows how much WholeStone cares about people in the community, especially children.
“The kids are what make our future, so if we can give them a good Christmas, then in return, we’ll feel good about that,” she said. “And that’s what it’s all about, is the kids.”
Weers said the volunteer work done Friday morning was gratifying for all of the employees involved.
“Even if it’s during work hours, we’re going to get our employees here because they’re the ones that raised the money, they should be taking part in this,” he said. “It’s just so gratifying for them to go back and share that with their fellow employees.”
Most of all, the experience made Weers thankful to be a part of WholeStone.
“Having just celebrated our one-year anniversary, how fast that’s gone,” he said, “the significant impact that WholeStone has made to this community in such a short time frame really makes me proud.”