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Ritz-Carlton to the Rescue

Tysons Corner hotel leaves “Footprints” in community.

“It’s been a tradition to give back to the community. … Showing genuine care is what we do. It’s our credo.”

-- Ritz-Carlton Tysons Corner General Manager Mark Sherwin

It’s not uncommon for Vienna-McLean businesses—from defense industry contractors to hospitality providers—to make themselves good neighbors, vital partners in the community in which their presence is known. They come into schools, they mentor, they support wounded warrior programs. They embrace the community spirit envisioned by their company’s corporate philosophy.

Ritz-Carlton Tysons Corner goes beyond McLean and Tysons, extending its hand to local service clubs, nonprofit and humanitarian projects, and to the hotel’s dedicated project, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington, Fairfax County Region [Fairfax BGCGW Club].

“It’s been a tradition to give back to the community,” said Ritz-Carlton Tysons Corner General Manager Mark Sherwin. “Showing genuine care is what we do. It’s our credo.”

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Ritz-Carlton Tysons Corner General Manager Mark Sherwin sits as chairman of the board of Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington-Fairfax Region.

EVERY RITZ-CARLTON PROPERTY is charged with creating its own community “Footprints” program, to make and meet goals that support social responsibility. Local Ritz-Carlton partners are selected by the hotel’s Employee Council, composed of staff from each hotel department.

“The core of ‘Footprints’ addresses children, poverty and the environment,” Sherwin said. The Boys & Girls Clubs focuses on children and poverty, and it was a natural fit for Ritz-Carlton Tysons Corner community outreach. For about three years now, the hotel has partnered with the Fairfax County Region of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington to enhance and improve the lives of high-risk children. Students in grades six to nine are the target participants.

Sherwin is chairman of the board of the Fairfax BGCGW Club, and a second Tysons Corner Ritz-Carlton staff member, Helen Kruger, sits on the Fairfax BGCGW Club Board of Directors as well.

The Fairfax region of BGCGW Clubs increased its special events revenue by 200 percent, thanks to fundraising activities promoted by Sherwin and Kruger, said Wonhee Kang, regional director, Fairfax BGCGW Clubs.

“We are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen,” said Sherwin. “We want to work with kids in a positive way, to help them become responsible citizens, go to college, find jobs.”

Once Sherwin became involved with the Boys & Girls Clubs, he and his staff came up with ways to fundraise and to enhance the clubs’ physical presence. When the hotel’s dining room was renovated, furniture that was to be replaced was delivered to the clubs.

Club facilities and resources are located in Culmore, Herndon and Murraygate in Alexandria. On occasion, the Tysons Ritz-Carlton hosts events for youngsters participating in the Fairfax BGCGW.

The hotel property hosts the "World’s Fanciest Rummage Sale" in April. The rummage sale, held in the Ritz-Carlton ballroom, raised more than $25,000 in 2012 for the Boys & Girls Clubs. Hotel volunteers reach out to McLean, Vienna and Great Falls “neighbors,” collecting high-quality merchandise for resale. “We get a great response from the community,” said Sherwin. “Someone bought a mink coat last year for $125.”

Ritz-Carlton employees volunteered more than 1,500 hours last year. “We’re all very proud,” said Sherwin.

“Footprints” does more than focus on one nonprofit. Employees held a bake sale to raise money to send to the Sandy Hook relief fund. Volunteers work with the Children’s Miracle Network Torch Relay, raising funds for local children’s hospitals. The hotel partners with Jill’s House, a retreat for local disabled children.

HOTEL STAFF participates in community outreach programs, such as the Marine Corps Toys for Tots project, and the Warm Coats drive. They host “Succeed through Service” seminars for children, focusing on career paths and opportunities in the hospitality industry, and, on a lighter note, enrichment events, from afternoon tea and etiquette to gingerbread house decorating.

The hotel hosts charity galas, helping nonprofits raise funds with discounted services.

“Our partnerships are consistent with Ritz-Carlton culture and consistent with the people we choose to work here,” said Sherwin. “They have big hearts.”