Zephyr’s Philanthropy Committee is open to all staff members and meets regularly to select opportunities to support with individual/collective professional time as well as with monetary donations. The committee supports a variety of causes nominated directly by employees. Projects have included sending goods to U.S. soldiers, donating coats to the Coats for Kids program and blankets to the Salvation Army for the homeless, and collecting fans for the Eldercare Fan Drive. The most recent projects include sorting/boxing food at the Capital Area Food Bank of Central Texas, company donations for the Wounded Warrior Project, collecting and donating school supplies for under-privileged children, and raising funds for Breast Cancer Awareness.

Zephyr Celebrates National Engineers Week

In honor of National Engineers Week (Feb. 20-24, 2017), Zephyr invited employees to take part in two brainteasing challenges.  These challenges took place over the lunch hour on Tuesday and Thursday, where participants gathered into groups of up to 5 people.  Supplies and instructions were handed out at the time of each challenge, but not before!  And, to add a level of difficulty, each activity was timed.

Challenge #1 – The first challenge was the Cantilever Challenge.  Each team was given 50 toothpicks and 2 sticks of modeling clay with the instructions to make a structure that leaned from the base of the table.  This competition was judged by measuring how far the structure cantilevered from the base.  As it turns out, Zephyrites are pretty good at this!  All teams were successful in making a cantilever and we ended up with two winning teams:  one from our Austin office, and one from our Houston office!

Challenge #2 – The second challenge was the Assembly Line Challenge.  Teams were given a bag full of quirky items: 25 straws, 15 toothpicks, 10 balloons, 16 pom poms, 1 roll of scotch tape, 1 sharpie marker, 3 rubber bands, 1 large rubber band, 2 paper plates, and 6 paper clips.  With at least 7 of the items given, participants were challenged to make 8 products as identical to each other as possible.  The teams were given 4 minutes to discuss and design their product, then 3 minutes to put the product together, and then 1 minute to describe the product to the judges.  Talk about creativity!  The products the teams came up with were fun and playful.  Even better than the products were the descriptions!  It was a close competition, but the team from the York office took home the gold!

All in all, it was a fun week of teamwork and engineering feats to bring together Zephyr’s wonderful engineers!

Walk this Way! – Zephyr Launches Company-Wide ALS Fundraising and Awareness Campaign

Zephyr adopted the ALS Association in 2016 as the benefactor of our biggest philanthropic effort to date after learning that co-founder, David Cabe, was diagnosed with the disease in late 2015.  We wanted to generate awareness and raise funds in a creative, fun and, well, Zephyr kind of way.  We kicked off our 3-month campaign, dubbed The ALS Crusade, with a pay-per-nomination/vote Ice Bucket Challenge in August.  The top six vote-getters won their very own date with a big bucket of icy water.  To our delight, we had major participation in this event and raised a good chunk of change towards our fundraising goal.  David Cabe even made it out for one of the “icings” to share in the good spirit of the day.

In September, we invited ALS Association staff to join us to present info on ALS and lead a Q&A session to create more awareness of the disease and to better understand what our friend, David, and too many others were going through.  The ALS Fundraising Coordinator and Care Services Manager visited and shared a lot of good information, touching stories and inspiring news on ALS research.  This was the perfect motivation to enter our final fundraising stage of the ALS Crusade – our Silent Auction and Raffle.  We had several items donated for staff to bid on and buy tickets for our live online auction including a wine basket, handmade home goods basket, All Things BBQ basket, and other really cool stuff not in baskets.  The last day of the auction was the most fun as the bidding really got heated right up to the final minute of the auction and a lucky few walked away with some great prizes for a great cause.

In October, Zephyr participated in the Walk to Defeat ALS in Baltimore, Houston, and Austin.  Donning our Cabe’d Crusaders t-shirts, our teams consisted of Zephyr staff, along with friends and family of David Cabe, and we strutted and stepped through the 3-mile walk. David himself was able to make it to the Austin walk and had us in awe with some sweet tricks in his wheelchair (think of Fred Astaire meets Michael Jackson on wheels and you get the picture!).  What a day of inspiration and camaraderie!  The ALS Association raised a ton of money and awareness and we were humbled to be part of it.

Zephyr graciously matched employee donations and our grand total was $10,835.42.  We were very proud of this effort in all aspects and it even earned us the Rookie of the Year Award from the ALS Association of Texas.  Next year, we will take off the training wheels and move full steam ahead in our plan to leave ALS in our dust.  Go Cabe’d Crusaders!

The Good, The Bad and The Smelly – Zephyrites Sort & Bag Donations at the new Central Texas Food Bank Facility

Zephyrites had a hard time holding back the tears when we heard about our task for the day when we visited the new Central Texas Food Bank (CTFB).  The CTFB got a great deal on red onions – lots of red onions!  Our task was to sort the bad ones from the good ones and bag those in 20 lb sacks for distribution.  The Zephyr group of 11 volunteers along with a handful of other helpers worked about 2 hours in the shiny, new sorting room at the Central Texas Food Bank and bagged a grand total of 3,740 lbs of onions! (and that was just the good ones – it doesn’t include the errr…ripest of onions that didn’t make the cut).

With a little food bank math, that equals 3,112 meals to our fellow Central Texans in need.  We were certainly proud to hear of our accomplishment for the day and about the new facility which is twice the size of the old warehouse and includes an enormous amount of refrigerated and freezer storage for fresh meats and vegetables.  In summary, we jammed to some tunes, bagged a lot of onions and had a rewarding day helping others.  Fun + Onions = Funyuns, right!?!

What a Haul! Zephyr Austin Staff Take on Keep Austin Beautiful’s Clean Sweep 2016

Zephyrites took on a new challenge this Spring by participating in Keep Austin Beautiful’s (KAB) Clean Sweep 2016, which is a citywide park clean-up day spanning 100+ sites all over Austin.  We made our way to the Austin Nature and Science Center (ANSC) to help remove debris that had been collecting since the 1960’s.  A dumpster was provided by KAB to haul away trash, old degraded exhibit pieces and other large debris.  We encountered a few critters (a few of the scurrying variety and one or two of the flattened variety) and a few interesting smells; but the find of the day was a cigar box of perfectly preserved moths each carefully wrapped and cataloged from 1955.  We saved this collection from the grips of the dumpster to be used for reference and future exhibits.

Nine Zephyrites, 2 honorary Zephyrites, 2 ASNC staff and about 50 minutes later and that dumpster was filled to the brim with every bit of debris from the site.  We were even told, we can’t fit anymore and we continued to stuff it like a Thanksgiving turkey.

Our prize since we finished our work early was a private tour from one of the ANSC staff to explore the ANSC grounds and animal residents (and we got free t-shirts!).  It was a pretty awesome morning of community service – thanks for helping to keep Austin beautiful!

Steady Hands and Lots of Cans – Zephyr Hosts its Own CANstruction Competition

All of Zephyr offices got in on the CANstruction action this year.  It was our first year to host such a philanthropic event that combined team building; strategy; ingenuity and lots of cans.  The task was to build the biggest, baddest structure out of ONLY non-perishable items with your assigned team.  Zephyr provided seed money for each team to get started and Zephyr staff also donated food items and their time for this challenge. These engineering feats were judged based on use of materials and creativity with a very critical eye.

With proud smiles all around, the final structures included a Cornucopia; CANdles; a Minion; 2 R2D2’s and a Food Trailer for a total combined weight of 2,384 lbs of food donated to local food banks.  In addition to all of the canned goods, over $230 in cash was donated.  As our biggest fundraiser of the year, Zephyr did our communities proud by helping to provide many nutritious meals for the Thanksgiving season and beyond.  Impressive work my fellow CANstructors!

Nothin’ Like Curling Up With a Good Book on a Cold Winter’s Day – Zephyrites Sponsor Scholastic Book Order for Sanchez Elementary 5th Graders

Community Sanchez ElementaryDuring the winter season, Zephyr partners with Sanchez Elementary, a local under-privileged school in East Austin, to sponsor a Scholastic book order for all classes of one grade level (normally 4th or 5th grade).

Community Sanchez ElementaryThis past year, the kids were instructed to pick a book or two from the Scholastic catalog to add to their wish list. Behind the scenes, the school’s volunteer coordinator and teachers sneakily worked to place the order of the books for the kids. It was Zephyr’s job to raise funds to pay for the book order. In true Zephyr fashion, we came through and were able to purchase a book for every one of the 53 5th graders. We even got to hand out the gifts along with a treat to all the students the day before Winter Break.

What a sight to see – the surprise, the joy, the excitement on their faces when we showed up bearing gifts (and something they had picked out)! From MineCraft to Hunger Games to literary classics, we knew we had a successful activity when the kids were in love with their books…some even hugging their books! Goosebumps anyone?

Zephyr Pink Day – “My Colors are Blush and Bashful”

PinkDay_treatsHeld in October, Zephyr Pink Day is an event hosted by all Zephyr offices to promote Breast Cancer education & awareness. We encourage staff to participate in fundraising efforts as well as bake sales, games, and good-natured fun. This pink-themed day benefits the National Breast Cancer Foundation and over the years, we have raised thousands for this organization.

In Austin, the staff indulged in sweets and treats donated for the bake sale. With cupcakes, cookies, truffles and much more on the menu, it was hard to choose what to buy. Luckily, we had plenty of snacks to offer and the donations kept rolling in. Those Zephyrites really have a sweet tooth!

In pinkday-doorhandleHouston, the sportsman-like spirit was brought out in a game of pay-to-play football amongst the staff. Granted the footballs were mini-sized and they played in the conference room, but the spirit and participation were on par with any stadium hosting a Texas football showdown! In the end, Bob F. earned the trophy but the real winners were the benefactors of our fundraising efforts – the National Breast Cancer Foundation.

In Columbia and York, the staff really showed off their passion for pink with a pink-themed potluck. Over lunch, the group played a charades game which really got their creative juices flowing – it also got the donations flowing all for a good cause!

Yes, we can! Zephyrites Sort & Box Donations at the Capital Area Food Bank

Zephyr Food BankFor the third straight year, we returned to the warehouse of the Capital Area Food Bank. Zephyrites (Zephyr + Austinites) showed up in full force to do their part to help get food donations to Central Texas families in need. Everyone was assigned a role that allowed our group and other volunteers to work as a well-oiled machine. Our 3-hour shift flew by in a jiffy (…peanut butter) and before you knew it, we had sorted and boxed 3,083lbs. of food that equaled 2,817 meals. That’s an amazing haul! But perhaps what could be even more astounding is that we came across a jar of pickled baby shark. You know that is considered a delicacy in some countries!

‘Tis the Season for Giving and You Did Just That! – Winter Blanket Drive

Zephyrites wanted to help provide a warm and cozy winter for those in need in the local community. We collected blankets, cash and other goods benefitting Caritas of Austin and the Austin Humane Society. Caritas donations included blankets, towels, laundry detergent and $75 for food and home goods for adults and families at risk of homelessness. We couldn’t forget about our 4-legged friends with so many animal lovers in the office, so we also collected donations for the Austin Humane Society. Those contributions included blankets, towels, pet supplies and cash to go towards animal care at the shelter. We had an especially chilly and icy winter and we know these supplies were appreciated.

Bringing Out the Kid in All of Us – Support for the Houston Children’s Charity and KHOU TV Toy Drive

Toy DriveZephyronians (Zephyr + Houstonians) had a good time collecting clothing and toys for some of Houston’s youth in need at the Houston Children’s Charity (HCC). The HCC Closet allows families to “shop” for clothing that is donated by the community year round. The local TV station KHOU also holds a toy drive for the kiddos and we couldn’t help pitching in on that too. Have you seen some the toys that are out there these days…too cool.

You Can Count on Us – Maryland Staff Raise Funds for Scientific Calculators for Students in Need

The Zephyrlanders (Zephyr + Marylanders) saw a cause near and dear to their engineering hearts and decided to see what they could do to help. It turns out that students at the Bright Futures Academy in Atlanta were in need of some scientific/graphing calculators. Understanding how important it is to have the right tools to get the job done correctly, the group jumped to action. They raised $240 and were able to purchase 2 calculators for the students and we know they are being put to good use. Awesome job!

Houston, We Have a Problem…We Exceeded our Thanksgiving Food Drive Goal!

food-driveWith the Thanksgiving holiday fast approaching, the Houston office chose to collect food donations for the Houston Food Bank. The Houston Food Bank feeds 137,000 people each week and provides 50 million nutritious meals annually, so we knew they needed our help. We are proud to announce that we exceeded our goal and collected over $100 worth of food!

Zephyronians are proud to be a part of this effort to benefit our fellow Texans. We are thankful for what we have in our lives and thankful we can help others. We are also very thankful to work at an awesome place like Zephyr! Happy Turkey Day!