10:00 A.M. Friday, December 14th, 2018 marked the first of 35 deliveries Walker Furniture will make for “Home for the Holidays,” their flagship philanthropic effort that provides entire housefuls of new furniture to Las Vegas families in need.
There are many remarkable public aspects to this venture—the number of families served, the growing participation by the Las Vegas community, the fact that this is Walker’s 25th year in a row reaching out to families in need—and the impact “Home for the Holidays” has personally on those who join this endeavor runs deep.
Mayor Carolyn Goodman describes Walker’s contribution to the Las Vegas community in no uncertain terms. “’Home for the Holidays’ epitomizes everything I dream of for our City: A strong community of people helping each other, creating opportunities for greater success for everyone!
“Walker Furniture sets the bar for us all. The Alterwitzes are an incredible family and I am grateful for their many contributions to our City. We are honored to call this family our own.”
Though Walker has created other charitable programs for the Las Vegas community through the years—including “Help for Heroes,” “Project Firehouse-Rested and Ready,” and a number of programs in partnership with the Clark County School District—“Home for the Holidays” has a special place in the hearts of everyone who makes these donations possible.
Sheriff Joe Lombardo of the Las Vegas Metro Police Department says, “Participating in this program brings a real sense of pride to our department. Traditionally, police officers are called in when things have gone wrong, sometimes when things have gone very wrong. ‘Home for the Holidays’ allows us to be a part of the other side of the coin, to be with the people, to be in their homes and see things going right for them! We can go home after a day like that and actually tell our families what we did that day; share something positive about our work with them. ’Home for the Holidays’ puts us on the front line of something great and there’s a lot of pride in that.”
Chief Roy Sessions, Deputy Chief of Operations for the Las Vegas Fire Department, adds: “’Home for the Holidays’ is very personal for me because I came from very humble beginnings. I grew up in the projects of Las Vegas so I know firsthand about the experiences the people we help are having. It touches me that Walker Furniture cares enough to give what the recipients really need. It makes such a difference.”
Larry Alterwitz, Walker’s CEO, says Walker’s strong social conscience is anchored in the example of his parents, Oscar and Deanne. “Dad was a brilliant businessman from the moment he opened our family’s first furniture store in Gary, Indiana in the ‘60’s. He was also a very compassionate man who understood how important it is to champion the rights and the dignity of others. His example mentored me as a boy and continues to guide the Board of Walker Furniture to this day.”
Once the call goes out to the community for families in need, nomination letters start pouring in to Walker. Helping Hands of the Valley reads the 2000+ letters, and their expertly trained staff visits the families and identifies those with the most pressing needs.
Marcia Blake, Helping Hands Executive Director, believes the program benefits everyone involved, not just the recipients. “’Home for the Holidays’ allows our staff to interact with the people we serve in a very different way than we usually do. We step away from our desks and go into the community. We interact up close and personal; we experience not only their struggles but also their joy in receiving things they sorely need. This renews our excitement in what we do as an agency, and fuels us to do more.”
In the 25 years since “Home for the Holidays” began, Walker has developed partnerships with over 30 local businesses, non-profits, and media outlets that donate funds, time and energy to make the joy of Christmas a living reality for the recipients. Nina Gallagher, Star Nursery’s Marketing Director had this to say about their participation: “This is our 4th year participating in ‘Home for the Holidays.’ We bring Christmas trees, lights, and decorations to each family. Last year our customers and vendors donated $12,000, so we gave each family a Visa Card for incidentals. That’s been a joy for us.
“But somewhere along the way, it became about more than the Christmas trees and lights. It even became about more than the presents under the tree. Its now about who is gathered around the tree, the recipient families, and the smiles on their faces. We are truly honored to partner with Walker Furniture on this program.”
Las Vegas Rescue Mission supplies food and toys for the families. Heather Williams, Director of Development for the Mission, says, ”Everything we get to do at the Mission is a blessing, but ‘Home for the Holidays’ allows us to see the full impact of what we do on the families we serve. When a child you’ve never seen before hugs you for bringing his family food, it changes you. This is a life-transforming experience for everyone involved, not just the recipients.”
Joe Wayman, the Assistant Warehouse Manager for Walker Furniture has managed the “Home for Holidays” Warehouse for 8 years. “What does this mean to me? That there’s still hope in and for people. I have shared tears with these families, people who are truly in need. That we can give them hope, that we can help them believe in others and in themselves, that this program helps everyone involved believe in themselves, means a lot to me.”
Linda Alterwitz Mizrahi, Co-owner of Walker Furniture, and Mike Cohen, President of Walker Furniture, speak to the heart of the program:
Says Linda: “’Home for the Holidays’ is about strengthening our Las Vegas community one family at a time. I am lucky—and grateful—to be in a position where I can make a difference, where I can support others. For me, giving is a far better gift than anything I could receive.”
Says Mike: “To me, ‘Home for the Holidays’ is about bringing joy to people who least expect it. You really have to be there, to be at the deliveries, to understand the experience, the impact this has on people’s lives. It’s personal for everyone there. Helping these folks is really what it’s all about.”
“This is more than just about furniture,” says Larry Alterwitz. “It’s about giving, it’s about caring, it’s about realizing and honoring our absolute unity with one another because we know that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and that the weak link in the human chain is truly nothing less than our brother and sister; that it’s up to us to lift one another up and make our community stronger and more beautiful. ‘Home for the Holidays’ is a joint effort all Las Vegas can be proud of.”
“Home for the Holidays” is, by every measure, is a labor of love.