It’s not uncommon for workplaces to hold office parties complete with the annual secret-Santa events around Christmas time.
Typically that is true for the employees at the Nicholasville Zaxby’s restaurant.
But this year, an idea from two employees caught on like wildfire, and as a result, Christmas morning was a bit brighter for 13 Jessamine County kids.
“Instead of having a secret Santa, we all decided that we all already had everything that we needed, and we decided that we wanted to help the less fortunate,” shift manager and organizer Danica Risen said. “Why waste money on us on stuff that we’re not going to use when we have people in town that are in need?”
So Risen and assistant manager Niki Goforth pitched the idea to their coworkers, and 26 employees jumped at the chance to help.
“We really didn’t think that they would take to it,” Risen said. “We thought some would participate, but we had 26.”
In two week’s time, employees had raised $600, and Zaxby’s owner Sandy Adams matched it for a total of $1,200. It was then Risen went to work.
“She’s a thrifty shopper,” Adams said. “She got a lot of stores to give them discounts.”
Risen said businesses such as Kohl’s, Gordmans and Shoe Carnival gave donations and discounts between 10 and 30 percent.
“We spent $1,200, but we probably have more than $5,000 or $6,000 in merchandise,” Risen said.
Items purchased ranged from toys to clothing and shoes for children between 4 and 18 years of age. Each child received seven or eight presents.
It came as no surprise to Risen that businesses chipped in.
“She’s very positive,” Adams said. “She would think that they should do it.”
Adams said once people started hearing about the effort, customers and employees at other Zaxby’s locations also donated items and money.
On Thursday, Dec. 20, Zaxby’s employees spent much of the night wrapping the presents after hours — with Adams springing for pizza. On Friday, the presents were delivered to the Nicholasville Salvation Army location and will be delivered to children on Christmas Eve.
“I would love to just to be able to see their faces when their presents are delivered and see their reaction,” Goforth said. “Taking them to the Salvation Army is great, but I would love to see the kids’ reaction.”
Risen and Goforth hope the generosities of this Christmas season become a tradition for the Nicholasville store, and Adams said employees have already discussed next year.