The collaboration between Alpha Omega Veterans Services (AOVS) and Hilton Worldwide started in 2011 with a request.
“They asked us to apply for a community grant that they were awarding to different nonprofit organizations in Memphis,” says Cordell Walker, AOVS executive director. “Hilton was offering this grant process to support the efforts of local nonprofit entities.”
AOVS made the application and came in second place, which meant it didn’t get grant funding then, but it opened up other avenues for Hilton to work with AOVS.
“Through the grant process, Hilton become more aware of our organization and the services we provided,” says Walker. “That awareness actually broadened their ability to work with us, both through their service and through funding from Hilton Worldwide’s Community Partnership Program that was not tied to a specific grant. Their committee met with us to find out how they could work with us to help fund our programs for homeless and disabled military veterans in the Memphis community.”
Walker says that meeting led to a project for Hilton called Day of Caring. “Hilton executives from around the world came to Memphis,” says Walker. “They sponsored a banquet for all of our clients and we made presentations about the work of AOVS, including stories from our veterans who were trying to reintegrate into society.”
Soon thereafter, Hilton sponsored the construction of an open-air pavilion at a property near Court Avenue and McNeil Street in Midtown. The pavilion is used for social gatherings, picnics, meetings, group presentations, and movies. It’s also a place for volunteers to be with the veterans by having cookouts and serving meals.
“Hilton continued to broaden its support by sponsoring our annual AOVS golf classic,” says Walker. “After three years they moved from being a major sponsor to sending teams to participate. This year’s event will be held in September at Ridgeway Country Club.”
“More than offering one-time support, they have built a relationship with us,” says Vicki Azlin, Walker’s executive assistant. “They afford us conference room space at their East Memphis facility, provide volunteers for our AOVS endeavors, sponsor Thanksgiving meals for our clients, and send us donations from their own in-house fundraising.”
To help make Hilton employees more aware of the company’s collaborative relationships in the Memphis community, the company sponsors in-house fairs (Hilton Awareness Days) for nonprofit organizations, including AOVS, where representatives are invited to set up a table and share information at the East Memphis company headquarters.
Hilton entered into a partnership/sponsorship with AOVS because it was impressed with the organization’s work. “AOVS was selected as one of our official non-profit partners because of the amazing work they to do in the community to help combat homeless for veterans,” says Charlotte T. Quarles, manager of distribution services in the finance group. “We believe supporting AOVS is a great opportunity to spread the light and warmth of hospitality throughout our community by supporting their efforts to find housing for homeless veterans.”
As for how this partnership helps meet Hilton’s mission in the community, Quarles says, “Hilton’s mission is to be the most hospitable company in the world and one of the ways we achieve this is by creating a positive impact in our communities. Partnering with AOVS has provided Hilton a great opportunity to support the local community where we all live and work through providing meeting space for board meetings, hosting food drives during Thanksgiving to combat hunger and provide AOVS’ clients with a complete dinner-in-a bag, financial support and providing Hospitality Kits including personal hygiene items for clients.”
Alpha Omega Veterans Services is one of the first private, nonprofit charitable corporations in the United States to serve homeless and displaced military veterans. Since the Memphis office opened in 1987, the organization has served nearly 11,000 veterans in the local community, of which more than 90 percent have reintegrated into society with secure housing and income.