BY AMY FLOWERS UMBLE/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
The offices were crammed with bicycles, sweaters, toys, wrapping paper and a holiday lunch. So the employees of a real estate investment firm set up a makeshift gift-wrapping station in the hallway, stuffed gift bags in the owner's office and stored bikes in the lobby on Tuesday.
For one day each year, the Foundation Companies offices become a satellite office of the North Pole as employees from the real estate investment company seek to brighten the holidays for local families. They were joined by staff from MacDoc Realty, which is owned by the same partners.
Each Christmas, the companies close their offices and employees fan out in the Fredericksburg area to shop for families in need. This year, the companies donated $10,000 to Loisann's Hope House to help with the costs of operating the Fredericksburg shelter for women and children.
The employees also adopted two families and spent Tuesday morning shopping for gifts, followed by an afternoon of lunch and wrapping.
One of the families spent last Christmas in a motel room, said Marie Jessup, director of operations for MacDoc Property Management. The parents and four sons just moved into a townhouse, and MacDoc Realty employees wanted to bring festivity to the family's first holiday in a new home.
Another family struggles to pay bills after the father suffered a heart attack at the age of 30, said Mark Doherty, co-owner of the agencies. The man was in the hospital again with pneumonia and Doherty hoped to provide his wife and children with a holiday dinner and presents.
Jessup and Doherty are siblings who grew up together as two of five children from a single mother who struggled to provide Christmas presents. Doherty remembered the year his brother saw a gift under the tree with a tag reading, 'Boy, Age 8," and realized the presents had been donated.
"We would not have had a nice Christmas if others hadn't helped," Jessup said.
This is the sixth year the companies have continued the shopping day. Most years, the tradition replaced company holiday parties.
"Why spend the money on a fancy Christmas party when you can give back?" Jessup said. "It's also not a bad way to spend a work day."