Raffles. Catered cuisine. Prizes. The above are all staples at company holiday parties. With the country in a recession, though, some companies and organizations are scaling back on holiday festivities or scrapping such events altogether this year. Such is the case for brokerage firm Arthur J. Gallagher, the Los Angeles division of which is based in Glendale. “We made the decision specifically in the Western region not to have any employee holiday parties. We’ve decided to do that to be sensitive to what’s happening with our clients,” explained Maria King, chief operations officer of AJG’s Los Angeles branch. Instead of having the usual holiday luncheon for employees at a restaurant or country club, the members of the executive team will host a toast for company personnel. Even that gesture will not be paid for by AJG but by the executives themselves. “It will be very low-key,” King said, adding that the employees have been very understanding about the shift in festivities. “I think everybody employees and clients is a little uneasy.” Accordingly, King said that it’s more important to offer employees a word of encouragement and inquire about their well-being than it is to give them a lavish celebration. “It means a lot,” she continued. “People respect the fact that these are tough times for a lot of people. We are thinking about everyone we work with and certainly our clients. We just want to make everybody knows we’re thinking about them. We’re not going to be celebrating the holidays for ourselves.” Low-key lunch At Nestl & #233; USA, also headquartered in Glendale, the company will continue its tradition of allowing each division or group within to celebrate as they please. “We do not have an all-company Nestl & #233; holiday party, given the large number of employees in Glendale,” Edie Burge of the Corporate & Brand Affairs department stated. “Our extended communications team typically has a low-key lunch for employees only (no spouses), and we are continuing with a similar celebration this year.” Thousand Oaks-based bioengineering firm Amgen celebrates the holidays similarly, with each division designing independent celebrations. “At Amgen, holiday events vary by department,” spokeswoman Sarah Rockwell stated. There is, however, one companywide tradition at the Thousand Oaks site that will continue this year Amgen’s annual Children’s Holiday Party. “For this event, staff are invited to bring their immediate families to enjoy holiday festivities and meet Santa here at the site,” Rockwell explained. Since 1992, Health Net in Woodland Hills has opted to have a companywide event called Celebration of Children during the holidays rather than an event for employees. This year the tradition will continue Dec. 21 at the Woodland Hills Hilton. To date, Health Net has served more than 21,000 disadvantaged youths between the ages of 4 and 11 through this event. Each child leaves with an age-appropriate gift. Health Net Spokeswoman Amy Sheyer said that the employees don’t mind forgoing a holiday celebration for themselves. “It was actually the employees’ idea,” Sheyer explained. “It’s something that everyone looks forward to. Because we work in the Medi-Cal program, we invite children from organizations who serve that population, so it’s kids who are really in need. It’s a wonderful way to give back to the community.” Many nonprofits in the area host events for both children and employees, alike, during the holidays. The Boys & Girls Club of the West Valley seeks 500 toys for the children who receive services from the agency. “We’re trying to do exactly what we do every year, and we just hope that things come through,” said President and CEO Jan Sobel. “We’re just out there hustling looking for people who either within their companies do toy drives or toys for tots.” Tight budgets Although club officials strive to get toys for the children it serves, they also appreciate the work of employees there and will reward them with a potluck celebration. Previously, however, employees have been treated to catered lunches. Is the switch indicative of the toll the rocky economy has had on nonprofits? “We’ve never been an extravagant organization when it comes to parties with staff,” Sobel answered. “We’re working on a pretty tight budget. Our focus is our children. Charitable organization Meet Each Need with Dignity (MEND) in Pacoima is in the process of trying to obtain enough donations to meet the needs of both adults and children who use its emergency food distribution and Christmas basket programs. At the same time, CEO Marianne Haver Hill will host a luncheon for MEND employees. “This has always been my gift for the staff,” Haver Hill said. “My husband and I put up the money. This doesn’t come from the MEND budget. We can’t even write it off.” She said that MEND has always had very simple celebrations for employees. This year the celebration will be even simpler because it will be held at an employee’s home rather than at a business venue. MEND employees will also participate in a gift exchange with each other, but there will be a $15 limit on all gifts. “We’ve never been very extravagant,” Haver Hill said. “Some corporations have all kinds of raffles, fancy prizes and gifts. We’re a poverty agency. We’ve never gone all out on that.” At Valley Community Clinic in North Hollywood, the state of the economy will have little effect on the holiday celebration for employees. That’s because throughout the year a social committee at the clinic fundraises internally to make sure that employees will be treated with a celebration during the holidays. The committee raises funds for the celebration by having bake sales and barbecues, according to Vice President of Development Judi Rose. The end-of-year celebration will consist of a dinner and dance at Casa Torres in San Fernando. There will also be a DJ, but his services will be free because he is a clinic employee as well. Perhaps the key to ensuring that there will always be enough resources to have an employee holiday celebration is to plan ahead. This method has paid off for Valley Community Clinic because “We’re always on a very shoestring budget,” Rose said.