DEQ Makes the Season a Little Brighter with Holiday Charity Drive

Interview with Heather Pattee by Christine Osborne

Lots of presents under tree for The Christmas Box House from the DEQ Holiday Charity
Presents for the kids at the Christmas Box House

How did the DEQ Holiday Charity Drive get started?

Dianne Nielson, Utah Department of Environmental Quality Executive Director for 13 years, began the tradition. About a year after Amanda Smith came on board as executive director, I volunteered to head up the drive. I’ve been doing it for six years now.

How do you choose the charities to support?

We generally focus on children’s causes. In recent years, we’ve added animal rescue organizations. I volunteered at an animal shelter for 10 years and observed firsthand the needs of the dogs and cats housed there. This year we chose two charities: the Christmas Box House and Best Friends. In previous years, we’ve donated to the Utah Food Bank, Odyssey House, Toys for Tots, Rose Park Elementary, and the Salt Lake County Animal Shelter. Every year, we switch the charities we support so we can reach more people.

What kind of response do you get from DEQ employees?

A black lab at Best Friends with new toys and a blanket from the DEQ Holiday Charity Drive.
This happy dog couldn’t wait to try out his presents!

Everybody here is so generous! About half of our staff contributes to the charity drive, which is pretty impressive when you consider how many other groups many of these folks already support during the holidays. We post “wish lists” from our charities in the break rooms and the front desk on each floor. About two weeks before delivery of the presents, we place large boxes for each charity at our front desks for employees to place their unwrapped donations. It’s always fun to watch the boxes fill up a little more each day. Some people would rather donate cash, and we use those contributions to purchase additional items from the wish list or give the cash to the organization to purchase what they are most in need of.

Tell us a little bit more about the charity drive team.

Well, it’s definitely a group effort, and I really appreciate the small team of folks who work with me to buy and deliver presents. Our team also sends out friendly reminders to employees to “grab a little something extra” for our charities during their weekend shopping trips. We make sure folks know that any donation, no matter how large or small, is really appreciated.

Dog and cat toys under a Christmas tree from the Holiday Charity Drive.
DEQ’s Holiday Charity Drive provided plenty of treats and toys for the animals at Best Friends

What kind of response do you get when you deliver the presents?

Last year, we filled up two vehicles with presents. Everybody is so excited and appreciative, particularly the animal groups who aren’t always considered around the holidays. Last year, we delivered six bikes to Rose Park Elementary for the kids there! It’s a great feeling. This year, the Christmas Box House was very appreciative, took us on a small tour and gave us some history of the organization. It was amazing to hear about all the wonderful things they do and makes you appreciate how difficult their jobs can be. The animals at Best Friends Adoption Center in Sugarhouse were able to start enjoying the donations immediately, and several of the kittens took right to playing with their new toys. And the dogs loved having a new blanket to lay on.

Thanks to our employees for their generous contributions. All of us at DEQ wish you a very happy holiday!

 I started my career with the Division of Drinking Water in February 2006. I work with the construction assistance program administering loans and grants to public water systems. We have an excellent team, and I am proud to be a part of it. I have lived in Salt Lake City my whole life and love the beauty and diversity of our state. In my spare time, I enjoy hiking, biking and walking. I also like to dabble in painting and love to stay busy. I volunteered with an animal rescue group for 10 years, which was an extremely rewarding experience.