PAW: What brought you to Palo Alto?
Gross: Varian (Medical Systems) recruited my husband from his doctoral program for a three-month project. We leaped at this no-pressure opportunity in the early 1970s, knowing that we would return to our wonderful New York City E. 72nd Street apartment. ... However, lured by the lifestyle change, we said goodbye to our families and began a new life here. I can't think of a better place to live.
PAW:What's your proudest achievement?
Throughout my 15-year retail banking career, my office teams earned multiple corporate awards and recognition. The same holds true for my 15-year hospitality career. I'm most proud of the development of these teams. Caring for colleagues inspires loyalty. At the hotel, for example, we partnered with the Palo Alto Adult School to bring an ESL teacher to the hotel to teach our non-English speaking colleagues. Members of our housekeeping staff were able to learn at no cost, without traveling elsewhere, while still on the clock in a safe environment. This opened up their personal worlds as well as their professional opportunities.
PAW: What was most rewarding about your community work?
Gross: We would invite nonprofits to come into the hotel, and we underwrote some of these events 100%. My place of business became a meeting place, and mingling with community leaders provided personal insight and different marketing opportunities. There were also many personal relationships and city projects that came out of this. For example, helping to build the downtown parking garages was the result of hundreds of hours of work by teams of people. Creating a public-private partnership to rebuild Lytton Plaza illustrated what could be accomplished.
PAW: What advice do you have for others looking to volunteer?
Gross: Being "of service" is a basic tenet of society and must be fostered. It has been my family teaching since childhood. We are fortunate to have so many companies, businesses and individual donors supporting our schools, service organizations and local programs. Today, many people have a much more global perspective of community, and are accomplishing great things in so many ways. Additionally, we must not lose sight of the local impact one can have in shaping our children, community and local government.
PAW: How were you able to build community and market your business?
Gross: Hotels typically are on the top of all nonprofit organizations' list for donations. And, to their credit, most hotels give willingly. Our approach to donating expanded over time, from an overnight stay to supporting nonprofit meetings and events. The premise was based on the audience these organizations would bring to the hotel. ... We felt the hotel became an important gathering place and the beating heart of our work within the community.
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