Operation Teddy Bear Goes Virtual

Watson's Blog

Operation Teddy Bear Goes Virtual

In times of change, we believe at Watson that we must rise to the occasion with resourcefulness and empathy—and this year, that meant volunteering virtually. Since 2005, employees of Watson Land Company united with Operation Teddy Bear for their annual event at Dominguez Elementary School. A literacy program that gives back to school children, Operation Teddy Bear donates backpacks packed with school supplies and a teddy bear to a huge list of disadvantaged first graders who attend schools throughout Los Angeles County. 

With the school shutdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic last year, the disruption has kept many students out of the classroom until recently. This extended period of remote learning can have negative effects on children, including a decline in student learning. The shutdowns have taken a particularly heavy toll on underprivileged communities in Los Angeles County. Even though school districts have made noteworthy efforts to provide quality remote learning, many students in these areas are less likely to have access to the tools needed, including technological devices, internet access, and live contact with teachers. These issues can lead to large academic gaps and fewer opportunities upon graduation.

Another challenge with remote learning included a lack of human connection. Physical distancing meant young students missed out on intangibles like friendship, playing, and fun. Many children have been affected socially, emotionally, and mentally by the pandemic and school closures.

To combat these issues, Operation Teddy Bear set up the event to be scheduled online this year. On Tuesday, April 6th at 9:30 a.m., four employees from Watson presented lessons via Zoom to four different classrooms at Dominguez Elementary School on kindness, compassion, the importance of volunteering, and identifying emotions.   

Watson’s Public Affairs Coordinator, Maria Flores, has organized this employee community service day for many years in collaboration with Operation Teddy Bear’s staff, with 2021 being a bit different. She, along with three others from WLC, gave the lessons online for the event, including Mike Bodlovich, Vice President of Marketing & Leasing; Trini Jimenez, Vice President of Public Affairs; and Emily Castro, Project Coordinator. 

“This has been a challenging year for all students, but especially children from underserved communities in the South Bay, Harbor area, and Long Beach,” stated Jeffrey Jennison, President and CEO of Watson Land Company. “We are hopeful that our continued efforts with Operation Teddy Bear will help these students and equip them with what they need to realize a bright future.”

Along with visiting the classrooms virtually, Operation Teddy Bear sent literacy backpacks to 2,500 children in underrepresented schools in the areas. Each schoolbag is filled with books, educational materials, and wellness tools that have been funded by donations from individuals, companies, and foundations, and prepared and packed all by volunteers. Items such as flash cards, workbooks, reading and activity books, learning clocks, crayons, coloring books, rulers, and a plush teddy bear are packed in colorful backpacks that the children appreciate and value. 

As the program wrapped up for this year, Dr. Faraah Mullings Brown, the project coordinator for Operation Teddy Bear from the Volunteer Center, reached out to say to Watson Land Company, “Thank you for your generous support of this literacy program.” 

As a longtime supporter of Operation Teddy Bear and the local community, it was a fulfilling day of giving back. And even though we had to adapt to a virtual model this year, we’re proud of the WLC employees who took the time to prepare and share a lesson with the children. The joy that emanated from these kids was compelling—it left smiles on all our faces as well as the school administrators, teachers, and staff. And it demonstrates the power of collaboration and inspiration. When we pull together as an organization, as a team, as a society, we all benefit.

If you would like more information about how you can get your organization involved in Operation Teddy Bear, please visit https://www.volcenter.org/operation-teddy-bear.