La Tienda Gives Back
La Tienda is more than a business: we are family. Guided by caring and commitment to our customers, our employees, our local and global communities, we strive to find meaningful ways to give back. Whether you shop with La Tienda, turn to us for authentic Spanish recipes or simply enjoy the camaraderie of our community via email and Facebook, we want you to know we are grateful to have you with us as we continue along the path ahead.
Giving Back to Educators: Learning@LaTienda
For years, teachers have told us that they enjoy finding creative ways to use the content about Spain and Spanish culture on our website. We have always welcomed them to use our photos in their classes, to cut up our catalogs for food units, and to use the content in any way they see fit. The development of Learning@LaTienda was a natural extension of this good will.
In 2011, La Tienda's CEO Tim Harris met with learning resource developer, Laurie Hager, to see what could be done to get the word out to more of the educational community. Hager began by inviting self-identified educators from La Tienda's customer base to exchange innovative ideas in an online forum. The resulting site is a direct reflection of that collaboration.
One of the priorities that emerged from the interactive discussion was to try to create a resource that would be as relevant to adult learners as to children in a grade school setting. Each component of Learning@LaTienda was designed to be readily adapted to the skill level and interest of the learner.
One of the main components of the site is the Spanish food “flash cards,” featuring audio links with pronunciation of each term by a native of Spain. To make the recordings Hager worked with Raquel Nicholson, one of La Tienda’s Customer Service Representatives. Nicholson was born and raised in Madrid and has been an employee at La Tienda for many years. “Raquel’s voice is kind, warm and spirited in the recordings,” Hager commented. “We hope that listening to her will give students confidence that they can learn to speak like a Spanish native themselves.”
Another aspect of the Learning@LaTienda site is the “Hablo Images.” These pictures of modern Spain, taken by the Harris Family, founders of La Tienda, are intended to be “conversation starters” in Spanish classes of any level. The photos offer a glimpse into contemporary Spain. Some illustrate Spain's geographic diversity, while others are of families, fiestas and fascinating scenes from everyday life. “Every year our family makes trips to Spain and we plan to add more images and fresh content each year, so the Learning@LaTienda site will continue to grow organically,” said CEO, Tim Harris.
The third feature on the site is a set of essays in both English and Spanish translation. These essays focus on the food, culture and people who create some of La Tienda’s iconic products. The essays are accompanied by discussion questions and suggested exploration activities involving foods from Spain. In addition to being found on the Learning@LaTienda site, these essays are also in a book written by Don Harris, “The Heart of Spain,” and in his blog, El Camino de Don Harris.
Harris writes his blog about time spent in Spain with his young family and the many subsequent years of nurturing relationships with vendors, who have become life-long friends. Whenever possible La Tienda supports family-owned companies that produce hand-made products using free-range and sustainable resources, and Harris' blog elaborates upon many of these connections. “It is inspiring to be part of a business that is about so much more than profit,” said Harris, “and we hope that this initiative shows that we are as committed to our customers and to the general public, as we are to our amazing producers.”
La Tienda now regularly exhibits at state and national foreign language educator conferences. Primarily, we attend to spread the word about our free online learning resource: Learning@LaTienda, geared to educators, parents and learners of all ages, who share a love of Spain and Spanish foods. This educational website with a culinary spin, furthers La Tienda's mission to support a broad range of education-based initiatives.
Giving Back to Employees: English & Spanish Classes
For seven years, La Tienda has been committed to offering weekly English classes to our Spanish-speaking employees. "We saw what a struggle some of these folks were having adjusting in the community as recent immigrants, and it just made sense. The English classes did improve communication at work, but more importantly, the classes helped them in their lives outside of work," said Tim Harris, CEO of La Tienda.
Provided at no charge to the employees and conducted during business hours, the weekly classes involve tutors from the local chapter of Literacy for Life, who adapt their instruction to the individual needs of the employees. Every spring, La Tienda celebrates the achievements of employees with a potluck luncheon.
In April of 2012, La Tienda was thrilled to receive the national Outstanding Workplace of the Year Award from the Commission on Adult Basic Education. The purpose of the Outstanding Workplace of the Year Award is to honor an institution which has developed an outstanding workplace literacy program serving a local community, state/province, region and/or nation.
English tutor Jennie Kelly commented, “It was certainly a pleasure to work with La Tienda and I’m thrilled they were chosen to win the national award. It was clear to me from working with the learners in La Tienda’s English class and from observing their interactions with the rest of the employees, that La Tienda strives to be more than a workplace – it is a community for mutual growth and learning.”
In addition to English classes, La Tienda provides Spanish classes to English-speaking employees who are not already bilingual. From enriching the relationships with our small producers based in Spain to communicating with our customer base and interacting by phone and on social media, developing Spanish language skills are a top priority for our team.
Giving Back to Spain: Campaign for Spain
In November 2012, LaTienda.com launched the Campaign for Spain to support the Spanish Federation of Food Banks (FESBAL). With Spain suffering through its worst social and economic crisis in at least a generation, and unemployment at over 25%, La Tienda found itself in a unique position to help. La Tienda raised funds, and matched dollar for dollar, donations given on the website. The holiday campaign raised funds in excess of $25,000 and La Tienda has matched that amount, resulting in a total donation of $50,000.
La Tienda was honored when Actress Penelope Cruz, a native of Madrid, joined in the launch of the Campaign. Midway through the initiative, La Tienda was delighted to welcome the participation of Annie Sibonney, host of the series, From Spain With Love. Both Ms. Cruz and Ms. Sibonney added much momentum to the reach of the Campaign.
“Even more than the funds raised, we've been reminded of the unbelievable capacity of Americans to help those in need, even while they are also facing hardships at home,” noted Tim Harris in an Op/Ed in the Huffington Post. “People are helping Spain and also helping those in their own community or giving relief for the victims of Sandy. They tell us they feel blessed to be able to help people at home and around the world.”
“When we launched the campaign, we all sat and waited for the first Facebook responses to come in, our eyes glued to the monitors and iPhone screens. Our community of Spain enthusiasts rallied and our website donations began to flow immediately, quickly raising $10,000 in just over a week. School groups pledged to help our efforts, business partners committed to donate. We've been inspired by how many have joined us in our little campaign,” noted Harris.
The Campaign for Spain concluded on January 31st, 2013. Visitors to the site donated directly to the Campaign for Spain, no purchase was necessary. Additionally, new and current customers were given the opportunity to donate as they checked out online or called in to the company’s call center by adding a few dollars to their order. 100% of the money raised was given to FESBAL. There were no administrative fees taken by La Tienda.
La Tienda CEO Tim Harris presented the $50,000 check to FESBAL in February of 2013. Established in 1996, FESBAL coordinates the efforts and activities of fifty-four localized food banks across all of Spain. FESBAL manages relationships with central government agencies, international organizations and other non-profit organizations and companies that provide food assistance.
"We are delighted to partner with La Tienda and the Harris family on the Campaign for Spain,” said José Antonio Busto Villa, President of FESBAL. "This thoughtful initiative will bring significant assistance to those families most in need."
Since its inception, La Tienda has supported local food banks in Virginia and continues to do so. In addition, La Tienda donates annually to a variety of charitable organizations in support of the Williamsburg community. “We are so pleased that the ‘Campaign for Spain’ has been an equally successful international effort and we are so grateful to everyone for their generosity and kindness,” added Harris.
Giving Back to the Local Community: Charity and Collaboration
It's not just possible to be in business and to do good, it is considered by the Harris Family to be a sincere obligation. La Tienda regularly donates goods and services to local school and charitable fundraisers in support of non-profit medical centers, child development resources, homeless shelters, cancer research, and educational outreach. La Tienda employees also enthusiastically volunteer, contributing personal resources and time.
Additionally, the team at La Tienda seeks ways to give back to our local community by actively participating in a number of cooperative initiatives. For four years, CEO Tim Harris has served as a Director on the James City County Economic Development Authority, helping to develop and support local businesses in the community. La Tienda also collaborates with teams of undergraduate and graduate students from the College of William and Mary. "We are always happy to share our expertise and we always learn so much from them," noted Harris.