NIEHS celebrates diversity and generosity on International Day
By Eddy Ball
NIEHS offered employees and contractors sustenance for the body and the soul, during this year’s International Day celebration Dec. 12, 2012. The event set itself apart from previous celebrations with two firsts from the NIEHS Diversity Council — an international best chef competition and the Giving Tree, a seasonal drive to collect gifts for underprivileged children, supported by the Salvation Army of Wake County. Only organizations that are approved charities within the Combined Federal Campaign are allowed to receive gifts collected in a Giving Tree drive.
Fellowship and fine fare
International Day opened with a hearty welcome from NIEHS Deputy Director Rick Woychik, Ph.D., who offered celebrants best wishes on behalf of himself and Director Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D., who was unable to attend. “This is the day we really celebrate the rich cultural diversity that exists here at NIEHS. As part of the program, we have some traditions from yesteryear, but we have a couple of other features that are new to International Day this year.”
What followed were upbeat musical selections by the NIEHS band, opportunities for food, fellowship, and new friendships, and podium banter from NTP scientist and emcee Nigel Walker, Ph.D., as judges systematically sampled entries and carefully pondered their votes for the best chef entrée and dessert awards.
The judges included Woychik; Scientific Director Darryl Zeldin, M.D.; Employee Services Manager Dona McNeill; Bioinformatics Scientist David Fargo, Ph.D.; Scientific Review Officer Rose Anne McGee; and NTP Cellular and Molecular Pathology Branch Chief Robert Sills, D.V.M., Ph.D. When they reached their difficult, and no doubt agonizing decision, the winners were postdoctoral fellow Bhargavi Rao, Ph.D., for best entree, and biologist Lisa Padilla-Banks, for best dessert. Other culinary contestants were Maile Henson, Ph.D., Irene Lee, Ellen Moul, and Bill Quattlebaum.
The spirit of the season
As people ate and mingled, others gathered at the Giving Tree, which was decorated with stars made by children at the NIEHS daycare facility, First Environments, and surrounded by gifts with angel tags, donated by employees and contractors. The Diversity Council’s drive is part of an effort to provide holiday toys and clothes to nearly 8,700 disadvantaged children through Salvation Army’s Angel Tree Program. (http://www.keepthebellringing.org/)
The drive continued through Dec. 14, 2012, when Diversity Council members took 120 tagged packages and more than 20 bags of toys to the Salvation Army warehouse in Raleigh, N.C.