family giving tree

Hewlett-Packard has already vacated much of its campus in Cupertino, Calif., where Apple will build its futuristic “spaceship-like” headquarters. The sprawling buildings on the campus along Pruneridge Avenue will soon be knocked down as construction begins on the glass, circular Apple building.

family giving tree 2But if you look inside the old HP buildings now, you’ll find … lots of Christmas presents. The abandoned HP building is now the host to the Family Giving Tree charity. I volunteered there with my family and co-members of our YMCA father-daughter Wildcats circle a couple of times this season. The charity takes on the gargantuan job of collecting toys from various donors and then sending them to needy children who otherwise wouldn’t get a holiday present. Every year, it rotates to a new warehouse in the Bay Area based on corporate donations. This year, HP donated its huge empty building as the staging area for the gifts.

We volunteer there because it’s a good lesson for well-to-do kids to see how many children can’t afford to celebrate their holiday with gifts. Plus, they love seeing all of the toys. This year, the Holiday Wish Drive Warehouse covered a sprawling 120,000 square feet. More than 7,000 volunteers are working to ship goodies to thousands of children.

The charity has helped fulfill wishes for more than 991,516 kids to date. Jennifer Cullenbine and Todd Yoshida created the program in 1990 as an MBA project for San Jose State University. Now they’re the largest gift and backpack donation program in California — all built on the backs of Silicon Valley companies and workers who have made donations.

I deduced that one part of the building was the former data center for the campus, judging from the floor tiles. They were the removable kind so that technicians could easily hide the wires underneath and access them when they needed to. A few old generators were still there, but the place was empty. During my visit, the data center room served as the “store” where volunteers came to shop for goods that had been requested by kids who needed presents.

During our shift, one of my co-volunteers looked around at the vast empty building.

“It’s huge,” I said. “They could have had thousands of people here.”

He replied. “The people. Where did all the people go? That’s what I want to know.”

Let these pictures remind you of what can happen. As a symbol of corporate change, it’s nice to know that this giant warehouse, once bustling with HP workers, serves a good purpose as it awaits the new army of Apple workers who have beaten HP. This is what happens if you don’t innovate. Your building gets recycled as a way station for charitable giving.

family giving tree 3