Benefits Byte

October 15, 2021

Council Honors over 100 ‘Pandemic Heroes’

When the American Benefits Council had to convert from in-person to virtual its Policy Board of Directors meeting scheduled for October 13 and 14, the Council repurposed its financial commitment to the hotel to an event honoring over 100 ‘pandemic heroes’ in the Washington, D.C. area.

When the board reluctantly decided that the long-awaited in-person meeting was not feasible, Sondra Williams, the Council’s manager, member and staff engagement, suggested that rather than pay the hotel the significant cancellation penalty, we could meet both the food and beverage and overnight room commitments by hosting a dinner honoring front line workers and first responders and providing them and a guest to an overnight stay at the Ritz Carlton in Pentagon City. The Council’s board members and the hotel enthusiastically embraced the idea and the event on Wednesday October 13 was a great success. “Our last-minute change of plans actually presented an opportunity to give back to the community,” Williams said.

The Council’s goal was to not only thank courageous nurses and doctors but also to recognize unsung heroes of the past 18 months. The Council’s guests included hospital orderlies, food service workers, grocery store clerks, employees of homeless shelters, teachers, school administrators, local fire and police department officers and a member of the local Air National Guard who helped defend the U.S. Capitol during the January 6 assault.

Since many people the Council invited were not able to attend, Williams, Deanna Johnson, Council senior director of membership, and Mary Lindsay, executive assistant, personally delivered lunches to employees of three homeless shelters in the Washington, D.C. area.

The local ABC television station reported the Council’s initiative on the evening news. The two and half minute story is linked below.

The management of the Ritz Carlton expressed its gratitude to the Council for implementing Williams’ idea, specifically noting that providing work for hotel housekeeping and food service workers helps persuade those employees to remain with the company during these lean times for the hospitality industry, rather than looking for jobs elsewhere.

The repurposing of the Council’s hotel financial commitment has also earned Williams well-deserved plaudits among her peers in the meeting planning profession, noting that her creative approach to a challenging situation was “the best idea ever.” Two publications for the meeting planning industry also reported on her proposal and those articles are linked below.


“The American Benefits Council’s central mission is the advancement of personal health and financial security. At the core of that mission is the well-being of people and families. In this instance we are deeply gratified to be able to give back to those people who sacrificed their own security for the well-being of others,” Williams said.

In pursuit of that Council mission it is important to note that the October 13 and 14 Policy Board of Directors meeting, conducted virtually, was also very successful. All four sessions over the two days were extremely well attended and enabled Council staff to receive the board’s direction on the association’s legislative and regulatory advocacy priorities. The meeting also included in-depth sessions related to governmental vaccine and testing mandates, mental health benefit strategies, retirement savings and investment initiatives, as well as a presentation from the Bipartisan Policy Center on the current budget reconciliation and federal debt ceiling legislative developments.

For more information on the Policy Board meeting and the Council’s event for local pandemic heroes, contact Council President James Klein.