The Holiday Project

The Holiday Project is an independent non-profit organization managed by volunteers nationwide. They continue to organize visits and gift-giving to people confined in hospitals, nursing homes, shelters, prisons, and other institutions during Christmas, Chanukah, and other holidays throughout the year.


Werner Erhard and Valerie Harper, The Holiday Hospital Project

The first Holiday Project Visit occurred on Christmas Day, 1972. For the next seven years, more and more people, in communities all over the United States joined in what was then called The Holiday Hospital Project. In 1980, the Board of Directors registered as a 501(c)(3) non-profit called The Holiday Project. The Holiday Project continues to operate to this day. For information on how to participate see: http://www.holidayproject.info/wherewhen


The Holiday Project was featured in a national CBS news broadcast in December 2013:


Visit the national Holiday Project organization's website where you can find inspiring stories and participate in current Holiday Project activities.

The Holiday Project began through the work of graduates of the est training. The first Holiday Project visit occurred on Christmas Day, 1972 in San Francisco, California. Since its incorporation as a non-profit public benefit organization in 1980, more than 180,000 volunteers from every social, and economic background visited more than 1,500,000 people around the United States.

The real story of the Holiday Project lives in the lives of the experiences of each individual who participated. It lives in the face of an old man, beaming as a small child hugs him. It lives in the misty eyes of a woman recalling her youth. And it lives in the way the volunteers speak about their lives. "We gave gifts and sang, but the songs and gifts were just an excuse for us to be close" ... "Now every year I visit with The Holiday Project. It makes my holidays how I always want them to be."

The Holiday Project also lives beyond the confines of the hospitial room or nursing home. It is embodied in the lives of the families and friends who participate year after year. Many say their experience of the holidays and of each other is more fulfilling and carries through into their day-to-day pursuits. As one volunteer put it "The Holiday Project is for all of us. The people we visit give us as much as we give them."


The Impact of The Holiday Project:

"People from all over the country shared stories of happenings in their communities, happenings that brought tears and laughter to the room, happenings that gave reality to the word miracle. Someone told of a volunteer visiting a hospital in New York City, walking into a ward and standing beside the bed of a teenage girl who had overdosed on drugs on Christmas Eve. Suddenly the man bent down to look more closely, then cried out and took the girl in his arms. He'd recognized the sister who had run away from home two years earlier. Another told of a man, totally paralyzed by a stroke, who had been denied the financial help needed for equipment that would allow him to communicate, on the grounds that being able to communicate was not "medically necessary." For months he had been locked into a lonely world by himself. The group raised money, bought a computer and equipment that utilized the man's ability to slightly raise and lower his head (the only movement of which he was capable). A month after Christmas we recieved a letter - a letter that had been tapped out one key at a time on a computer, by a man with a wand attached to a headband. The letter said, 'Thank you. I'm back in touch with the world.'" - excerpted from "Reading Under The Covers," by Elizabeth Russell, former executive director of The Holiday Project


Look Out, Scrooge! Here Come 90,000 Santas!

It's an old-fashioned Christmas and everyone can play. Create the yuletide season, just the way you'd like it, from scratch. Here's how it works.

Five years ago, Werner put together the Holiday Hospital Project to allow all est graduates the opportunity to participate in making tlie spirit of Christmas come alive for children and adults who might otherwise spend it alone in places like hospitals and convalescent homes. The purpose of the project is not merely to drop off a gift or two at this hospital or that convalescent home, but actually, actively to participate in creating and delivering a whole, real, live Christmas to thousands of people - and to share it with them personally.

Last year, as always, the Holiday Hospital Project was organized, managed and implemented almost entirely by est graduate assistants. In six est cIties, 5,715 graduates donated more than $16,000 to sponsor the project and purchase gifts; and 2,400 more graduates delivered those gifts to nearly 13,000 patients in 128 hospitals and homes during Hanukkah and Christmas.

The question, "Why assist?", came up, and one Holiday Hospital Project 'veteran" gave us her point of view: "I've volunteered my time and money to a number of charities and foundations over the years, and what appeals to me about the Holiday Hospital Project, where the value is for me, is that I don't come from helping. I know that whoever I'm communicating with is a totally capable being, regardless of age, temperament or degree of illness. And they get that. They get that I'm there to participate with them. That's where the joy and aliveness is exchanged, just being together. - From the Graduate Review, November, 1976


"A Pure Opportunity To Be With People"

A child at Napa State Hospital in California looked up and said, "We couldn't go home, but I feel as if our families were here. You're bringing Christmas to us." He was talking to vIsitors from est's 1976 Holiday Hospital Project, and came close to summing up the feelings of everyone who participated in it.

On Hanukkah and Christmas Day, est graduates took presents to 24,217 patients in 207 hospitals and convalescent homes across the United States - almost twice as many people, in this fifth year since Werner initiated the project, as they had visited in 1975. Derek Williams, coordinator of the project, reported that more than 11,000 graduates donated money and gifts, and 5,600 participated in buying, wrapping, and delivering the presents.

Numbers are just one reflection of what the est graduates and the patients shared. In New York, a patient tells his visitors, "I was feeling badly because I wasn't going to be with my family. And when you walked in, I realized you were my family." In Washington, D.C., Romaine Hill comes away empty-handed: "What comes up for me is love. I notice that I don't have a lot of 'pity' going on... I don't have to carry anything out of the hospital with me." D.G. Gould sums up later at the Christmas dinner in Washington: "My visit to the hospital was a pure opportunity to be with people. There was no other purpose in being there - nothing to win, lose, or sacrifIce."

In acknowledging the support that est graduates gave the project, Werner said: "Thank you to each of you who participated in the Holiday Hospital Project, whether you participated as a family, group, couple, or single person. In the experience and expressIon of your well-being, you have supported the aliveness of others. This is an expression of self as context transformed from self as object or thing. This is true self expression. Thank you for being
who you are. I love you." - From the Graduate Review, February 1977, by Bruce Tracy

holiday project

Holiday Hospital Project


Making the spirit of the holidays real.

The Holiday Project expanded each year since graduates of Werner Erhard's est training created it in 1971. In 1979 volunteers in 75 cities visited 81,000 patients in 613 hospitals and convalescent homes. The following year, the project expanded to include people in prisons and juvenile homes.

children making holiday decorations


The Holiday Hospital Project is about making the spirit of the holidays real by expressing your love and joy with others.

From the est Graduate
..Review, January 1980


A Beautiful Holiday

"There has never been a more beautiful Christmas." That was the consensus among graduates and their friends who participated in the 1977 Holiday Hospital Project.

The project has continued to grow in the six years since Werner Erhard initiated it: This year, more than 18,000 people participated in 46 cities, by sending in donations ($46,631), by buying and wrapping gifts, and by delivering gifts to 43,000 patients in hospitals and convalescent homes on Christmas and Hannukkah.

In thanking the graduates who participated in the project, Werner said, "The real gifts you give are the love and joy you express, the relatedness you share as 'family,' and the place you come from that each of us matters in the world. It's clear that we are in partnership in creating the world working. Your graciousness and humanity are inspiring." - From the Graduate Review, February, 1978


Holiday Hospital Project Reaches Out To 110,000 People

Graduates and their friends used 1979's Holiday Hospital Project to touch the lives of more people than ever before. Each year, the Project expands in unforeseen ways. Here are some of the special ways it enriched people's lives in 1979:

• The Riverside/Ontario Holiday Hospital Project created a miracle of abundance with close to 1,000 gifts on hand, having planned to visit and deliver gifts to 250 people on Christmas Day. Rose Gilfoy, Project Manager, decided to incorporate Christmas Eve into their visiting schedule, and sought the advice of the Sisters of Charity, who led them to six families of "boat people," recent refugees from Vietnam. Most of them spoke no English, they lived in barely-furnished apartments, and their children had never heard of Santa Claus. "But they got what it was about," Rose said, "and we had a real celebration of a Christmas together."

• est trainer Ron Bynum visited his family in Houston for Christmas. On Christmas Day, Ron, a Vietnam veteran, went to a Veterans Hospital with a group that included his father and father-in-law, both veterans of World War II. Ron's father-in-law, who seemed the most reserved in the beginning, was so inspired by the patients that he insisted on visiting every ward. "You'll never know what your being here today has meant to us," one veteran told him.

• A group from Phoenix and Tucson took a Christmas tree and decorations to Arizona State Prison, where they celebrated the afternoon with all 450 inmates in the prison yard - the first time, a guard said, that all the inmates had ever been in the yard at the same time. The inmates had been asked beforehand if there was anything special they wanted. Photographs, they said. So part of the afternoon was spent taking two pictures of each inmate--one to keep, and another to send to a friend or relative. Since Christmas Day, there have been many requests from the prison for an est training there. A letter from one of the inmates to a participant ended this way: "I do hope you'll be able to visit again in the future, as your very presence reminded all of us that we are still human and still very much alive."

The time, money, gifts, and holiday spirit contributed by graduates and their friends brought Christmas and Hanukkah to 110,000 people in 76 cities. More than 870 facilities were visited in the United States, Canada, and Europe. Thank you for including so many new people in the celebration of your joy and well-being in the holiday season. - From the Graduate Review, March 1980


The Holiday Project Visits Lonely, Elderly - The West Side Spirit

Letter from a Holiday Project Volunteer

Homeless Kids Manage To Smile - San Diego Union 1979

Werner Erhard Charitable Organizations

Pictures from Holiday Project Visits in the 1980's

Honoring Elizabeth Russell - Founding Holiday Project Board Member



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