Arco Ideas and Design have created promotional material for area businesses for more than 30 years. For most of that time, owners Russell and Daneise Archer have engaged employees in their annual Christmas festivities.
Tuesday morning, the company's nine employees each brought with them a plate of homemade cookies. Guest judges from throughout the community arrived shortly after to begin the task of finding a winning entrant in Arco's annual Christmas cookie contest.
A panel of three judges tasted each "cookie" ranging from classic sugar cookies to rum date balls. By votes, Russell Archer took first place but, by default, the cash prize went to the runner-up, Pressman Jim DeArk.
"I thought they were all good. It was hard to choose," said guest judge and Cartersville Country Club Executive Chef Derek Morgan. "I'd be happy to have every one of them at my house."
After the winner is announced, recipe cards are shared and coworkers partake of everyone's effort in the friendly holiday competition.
Arco's cookie competition has been an annual event for about 15 years, but for almost 25 years the employees have come together at the Archers' home the week before Christmas for another festive competition.
This time, employees bring handmade Christmas cards. The cards, however, vary greatly and escalate in creativity each year. Artistic efforts are stretched for some, while others create interactive designs. A selection from over the years is now on display at Arco's office, 212 N. Tennessee St. in Cartersville.
"We've been doing this probably 15 years with the cookies and we've been doing the card contest for about 24 years," Daneise Archer said. "We had one lady that wanted to purchase one of the cards for the cover of a book. ... We asked how much [the creator] wanted for it and he said, 'I can't do that. I gave it as a gift to Arco.' And he wouldn't cash in on it."
For employees, traditions within the company along with a record of giving back have played a role in retention and loyalty.
"When you love a community like we love our community and you have employers that are committed and care about the community, it makes a big difference. It's not just a job, we feel like servants and we love what we do," said Martha Welsandt, office manager.
At Christmas and throughout the year, Arco employees find joy in helping others by giving to local organizations and "adopting" a family for Christmas to provide children with toys through the Georgia Department of Family and Children Services.
"It's a family," said Lisa Whitney, production supervisor. "We do a lot to help others and it's satisfying to know that we can come together as a family here at our workplace and help others too and make a difference."
Daneise Archer too describes the workplace as a family and says their traditions have helped create a sense of camaraderie.