For One Employee, the Holidays are a Full-Time Job

December 17, 2018
Ryan Imondi

Having served as the President & CEO’s Executive Assistant for seven years, leading holiday decorating at Children’s Institute was not originally in Josh Pleiness’ job description. When a contractor fell through for decorating the Otis Booth Campus five years ago, Josh jumped at the opportunity.

It doesn’t take much time talking to Josh to realize he loves the holidays. He puts up three different trees at home and has so many decorations personally, he needs a separate storage unit. This December, he wrapped up another year decorating the Otis Booth Campus as well as the Long Beach, Watts, Burton Green and Mid-Wilshire campuses.

“There’s always something going on in my head,” he said. “I do thoroughly enjoy holiday decorating, but everything I do stresses me out sometimes.”

Josh described both of his parents as creative and being the original inspiration for his enthusiasm for the holidays. He fondly remembers his family bonding over putting ornaments on trees and stringing garland.

Growing up with one parent in the military, he got to experience how different regions celebrated. He spent time in Florida, Germany, Michigan and Alaska. When he got his degree in interior design and interior decoration from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, he saw an opportunity to apply those skills to holiday decorating.

“It is all about families being together and spending time together.”

At CII, Josh sees an extra level of importance in his work. The decorations are a chance for the children and families served at CII to feel togetherness during the holidays. For many, past Decembers may have been a difficult or even traumatic time. Josh’s work helps provide a backdrop for happier memories and experiences.

“It is all about families being together and spending time together,” he said.

Josh remembers one year when a boy around the age of six had just come out of a therapy room. He was in a program that works with school-aged children, and clearly upset about something. He had just been crying. Josh invited him over to help him put the ornaments on the tree. Josh said he joined him in decorating for quite some time and the boy was eventually laughing at the end of it.

Going above and beyond

Experiences like these motivate Josh to go above and beyond simply pulling decorations out of storage and putting them up. Last year, he built a giant dreidel from scratch. A previous year he noticed the paint chipping off the ornaments so he carefully hand painted them to stay within budget and ensure everything looked perfect.

Knowing that the end of the year can be a stressful month for many staff, Josh sees the decoration as an opportunity to bring happiness to staff who may be feeling stretched. He said staff will often approach him and say how much they appreciate the decorations. It is something many look forward to during this time of year.

While Josh’s dream would be to one day design and decorate the holiday celebration at the White House, he is happy knowing how many people appreciate his work at CII. Josh jokingly said the only downside to all of his work is that it eventually must come down.

“If it were up to me, I’d leave it up all year,” he said.