Industry Steps Up to Support Japan, Charitable Causes

Convenience stores continue to play an important role in raising much-needed funds in times of trouble.

By: Erin Rigik, Associate Editor.

This March, several c-store chains inspired customers to buy paper Shamrocks to support the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA).

When disaster strikes, convenience stores are often at their best stepping up to support the community. But what makes the industry so special is that it often continues to give back long after the spotlight has been turned off.

In the wake of the Japan earthquakes and tsunami, the industry once again was quick to rally. For example, soon after Japan was ravaged by the natural disasters in March, Wawa Inc., which operates more than 560 stores in the Mid-Atlantic, announced plans to donate $50,000 to the American Red Cross International Relief Fund to help support the victims.

“Our hearts go out to those in Japan during this difficult time,” said Chris Gheysens Wawa’s chief financial officer. “Wawa has always had a strong commitment to providing crisis response and assisting those in need, and we’ve been partnering with the American Red Cross in these kinds of efforts for decades.”

Leading the Way
At presstime, 7-Eleven was working with franchisees and licensed operators worldwide to launch a “Japan Relief” fundraising campaign that involved collecting in-store donations.  The Red Cross Society of the Republic of China said it would partner with both 7-Eleven and FamilyMart, parent company of the Famima convenience store chain in California, to collect donations for the Japan relief efforts.

But it isn’t only in times of catastrophe that c-stores help out. The industry has remained steadfast in its support of an array of causes. Recent fundraising efforts include:

• Wilson Farms presented the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society with a check for more than $152,000 during the Light the Night Corporate Recruitment Event on March 24. The chain, which operates 188 c-store in New York, raised the funds throughout 2010 through numerous fundraisers, including sales of $1 paper balloon, barbeques, bake sales, a carnival and the first-ever Wilson Farms Bowl-A-Thon. Wilson Farms recently launched another paper balloon campaign to benefit the Women & Children’s Hospital of Buffalo, N.Y.

• L.E. Belcher stores in Connecticut and Massachusetts raised more than $22,000 in support the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) over five weeks in November and December. The Springfield, Mass.-based L.E. Belcher Inc. is a longtime supporter of MDA.

• PS Food Mart, which operates 30 locations in Michigan and Ohio, is currently running its second annual “Fight Hunger. Give Hope” campaign to raise money for local food banks. PS Food Mart aims to raise more than $45,000 or roughly 360,000 meals, for the Food Banks of South Central Michigan, Toledo Northwest Ohio Food Bank and several local food pantries in the communities where it operates.

• Giant Eagle, which operates 160 c-stores in Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia and Maryland, was recently named the second recipient of the American Diabetes Association’s (ADA) prestigious Chairman’s Citation Award.

Since 2005, Giant Eagle has provided more than $750,000 in support of ADA and thousands of dollars of in-kind support, such as food for events, non-perishable products for diabetes camps and leadership on local boards and committees.

• In March, the MDA reported a fundraising effort for St. Patrick’s Day saw more than 20 million Americans purchase paper Shamrocks. CITGO, Kroger, 7-Eleven and Valero were among the top industry chains participating in the program.

“Over the past 23 campaigns, Valero’s Retail division has raised more than $16 million for the MDA—an incredible amount,” said Valero’s Chairman and CEO Bill Klesse.  “Last year’s campaign alone was a record-breaking $1.97 million effort. It’s especially gratifying to know that the money was raised while we were still recovering from a significant economic downturn.”

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