Community Service Spotlight: C-store Retailers Make the Season Bright by Giving Back
NATIONAL REPORT — The holidays are a time to come together and celebrate. It is also a time to give back to the community.
Giving back through community service efforts and charitable donations is a positive force that keeps many retailers and suppliers of this industry moving ahead. Convenience Store News highlights the philanthropic efforts of this holiday season in this special section.
Here are the latest company spotlights:
Army & Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES)
From Dec. 6 to Dec. 10, AAFES shoppers donated to Army Emergency Relief (AER) or the Air Force Assistance Fund (AFAF) for savings coupons through the third and final Give and Get Back donation period of the year. For every $5 donated, shoppers received a coupon for $5 off a $25 purchase. Shoppers who contributed online during the donation period received a coupon code.
"Army Emergency Relief and the Air Force Assistance Fund do extraordinary work for soldiers, airmen and their families," said AAFES Director and CEO Tom Shull. "The Exchange is deeply honored to join with them to help the military community grow stronger."
AER and AFAF provide emergency assistance, sponsor educational initiatives and offer community programs that make life better for service members and their families.
This is the third year that AAFES has partnered with AER and AFAF to host Give and Get Back campaigns. Since the inception of the campaigns, AAFES shoppers have donated more than $755,000 to the relief funds.
Murphy USA employees built and packed 200 Thanksgiving dinner boxes, which were given to the Salvation Army in Union County in Arkansas to distribute to families in need.
The boxes, which were priced at about $25 each, included applesauce, crushed pineapple, green beans, corn, cornbread or muffin mix, cranberry sauce, instant potatoes and boxes of mac and cheese. Each family also received a frozen turkey.
Murphy USA donated about $5,000 to the Arkansas Foodbank, which was its first donation and packing event.
"We're always looking for opportunities where we can give back to the community and especially when we can involve our employees," said Kelly Caldwell, manager of events, philanthropy and community relations, Murphy USA.
Rutter's Children's Charities will donate $50,000 to its annual Secret Santa program in 2019. Each year, Rutter's chooses employees to reward based on their excellent performance with $1,000 to donate to the charity of their choice.
"Our goal with the Secret Santa Program has been to give our employees a chance to give back to their community during the holiday season," said Scott Hartman, Rutter's CEO. "Donating to local programs and charities is always top of mind for us. This program is our way of supporting causes that our employees feel connected to, in the area."
The Secret Santa program began in 2016 as a way for Rutter's to continue their charitable giving through the holiday season. Since its inception, the Secret Santa program has donated more $130,000 to various local charities.
Based in York, Pa., Rutter's operates 77 convenience stores.
Sheetz kicked off its 27th annual December donation drive for Sheetz For the Kidz, which works to make the holiday season brighter for underprivileged children in the communities the operator serves.
Throughout the month, customers had the opportunity to support kids in their local communities through donation boxes near the register and also through adding donations to their purchase at the point of sale. With 100 percent of all donations directly supporting local children, Sheetz For the Kidz provides children in need the opportunity to celebrate the holidays with new toys, clothes and other basic needs. Each of Sheetz' 597 stores will support 16 children from their local communities.
Sheetz employees volunteer their time to shop, wrap and host holiday parties for the children and their families. At the holiday parties, Santa greets the children and present them with the gifts and necessities purchased for them.
More than 9,600 children were impacted by Sheetz For The Kidz this December. Ways customers supported the organization include:
● Donating at checkout throughout December.
● Purchasing a Sheetz For the Kidz water, with 25 cents from each bottle directly supporting the charity.
● Shopping on AmazonSmile and select "Sheetz For the Kidz" as the charity of their choice. Amazon donated .5 percent of their purchases to the charity.
● Donating online at https://www.sheetz.com/ftk.
● Purchasing Sheetz Art Project merchandise.
TravelCenters of America Inc.
TravelCenters of America (TA) covered all fuel costs associated with hauling the 2019 Capitol Christmas Tree. The "People’s Tree," a 60-foot tall Blue Spruce was cut on Nov. 6 and traveled from New Mexico's Carson National Forest to the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., an approximate 2,000-mile journey.
"We're proud to help transport a true American symbol and be part of a tradition that means so much to so many," said Barry Richards, TA president and chief operating officer. "Supporting the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree initiative also allows us to celebrate the spirit of the season."
The journey included a series of community celebrations Nov. 11-25 across the United States and culminated with an official tree lighting on the West Lawn in early December. The final public stop along the route was Nov. 23 at the Petro Stopping Center in Raphine, Va., also known as White's Travel Center, where the community was invited to see the tree, sign the banners on the truck, and enjoy food and crafts.
Wilbanks Trucking Services, based in Artesia, N.M., transported the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree in a Kenworth W990. A second truck will haul smaller companion trees provided to decorate offices inside of the U.S. Capitol building and other sites throughout Washington, D.C., along with 10,000 handmade ornaments created by residents of New Mexico. TA fueled both trucks’ journeys from New Mexico to Washington D.C.
The cross-country trip kicked off Nov. 11.
Dec. 7 marked the 22nd anniversary of Weigel's Family Christmas, a special event in which the convenience store retailer teamed up with the Salvation Army to bring underprivileged children from Knoxville, Tenn., and the surrounding areas on a Christmas shopping spree.
Children range in age from five to eight years old. Each were given $150 for a Christmas shopping spree at Target. This year brought together 238 local children and more than 300 volunteers.
"This has been a very special and meaningful event since we started it over 20 years ago," said Kurt Weigel, training and recruiting director. "Our volunteers are often entire families, coming together to give back to our community. We're especially excited to see the growth of this special event, which has required us to seek a new larger facility. We are excited to be at the Knoxville Expo Center again this year so we can comfortably accommodate more children this year and for years to come."
Every year, the Salvation Army selects deserving children and Weigel's organizes the event and provides funding. Since the program's inception in 1998, it has impacted more than 4,200 children.
"We started by bringing six kids shopping, and now we invite more than 200. This year were able to take 238 children shopping, a record number in one year," said Bill Weigel, chairman. "The gracious support of the many volunteers and our vendor partners makes this day possible. This event embodies the true spirit of Christmas."
Prior to shopping, the volunteers prepared a complimentary breakfast for the children, and many volunteers stayed back to prepare lunch for their return. In the meanwhile, other volunteers waited at Target to meet and help them manage the money and handpick gifts.
Knoxville-based Weigel's operates 67 c-stores, a dairy and a bakery.