Soaring to New Heights
Community service takes center stage at 2012 CSNews Spirit Awards winners Kangaroo Express, Valero Corner Store, SuperAmerica and Jiffy Mart
In the convenience store industry, it takes more than location to become a part of a community. Fundraisers, community events and holiday happenings help c-store operators stand apart from their competition, but only if their hearts and spirits are fully behind the efforts.
The Pantry Inc.'s Kangaroo Express chain, with its far-reaching efforts to support military members and their families, is a shining example of the good done by the convenience retail industry and for that, it is the winner of this year's Grand Spirit Award for Community Outreach, the convenience industry's community service awards program sponsored by Convenience Store News.
Launched in 2009, the CSNews Spirit Awards for Community Outreach honor convenience retailers that are involved in community service programs aimed at bettering the lives of the people in the markets they serve.
In addition to Kangaroo Express, these convenience store retailers are also named 2012 Spirit Awards winners in their respective chain-size categories:
Kangaroo Express, with more than 1,500 stores across the Southeast, is well-established as an industry standout in community service. The Cary, N.C.-based retailer won the Spirit Award last year for companies with 500-plus stores — primarily for its inaugural Salute Our Troops campaign. In 2011, the Memorial Day through Labor Day drive raised $2.5 million and broke fundraising efforts for many of the beneficiary organizations, including being the largest grassroots initiative for the USO in its 70-year history.
This year, the chain not only beat last year's numbers, it knocked them out of the ballpark, raising more than $3 million during its second annual Salute Our Troops campaign this summer.
Valero Energy Corp.'s Corner Store portfolio is also well-known for giving back. In addition to the thousands of volunteer hours donated by the company's employees, Valero has been linked with several national charities such as the Children's Miracle Network, Muscular Dystrophy Association and the United Way.
The San Antonio-based company also lends it name and support to the PGA Tour's Valero Texas Open. The 2011 Valero Texas Open was the most successful in the tournament's 87-year history, teaming with the Valero Texas Open Benefit for Children to contribute a record $9 million to charity.
Northern Tier Energy's SuperAmerica chain, the winner in the mid-size category, takes community service seriously and it shows. The company formed a donation committee that meets once a month and its efforts have paid off. SuperAmerica locations raised more than $1 million in the past year.
Like its fellow Spirit Awards recipients, Tevis Oil's Jiffy Mart stores also have had a banner year in charitable giving. The retailer surpassed its 2010-2011 fundraising milestones by raising more than double the amount as of August. The company donates to national organizations — including St. Jude Children's Hospital and the American Cancer Foundation — as well as several local charities. The company even utilizes new technology in its campaigns, highlighting community service efforts via social media.
Winner: Grand Spirit Award
Kangaroo Express Redefines Community Spirit
Doing well while also doing good things for the community is a key part of the Cary, N.C.-based company's culture and strategy. One notable example of this is the chain's annual Salute Our Troops campaign. Launched in 2011, the campaign raises money for the USO, and provides donations to the Wounded Warrior Project and state-based military support organizations.
Through $1 in-store donations, the company raised $2.5 million in its inaugural year and not only matched that amount this year, but soared past it to top $3 million.
The Salute Our Troops campaign also featured more than 35 events ranging from Salute Our Troops Family Fun Days at Kangaroo Express stores to Salute Our Troops Talent Shows. Aside from being a successful fundraiser, the campaign also caught the eye of several political figures including U.S. Reps. Trey Gowdy and Joe Wilson (South Carolina) and U.S. Reps. Sue Myrick and Renee Elmers (North Carolina).
The company's commitment to military families does not end there. For the third consecutive year, it led a campaign to fund the American Widow Project — raising more than $157,000 this year — and served as a lead supporter of the Indy 500 Centennial Tour to military bases in Europe and the Middle East.
While military members and their families are near and dear to the retailer's heart — more than half of its c-stores are located within 25 miles of a military installation and one-third of its employees have either served in the military themselves or have family members currently serving — the company is also involved with other charities and community organizations.
2012 marked its fourth annual fundraiser for Victory Junction, a year-round, all-expense-paid camping environment for children ages six to 16 with chronic medical conditions or serious illnesses. This year's $1-million donation, raised via an in-store promotion with partnership support from The Coca-Cola Co., almost doubled the total donation made in 2011 and will send more than 400 children to Victory Junction.
The Pantry/Kangaroo Express also gave away 15,000 of its famed Roo Cups to high schools, fire and police departments, emergency shelters, youth groups and other organizations throughout the Southeast. The Roo Cup, now in its second year, retails for $6.99 and costs 25 cents to refill with fountain or frozen drinks during the summer.
The chain's other notable efforts include:
— Melissa Kress
Winner: One to 99 Stores
Small Store Count Doesn't Stop Jiffy Mart From Giving Big
Store associates are encouraged to participate in each event by wearing event T-shirts and as an added incentive, the top fundraising associate at each location is rewarded.
Jiffy Mart's efforts this year have already surpassed its 2010-2011 milestones despite the still-sluggish economy and high unemployment within the county. Last year, the four-store chain's giving totaled $9,100. As of August, this year's total was more than double that amount.
The organizations it is supporting for 2011-2012 range from St. Jude Children's Hospital and the American Breast Cancer Foundation, to local causes like Carroll County Food Sunday and the Westminster Police Torch Run for Maryland Special Olympics.
When it comes to the actual fundraising, Jiffy Mart tackles the task at hand from all angles. For St. Jude, "Give Hope, Give Thanks" pin-ups were sold and displayed at every location. The associate at each store who raised the most money received a jersey signed by Baltimore Ravens punter and Carroll County resident Sam Koch.
Jiffy Mart also partnered with Koch to raise money for Carroll County Food Sunday, a local, non-profit organization. A charity signing event was held and those donating $4 or more could have the NFL player autograph an item. Sam Koch/Baltimore Ravens Fan 4 Life T-shirts were also sold at all the stores with the proceeds going to the non-profit.
Other 2011-2012 community service initiatives undertaken by the retailer include:
American Breast Cancer Foundation — The chain sold pink ribbon pins, pink Jiffy Mart T-shirts and pink bracelets at each location to raise funds. During the month of October, five cents from the sale of each cup of coffee was donated to the foundation. Store events and painting customers' hair pink also raised money and generated awareness.
Shepherds Staff — Piggy banks were placed at each location to collect loose change that was then donated to this Westminster support center. Jiffy Mart made a matching donation.
Cups That Count — Under this ongoing program, hot/cold travel mugs carrying the Westminster High School logo are sold at each location, with $2 from the sale of each cup going to the school. For purchasers, the first fill is free and each fill after is discounted.
Sav-A-Vet — Jiffy Mart's just-opened Pet Wash promotes Sav-A-Vet, which finds homes for out-of-service police and military dogs by placing them with disabled veterans. In addition, the c-store chain allows the Westminster Police Department and the Carroll County Sheriff's Department K-9 units to use the Pet Wash for free.
Throughout the year, Jiffy Mart also participates in numerous other community events, such as festivals and expos, where it sets up a table that ties into the event and offers attendees samples, coupons and the chance to enter a prize giveaway raffle.
Winner: 100 to 499 Stores
SuperAmerica Raises More Than $1M for Charities
"We believe that a significant part of a company's charitable success comes from the commitment of its employees to the cause, and we are extremely proud of our employees' dedication to our fundraising efforts," the convenience store chain noted in its entry.
That dedication is evidenced by the fact that it formed a Donation Committee that meets every month to address local donations to neighborhood community groups, police departments, veterans' groups and youth organizations. The ensuing results have been impressive.
All of SuperAmerica's 166 corporate stores and 67 franchisees became yearlong supporters of Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare, which serves as Minnesota's Children's Miracle Network hospital. The stores participate in quarterly weeklong campaigns where they ask customers for donations.
The 200-plus SuperAmerica locations then literally turn up the heat by hosting campaigns with themes such as "The Winter Beach Bash," "Costumes for Kids" and "Spring Sports Spectacular," where employees dress and decorate the store according to the theme.
From these efforts, SuperAmerica has become the hospital's top donor. In fact, the c-store chain presented Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare with a check for $724,758.12 last year.
Its efforts don't stop there, though. The retailer has become the second-largest fundraiser for JDRF MinnDakotas, a charity dedicated to research for people affected by Type 1 diabetes.
More than 160 SuperAmerica employees and Northern Tier executives took part in the annual "Walk to Cure" at the Mall of America on Feb. 25. SuperAmerica also presented JDRF with a $200,000 check during the event. SuperAmerica followed that up by hosting themed events. In total, the stores' combined efforts raised an additional $154,000 for JDRF MinnDakotas.
While Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare and JDRF MinnDakotas are SuperAmerica's largest beneficiaries, the c-store chain contributed to more than 50 different charities in 2011, including National Night Out, Relay For Life and the Minnesota Special Olympics.
Winner: 500-Plus Stores
Large Retailer Keeps a Personal Touch
As a long-term supporter of the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA), Corner Store raised more than $2.1 million during its 2012 campaign by selling one shamrock at a time at the cash register. Proceeds go toward professional fees such as diagnostic and follow-up care at an MDA clinic, as well as toward research and summer camp for children afflicted with the neuromuscular disease. Over the last 25 years, Corner Store has raised more than $20 million for the MDA.
The retailer also has a solid long-term partnership with the Children's Miracle Network. For 17 years, store associates have sold "Miracle Balloons," raising more than $1.9 million during the 2011 campaign to help children gain access to the best health care, the latest technology and the most advanced medical facilities available, the company said.
Corner Store, however, doesn't stick to fundraising at the checkout counter. Together with the Valero Texas Open Benefit for Children Golf Classic, the Professional Golf Association's (PGA) 2011 Valero Texas Open contributed $9 million to charity, $200,000 of which the Corner Store division allocated to qualifying children's charities, making the tournament one of the most charitable on the PGA tour.
Individual store associates contributed as much in time and effort as the company did in dollar value. Last year, employees held the most successful United Way Food Bank Drive in the retailer's history, contributing $457,630 to the organization. Additionally, during the 2012 United Way Day of Caring event, volunteers transformed the campus of Boysville, a residential care facility for children in need, in just six hours, saving approximately $27,192 in labor costs.
Along with ongoing campaigns, volunteers also supported multiple local community events in 2011-2012, including:
Other local volunteer hours went toward hosting Christmas dinners for disadvantaged children, renovating homes for families in need, delivering meals to the elderly, mentoring at-risk youth and more. Corner Store also keeps track of the individual charitable efforts of its employees, proving that while financial contributions are important, it never forgets the value of the human factor.
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