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NEW YORK – Ricker Oil, operators of 50 convenience stores in 14 communities throughout Indiana, was named the winner of the Grand Spirit Award for Community Outreach, the convenience industry's community service award program, sponsored by Convenience Store News.
The Spirit Awards for Community Outreach program was launched last year to celebrate convenience retailers that are involved in community service programs aimed at bettering the lives of people in the markets they serve. Along with Ricker, these c-store retailers also were named 2010 Spirit Award Winners in their chain-size categories:
For companies with one to 99 stores: A.C.&T. Co.
For companies with 100-499 stores: Kum & Go, LC
For companies with 500-plus stores: Stripes
All winners will be honored in a special awards event in Indianapolis on Oct. 19.
"It's really amazing to see how committed the convenience store industry as a whole is to improving the lives of the people it serves," said Don Longo, editor-in-chief of CSNews. "As the local store for many communities throughout America, it is only natural that these neighborhood stores embed themselves tightly into local charitable programs and efforts."
Ricker Oil is a family owned and operated company based in Anderson, Ind., that prides itself on having a business plan that embodies principles and values translating into community involvement and support of local organizations. The judges noted that the expanse of Ricker's community involvement rivals that of much bigger chains. Ricker is the first company from the one-to-99-store division to win the Grand Spirit Award, which goes to the company that showed the greatest degree of innovation, creativity and personal involvement in giving back to its community.
As an example of a community education initiative, Ricker donated $37,500 to sponsor a new exhibit at Conner Prairie, a living history museum. The exhibit provides a hands-on opportunity for children to learn about aeronautics while experiencing a real air balloon flight. In addition, Ricker Oil also provides coupons for $5 off the price of the balloon experience.
In 2009, Ricker Oil donated a total of $43,161 -- not including contributions of products, services, employee volunteer hours and money raised through in-store donations -- to organizations throughout Indiana. One creative idea to better serve communities this year was to customize a small trailer that was set up at different locations for organizations to use as a fundraiser to sell drinks and food.
Besides that, Jay and Nancy Ricker, owners of Ricker Oil, get personally involved in fundraising and educating people to help the Safe Haven Crisis & Recovery Center for Sexual Assault. The company also is very supportive of local sports teams, community chambers of commerce, local fire and police departments, youth organizations and community school systems.
One highlight of Ricker Oil's community efforts involved CEO Jay Ricker visiting the store that raised the most money for the Salvation Army's Red Kettle Campaign dressed in full clown costume to hand out free hot dogs to employees and customers. Since he was already in costume, Ricker also stopped by the local children's organization to brighten the day of local kids.
Like Ricker, personal involvement of top company executives is a hallmark of A.C.&T.'s charitable efforts. A.C.&T. operates 16 convenience stores in the Maryland/Virginia/Delaware area. It also tanks fuel to its stores, sells fuel oil and propane, operates one Super 8 Motel, and rents and sells mobile storage and portable toilets. A.C.&T. won the Spirit Award for companies with one to 99 stores.
The company's support for breast cancer research goes back to 2003, when Barbara Fulton, wife of the company's owner, was struck with the disease. It didn't take long for the company – employees, families and even customers – to rally in support of a local organization composed of breast cancer survivors, called Breast Cancer Awareness–Cumberland Valley Inc. (BCA-CV). A.C.&T. became a big supporter of the charity's biggest fundraiser, its annual Step 'n Stride walk, held in A.C.&T.'s hometown of Hagerstown, Md.
Although Barbara Fulton passed away in 2006, the company has fought on to raise funds for breast cancer awareness. Last year, it raised $35,000 for BCA-CV through the hard work of employees, customers and its owner. Kum & Go, the Des Moines, Iowa-based chain of 430 stores, has maintained 50 years of dedicated community commitment. Each year, the company returns at least 10 percent of its profits to the communities it serves. "Caring" is one of seven core company values. Kum & Go won the Spirit Award for companies with 100 to 499 stores.
This year alone, Kum & Go participated in two major in-store fundraising drives throughout its territory.
The company really rallied in the face of a natural disaster. After the earthquake hit Haiti in January, Kum & Go raised $59,000 through customers who were able to donate $1 at the register. Kum & Go Foundation and the company also made a donation of more than $80,000 to the American Red Cross Haiti Relief Efforts.
Kum & Go also holds regular fundraising drives, such as participating in the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation sneaker campaign, donating over $95,000. As a corporation, Kum & Go makes several large contributions each year totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars throughout the company's 11-state footprint. Funds donated have created hospital wings, improved schools, funded volunteer organizations and formed college programs.
But, beyond companywide efforts, Kum & Go stores also give back locally. This year, the company launched a local fundraising effort for the Foundation for Springfield Public Schools in Missouri called Fuel Your School. Through the program, Kum & Go donated 3 cents from every gallon of gas sold on April 8th at the 41 Springfield locations to the Foundation for Springfield Public Schools. The program raised $8,000.
After winning the Grand Spirit Award last year, Stripes, the retail arm of Susser Holdings, was named the Spirit Award winner in the category for companies with 500 or more stores.
During the course of a year, Stripes runs mobile campaigns at the store level, raising money for different charities. Employees will ask customers to donate $1 in exchange for a Stripes coupon. Stripes donates money to organizations that promote health & well-being, such as Children's Miracle Network, March of Dimes, United Way, Driscoll Children's Hospital, food banks in various cities and many other charities. Most employees also donate their time and money.
Among the many special projects that Stripes supports are:
The Stripes Child Life Program at Driscoll Children's Hospital in Corpus, Christi, Texas: Stripes has committed $1 million over a five-year period to hire and employ child life specialists that help address patients' emotional, social and developmental needs.
The Field of Dreams Soccer Field Rehab: South Texas soccer fans got a special treat on the eve of the World Cup tournament when the minor league baseball stadium in Corpus Christi was transformed into a soccer field to host a major league soccer game. Stripes donated soccer nets to teams across the area and granted one lucky youth soccer organization the funds to give their field a complete makeover.
Stripes Radiothons. This is just one of the many ways that Stripes partners with Children's Miracle Network (CMN). Over $350,000 was raised in 2010 with the Stripes mobile campaign to benefit CMN.
Stripes Surf n' Turf Golf and Fishing Tournament: Last year, the tournament raised $372,449 for United Way.
CSNews congratulations all the winners of this year's Spirits Awards program. An in-depth story on all of the Spirit Award winners will appear in the Nov. 1, 2010 issue of CSNews.