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WAWA, Pa. -- Wawa Inc. will celebrate its commitment to employee ownership through a variety of activities during October's National Employee Ownership Month. The convenience store chain reached two milestones this year; 2012 marks 35 years since it began sharing ownership with its associates and 20 years since it formed its Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP).
To commemorate the landmark year, all Wawa associates will receive new nametags bearing the line "Proudly Associate Owned," the company announced.
"All of us firmly believe that ESOPs create a pride in ownership," said Wawa President Chris Gheysens. "As owners, Wawa associates feel strongly about delivering an exceptional customer experience. It's one of the main reasons we are able to create family-like bonds with all the customers and communities we serve."
Wawa will hold a variety of grand opening events, store anniversary celebrations and associate events throughout October. At each event, Wawa will celebrate its associate owners and discuss the special part they play in the company's culture and future, the company stated. Some events will culminate with special Associate Owner proclamations read by local government officials and dignitaries.
Wawa associates own nearly 37 percent of the company through an ESOP, an employee benefit plan which makes the employees of a company owners of stock in that company. More than 10,000 ESOPs are in place in the United States, covering more than 10.3 million employee owners, according to National ESOP Association data. Wawa's ESOP has more than 9,500 members, making it one of the top 10 ESOPs nationally by number of participants. It first began sharing ownership with associates through profit sharing in 1977, and through its ESOP since 1992.
"At Wawa, we have always believed that our culture is a direct reflection of our private ownership and heritage and our ability to share ownership with our associates," stated Wawa CEO Howard Stoeckel.
Following one year of service, Wawa associates at all levels are eligible to participate in the ESOP if they are at least 21 years of age and work at least 1,000 hours annually.