Kum & Go Wins CSNews' Grand Spirit Award for Community Outreach

JERSEY CITY, N.J. -- Kum & Go LC, operator of more than 400 convenience stores in 11 Midwestern states, has been named the winner of the Grand Spirit Award for Community Outreach, the convenience industry's community service awards program sponsored by Convenience Store News.

The Spirit Awards for Community Outreach program was launched in 2009 to celebrate convenience retailers that are involved in community service programs aimed at bettering the lives of the people in the markets they serve. Along with Kum & Go, the following c-store retailers also were named 2011 Spirit Award Winners in their respective chain-size categories:

  • For companies with one to 99 stores: Wallis Cos.
  • For companies with 100-499 stores: Thorntons Inc.
  • For companies with 500-plus stores: Kangaroo Express (The Pantry)

"The number of convenience store retailers that are committed to charitable efforts in their communities grows every year, and the depth and scope of their donations -- in money, products and time -- continues to expand, based on entries we received this year in the Spirit Awards program," said Don Longo, editor-in-chief of CSNews. "The quality of this year's entries made it difficult to choose just four winners. There are so many deserving retailers out there that are bettering the lives of people in their communities."

Kum & Go LC proved its commitment many times in the past year, most notably in its response to a devastating tornado that struck Joplin, Mo., on May 22. The CSNews 2011 Grand Spirit Award winner immediately responded, dispatching a crisis team that was on-site within 12 hours to donate their time and resources. That was followed by a chainwide "Help Joplin" campaign, which raised $93,910 from Kum & Go employees and customers in just 10 days. In addition, the retailer's foundation supplied an additional check for a grand total of $115,000 that was sent to the American Red Cross.

During the past year, the West Des Moines, Iowa-based chain also supported several charities and community service platforms, including the Des Moines affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure; contributions to the Red Cross to be used toward Minot, N.D., flood relief efforts and to help Arkansas residents recover from a string of tornadoes that ravaged the state; and participation in Springfield, Mo.'s "Victory Mission" cardboard turkey campaign.

Kum & Go is certainly no stranger to the Spirit Awards for Community Outreach. It was the winner among c-store chains operating 100 to 499 stores last year.

This year's winner in the big chain category (500-plus stores) is Kangaroo Express, the  c-store banner operated by The Pantry Inc. The Cary, N.C.-based retailer enjoys philanthropic partnerships with many worthy causes, but Kangaroo Express' commitment to military personnel and their families is unrivaled. The operator of 1,600 convenience stores throughout the Southeast launched its "Salute Our Troops" campaign on Memorial Day with a fundraising goal of $1 million by Labor Day -- which it surpassed by the Fourth of July holiday to finish the summer with a total of $2.5 million in donations for military families.

It is a cause near and dear to the company's collective heart: more than half of its stores are located within 25 miles of a military installation and one-third of its employees have either served or have family members currently serving in the military.

Louisville, Ky.-based Thorntons Inc., this year's Spirit Award winner in the mid-size category (100 to 499 stores), was notable for integrating the spirit of giving with company leadership and team member participation. At Thorntons, it all starts at the local level. The retailer encourages its team members to volunteer for organizations and charities and to offer their time and talents to community improvement projects and fundraising activities.

In the past year, Thorntons developed two new volunteer programs. The first was a partnership with Louisville's Dare to Care food bank. The program saw Thorntons senior leadership and new hires work side by side to sort and pack food products for local families in need. The team's reaction to the Louisville program was so strong that it prompted the retailer's Chicago stores to seek out a local food bank where managers spent a day packing more than 20,000 meals, enough to feed 73 children for a year.

The second new project involved the American Red Cross and the Commander at Fort Knox to support U.S. troops and their families. A team of 300 Thorntons employees supplied and assembled 100 bicycles for children of soldiers, and supplied and packed 3,500 care packages for troops scheduled to be deployed in January. A follow-up event will be held in November.

The Wallis Cos., based in Cuba, Mo., is this year's winner in the small chain category (one to 99 stores). The 38-store convenience chain not only maintains corporate community service programs, but also encourages all of its customers and associates to support the neighborhoods in which they live and work.

Throughout the year, a team of associates from the corporate office holds various fundraisers for the American Cancer Society. This year, they raised $9,978.88 for the Crawford County Relay for Life event, held in June. Also annually, a team of associates from both headquarters and the stores participate in the Fight for Air Climb/Master the Met event, a vertical race to climb 40 floors to the top of the Metropolitan Square Building in downtown St. Louis. Each participant must raise at least $100 for the American Lung Association. Wallis has had a team every year since the event began in 2008.

At the store level, Wallis champions various causes through customer fundraising campaigns. During the months of March and April, its c-stores raise money for TouchPoint Autism Services in honor of Autism Awareness Month. In June and July, c-store employees sell raffle tickets in the stores, and associates throughout the company are urged to volunteer to sell raffle tickets during home Cardinal games at Busch Stadium to benefit the Jackie Robinson Foundation and Cardinals Care.

These examples are just highlights from the entry submissions of the winning companies. In-depth coverage of the community service activities of all four Spirit Award winners will appear in the November 7th issue of Convenience Store News.