By  on January 12, 2005

It may be the foundations established by retail heavyweights that choreograph the year’s fund-raising activities, but the danseurs and danseuses in this gavotte are the employees.

They are the ones who shine when urgent needs, such as relief for tsunami disaster victims, arise. Consider Stan Titus and Michelle La Pierre-Bell. While their employers, $35 billion Safeway and $15 billion Federated Department Stores, respectively, may measure charitable giving in tons of donated food, Titus and La Pierre-Bell’s individual contributions are measured in personal commitment. La Pierre-Bell created an incentive program that increased food drive results at Federated. Titus, an employee at Safeway, offers his services as a private pilot to transport seriously ill patients in need of medical treatment.

“We are all trying to balance our working life and family life. It’s very difficult,” said Federated’s chairman, president and chief executive officer Terry Lundgren. “And yet these employees are taking that precious time and giving back to the community without personal gain, other than feeling good about themselves.”

It’s this mix of passion and commitment that earned 10 retail companies the WWD/ExecTech Retail Community Service Award. The awards, sponsored by Microsoft, Intel and Hewlett-Packard, will be presented next week in New York at an invitation-only executive dinner hosted by the technology companies. Former Senate majority leader Bob Dole will deliver a keynote address.

Ace: Pedal Power

It could be said Ace Hardware went the extra mile to give back to the community in the past year. Eleven employees plus two “civilians” geared up for a four-day, 350-mile cycling trip in September and raised $325,000 for Children’s Miracle Network.

The bicycle journey, dubbed Tour de Kids, is one of many Ace Hardware Foundation fund-raising activities, which brought to $29 million its total contributions to children’s hospitals since 1991. The foundation, which also benefits the American Red Cross, expects its 2004 giving campaign to top $3.3 million.

The $3 billion retailer-owned cooperative was nominated for the WWD/Exec Tech award by Computer Associates. “Our reward is in knowing we help children directly in our communities across the country to receive relief when disaster strikes, as well as to have access to top-of-the-line medical care,” said Jimmy Alexander, Ace’s vice president of human resources.Ace, which celebrated its 80th anniversary in 2004, marked the occasion with a new program called New Faces for Helpful Places. Ace retailers nominated local clinics, shelters and other community groups whose facilities were in need of a facelift and then took part in the makeovers, donating building supplies and materials. Eight winners were chosen last year and in 2005, Ace will expand the program to benefit facilities for 10 community groups.

Canadian Tire Can-Do in Times of Crisis

Life’s essential needs, such as adequate food and shelter, can sometimes be out of reach, and when a crisis suddenly rains down, the situation turns dire.

Whether it’s a natural disaster, such as the flood that walloped the city of Peterborough in summer 2004, or raging fires that consumed homes, Canadian Tire steps in. Since its launch in 1999, the Canadian Tire Foundation for Families has donated millions of dollars for disaster recovery and to ease community crises. The $5 billion company ($6.3 billion Canadian) was nominated for the WWD/ExecTech Award by Fujitsu Transaction Solutions.

Toronto-based Canadian Tire sells apparel, home goods and consumer electronics through 450 stores.

“Canadian Tire has a longstanding tradition of providing a helping hand to families in need and thanks to our strong network, we look forward to helping Canadians build strong and sustainable communities throughout the country,” said Gordon Cressy, president of the Canadian Tire Foundation for Families.

Among the various ways Canadian Tire reaches out is through the Snowsuit Fund, which in 2004 raised more than $100,000 to buy outerwear for youngsters facing Ottawa’s frigid winters. A fashion show, staged to benefit a women’s shelter, generated $92,000 last year.

Federated Bags a Bounty

People and time. Federated Department Stores has a lot of the former, and they have little of the latter. Still, that didn’t stop 50,000 employees, friends and family from donating 110,000 hours to thousands of community-service projects in the last year.

The employee volunteer program, “Partners in Time,” benefits education, women’s issues, housing and AIDS research. However, it was a hunger-relief campaign that was a standout at the $15.2 billion company. The Bag Hunger effort generated three million pounds of food in just three weeks’ time this summer. Some stores’ food-collection volume spiked 120 percent over the year before, thanks to a motivational program conceived by one employee.Fulfilling so basic a need makes Federated chairman, president and chief executive officer Terry Lundgren feel “just fantastic.”

“I have experienced not having any money at all, zero. Paying my way through college and living off scraps from last night’s dinner. Just literally not having anything: I remember that,” he said in an interview. To instill empathy in his two daughters, Lundgren has brought them to visit homeless shelters on several occasions, including when they were six and eight years old.

“I took them to make sure they understood how fortunate we were and that others were not, and we should all have responsibility to give back when we can,” he said. “We should not be (a) ‘above that’ and (b) ‘afraid of that.’”

Lion’s Share...at the Table

When textile heavyweight Pillowtex shut down in 2003, thousands of North Carolinians found themselves without jobs and without enough food.

Food Lion, also based in North Carolina, teamed up with suppliers and staged four donation drives that collected more than 52 tons of food for displaced workers in Rowan and Cabarrus counties, home to most of the 6,450 people who lost their jobs.

In partnership with America’s Second Harvest, the 1,200-store chain also donated more than 10 million pounds of food, valued at $16 million, during the first half of 2004. In four weeks’ time this summer, a separate program called Hunger Has a Cure, collected about $94,000 in cash donations and nearly $101,000 in food. The chain expects to raise $400,000 for Second Harvest during the 2004 holiday season.

Rick Anicetti, Food Lion president and chief executive officer, said organizations like The Girl Scouts, Big Brothers and Easter Seals impressed upon him that others were not as lucky as he has been. “Through it all,” Anicetti said, “the most significant mobilizing involvement that has sustained my desire for ‘giving back’ has been the children. When you look into their eyes, you can’t help but see the innocence and the need.” Food Lion is a subsidiary of the $15.5 billion Delhaize America, the U.S. division of Delhaize Group based in Brussels.Giant Eagle: Giving that Gets Personal

Retailers’ corporate giving efforts often touch many of the same relief organizations, but one supermarket chain takes extra steps to customize its impact.

“The programs we typically support are those we can ‘own’ from a perspective of making it ‘Giant Eagle-ized,’” said Tina Thomson, marketing manager of community relations at the $4.7 billion Giant Eagle. She said the company adds its own spin to bring the cause home to customers and its 36,000 employees.

Like many companies, Giant Eagle supports the Komen Race for the Cure events that benefit the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. To engage people on a personal level, the company hosts a survivors’ tent on site, where anyone touched by breast cancer can find a place of fellowship. Employees serve food and refreshments.

 :“That is one example of how we try to make our connection be full circle,” Thomson said

Food Banks are Giant Eagle’s largest charitable partner and the chain’s  food collection effort yielded about 6 million pounds of food in 2004. That volume, which includes donations matched by manufacturers, is valued at $9 million. Educational efforts, such as the Apples for the Students initiative, put $22 million in computers and supplies into classrooms since its inception 16 years ago. The chain also hosts a Smart Shoppers program to teach children to make healthy and economical choices in the grocery store.

Home Depot Builds, One Hour at a Time

To reach the goal for its Week of Service, The Home Depot challenged employees to devote 10,000 hours for each of the 25 years the company’s been in business. Staffers exceeded that target and gave 262,216 hours of service in the United States, Canada, Mexico and China during one week in fall 2004.

Bob Nardelli, chairman, president and chief executive officer of the $64.8 billion company, traveled around the country to observe the good works in action. The experience afforded him a big-picture perspective, he said during an address to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce last month.

“All I could think of was pointillism — you know, the painting technique where a picture is made up of thousands of little dots, so that when you are up close, it just looks like a random quilt of colors. But when you step back, there it is, a full and beautiful composition,” Nardelli said.Other programs include KaBOOM!, which built 100 playgrounds in underprivileged neighborhoods. When hurricanes barreled through the South and the southeastern U.S., The Home Depot upped its relief efforts for a total of $4 million. All told, the chain’s giving added up to $25 million last year. The company was nominated for the award by 360Commerce.

Liz Claiborne: Women and Children First

The many philanthropic initiatives in play at Liz Claiborne Inc. are focused solidly on the needs of women and families. No wonder. The chief executive is also a Founding Father.

When Liz Claiborne chairman and ceo Paul Charron agreed to be a Founding Father in 2003, he joined a national campaign to end violence against women and children by educating young men that abuse is never an option. His involvement, along with New York Yankees manager Joe Torre and Gateway Computers founder Ted Waitt, is one of the recent chapters in the $4.2 billion company’s history.

“Our company’s four founders — Liz Claiborne, Art Ortenberg, Jerry Chazen and Leonard Boxer — made philanthropy and community service a priority,” said Charron. “They set a course of thoughtful corporate citizenship through creation of an endowed foundation and by their own good works.”

The Liz Claiborne Foundation distributes grants to help needy women become self-sufficient, supports AIDS education, child care and developmental activities for girls. The Figure Skating in Harlem after-school program is for low-income girls aged six to 16. Ice skating may be the initial draw, but combined with a regimen of tutoring and counseling, the program nurtures mental muscles and morale, too. The LizACTS program pairs young employees with senior mentors to organize local charitable events.

Safeway: An Rx for Better Health

Store-based fund-raising goes a long way when a company has a huge network of locations from which to draw support. When Safeway, the $35.6 billion grocer, taps into its 1,800-store base to generate funds and awareness for health care issues, the results are dramatic.

During the month of October, Safeway raised more than $4.8 million for breast cancer research through an intensive campaign. Root beer float booths and hot dog stands raised money and awareness for the cause. In stores, messages appealing for help were printed on milk cartons, displayed at checkout stands and broadcast over the in-store radio network.“Breast cancer is a major health threat to women and we’ve made a significant commitment to raising funds for programs geared to finding a cure and raising awareness,” Larree Renda, executive vice president and chairman of the Safeway Foundation, said. More than $11 million has been raised over the last four years.

Earlier in 2004, Safeway and its employees raised $2.3 million for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, and in June the company collected $3.5 million for prostate cancer research. Beyond its focus on health and human services, the food retailer made significant strides this year on behalf of education and hunger relief. 2004’s total corporate giving, including food bank donations, is estimated at nearly $100 million, said Safeway spokesman Brian Dowling. Safeway was nominated for award by Computer Associates.

Saks Tackles Women’s Health, Promotes Diversity

Saks Inc.’s corporate vision for social responsibility supports cancer research for a more positive future and also revisits the past to foster tolerance in society.

In an interview, Saks Inc. chairman, president and chief executive officer R. Brad Martin discussed the health and education projects at the $6 billion company, nominated for the award by Microsoft.

Saks Department Stores Group, including Carson Pirie Scott & Co., Proffitt’s and Parisian, as well as its Saks Fifth Avenue Enterprises Group, raises funds for breast cancer research throughout the year. The SFAE group alone generated more than $16 million in contributions for Key to the Cure over the past six years.

“Women’s cancers are a very important strategic thrust,” Martin said. “We think we can have a real impact on awareness, treatment and a cure of women’s cancers.” The campaign featured actress Charlize Theron in a print public service message.

Martin singled out Saks’ support of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, which opened in Cincinnati five months ago, as noteworthy. Saks donated $100,000 to the project that brings to life the secret network through which slaves passed to freedom. “The museum is clearly an important institution for Cincinnati but we believe it also has an important message for the nation,” he said. “Through our marketing activities, we have been attempting to tell this powerful story of commitment to freedom and an understanding of diversity that is part of this country’s heritage.”Timberland Good Will Grows Organically

On Monday, they were in Cannes, France, helping nonprofits for the elderly and children. Last month, they descended upon the impoverished migrant community of Immokalee, Fla., to build houses and renovate a soup kitchen. Next week, Timberland employees will fit Boston’s homeless with shoes.

“We believe that companies have the power and the responsibility to effect positive and lasting change in the world,” said Jeffrey Swartz, president and chief executive officer of $1.3 billion Timberland. New shoes are not distributed to the needy assembly line style. Instead, Timberland partners with Genesco to set up a shoe store, where homeless people receive personal service before they select a new a pair of shoes. “It’s about respecting their dignity and treating them like guests,” said Carolyn Casey, director of social enterprise.

Each year, employees are granted 40 hours of paid time to perform community service, and in 2004 alone, 53,000 employee hours were devoted to such activities. Timberland is reluctant to characteriize its giving in financial terms, but 2004’s charitable employee hours are worth $1.06 million, using the Urban Institute’s estimate that one volunteer hour is valued at $20. One day each year, the company halts all operations for community service.

NSB Group nominated the company for the award.

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