Community Service Award finalists announced


Canadian Grocer has announced the 10 finalists for this year's Community Service Awards.

The 10 stand-out stores cover the country, from the Save-on Foods in Prince George, B.C., which helped those in need when an explosion ripped through the local sawmill, to Colemans Food Centre in Stephenville, N.L., whose store manager personally helps feed the elderly in town.

The awards were launched three years ago by Canadian Grocer to recognize retailers who support causes such as kid’s charities, raise money for local hospitals and food banks, or lend a helping hand in some other way.

This year's winners show just how far grocery store managers and owners across the country are willing to go to aid a good cause, said Rob Gerlsbeck, editor of Canadian Grocer magazine. "We started the Community Service Awards because we knew the commitment grocers have to the people surrounding their stores and the unique ways they come up with to raise money for charity."

Canadian Grocer received a record number of entries from grocers across the country this year. The awards are sponsored by Campbell's and Chatelaine magazine.

The finalists were chosen by a judging panel comprised of: George Condon, Canadian Grocer’s consulting editor; James Fraser, partner at retail branding agency Hunter Straker; Agnieszka Rum of Canadian Business for Social Responsibility; Alicia Androich, senior staff writer at Marketing magazine; and David Soberman, marketing professor at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management.

These same judges will now choose the four winners, who will be announced in the December issue of Canadian Grocer and also a featured in Chatelaine.

In the meantime, here are the 10 finalists. Read the complete story on their community service initiatives in the September issue of Canadian Grocer, out now.

Chilliwack PriceSmart Foods, Chilliwack, B.C.

Chilliwack PriceSmart Foods has fundraised for the B.C. Children's Hospital since 1993 when the store manager at the time had a sick child in need. Current store manger Cal Siemens says support and caring have always been a part of the culture and the store has raised $25,000 through several annual events, including a golf tournament, a hockey game and vintage car show.

Save-on Foods, Prince George, B.C. (four stores)

When an explosion ripped through the Lakeland Mills sawmill in April, the blast was felt throughout Prince George. That night, Save-on employees handed out supplies to those who rushed to help co-workers and friends at the mill. In-store initiatives also raised more than $27,000 for the foundation to support the Lakeland Mill's fire relief fund. The stores also look for ways to support the community year-round. Take manager Brian Gandy's staff, who rallied all four stores to help the Spruce Kings, a local hockey team with three events to fill the arena and raise money for charity.

Provigo Sherbrooke King, Sherbrooke, Que.

Last year, when a customer asked Stéphane Tremblay to be Sherbrooke's honorary president of the Canadian Cancer Society's Daffodil Campaign, he didn't hesitate for a second. It was a cause close to his heart, as his father was in remission after prostate cancer. Store employees sold more than 50 per cent of the daffodil lapel pins sold in the region, and surpassed the initial fundraising goal of $105,000 by a few hundred dollars.

Freson Brothers, Alberta (15 stores)

Freson Brothers' 15 stores are spread around rural Alberta. So it seemed like the right fit to get behind the Stars Foundation charity, which provides emergency transport for the critically ill and injured. This year, Freson's three-week fundraising campaign "Life can Change!" featured posters that read "$4 can change your life." For four dollars, customers purchased a name plate where the customer's name or name of a friend or family member, was written on the plate and posted in a Freson store. The campaign raised $35,000 for Stars.

Robinson's Independent Grocer, Huntsville, Ont.

By now, townsfolk in Huntsville are used to seeing a big transport trailer full of donated yard sale items parked at Robinson’s Independent Grocer. For five years, the community has dropped off everything from candlestick holders to garden furniture for the store’s annual “Second Chance” Charity Sale.  About $55,000 has been raised over five years with the take from the last three years going to the Canadian Cancer Society’s Transportation Fund to help area residents get to cancer treatment centres. Adding to the poignancy of the cause, last year five staff members shaved their heads at the event to honour a family member with cancer.

Thrifty Foods Coquitlam, Coquitlam, B.C.

When long-term bakery employee Paula Marconato’s 12-year-old son, Marko, was diagnosed with bone cancer, Liam Sobey, store manager, and his team jumped into action. They held a week-long event to raise $10,000 for B.C. Children’s Hospital. Sobey had read about an Edmonton grocery store manager who lived on the roof of his store for a week to raise money for that city's food bank (his Save-on store won a Canadian Grocer Community Service Awards last year for it) and thought it a great idea. Instead of the roof, he pitched a tent at the front entrance of his Thrifty Foods. The store raised $17,200 and generated huge support from media and the people in town.

Colemans Food Centre, Stephenville, N.L.

Store manager Mondella Stacey already has a reputation for supporting healthy eating for kids. But she is also committed to serving nutritious food to older, less fortunate individuals in her community. For nine months, Stacey has helped the local Community Education Network put on its Community Café, a monthly soup and sandwich lunch held at the local Lions Club for up to 100 people. Stacey personally makes sandwiches at home and donates up to $75 worth of yogurt, fruit and crackers from the store.

Correction: In an earlier version, it was incorrectly stated that Mondella Stacey of Colemans had been involved with the cafe for 9 years instead of 9 months.

Morello’s Your Independent Grocer, Peterborough, Ont.

The May long weekend is a hectic time at most grocery stores, but even more so at Morello’s Your Independent Grocer. For the past 11 years, owner Dave Morello has spearheaded a massive fundraising event where silent auctions, barbecues, car washes and bake sales are held simultaneously over the Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The store has raised $166,000 for the Leukemia Foundation over the years and the rest of the year, Morello and his staff find other causes to support such as raising money for a shelter for street kids.

Loblaws 60 Carleton, Toronto

Less than a year since opening the 85,000-sq.-ft. Loblaws at Maple Leaf Gardens, the store has already made a charitable impact on the downtown neighbourhood surrounding the former hockey shrine. Involvement ranges from sponsoring a nearby ballet school and contributing $100 a week to support a local school’s lunch and snack program, to giving $75,000 to help rebuild the Kiwanis Boys and Girls Club down the street. The store has also become the biggest supporter of Pride Toronto, and helps the Foundation for People with AIDS.

Sobeys Vaughan Harvey, Moncton, N.B.

Lots of stores encourage food bank donations but the staff at Sobeys' Vaughan Harvey store really ramped up enthusiasm last November when they staged a flash mob dancing to the Black Eyed Peas' “Let’s Get it Started” to launch their "Fill the Food Bank, Fuel the Community" fundraiser. Over three weeks, the store and its customers raised $19,000 in food and funds to support food banks, making it the top fundraising Sobeys in Atlantic Canada.

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