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National chains give to charity
AREA — Some of the largest multinational corporations in the world have outposts in the Oxford Hills area, and they can take much different approaches to supporting the community.
Discussions with representatives from large global retailers reveal a very different approach when it comes to local charities.
Burger King declined to participate in this story.
The company's public statements on corporate responsibility reveal a series of charitable programs that are geared towards Burger King employees and their families.
For example, a BK Family Fund program seeks to help employees who have fallen on hard times. A Scholars Program provides scholarships to employees, children of employees, and high school seniors.
The franchise also raises significant amounts of money through customer solicitations, as was the case in a recent campaign to raise money for the Red Cross by asking for $1 donations from each customer.
By far, the most generous company is Walmart, which gives out large amounts of cash at state and local levels.
"We're the largest corporate contributor in the United States," said Alexandra Serra, a senior manager who oversees five New England states for Walmart.
Just last week, Walmart representatives announced $210,000 in donations to seven charities across the state, including many that do work in the Oxford Hills area. The donations are part of an annual cycle of giving that totals $400,000 every year.
"It's important to Walmart that we be a contributing part of the communities where we operate," said representative Bill Wertz.
Individual stores are also given a budget to fund small neighborhood organizations, said Wertz.
"Each one of those [locations] donates money to neighborhood organizations that aren't necessarily statewide, but they are belonged to by our customers. Little league teams, fire departments, organizations like that."
"Our focus has been on hunger, job creation, and on sustainability," said Wertz. "Those are the programs that we give priority to."
He notes that on a national level, the chain donates $200 million each year to hunger-related causes, some of which is done with in-kind donations.
"When we have items approaching their sell-by date, we pull those items off the shelves and donate those to local food banks," he said.
In addition to cash donations, Wertz says that Walmart also solicits donations from customers and staff.
"We have a fundraiser every year where we encourage our customers as well as ourselves to donate to the Children's Miracle Network."
Serra, says that Walmart pumps a significant amount of money into Maine.
"I have a personal budget in Maine," she said. "In Maine, we give away over $3 million a year."
She noted that nonprofits can go online to fill out applications.
Kevin Mitchell of Rinck Advertising, spoke on behalf of McDonald's.
He says that the idea of charity is integral to the company.
"Charitable contributions are an important part of McDonald’s heritage," he said. "Local McDonald’s owners and operators are actively involved in their communities through various charities, school programs and other activities."
The Paris franchise is owned by Peter and Sal Napoli, who Mitchell says "are very passionate about giving back to their community. On an annual basis, their organization meets the needs of dozens of local organizations."
Mitchell provides a list of examples.
"The Napoli Group is a long time supporter of the Oxford Hills School Department and is involved with their 'Reading is Fundamental' Program. In 2011 alone, over 1,000 prizes and meals were donated to this program," he said.
In addition, the group "supports local groups and organizations such as Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School, Bethel Area Chamber of Commerce, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Lake Region Middle School, the Mothers’ Club of Sumner and numerous other charities and non-profits."
Mitchell was unable to provide a cash-value estimate of the donations given at the local level. He noted that there were numerous "in kind donations," and also cited programs in which customers donations are solicited.
"A major factor in our annual support to Ronald McDonald House Charities of Maine has to do with Happy Meal sales and donations on World Children’s Day," said Mitchell. "In other words, our own customers help determine what we are able to contribute."
Pizza Hut doesn't make cash donations to the local community, but Store Manager Susan Berry says that she and her staff are heavily invested in a variety of charitable causes in the community.
They express their support with large amounts of donated food, and large numbers of volunteer hours.
"We work very closely with all the firefighters in Oxford Hills," said Berry. "We go into the schools with the firefighters; we do stop, drop and roll."
Every child who is exposed to the program, which is presented at schools, day care facilities, and pre-schools, is given a coupon for a Personal Pan Pizza, said Berry. But the children have to pass a test in order to redeem it.
"When they come in to get it, they have to answer two questions," said Berry. "They have to say whether they have a working smoke detector, and whether they have a meeting place [at which the family can gather in the event of a home fire]."
She noted that another area Pizza Hut specializes in supporting woman's advocacy groups, and provides help to children who may have been uprooted from their homes.
Berry says that the franchise's efforts are possible thanks to the personal generosity of owner Ken Wagman, who owns a total of 89 franchises.
Berry estimates that her location alone gives out thousands and thousands of dollars in food every year, to everyone from food banks to graduating seniors to locals who have been subject to personal tragedy.
"If somebody is displaced in a fire, I'm going to feed them," said Berry.
Berry says that other corporations are missing out when they fail to get fully involved with their community.
"I don't think they understand what giving back to the community brings back to them," she said. "If they did understand what giving back means, they would do more of it."
Berry says that the program is done as part of a "Heart of the Hut" philosophy of corporate responsibility.
"It starts as a marketing program, but before you know it, you say screw the marketing program," she said. "It ends with your heart."