When it comes to outstanding community partners, there is no doubt that Publix Super Markets, Inc. has made a positive, lasting impact in countless people’s lives. Community service is a way of life for Publix and its associates. The partnership between United Way and Publix has endured for decades and helped millions in Florida and other states.
In 1996, Publix Super Markets received United Way of America’s Spirit of America Award and the Fleur de Lis Award for Tocqueville Society (individual gifts of $10,000 or more annually) growth. In 2012, United Way Worldwide recognized Publix with two Summit awards for philanthropic engagement and community impact. The Spirit of America and the Summit Awards program is United Way’s highest national honor for corporations, recognizing United Way Global Corporate Leaders with the most comprehensive commitments to strengthening communities.
Each year (usually in September), Publix associates contribute to United Way, largely through payroll donations. In 2011, Publix raised $25.9 million for United Way. When matched with the $19.7 million from Publix Super Markets Charities, the total contribution was over $45.6 million. Publix associates also volunteered 900,000 hours, including more than 1,500 Publix associates serving on United Way and nonprofit boards. Locally, Publix donated $2.8 million to Heart of Florida United Way in 2012-2013.
We recently spoke to Sam Pero, Regional Director, Southern Jacksonville Division for Publix Super Markets, about the company’s ongoing partnership with United Way.
What aspects of United Way’s work motivated you to become involved with the organization?
United Way’s strategy is to stimulate individuals and companies to promote positive change in our community each and every day. It allows me and other Publix associates the opportunity to help others and contribute to the community.
Since then, how have you personally, and through Publix, continued to support their efforts?
I’ve been a part of the Heart of Florida United Way board of directors for a total of seven years combined. I contribute financially and as a volunteer. I also help by mobilizing over 12,000 associates to participate in the United Way campaign at our stores throughout Orange, Brevard and Seminole Counties.
Please share how Publix and its associates view the importance of community service or giving back both nationally and locally.
Supporting and serving others is paramount to our company. Our founder George Jenkins gave us a legacy of community service over 83 years ago. Serving others is ingrained in our culture. Mr. George, as he was affectionately called by his associates, believed strongly that you always get back what you give to improve the community.
How does Publix involve its associates with the United Way experience?
Each district manager does monthly volunteer projects for their stores. It’s not just a one year thing. Every store does a campaign kickoff breakfast. It’s our way of thanking our associates and getting them excited about the upcoming campaign.
What did your team do to make your United Way campaign special this year?
In previous years we’ve had campaigns with themes like the Wizard of Oz and M*A*S*H. This year we wanted to do something different. We really wanted to tie the agencies together with what they do. So we pull key people from the stores to tour the partner agencies. They then go back to their stores and tell others about the great work being done in our community. I believe that everyone would give if they knew where the money was going. That’s why we’re not afraid to pull all the store managers and send them out to the agencies.
What is the most important thing people should know about Publix and its relationship with Heart of Florida United Way?
I think they should know that we’re community partners. We’re aligned in our efforts to focus on prevention and finding long-term solutions for pressing problems in this community.