MALTA — Customers broke the $1 million mark for the first time with their donations to the Stewart’s Shops Holiday Match campaign this holiday season.
The $1.031 million in customers' giving will be matched by the convenience store chain, yielding $2.06 million for hundreds of area non-profit organizations serving children. Stewart’s is now taking funding applications and will hand out the donated funds in March.
The 2018 total is about $86,000 more than was raised in 2017 and is the fifth consecutive year that Holiday Match has set a record, company President Gary Dake said. This year’s money will push the cumulative total over $28 million.
“We are impressed by our customers’ generosity season after season. They have joined us in supporting local children’s charities for 32 years now,” Dake said in a prepared statement. “We are proud to give back to our communities that have supported us for so many years.”
As has become his custom, Dake donned the maroon employee shirt last week and worked a shift stocking shelves and ringing up sales in the store with the biggest year-over-year growth in donations. This year, that was the Mohawk Avenue shop in Scotia, where donations were up 168 percent midway through the campaign.
The 2018 Holiday Match campaign ran from Thanksgiving to Christmas and was assisted by the promotional efforts of 20 broadcast media partners. Stewart’s spokeswoman Erica Komoroske said credit for breaking the $1 million mark ultimately goes to patrons of 336 retail locations who dropped coins and bills and personal checks into the donation buckets at cash registers.
“A lot of the customers, they’ve been impacted with where those funds have gone,” she said. “I think a big part of this program is that the funding stays local. It’s the kids in our neighborhood that are benefiting.”
One of the key points of Holiday Match is that 100 percent of customers’ donations, as well as the company's matching donation, go to recipients. None is diverted to administrative or marketing costs. The Malta-based company doesn’t accept donations via credit card or debit card because there’s a card fee attached to such transactions, and that might be construed as diverting some of the donation away from the recipients.
It’s impressive that total donations have increased in each of the past five years, Komoroske said, considering that more people are doing all-electronic transactions each year.
With the fundraising phase of Holiday Match complete, attention now turns to fund-giving. Last year, more than 1,700 organizations received donations in the 31 New York and Vermont counties where Stewart’s operates.
There is no limit on the number of organizations that can participate. All that apply will be added to the recipient list, provided they are locally based 501(c)(3) non-profits that serve children under age 18 in some way, and provided that they submit an application to Stewart’s by Jan. 31.
“We need organizations to apply,” Komoroske said. “If you have a need, and you meet the qualifications, please fill out an application.”
A company committee will review all applications and allocate funds based on need, as demonstrated by the applicants' budgets and expenses. The recipients will be announced in March.