Makes good business sense to take care of those who ‘take care of us’
by Mary Margaret Stewart, staff writer
Since 1912, Weis Markets has been a substantial giver at many different levels – hospitals, soup kitchens, religious institutions, veterans’ agencies, schools and universities. That generosity extends throughout the company itself, via a scholarship fund for associates.
Weis has donated to “almost everything you can think of,” said Jonathan Weis, company CEO, president and grandson of co-founder Harry Weis.
“Also, we’ve been benefitted by the fact that the family has lived here for a long time, too…Weis family has been very charitable also on a personal level,” Weis said. “Sometimes you see the name Weis on the side of a building or a plaque somewhere, and that’s part of it as well.”
Added Ron Bonacci, VP of advertising and marketing and public relations, “As you transverse around our marketplaces, you’re going to see Weis’ name and hear Weis’ name throughout communities where we serve.”
Bonacci said that Weis is very benevolent in charity, sports and community events – all of which are important to the company.
“One of the greatest things that’s allowing this company to perpetuate itself is its support in the communities,” Bonacci said. “It’s actually in our mission statement to serve communities, and we do that in a very, very big way.”
Serving communities in a big way for Weis Markets means its involvement in 400 to 600 events per year, said Bonacci. Those range from local food banks and pet shelters to the American Heart Association, among others.
And this service also is part of the internal culture of Weis Markets.
“We do a lot with having our associates be very active in the community,” Bonacci said.
“We continue to inspire our associates to be benevolent out there, even if it’s just giving their time and energy out there to make sure that they make a difference.”
Part of its involvement is volunteer-based, and the other is monetary.
“In fighting hunger, we’re very, very generous. We’ve been collecting funds at registers from our benevolent customers,” Bonacci said. “Our corporate donations – we do a lot of matching up to several dollars, to make sure that our community and corporate donations are very favorable to the community where we serve.
“We’re committed to the food banks in our market area, particularly during a time of record food insecurity. Just this year alone, we’re going to be close to $2 million in giving to our food banks, and 860 tons of food…one in six are food insecure…it just goes a long way to helping those people.”
While donations are a huge part of Weis’ community service, discounts also reflect the company’s dedication to taking care of its customers.
“From a veterans’ standpoint…every Thursday, we give them 10 percent off all of our private label items, which is 67,000 items,” Bonacci said.
“In addition, we partner with the Paralyzed Veterans of America, where we work with our communities [to] serve and ask our customers to be benevolent as well [in addition to] what we give as a corporate donation.
“Our late chairman, Robert Weis, was also in the military. And so we honor our company through that aspiration of what he served in…since 2017, when we took that up, it’s been about a $1.3 million going to the Paralyzed Veterans of America.
“We care about our veterans and want to make sure that they get all the care and the service and the job security that they deserve – for what they’ve done in sacrifice for our companies. We bless them for what they do.”
Another issue that Weis has taken on through donations and events is diabetes, partnering with the American Heart Association.
“Diabetes runs very high in our marketplace and our region, and so the American Heart Association is near and dear to our heart. It’s a very, very worthy cause,” Bonacci said. “Between our associates and our customers, we go out and do the local events.
“We’re blessed to chair a couple of these events going forward, which is really nice. And this year alone, we’re going to give $315,000 to the American Heart Association.”
And the company also cares about the four-legged friends in its communities.
“In the last two years, we’ve raised over $600,000 to give to the pet shelters, to rescue centers and animal resource centers,” Bonacci said. “We want to donate our time and our resources, and we also donate food on top of that.”
A timely cause that Weis took on was helping essential workers during the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic.
“We also wanted someone to help those first responders, so we do a Hometown Heroes where people can support the frontline people,” Bonacci said. “That includes grocery workers like us, but also includes doctors, nurses, firefighters, police, and any of those first responders out there in the community to help serve and keep people safe.
“We work in those areas with a lot of our TV and radio stations to make sure that the message gets out in those communities we serve, and those people are recognized.”
Also new this year is the Weis For School initiative.
“We’re going to give $500,000 to our schools,” Bonacci said. “And that’s to help support the schools in this pandemic time, to make sure that those children and the teachers that serve those kids have some benefit…get whatever they need.”
An additional piece of Weis’ community engagement during the pandemic has been its continued support of the local economy.
“We have our own milk plant, which is local, and we get all our milk from the local farmers. We have our own ice cream plant that we make from our own milk,” Bonacci said. “And we have our own meat plant – we actually process a lot of the meat that goes into our stores…we care about local.
“We’ve been local before local was ever cool. We’ve worked for almost 100 years with all of the local economy.”
This focus on giving back during a time of crisis has stood out for Amy Zimmerman, store manager, and Jerry Hatch, district manager for Weis.
“We are partnering with the food bank, the local fire department and the local schools and donating a monetary donation to them,” Zimmerman said.
Hatch added, “We just started another food bank campaign, taking collections through the registers to support local banks that are in such a need right now…this year, we focused on food banks because there is such a need during the pandemic. Food banks are under such stress and demand for product.”
Weis’ corporate responsibility also involves taking care of the environment, a point that SVP of Operations David Gose emphasized.
“Part of being a good community partner and giving back in the community… [is] taking care of the environment and making sure that we’re doing what is expected of us and what’s entrusted with us as it relates to carbon emissions and sustainability efforts,” Gose said.
“The sustainability piece of it is something that we’ve been working on for many years – working on reducing our carbon footprint when we look at the type of trucks and vehicles that we’re purchasing; when we’re looking at the amount of electricity that our stores are consuming.”
He added that the company has been implementing LED lighting in stores.
“We’re focused on the recycling efforts in our stores as well,” he said. “We allow customers to bring plastic bags back, which we recycle. We recycle all the cardboard that we have in stores, white paper, aluminum, etc.
“We’re really focused on that. That’s important to us. It’s important to me, personally. My family – we recycle, and we probably have more recycling each week than we do the trash that goes to the landfill. And it should be that way.”
That’s all part of being a “good neighbor,” something that Weis Markets takes seriously.
“From a good neighbor perspective, I think the cool part about Weis is we’re the home player in many of our geographies of which we reside,” Gose said. “We were kind of there first, and it’s always been a great connection with the communities of which we serve.
“We ask our store managers to be involved in community outreaches, to be part of committees and boards locally, as well. We think that just makes sense. And so, when our customers are shopping our stores, they recognize those individuals that are that are managing the store and know that they’re committed to the community.
“We just think it makes really good business sense to take care of those in the community that take care of us.”
Gratitude from the American Heart Association
Thank you to Weis Markets and its more than 20,000 associates for believing in the mission of the American Heart Association. Their volunteer service on committees and leadership at the local, regional and national levels are fueling our work for healthy hearts and minds.
Through sponsorship and consumer campaigns such as Life is Why, Weis’ generous financial commitments have surpassed $1 million just in the year 2020 alone.
We’re truly grateful for their support, which funds break-throughs in research and life-saving technology, as well as other advancements and the American Heart Association’s programs and initiatives. On behalf of the American Heart Association and the survivors we work with everywhere, thank you to Weis Markets for inspiring their customers – and our communities – to live longer, healthier lives.
Nicole Aiello Sapio
EVP, American Heart Association-Eastern States