GIANT EAGLE GOES FOR THE GOLD IN GIVING BACK TO OTHERS

When it comes to good works, how can you measure the value of Giant Eagle's Project Opportunity in giving jobs to young people with various disabilities? You'll find it's priceless as you read SN's salute to its second Community Service Award winner on Page 12.Giant Eagle focuses on an individual's abilities through a community support program of hands-on training and education, and helps the disabled

When it comes to good works, how can you measure the value of Giant Eagle's Project Opportunity in giving jobs to young people with various disabilities? You'll find it's priceless as you read SN's salute to its second Community Service Award winner on Page 12.

Giant Eagle focuses on an individual's abilities through a community support program of hands-on training and education, and helps the disabled become valued employees. Its model has proven to be an inspiration for others, providing a two-way benefit.

The retailer extends its helping hand and gets hard-working, dedicated employees in return.

Last year, Giant Eagle was honored with the U.S. Secretary of Labor's New Freedom Initiative Award for hiring the disabled. It was noted that of 315 employees with disabilities, 56 have been with Giant Eagle 10 to 34 years. Seventy-nine have been on the job five to 9 years.

Hiring those with disabilities diversifies Giant Eagle's workforce, and raises awareness and sensitivity of fellow workers and customers who recognize the accomplishments of those who overcome special challenges.

Giant Eagle's good works extend beyond Project Opportunity to a full agenda of community outreach and cause-related projects of which the company said it is difficult to quantify in dollars and return on investment (see Page 14).

The retailer is trying to measure the results of its good works by weighting the 60 to 100 charitable proposals it receives weekly through a numerical scoring system based upon criteria benefiting Giant Eagle and the charity's merit (see Page 20).

A scorecard on giving seems to ring contrary to the down-home Christian beliefs of freely giving to the needy with no strings attached.

But observers said devising such an evaluation system is a part of business today. Charitable efforts have been thrust from the sanctum of traditional servanthood to the sports arena, where the bar on giving keeps getting raised.

Henry Hailstock, FMI's director of diversity and community relations, commended Giant Eagle on its scorecard. "Every retail business, especially when margins are so slim, evaluates what they do on a daily basis to make sure they are getting ROI. It's not unusual, but it is exceptional that Giant Eagle is putting it down as a benchmark based upon the effectiveness of an organization [charity] and how many people they can reach within the community."

Corporate self-interests and protection against non-productive charities have forced philanthropic organizations to fine-tune their game plan as well.

Commenting on today's challenges in raising funds for Food For All, Denis Zegar, the nonprofit's president and chief executive officer, said, "With all the scandals in the not-for-profit industry, charities have had to accept that they are also a business and must approach retailers with a 'business plan' that meets the objectives of the charity and prospective businesses."

In the end, the means are justified because the food industry feeds many. It is there when disaster hits and crises arise. As Giant Eagle demonstrates, it is there when special people need an assist. Give Giant Eagle a near-perfect score for its efforts.