If time is money, the investment Price Chopper's management and employees make in their communities is worth a fortune.
"Everybody in this community knows Price Chopper," said Nanci Conley, director of development and communications at American Red Cross of Northeastern New York, Albany. "I can't think of anything in which Price Chopper is not involved - they are always there."
The Schenectady, N.Y.-based chain's pervasive support of charities, family organizations and health facilities throughout its operating area has earned it SN's 2006 Community Service Award. The award was to be presented Jan. 22 at the Friends of the Industry Dinner at the Phoenician Hotel & Resort, Scottsdale, Ariz., during the 2006 FMI Midwinter Conference.
"It's part of our life every single day," said Neil Golub, president and chief executive officer, Price Chopper, and part of the family that owns Price Chopper's parent company, Golub Corp. "Our recognition in the community for giving back is huge. Everyplace we go, people stop us and say hello and thank us."
To many of the charities in New York's Capital Region, Price Chopper and the Golub family are synonymous with community support.
"In addition to the company, all of the individual Golubs are always out there and always supportive," said Nell Burrows, president, Freedom Park Foundation, Scotia, N.Y.
Freedom Park, which provides a series of free summer concerts spanning a range of musical genres, is one of several arts-based community organizations that Price Chopper supports, either through the donation of time, cash or both. Such support earned Price Chopper a Forbes Magazine Business in the Arts award in 2004.
Although the arts and music scene in this area receives a substantial boost from Price Chopper, much of the company's community service effort targets medical facilities and other health-related causes.
"We tend to look for groups that provide services that are needed by and serve whole communities," said Mona Golub, vice president, Price Chopper. "That often means hospitals."
The company, and in particular the Golub family, is deeply involved in many of the hospitals in the capital region. Family members sit on various hospital boards, while the company supports fund-raisers and makes donations through the Golub Foundation, the charitable arm of the supermarket chain. The Golub name adorns various medical facilities around the region that have been built with support from the foundation.
One of those facilities is the Golub Family Memory Enhancement Center, which is part of the Daughters of Sarah Senior Community in Albany.
"The Golub family goes way back with Daughters of Sarah," said Rosemary Linsider, executive director for the facility. "They have been longtime supporters of the home, and they have always participated in our annual fund."
When Daughters of Sarah sought some especially large contributions for an endowment fund to build the memory enhancement center - a facility that assists people who have moderate memory loss because of early-stage Alzheimer's Disease or a stroke - Price Chopper came through and helped the organization obtain a larger, matching grant from another foundation.
"It was a major, once-in-a-lifetime kind of gift," said Linsider. Although she declined to reveal the specific total of Price Chopper's donation, she described it as "a substantial amount."
"There is a real sense of giving back to the community that the Golubs have," she said.
Other health-related organizations that Price Chopper and the Golubs support include St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital in Albany, Ellis Hospital in Schenectady, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, the Belleview Women's Hospital and the Albany Medical Center.
One of the chain's most prominent affiliations is with the Muscular Dystrophy Association, where Neil Golub himself is the chairman of the local chapter and host of the group's annual Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon in Schenectady. His support of the MDA "is a year-round event" for him and for Price Chopper, involving a golf-tournament fund-raiser and other activities, Mona Golub said.
The MDA telethon is also one of the events in which Price Chopper's employees participate.
"We look for volunteers to man the telephones for the telethon, and we have no problems getting enough people," Mona Golub said, noting that "thousands" of the chain's employees participate in the company's fund-raising activities throughout the year.
"Part of our success in community service can be attributed to the commitment this company has from the top down," she said. All Price Chopper officers are required to participate in community service activities, and their involvement permeates throughout the organization, Neil Golub said.
At the store level, managers at the chain's 115 supermarkets, located in six states in the Northeast, are encouraged to support local charitable activities.
Many of Price Chopper's community service initiatives are also chain-wide, especially those that partner with national nonprofits.
One example is the Make Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk, a fund-raiser that takes place in October. Price Chopper is a flagship sponsor of the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walks in Syracuse, Albany, Utica and Binghamton, N.Y., and encourages its employees to get involved and participate in that event. The chain creates a promotional campaign to support the walk that also recruits its shoppers to take part - last year's theme was "Don't let her walk alone."
Participation in the walk in areas where Price Chopper has been a sponsor has increased more than 50%, Mona Golub said.
"The turnout from our associates in our stores has been tremendous, especially in stores where we have [breast-cancer] survivors," she said.
In many of its charitable activities, Price Chopper goes well beyond making donations, often providing flowers, plates and napkins for fund-raisers and helping provide publicity.
Although its work with the Red Cross has generated millions of dollars in donations for disaster relief, Price Chopper also provides support for other Red Cross fund-raising activities.
"They are one of the companies that has been right there from the beginning," said Conley of the Red Cross. "They work with us annually on our Hometown Heroes program, they contributed significantly toward a transportation program for the elderly, and whenever we have bad fires, they are always there to help."
Price Chopper is a partner with local TV station WNYT in the Red Cross "Your Help Counts" program, which swiftly establishes collection points for cash contributions at Price Chopper stores after major disasters and creates public awareness for the program.
Through their customers' donations, they raised more than $388,000 following Hurricane Katrina, Conley said, and the Golub Foundation gave another $50,000. That followed totals of "close to a quarter million dollars" raised following the 2004 tsunami in Southeast Asia and "close to half a million" raised following 9/11.
Another example of the multifaceted support Price Chopper provides for local charities is its work with Wildwood Programs, Schenectady, which provides services for people with developmental disabilities and autism.
The organization not only receives fund-raising assistance and cash donations from Price Chopper - its school is named after the Golubs - but it also places people who are under its care in jobs at the chain's supermarkets.
"They are a constant source of employment for us," said Mary Ann D. Allen, executive director, Wildwood Programs. "They allow their stores to be used as a training ground for some of our students who are getting out of school. We've written a number of collaborative grants in which Price Chopper has agreed to provide the employment opportunities if Wildwood can provide the staff and the job coaches."
In addition, when Wildwood wanted some shopping carts for a social-skills training program in which people with developmental disabilities learn how to shop for their own food, Price Chopper provided them.
Camp for Kids
One of the charities Neil Golub has been investing a lot of time in lately is the Double H Hole in the Woods Camp in Lake Luzerne, N.Y., which provides a refuge for critically ill children and is also sponsored by actor Paul Newman. Golub has been the chairman of the camp for the past several years, and with his help the camp raises $2.2 million to $2.3 million per year through various fund-raising events.
"We've also gotten an enormous number of companies to support the camp," he said.
It hosts between 800 and 950 critically ill children every year.
Another area of emphasis in Price Chopper's community service efforts is its focus on human rights causes.
Ben Golub, one of the company's founders, was chairman of the Schenectady County Human Rights Commission, and Price Chopper has been active in several anti-bias and Jewish organizations, which fits in with the chain's reputation as a leading provider of kosher foods.
It sponsors an anti-bias program, called "World of Difference," which is taught in area schools with a curriculum created under the direction of Neil Golub's wife, Jane, a third-grade teacher.
Asked how he finds time for all his charitable work while running a supermarket chain, Neil Golub explained, "We just put in really long days."