Dec. 17, 2004 – PriceSmart Friday unveiled a donation center to bring a little Christmas cheer to some of the less fortunate citizens on St. Thomas this year. But what's even more cheerful is that when the holiday season is over, and the lights and decorations have all been put away, the donation center will still be there.
The modest purple crate set up at the store exit may not look like much at first glance, but filled to the brim by caring shoppers with food and other needful items it becomes a well of giving for those who need it most.
Catholic Charities of the Virgin Islands will benefit from the in-store program that makes it easy for PriceSmart shoppers to share what they can with those in need 365 days a year.
CCVI, one of 13 agencies funded by the United Way of St. Thomas/St. John, operates the Bethlehem House homeless shelter, a soup kitchen and, most recently, a Mobile Street Outreach Unit. According to Michael Akin, the organization's executive director, CCVI serves upwards of 40,000 meals a year to the hungry, and gives shelter, clothing, and counseling to as many as 30 to 40 individuals at any given time.
John Donnelly, manager of the Tutu membership shopping warehouse and the prime mover behind the donation center, spoke at a small ceremony held Friday morning. "This is a great time of year to initiate this program and to make people aware of the needs in this community," he said.
Donnelly explained the idea of a year-round donation program came to him as he prepared to launch the store's new bulk section, also previewed on Friday. Basics such as cereal, rice, cooking oil, and diapers are now available at steep discounts to shoppers buying in quantity.
"People can purchase these basics for almost half what they paid before, so the more we thought about it, the more it made sense to use this as an opportunity to encourage our customers to give a little back," Donnelly said.
Juanita Young, local president of the United Way, was on hand and is excited about PriceSmart's charitable efforts and the selection of CCVI as beneficiary. "With Catholic Charities you know your donation is going to someone who will use it they way it was meant to be used," she said
James O'Bryan, standing in for Gov. Charles W. Turnbull at the event, praised PriceSmart for its good corporate citizenship, saying, "The Government cannot always step up to the plate because of our limited resources, so it's good to see our corporate partners working in the community."
CCVI, the United Way and PriceSmart have made it simple for St. Thomas shoppers to share what they can. So the next time you find yourself heading out toward the parking lot with a full shopping cart, you might just think to leave a little something behind in the purple box by the door.
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