Celebrate the Reason for the Season

It makes not one iota of difference whether you believe in Santa or celebrate Christmas to make a difference in someone’s life at this special time of the year. We all recognize that 2009—like no other year in the past 50—has created a genuine and critical need that provides both an opportunity for all of us to pull together to assist the charities that provide for the rapidly growing number of Americans that have fallen below the poverty line, in most cases through no real fault of their own.

As this challenging year draws to a close perhaps the best our downtrodden brothers and sisters can hope to receive is a simple ray of hope that 2010 is better than the previous 12 months. We all have an opportunity to fan those faint sparks of hope during this holiday season.

I can tell you firsthand that profits among convenience store and gasoline marketers have, for the most part, been sub par. But, the petroleum industry is made up of resilient and generous individuals and companies. This year you are asked to heed the call to do even more than your share to assist worthy charities. And that doesn’t mean you must spend a lot of money.

Over the years it has been proven to me over and over that, when given the challenge, our great employees will pick up the torch of fundraising activities and our super vendors are often willing to lead the way.

What’s more, wonderfully receptive though heavily burdened customers will feel the need to support a cause without stumbling All we have to do is ask. This year is not the year you can consider sitting on the sidelines and be comforted by that private somewhat guilt-reducing pledge of: “I’ll make up for it in 2010 when business improves.”  This is the year help is needed and the Christmas season is the vehicle to truly embrace the mantras “sharing is caring” and “give until it hurts.” It may hurt your wallet for a paycheck, but making a difference in someone’s life is a reward unto itself.

This plea is aimed at the scores of small chains and the very few larger chains that have not yet made charity an important part of their business model. The giving need not be huge. If we all get behind it, our collective numbers will bring great results.  Remember my friends that customers are drawn to businesses that are involved with the community.

Consider these simple examples for your own:
• One of our Green Oil stores is adopting a deserving family and providing food, clothing and toys for the children. It is truly better to give than to receive.
• For the fifth consecutive year another store, in lieu of exchanging gifts, is donating those dollars to one of our charity partners.
• All of our stores get involved with Atlanta’s Empty Stocking Fund. You might prefer Toys for Tots or a local food bank. Charity, understandably, begins at home.
• Over the past five years an average of five company operated stores and a caring Green Oil office staff has collected more than $100,000 for charity—something I am truly proud of.
• Through the years so much pride has been felt while ringing the bells for the Salvation Army. Catch the spirit and encourage employees to do the same.
My late father-in-law preached and was living proof that what we give, comes back to us tenfold. There is great need and countless ways to be involved. Choose one now and feel the true warmth of the holiday season.
Jim Callahan has more than 40 years experience as a convenience store and petroleum marketer. His Convenience Store Solutions blog appears regularly on CSDecisions.com. He can be reached at (678) 485-4773 or via e-mail at jfcallahan502@msn.com.

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