IT WAS NOT A DIFFICULT DECISION for Sarah Cain to leave her job overseeing the gift-giving department at Loma Linda Children's Hospital to head Stater Bros. Charities, she told SN.
She had worked with Stater Bros. and with Jack Brown, chairman and chief executive officer, during her years at Loma Linda, where Stater Bros. had long been a supporter, she recalled.
“So when they asked me to join them as executive director of their new charities organization, I saw it as a very exciting opportunity for to me to work with a great company,” she told SN.
“Sarah brought a whole new culture to Stater,” Brown said. “She brought a new group of skills and talents to our charity work that we never had before.”
Cain joined the company in early 2008, after Stater set up its non-profit charities organization to help the communities in which its stores operate in four areas: hunger relief, children's welfare, services for the elderly and care for veterans.
Stater supports thousands of other causes in various communities, Brown noted, but developed Stater Bros. Charities as a separate entity “because our policy has always been that when we make contributions to one group, we have to do the same thing in every other community,” he said. “But with a separate charities group, we could make larger donations to some groups without feeling morally obligated to do the same thing everywhere,” he explained.
The chain formed the charities organization “so we could make larger philanthropic donations with tax-deductible cash contributions rather than in-kind contributions,” Cain said.
The organization was formed at a perfect time, she said, as the economy was in decline, because the areas of Southern California where Stater operates were particularly affected, and Stater Bros. was able to meet many needs that arose through the charities.
Some of the groups to which Stater Bros. Charities give money make requests for funds, while others come from needs the company recognizes on its own, she added.
For example, Stater Bros. Charities donated $350,000 last year to more than 100 hunger relief groups beyond the two major food banks the chain regularly supports, Cain said.
The chain has turned down some groups that have made requests, she added, “primarily because they didn't fit one of the four criteria. We support programs and services, but we do not get involved with building projects.”
Brown told SN he believes what Stater is doing through its charity is unique in the industry. “One chain in California sent some of its corporate officers to spend a couple of days with Sarah, with the eye toward doing what we're doing,” he said, “and we've also made presentations to the other companies in our share group.”
Stater Bros. Charities' next big event will be in March — the Dave Stockton/Heroes Pro-Am Golf Tournament, featuring golf pro Stockton, a boyhood friend of Brown's, plus Paul Azinger, captain of the team that won last year's Ryder Cup, along with six Medal of Honor winners — one more than last year's event, Brown pointed out.
Money from the event will go to support veterans' causes, Cain said.
“We don't do these things for recognition,” Brown added, “but because they are the right thing to do, especially in this economy, where we need to do all we can to help people.”