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August 31, 2010 > Celebrity grocery baggers

Celebrity grocery baggers

By Simon Wong

Photo by Simon Wong

Union City Vice Mayor Richard Valle, City Manager Larry Cheeves, Myrla and Ray Raymundo from the Union City Historical Museum, Thomas Weathers and local firefighters from the Alameda County Fire Department volunteered as "celebrity grocery baggers" in the Safeway store at 1790 Decoto Road, Union City, at noon on August 26, 2010.

Pleasanton-based Safeway has been raising funds for health-related organizations four times a year for seven years. A fun way of doing so is to host "celebrity bagging" events at which elected officials, city staff and other community members spend an hour packing groceries while meeting and chatting with customers. This is a unique way of thanking customers for their donations.

"In April, funds raised benefit people with disabilities, primarily Special Olympics and Easter Seals; in June, prostate cancer awareness and research, in August, the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) and in October, breast cancer awareness and research," explained Kara Noe, Government and Public Affairs Manager, Safeway Northern California Division. "The latter has 272 stores north of King City to the border with Nevada, in northern Nevada and Hawaii. However, the fundraisers are organized throughout the company which has raised a total of more than $14M annually for these causes."

"Our Foundation is committed to giving back to the communities that support us. We've great customers and employees and this is a natural way of helping local non-profits. In August 2009, the Northern California Division, alone, raised $1.8M for MDA. Celebrity baggers represent true community spirit," add Noe.

"All the arrangements for this event were made by Kara," explained Store Manager Christina Guerrero. "We made a few back-up phone calls but all the hard work was done for us. The staff enjoys these events and asks every customer if they wish to donate. The Union City store has already raised approximately $7,500 this year. Help with bagging definitely makes it easier for staff to raise funds. I hope contributions amount to at least $1,000, today. This store receives a lot of donations. Union City has a strong community that is prepared to help."

Non-profit MDA is a national organization but all the monies raised remain local. Families in MDA's Greater San Francisco Bay Area, which consists of the East Bay and part of the South Bay, benefit from Safeway's fundraisers in Union City and surrounding cities.

"Our strong partnership with Safeway has benefitted us tremendously. They continually raise so much through their stores. We're there for them and they are there for us," MDA Program Coordinator Kristen "Mackie" Eaton said appreciatively. "Seventy-eight cents of every dollar raised funds services for our families."

MDA helps families living with neuromuscular disease of which there are 43 types. Muscular dystrophy is a wasting disease. Some of the diseases are terminal. Some affect children and others, adults. The organization is the world's largest, non-public sector sponsor of research and also has a family program which provides support groups, free clinics, repair of wheelchairs, leg braces and communication devices and a free, week-long, residential summer camp. Activities, such as horse riding, swimming and power soccer, are liberating. The MDA and those who attend camp say that "at camp, there are no disabilities, only abilities." explained Eaton.

"We enjoyed working with you and cannot thank you enough for taking time out of your busy schedules to support our efforts to raise funds for good causes. It's been a pleasure and worthwhile," Assistant Manager Ignacio Romero informed Union City's celebrity baggers at 1 p.m.

"Safeway is able to give as a company because of our customers' and employees' generosity. We're proud many of our staff personally reach out to assist programs in their communities," concluded Noe.

For more information, visit (Safeway Supermarket) and (Muscular Dystrophy Association) where online donations can also be made.

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