Why Restaurants Shouldn’t Give Up on Gift Cards in 2020


As Seen On Semissourian.
Monday, January 4, 2021

Lisa Church, chief advancement officer with Southeast Missouri Food Bank, accepts a $50,000 coronavirus-relief donation Tuesday at Buzzi Unicem in Cape Girardeau. Presenting the donation on behalf of the company is plant manager Craig Conklin.
Jay Wolz

As a rule, I try not to include “check passing” photos on the Business pages.

But rules, they say, are made to be broken, especially when the photos are of $100,000 worth of corporate donations in response to the region’s coronavirus needs.

Buzzi Unicem, which operates the quarry and cement production facility on South Sprigg Street, made large, and much needed, contributions to the Southeast Missouri Food Bank, the United Way of Southeast Missouri and the SoutheastHEALTH Foundation as part of the Italian corporation’s worldwide response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Buzzi Unicem has undertaken a global initiative to offer support to selected nonprofit organizations who have made significant effort to alleviate the consequences of the COVID-19 outbreak on the individuals and families in our community,” Buzzi Unicem board chairman Pietro Buzzi explained in a letter about the company’s donations.

The food bank was given a check for $50,000, while the United Way and SoutheastHEALTH received $25,000 each.

Buzzi Unicem facilities manager Brad Meyr, left, and plant manager Craig Conklin present a $25,000 coronavirus-relief donation on behalf of the company Tuesday to United Way of Southeast Missouri executive director Elizabeth Shelton, second from right, and United Way community relations manager Raechel Reinitz.
Jay Wolz

Each of the recipient agencies will use the Buzzi Unicem donations for various expenses related to COVID-19.

Lisa Church, chief advancement officer at the Southeast Missouri Food Bank, told me the organization currently provides food assistance to approximately 95,000 households in its 16-county service region every month. That’s up nearly 40% from pre-pandemic levels, when the food bank served about 60,000 households monthly.

The food bank, she said, is able to parlay each dollar it receives into four meals, so the $50,000 it received from Buzzi Unicem will provide approximately 200,000 meals.

At SoutheastHEALTH, development manager Darah Jirkovsky said the hospital was “surprised and elated” when word was received of Buzzi Unicem’s contribution.

The donation, she said, will go into Southeast’s COVID response and recovery fund, which the hospital uses for everything from personal protective equipment to providing financial assistance to employees, patients and others who have been affected by the pandemic.

Buzzi Unicem plant manager Craig Conklin presents a $25,000 coronavirus-relief donation on behalf of the company Tuesday to SoutheastHEALTH Foundation representatives Darah Jirkovsky, center, and Chris Brumleve.
Jay Wolz

And at the United Way, executive director Elizabeth Shelton said the company’s donation will help support dozens of community programs provided by United Way-funded agencies, many of which are having a difficult time making ends meet because of the economic impact of coronavirus.

“Many of the calls we receive are tearful and heartbreaking,” Shelton said, adding most of the money will go to help working families, many of whom need help paying for housing and utilities.

Speaking as both a member of the United Way Board of Directors and as someone who has lived in Cape Girardeau nearly 50 years, I want to add my thanks to Buzzi Unicem for its donations and for being an example of corporate generosity during this time of need.

Got ’em? Use ’em!

Billions of dollars worth of gift cards such as these go unused every year. National Use Your Gift Card Day on Jan. 16 is intended to remind Americans to redeem them.

Jay Wolz
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We give them.

We receive them.

And, all too often, we forget them.

According to the National Retail Federation, Americans were expected to spend about $27.5 billion on gift cards during the recent holiday season. There’s a good chance you put a few in Christmas stockings, or found a few in yours, last month.

They’ll eventually find their way into your wallet, purse or desk drawer (I’ve been known to find some long-forgotten gift cards in my kitchen “junk” drawer, bathroom cabinet and car glove compartment).

It’s estimated that of all the gift cards people received for Christmas last year, about 10% of them (worth roughly $3 billion) won’t be redeemed.

To help remind Americans to use their gift cards, a new annual observance — National Use Your Gift Card Day — was created last year and observed on the third Saturday of January. The second annual Use Your Gift Card Day will be Jan. 16.

“National Use Your Gift Card Day reminds Americans to use their gift cards either digitally or in-store, re-connects merchants with their customers and, now more than ever, highlights the importance of donating unused gift cards to charitable causes,” according to Tracy Tilson, president of Tilson Public Relations in Boca Raton, Florida, who created the event.

Tilson hopes the event will become as well known as Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday.

Several popular brands are reportedly supporting National Use Your Gift Card Day, including AMC Theatres, Applebee’s, Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s, Chipotle, Macy’s, PetSmart, rue21, Saks Fifth Avenue, Soma, TopGolf and White House Black Market.

More information, including details about how gift cards can be donated to various charitable causes, is available online at www.UseYourGiftCard.com.

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