Giving back to the community can often be seen as a corporate responsibility. Many businesses in Redwood City, and around the country, donate millions of dollars annually through corporate programs and employee matching. And at least one business in Redwood City is making an immediate direct impact within the community: the corporate-owned Redwood City Grocery Outlet.
“We try to help out the community, and that’s what all Grocery Outlets do - give back to the community and touch lives for the better,” said Redwood City Grocery Outlet Store Manager Jackson Wong.
In the six years he’s managed the store, Wong said that he has helped a handful of local nonprofits in their quest to better the lives of Redwood City residents. Throughout his tenure, Wong has donated to or facilitated discounts for local senior homes, Street Life Ministries, Second Harvest Food Bank, St. Vincent du Paul, St. Anthony’s Dining Room and Vegan Outreach.
Donations have included everything from a small gift card to help organizations continue doing the work they do by providing food to the community to items Grocery Outlet can no longer sell and needs to remove from the store floor.
“From time to time, depending on what the community needs, we step in and help out when we can,” he said, noting Grocery Outlet has also assisted the Redwood City Downtown Business Group with events. “Every month we help out in the community and if someone has a greater need, I will try to help out as much as I can.”
Vegan Outreach hosts weekly events in Redwood City where it provides two bags of vegan groceries to anyone who attends. Smaller events serve around 25 people, while larger events, like the twice monthly event at the Fair Oaks Community Center and the once or twice a month outreach events at the Sequoia Adult School, provide between 125 and 200 individuals with groceries.
“We started shopping at Grocery Outlet because it’s cheap,” said Vegan Outreach Vegan Food Aid Manager Ben Gardner. “We developed a relationship with Jackson when I was talking to him about what we’re doing and asked if he could give me a head’s up on products that fit our needs. He liked our project so much that when we ran into budget problems he stepped in to provide the food.”
Although Wong said his budget for community outreach is limited and much of it is already earmarked for existing partnerships, he tries to make his funds stretch to assist as many organizations as he can.
“Street Life Ministries is ongoing, weekly,” he said. “If they need bread or whatever, we donate to them for their pantry. In December, I had one St. Vincent du Paul chapter come by and we donated a bunch of mac and cheese because it’s easy for their people to heat up and eat. I’ll have people ask for things around easter and usually around the holidays and we try to donate back to the community as much as we can.”
Wong said when possible his Grocery Outlet will donate to Second Harvest Food Bank and one year he was able to provide 100 hams to St. Anthony’s Dining Room. Every donation is dependent on what he has available in his store and what the needs are within the community.
“Grocery Outlet has a history of giving back to the community and touching lives for the better,” said Wong. “Every year for about the past five to six years every Grocery Outlet holds a food drive around the Fourth of July.
“We take money donations and bag food and donate it. I think people think about giving back during the holidays, but there are a lot of people in need all year and usually during the Fourth of July people aren’t thinking about it so we give back to the community during the entire month.”
Melissa McKenzie is a freelance writer.