Local charities eye impact of Rite Aid takeover

One of the many questions midstate residents are asking about Walgreens’ planned acquisition of Rite Aid is this: What will happen to the money and volunteers that Rite Aid has traditionally provided to the region’s nonprofits?

It might seem like a minor point compared with other concerns, such as whether Rite Aid’s corporate jobs will remain in the area; and, considering the deal won’t close for several months, it’s probably too soon for nonprofits to worry. But some are already saying they’ll be watching the situation carefully.

The United Way of the Capital Region, for example, received more than $590,000 from the East Pennsboro Township-based retailer and its employees during Rite Aid’s 2014 fundraising campaign. In 2013, Rite Aid raised more than $613,000 for the United Way.

In fact, much of the $7 million Rite Aid has donated to the nonprofit since becoming a supporter in 2002 has come directly from employee events like silent auctions, pancake breakfasts and pizza parties at the company’s corporate offices in Cumberland and York counties.

Rae Lynn Cox, the United Way’s vice president of communications and marketing, said in a Wednesday email that Rite Aid has been a longtime supporter of the Hampden Township-based nonprofit through its charitable giving and employee volunteers.

“We are extremely grateful for their support over the years and we hope our partnership will continue,” Cox said.

Brad Peterson , director of communications and marketing for the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank, based in Susquehanna Township, said his organization received a $10,000 grant from Rite Aid in 2013 and is currently expecting to hear about another grant award in December. He noted in an email Wednesday that Rite Aid’s employees have also donated hundreds of volunteer hours and thousands of pounds of food to the nonprofit.

“Rite Aid has supported the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank for many years with volunteerism and donations of food and funding,” Peterson said. “As the food bank works toward its goal of solving hunger in Central PA, we hope support from Rite Aid or Walgreens will continue because every donation we receive is a vital piece of our mission.”

Although headquartered in the midstate, Rite Aid has also been a force for good around the country.

Just this month, its corporate charity, the Rite Aid Foundation, donated $25,000 to the American Red Cross to assist with flood relief efforts in South Carolina. In May, the foundation donated $1.3 Million to Folds of Honor, a nonprofit providing educational scholarships to children of fallen or disabled veterans.Since 2001, the foundation has awarded nearly $21 million to nonprofits; Rite Aid has also, through its employees, customers and supplier partners, raised more than $75 million for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals across the U.S. since 1994.

Foundation President Ken Martindale, who primarily serves as CEO of stores and president of Rite Aid , said in a recent news release announcing a donation, “It is one of Rite Aid’s core values to be a caring neighbor in the communities we serve.”

If the merger closes as planned, what role would Walgreens play in the midstate’s nonprofit community?

“It’s too early to get to that level of question,” Walgreens spokesman Phil Caruso said in a Wednesday phone interview. “This transaction is expected to close in the second half of 2016, so we’ll be reviewing all of these questions throughout the process.”

In the meantime, Rite Aid’s Senior Manager of Public Relations Ashley Flower said, “Until the transaction closes, it’s business as usual for Rite Aid, including our foundation. The entire Rite Aid team remains committed to providing superior customer service and great care to our customers and patients, and we will continue to support our community partners.”

Larry Portzline
Larry Portzline covers York County, nonprofits, workforce and education. Have a tip or question for him? Email him at larryp@cpbj.com.

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