Although the store doesn't officially open until Sunday, Sept. 18, the Wegmans in Owings Mills' new Foundry Row shopping center has already had its first major discount — 100 percent off 18,000 pounds of food for six community nonprofits.
On Thursday, Community Crisis Center, Reisterstown United Methodist Church, Loaves and Fishes Food Ministry, Jesus House of Baltimore, Union Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, Set the Captives Free Outreach Center and the United Way of Central Maryland, were all invited to the grocery store's new site to split the collection of donated food.
According to store manager Matt LePore, the Wegmans organization always attempts to make a donation like this when opening a new location.
"Making a difference in the community is something that the Wegmans family has been very aware of," LePore said. "It's our responsibility to give back. It's not something we need to think about, it's just an action we need to take."
To select the nonprofits to receive the donations, LePore said, they did their research about the surrounding communities and selected organizations that had the capability to accept a donation of that size.
Ed Hartman, executive director of the Community Crisis Center in Reisterstown, said he was impressed with the care and research that Wegmans' employees took in the selection process.
"When they first decided to open the store, the manager Matt came down and went around to different community entities and churches to find out about need and demographic trends. He stopped by the Crisis Center and we had a delightful chat," Hartman said. "Then about a month ago, the company flew down executives to learn about the community, the Reisterstown, Owings Mills, Pikesville corridor, and their people listened and asked a number of questions."
Hartman said the donation of about 3,000 pounds of food is a generous amount, that would cost about $2,500 for the organization to purchase from a food bank. He said September is a particularly lean time for the Crisis Center, coming after the summer lunch program but before the donations of the Thanksgiving and winter holiday seasons.
"During the summer, I'm buying about 60 percent of our food, and the other 40 percent is donated," Hartman said. "As the holidays approach, that 60 and 40 will flip, but it's a rough time from April through August."
The donated food consists of 24 pallets of donation staples, according to LePore. The donations include peanut butter, tuna fish, canned vegetables and other nonperishables. Each organization brought its own trucks to accept the donation on Thursday, with some groups renting large trucks, while smaller groups filled several employees' cars with the groceries.
In addition to the food donation, Wegmans also cut a check to the United Way of Central Maryland for $10,000. LePore said the partnership between Wegmans and United Way goes back for years.
"It's been a great partnership," LePore said. "We're very excited about opening in this community, because the community is excited about us opening. It's a great feeling."