Shaw’s Supermarkets remove charity barrels in Milford and other stores

MILFORD – As Shaw’s Supermarket attracts throngs of extra shoppers during the Market Basket feud, all 137 stores in New England have removed their charity collection barrels.

Shaw’s is getting many of Market Basket customers as workers for the low-price chain continue for the third week to picket and halt deliveries as they press for the reinstatement of their beloved former CEO, Arthur T. Demoulas.

Meanwhile, Milford-area residents have little choice but to buy supplies at Shaw’s or at the Walmart in Amherst. Until recently, they were able to drop donated food items into the plastic barrels at Shaw’s. The groceries went to Share Outreach where they are especially needed in the summer. Donations are down and needs are greater at this time of year because children are home from school and not receiving reduced price lunches.

The manager of the Milford Shaw’s, Steve Lemire, referred The Cabinet’s questions to Jeff Gulko, manager of public relations for Shaw’s Supermarkets/Star Markets, based in West Bridgewater, Mass.

Gulko, in a phone interview, said the grocery chain removed all charity containers from all its stores on July 25, and it was a corporate decision that had nothing to do with the Market Basket situation.

“We get a lot of requests (by charity organizations) and we can’t say yes to one and not to the other.”

For example, he said, the Derry food pantry might have barrels in Shaw’s, but other groups ask why they can’t collect as well.

When told that Share Outreach is the only Milford organization that feeds the poor, Gulko said he might be able to arrange for a small donation.

“I 100 percent swear it had nothing to do” with Market Basket, he said, and removal of the barrels was just an unfortunate coincidence.

The corporation gives to New England communities is several ways, he said, with donations of money and food and by encouraging volunteerism.

Shaw’s 137 stores are in New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont and Rhode Island, and Gulko said its 18,500 employees are working around the clock to keep them stocked.

“We were able to absorb the increase extremely well,” he said, by adjusting employees’ hours as they do when snow storms and hurricanes are expected and the stores become very busy.

Since the first wave of new customers hit two weeks ago on July 21, Gulko said, employees have also focused on helping the former Market Basket customers navigate their way through the unfamiliar aisles.

Share Outreach Director Christine Janson said that all Share wants from Shaw’s is to allow people the opportunity to give.

Janson estimates that Share was getting between 50-70 items from the two barrels in the east and west vestibules.

“They still have one – in the back room, out of sight. We have been told that if someone buys something at Shaws, they can tell the cashier it is for Share, and they will put it in the back room for us,” she said in an email.

Shaw’s has also discontinued its pre-packed bags that customers could buy for Share. Janson estimates that between 20 and 50 of the bags were purchased each week, with six or seven items in each.

“These supplied a lot of items that are staples for us – typically things like cereal, tuna and peanut butter,” she said.

Janson said the local Shaw’s management and staff have always been helpful and generous to Share.

“The staff is easy to work with when we place large orders, she said. At the holidays the store has held promotions to help us fill food baskets, and the staff has worked with us on everything from alerting us to specials to estimating how much food to buy, to being part of the crew that fills the holiday baskets. Recently, when planning our new pantry, Milford Shaws managers came to Share and gave us ideas about how to design our new space.”

But Share is also a customer, she said, and “a very large customer of Shaw’s, paying full price for what we buy there, and it was a lot in our last fiscal year.”

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100, ext. 304, or kcleveland@
cabinet.com.