Bi-Lo charitable gifts at $321,000

Bi-Lo charitable gifts at $321,000

October 21st, 2011 by Ellis Smith in Business Around the Region

Bi-Lo handed out more than $321,000 to Chattanooga-area charities Thursday, after its annual golf tournament brought in $4.68 million from vendors and local businesses.

"Chattanooga is a very important market for us," said Michael Byars, president and CEO.

The largest gift was a donation of $101,000 to Susan G. Komen for the Cure, followed by a $27,000 gift to the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Public Education Fund and a $20,000 gift to Chattanooga Room in the Inn.

"Today was phenomenal," said Victoria Galen, development coordinator for Chattanooga Room in the Inn.

The charity trains women how to break the cycle of homelessness, at a cost of around $3,100 per person.

This compares with a cost to local government of about $40,000 to take care of each homeless person, she said.

"It just makes good economic sense," Galen said. "It's not only morally and ethically right, but now this person is working, and contributing to taxes and Social Security. They are no longer draining; they are putting back in."

Byars, who handed checks to recipients, said that giving back to communities is a central tenet of Bi-Lo, and is important to maintaining customer loyalty.

"When the company went into Chapter 11 (bankruptcy), we decided to continue with the charity because we're here today because of our loyal customers," Byar said.

Since exiting the court-supervised bankruptcy reorganization in 2010, the company is "stronger than it has been in many, many years," he said.

"Our ownership group is behind us and supports us," he said of owner Lone Star Funds, which made a $150 million investment to get Bi-Lo out of bankruptcy.

The grocery chain remodeled 10 percent of its stores this year, he said, and plans to continue freshening up in 2012 as well, he said.

He said, the company plans on applying lessons from Super Bi-Lo stores to regular stores.

"The real key is to ensure that customers don't have to sacrifice price or quality, and when they leave, they can still have some disposable income," Byars said.

Contact staff writer Ellis Smith at esmith@timesfree or 423-757-6315.