HAMMONTON - Hometown hunger-fighting heroes are featured on the back of a special edition Cheerios box, and two ShopRite stores in Atlantic County earned a spot on the box.
ShopRite of Hammonton and ShopRite of Somers Point were two of 40 winning stores across six states in the ShopRite Partners in Caring Cheerios Contest, campaign to fight hunger.
Hammonton co-captains Ryan Smith of Mays Landing and Stephanie Bozella of Waterford and Somers Point co-captains Peter Forcinito of Vineland and Mary Hill of Egg Harbor Township led the fundraising efforts at their stores, earning them the Cheerios “prime real estate,” said Orien Reid, spokesperson for ShopRite.
Somers Point raised $15,199, while Hammonton raised $12,953. The hunger-awareness campaign raised a record-breaking $1.3 million that will be used to fight hunger in communities where ShopRite stores operate. Donations will be given to the Community Food Bank of New Jersey, 6735 Black Horse Pike, Egg Harbor Township, and will be distributed to the 250 local food pantries and soup kitchens served by the food bank.
“These are people in your neighborhoods who didn’t need help a few years ago but now need help because these are dire times,” said Colette Krause, food sourcing coordinator at CFBNJ, about the people the food bank serves.
It’s the fifth consecutive year that Forcinito, assistant manager in Somers Point, has been pictured on the box.
“There is hunger everywhere, and this goes to our local community,” said Forcinito. “We know that what we are doing is for a good cause, and it helps out people who shop at our stores.”
Hill, an associate at the ShopRite of Somers Point, said she was honored to be pictured on the box for the second year in row. She said sometimes people pass her and say “Hi, Miss Cheerio!”
Hill and Forcinito credit the customers who generously supported the store’s efforts. They sold hot dogs, held raffles and even hosted a pet photo contest and a beef and beer. Their main collection source was point of sale donations when customers gave at the register, said Hill.
“The people here are great. They are a big help,” Hill said. “The customers are very giving.”
In Hammonton, Bozella has been having fun with the special edition boxes. When customers purchase them, she asks if anyone on that box looks familiar. Then she shows them her picture.
“People get excited to see their cashier on the box,” said Bozella. “It is very exciting. I’m passionate about charity, so I’m really happy that I get to work and raise money for charity at the same time.”
Smith, assistant manager, worked with Bozella to lead fundraising efforts at the Hammonton store. They sold hot dogs and hamburgers, hosted a dunk tank and more.
Both stores participated in Help Bag Hunger Day in September when town officials, firefighters and police officers helped bag groceries to promote hunger awareness.
“It feels good to be on the box, but it feels even better knowing that we are raising money for this area, which is really important considering all the layoffs people are facing,” Smith said.
An unveiling ceremony was held at Somers Point ShopRite on March 2, and at Hammonton ShopRite on March 17. Associates pictured on the box each received an encased special edition Cheerios box.
Reid reminded everyone of the importance of the worthwhile competition — more meals for more hungry people.
“We are also really thrilled about the fact that it wasn’t just the money that they raised, but the awareness that came with it with our customers,” said Reid.
There are 750,000 people in the Delaware Valley who are hungry every day, who “don’t know where their next meal is coming from,” Reid said.
“We believe that parents shouldn’t have to choose between paying the rent or buying food for their family,” she said. “We don’t believe seniors should have to make a decision to get medicine or to buy food. That’s why we have the ShopRite Partners in Caring program and that’s why the work is so important.”
The contest is held through a 16-year partnership between ShopRite and General Mills. Since 1999, ShopRite Partners in Caring has donated $40 million to 2,000 community organizations in six states.
Winning stores received a bonus check to donate to the food pantry of their choice. Hammonton donated to the food pantry at St. Vincent de Paul, and Somers Point donated to the Community Food Bank of New Jersey Southern Branch.