Altoona >> It was a record setting year for the Sheetz for the Kidz holiday program.

A total of $618,000 in customer donations was raised during the month of December in the Sheetz employee-driven charity program — an increase of $34,000 over 2016.

“This is something our employees embrace. We’re successful because of our employees,” said Sarah Piper, executive director of Sheetz for the Kidz.

A total of 9,300 children in Pennsylvania were impacted by the program in 2017. Since its inception in 1992, the Sheetz for the Kidz program has reached 110,000 children.

“A lot of work goes into this and we’re excited to do this every year. It is an amazing experience — from campaigning to wrapping and shopping. The amount of volunteer work that goes into it is amazing — it takes a lot of people to make it work,” Piper said.

Sheetz for the Kidz supports two holiday programs: The Salvation Army and Make-A-Wish.

Piper said that each of Sheetz’s 564 stores sponsors 16 children each holiday season. Sheetz for the Kidz worked with the Salvation Army to receive wish lists from local families in Pennsylvania and the other states served by Sheetz.

“The employees then volunteer their time to take the lists and shop, wrap and a host a holiday party for the children,” Piper said. At the holiday parties, the children were greeted by Santa, who presented them with toys, clothes and basic necessities chosen specifically for them.

Piper added that Sheetz employees are engaged in the program, which helps add to its success.

“They talk about it and we continue to keep it at top of mind. The program has also become more customer facing in the last couple of years. We have people in Sheetz that embrace it and get it. It’s good news to share with the community,” she said.

During the month of December, employees wear T-shirts focusing on the program, they talk about the charity program and there is signage in each store. Employees typically ask customers if they would like to “round up and donate a dollar,” accord to Piper. One-hundred percent of customer donations are used to support Sheetz for the Kidz.

The effort, she said, resonates with customers.

“I was working the register in a store during December, and had a customer ask for more information. The customer said ‘yes’ to donating and then after we talked about the charity, asked me to put a charge through for another $10,” Piper said.

There are eight Sheetz locations in Berks County, which raised $6,300 in 2017, impacting 128 children. Piper said the store managers joined together and held one holiday party for all the children in Berks County. There are currently no Sheetz in Chester or Montgomery counties.

For the past 13 years, Sheetz for the Kidz has also supported Make-A-Wish — to grant wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions. The charity sponsors one child per Sheetz operating district, totaling 55 children in 2017.

Sheetz For The Kidz is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, independent of the Sheetz Corp. The organization was created in 1992 by local store employees wanting to help local children.

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