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New Jewel Osco charitable solicitation policy hurts local nonprofits

WHEATON – When Sam Maggio walked into a Wheaton Jewel Osco the morning of July 5, he had high hopes. But due to a new company-wide policy, his hopes and those of many other nonprofits have been dampened.

Maggio is an organizer for the Military Order of the Purple Heart in Wheaton, an organization for veterans who have won the purple heart for wounds suffered in combat.

Several times a year, he and other volunteers go to the Jewel Osco on Main Street to collect donations, which they use to fund other charitable causes, such as the Midwest Shelter for Homeless Veterans. Maggio said that the collections at Jewel alone brought in $7,000 last year.

"But when I came in 10 minutes to 9 to start, I was told that we can't collect any more," he said.

Maggio said that the management at the local Jewel Osco had sent him a message to call them, which he didn't receive until Friday afternoon. By then, it was too late.

Jewel Osco was sold to New Albertson's Inc., a part of Cerberus Capital Management, in March. Since then, Jewel has decided to reassess its charitable policies, including allowing organizations to solicit on store property.

"We have not discontinued allowing that activity. We are trying to get our arms around everything and assess what organizations we will allow to solicit at our stores," Vice President for Communications and Public Affairs for New Albertson's Christine Wilcox said.

Wilcox said that the move was a part of a bigger look at how Jewel Osco wants to continue to engage with community charitable organizations in the future. She pointed out that organizations can still apply for direct donations from the company on Jewel's website and that the store's Making Change program can be directed towards different charities as well. All charitable affiliations are being assessed on a case-by-case basis, she said.

"We're just reassessing how to use our stores to best support different organizations in the community," Wilcox said.

She said Jewel hopes to have a new policy by the end of the year.

But that doesn't help organizations such as the Military Order of Purple Heart, or the Boy Scouts of America, Marine Corps, Veterans of Foreign Wars or any of the other charities that used the area to collect, Maggio said.

"We're going to be kind of strapped this year," he said. "There's nowhere that will give us this kind of money. This exposure was the best."

Maggio said he doesn't blame the local Jewel Osco, whose management declined to comment. He said that they were always kind and helpful, and that it was out of their hands. Still, he said, it is disappointing.

"This will kind of kill us," he said.

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