Sweet Charity

QuikTrip's investment in at-risk youth yields long-term rewards beyond business

Samantha Oller, Senior Editor/Fuels, CSP

Editor's Note: CSP is proud to name QuikTrip Corp. and co-founder Chester Cadieux II as its 2007 Retail Leader of the Year. As part of its coverage, coinciding with its December 2007 cover story, CSP will shine the light on key facets of the admired retail operation.

TULSA, Okla. -- QuikTrip Corp. can afford to be generous. With $7.2 billion in annual sales, the retailer devotes 5% of its annual profits to charity annually and has also been generous with employees' timemany serve on the committees of local charitable and community organizations. But [image-nocss] because of the size of the commitment, the company has had to be very particular in choosing a core cause.

Every day we get a request for a charitable contribution, and, candidly, I wouldn't say all but 98% of the asks are worthwhile; they're all noble, important projects, Chet Cadieux, president and CEO of Tulsa, Okla.-based QuikTrip, told CSP Daily News. You can't fund them all. So we started to talk about what would make the biggest difference.

The chosen cause? At-risk youth. The way QuikTrip sees it, although assisting needy adults is noble, it doesn't address the fundamental issues, the root cause, that placed them in distress.

The root cause, in our opinion, is that at some point in childhood people get off-track, said Chet. So if you can make a difference in a kid's life and make it so that some of them don't get off on the wrong track, then you've maybe changed statistically every generation of that line going forward.

National Safe Place, Louisville, Ky., an organization founded to help at-risk youth, has a partnership with QuikTrip that executive director Sandy Bowen considers unique.

Some of the other companies are involved, but I don't think it's at the level QuikTrip is, she said. Last year, QuikTrip contributed $150,000 to National Safe Place's local and national chapters, and 411 of its stores serve as safe havens for troubled youth. Perhaps more important, in the history of its commitment to the cause, QuikTrip has specifically helped 38 youth find assistance.

The United Way has been the largest recipient of QuikTrip's financial generosity, receiving $1 million last year alone in employee and corporate donations. QuikTrip co-founder Chester Cadieuxwho, along with QuikTrip, is CSP's 2007 Retail Leader of the Yearis a past chairman, and he has set the example for the many employees who serve on the United Way's local committees.

Kathleen Coan, president and CEO of Tulsa Area United Way in Tulsa, Okla., likes to cite one example in particular of Chester's soft, caring side. One year, it appeared that the Tulsa Area United Way wasn't going to make its financial goal; because the entire goal was allocated, not reaching it meant program cuts. Then, at the last minute, one of Chester's friends pledged money.

We were over goal, just like that, said Coan. And a tear just kind of very quietly came down [Chester's] cheek. That's the kind of people I love working with.

Further proof of QT's giving spirit can be found in more material matters. When it moved to its new headquarters, QuikTrip donated the old facilities and its 7.5 acres of land to the Phillips Theological Seminary, in effect, a $4.1 million gift. Its office furniture, which was still fairly new, was given to the Tulsa Area United Way.

It's a depth of generosity that shows QuikTrip is willing to pay back its communities again and again for its success.

Watch for the December issue of CSP magazine for more about QuikTrip and its Retail Leader of the Year honor.