kindness activist

kindness activist

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Donating Kindness

As I mentioned in a recent entry called "Cashier Kindness", I sort of have a thing for Trader Joe’s.  Last year I reviewed one TJ’s product every single day and went to TJ’s everywhere I feasibly could (I ended up visiting 24 TJ’s stores in 11 states (plus one District J ) (and I am going to Palm Springs soon and have “visit Trader Joe’s on my list of things to do there, of course!).  You can find all of my reviews (and fun photos) at Trader Joe's 365.  Anyway, in many of the stores I have been in, I noticed big signs about Trader Joe’s donating in their communities. 

New York City has a Trader Joe's JUST FILLED WITH WINE, lucky ducks
Trader Joe's Indianapolis

Trader Joe's Columbus, Ohio, I am here to visit you!

I always assumed when I saw the donation signs that they meant the stores donated things like bananas about to go off, or dinged up cans of corn.  But I decided that maybe I should go talk to someone at a Trader Joe’s store to get the details about what all this DONATING they do really is.  

If I had paid attention and really READ this sign when I saw it in Ohio I would have
understood more about Trader Joe's donations!!

Check it out - this is the donation sign at the store on U Street in Washington DC!  20,000 MEALS, folks!!
I started my questioning at the location we usually go to at Bailey’s Crossroads (Northern Virginia) but the guy working at the customer service stand was totally not into it.  He was bored, a bit stand off-ish, and really just didn’t have that whole Trader Joe’s vibe goin’ on…  He basically told me they donate because it is a corporate initiative and they give things that are non-sellable (approaching the sell by date, cracked, or open). 

Well, I wasn’t gonna let that one duddy employee spoil my view of TJ’s donating.  I knew there had to be more to the story, so I kept hunting.  This time I went to the Clarendon, Virginia store and talked with KIM, who was fabulous.  Kim GETS IT and was more than happy to talk with me about all the good that Trader Joe’s does in the communities where they are located!

Oh sure, parking is sort of weird at the Clarendon Trader Joe's, but once you get in they are WELCOMING!  :)
First off, check out this number:  in 2014 TJ’s Clarendon donated $412,748 worth of goods!  That is a LOT!  And Kim is really very hopeful that when the 2015 numbers are all tallied they will come in even higher.  Trader Joe’s corporate has a term for this donating, they call it NEIGHBORS SHARE.  And TJ’s Clarendon shares A TON!!  Basically they give away anything you see at the store – flowers, items like meat that are almost at their sell by date (which is different than “use by” dates some other stores have), dented cans, bananas that are still perfectly good but have a couple spots on them, fresh bread like baguettes at the end of the day, bags of things that might have gotten ripped (which they re-wrap to close but cannot sell), and the thing I found most interesting; EGGS!!  At TJ’s they are super careful about checking your eggs.  When they ring up your items they open your egg carton and make sure none are cracked.  If an egg is cracked, they ring a bell and someone rushes up a new carton of eggs for you.  But I never stopped to wonder, “Gee, what are you going to do with the carton that now has 11 good eggs and 1 cracked one?”.  Turns out what they do is DONATE that carton!  Because when you think about it, minus your one cracked one, that is 11 perfectly good eggs! 

A SERIOUSLY KIND STORE - Trader Joe's Clarendon (Northern Virginia)
So, all of these perfectly good but unsellable items are boxed up.  Things that need to be cold are placed in special refrigerators.  It is all really organized.  Then, twice EVERY DAY, an organization called Celestial Manna comes and picks up everything.  I had never heard of Celestial Manna, but check out their website, they look amazing!! Celestial Manna Website    They then take everything back to their main location, where they go through and sort it!  They then donate the items to several charities that help people like Veterans, victims of human trafficking, homeless shelters, a battered women’s shelter, and senior citizens.  So by the Clarendon Trader Joe’s giving everything to one centralized clearing house, it actually reaches many, many different organizations and helps loads of people!!!! 

Kim explained that each TJ’s location chooses who they will Neighbor Share with and that she is really happy with the arrangement her store has with Celestial Manna.  She said that they are great about coming in to pick everything up and are doing so much good in the community. 

Celestial Manna is a terrific partner - getting food and other donations where can best help people who need them
So THAT is the type of donating I always thought Trader Joe’s must do.  But Kim explained that there is actually even MORE. 

They also give things to non-profits and charities on request.  Groups like churches, schools, and others send in letters to their local TJ’s and explain what they are looking for.  Kim said her store has given pumpkins to schools, things for the usher recognition at the Kennedy Center, items to churches, and even things for the Folklife Festival (which is a huge event in our area).  She said they often make up bags or baskets of items to give to organizations.  For example, let’s say your child’s PTA is having a silent auction.  Contact your local TJ’s and ask if they can help out!  Their donation coordinator will most likely give you a smile and a gift bag to auction off!  Kim said each store varies in how many donation requests they get, but she and her teammates work hard to fill them! 

A sweet thank you note from someone who received a donation

Some groups who receive donations are so thankful that they send in original artwork as a thank you!!  :)

So I always knew Trader Joe’s was cool.  I knew they have good products at cheap prices and are friendly and make me feel at “home” in their stores.  But I didn’t know they were so KIND.  Now that I learned how much they give back to the communities they are in through their Neighbor Share program, I am even happier to give them my grocery shopping dollars. 

The "Gives Back to the Community" board at the Clarendon store

Thanks for being a corporate Kindness Activist, Trader Joe’s.  What you give back to the world is appreciated.

Do you know a Kindness Activist, be it a person or a company, that I should feature??  Please tell me about them!  Send me an email at: .  And while you are at it, “like” Kindness Activist on Facebook, would ya?  J


  1. Great article about a great company! Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks Kris! I think TJ's is a really great company, too. Good food, good prices, and GOOD FOR THE COMMUNITY. That's a winner in my book!