Keeping it in the community

Ritchies IGA appreciates the importance of community, and the role schools play within their communities. As such, the grocer has always been generous with its donations. But about 20 years ago it decided to streamline its charitable contributions and introduce the community benefit card.

St Therese’s Primary School, New Lambton, and New Lambton Public School, are the most recent beneficiaries of the company’s largesse.  

Ritchies NSW state manager David Scally says IGA has always handed out donations, but it was a random process.

“It was really irregular,” says Mr Scally. “So, we thought if we had a community card, which has now become an app – we got fancy – the customers could choose where a percentage of their shop went. That would be a much fairer way to go.

“We had a lot of schools support it, so they would get all their parents to sign up and donate their percentage of shopping to their school, or their footy club, or whatever the case may be. That's how it all came about 20 years ago.”

St Therese’s and New Lambton Public each received $5000 recently, but this was from the old-fashioned random approach.

“The donations to St Therese’s and New Lambton Public came about due to having some random money,” says Mr Scally. “It was not part of the community card scheme necessarily. We were given the $10,000 to spend and I asked New Lambton store manager Andrew Taylor what should we do with it?

“We get such great support from the parents and carers from St Therese's who shop with us all the time. We also receive great support from New Lambton Primary School for the same reason. A lot of the kids who went to the two schools now work here.”

Mr Scally acknowledges the importance of community.

“They support us,” he says. “We wouldn’t survive without them. Giving back is ingrained in our DNA.” 

St Therese’s principal Duilio Rufo says the $5000 donation came as a real surprise.

“It was fabulous news because last year there was very, very little fundraising done in the school,” says Mr Rufo. “In fact, I think the school was lucky enough to raise $1000.”

Mr Rufo says he will talk with school’s executive committee before deciding on how the donation would be spent.

“But I’d like to give the money directly to the kids,” he says. “We could improve our playground area. Get equipment the kids badly need out in the playground. So that's where I think we should target.”

Mr Rufo acknowledged St Therese’s strong relationship with Ritchies over the past 15 years. “It's been a great partnership and Ritchies has always been super supportive of us as a school, and a community. The money will be really helpful.”

St Therese’s Year 6 school captain Pip Allen agree with her principal.

“I like sports a lot, so maybe we can get some grass out the back so we can run on and play sport,” she says.

George Hartcher, Year 6 co-school captain says he’s with Pip.

“I really like sports too, so I'd like to see some goals put up for soccer and touch football,” he says.

Mr Rufo says this will be his 21st year at St Therese's.

“This relationship with Ritchies is really important,” he says. “The number of times over the years where we've asked for something because of families in need, Ritchies has come to the party.  Those things that happen in the background that no one knows about, so we're really appreciative of Ritchies.”

Mr Scally acknowledged the hard times schools endured in 2020.

“It has been a really tough year to raise funds,” he says. “My son is the deputy principal down in Sydney, at Westmead. He's crying to me all the time about how hard it has been to keep the place thriving simply from the extra money they get from government.

“So yeah, we thought it'd be a great idea to give back to the community that really support us and who have been doing it tough.

“And to you Duilio, if there is anything we can ever do to help whether it’s simply a donation for a sausage sizzle or anything we can assist with, just give us a yell. We’d love to support.”

Ritchies is celebrating its 150th year of trading and Mr Scally says the family-owned Victorian-based company has about 70 IGA stores. The first to open in NSW was in the Hunter, at Rutherford in 2004.

“So, we've been here about 17 years now, almost,” says Mr Scally. “We have 18 stores in total across NSW now. The family owners continue to work in the business, and all the staff have shares in the company, so it’s a pretty deep family company if you’d like to call it that.”

Follow on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Brittany Gonzalez Image
Brittany Gonzalez

Brittany Gonzalez is a Marketing and Communications Co-ordinator for Catholic Schools in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.