ST. GEORGE — On Monday afternoon, representatives from BlvdHome traveled around Washington County to present several local charities with thousands of dollars in donations.
BlvdHome organized a fundraiser from June 7–26 where customers at the company’s St. George, Cedar City and Mesquite locations could earn a discount if they pledged money to local charities. Each location partnered with community-specific causes, with the three organizations chosen for St. George being Utah Food Bank, RSQ DOGS+ and Tan’s Treats.
Steve Manwaring, creative director for BlvdHome, helped to organize the fundraiser and said one of the best parts of the event was that customers chose which of the three charities their donation would support.
“One of our core values at BlvdHome is charitable contribution,” he said. “We wanted to give to groups that were local and needed this type of support, and we wanted to find people that maybe weren’t getting as much help or were doing an especially good deed.”
A total of $7,285 was raised and distributed between the three charities. During the fundraising period, customers could pay BlvdHome $50 less on any purchase of $499 or more if they donated $25 to one of the partner organizations (a net discount of $25 dollars after the donation).
Manwaring said it was a little difficult finding the best way to express the savings and the charitable giving at the same time, but that future events may benefit from the lessons they learned this time around.
“I’m thinking we may do it again,” he said. “I think we worked out the bugs this year figuring out how to explain it a little better.”
Manwaring was accompanied by other BlvdHome executives – including CEO Marc Wittwer and COO Tyler Wittwer – while presenting the checks to the local nonprofits. The group representing the furniture chain toured the premises at each of the three charitable organizations while learning about their services and their needs.
Utah Food Bank
Located at 4416 River Road in St. George, the Southern Distribution Center of the Utah Food Bank provides meals to people in need. In 2020, the local branch of the statewide food bank distributed close to 5.2 million pounds of food, the equivalent of 4.3 million meals.
When the BlvdHome team visited the distribution center, they were able to see part of the operation that supplies over 41 programs and food pantries in Southern Utah, including Switchpoint Community Resource Center, DOVE Center and the Washington County School District.
“We’re kind of like the middleman: we procure the food, deliver it and distribute it,” said Linda Trujillo, director of the Southern Distribution Center. “It’s amazing when an organization like BlvdHome comes through and supports us: it’s just so fantastic that they wanted to partner with us and support our community here in Washington County.”
Trujillo also thanked the customers who made the donation possible and said that every dollar received by donation turns into $8.03 in goods and services through partnerships and wise spending.
“We always ask for three things: food, time and money,” Trujillo said. “The money is going to help us do what we need to do. Volunteers are a core of what we need here in order to separate food, build orders and get it ready to send out. And as far as food, we’d really like people to do food drives.”
As a local all-volunteer animal rescue, RSQ DOGS+ has a few dogs and plenty of the “plus,” particularly cats. The shelter currently cares for about 193 animals, including 16 dogs, 156 cats, eight rabbits, two potbellied pigs and guinea pigs.
Operated by a large team of volunteers out of several units in a commercial building at 1838 W. 1020 North in St George, the organization serves animals rescued from the community of Hildale that are transported to St. George for care and prepared for adoption.
“We run completely on donations, so when we get a donation like this (from BlvdHome) it can go right to medical care, and it helps us so much,” said founder Kelli Stokes. “People are learning who we are and what we do, and we just appreciate all of it.”
Rescue animals often require vaccinations, spay/neuter procedures and may need surgery or medications to return to full health. Stokes said that the shelter’s largest expense by far is medical-related, totaling $10,000-$15,000 a month.
To raise money for the animal care, volunteers help to refurbish and sell household goods donated by the public in bi-weekly yard sales, said Tammy Koldyke, volunteer coordinator at RSQ DOGS+.
Koldyke said that people who want to help can get involved by choosing to adopt or foster a cat, dog or other animal from the shelter. In the case of foster care, the shelter will help foster families with the cost of pets’ food and medical care while they await adoption.
“COVID was terrible, but if there was an upside it was that a lot of people were opening their homes to fostering animals,” Koldyk said. “We don’t have that many dogs right now because of fostering, so that’s kind of a little ray of sunshine for us.”
The final nonprofit benefiting from the BlvdHome charity was Tan’s Treats, an organization dedicated to fighting childhood hunger by providing free meals to children during the weekends. One of the organization’s founders and directors, Zach Holt, said:
Tan’s Treats started, in a roundabout way, about 30 years ago. My younger brother Tanner used to come home from school all the time starving. My mom was confused, because she was sending him with lunch. After prodding and prying, he finally admitted he was giving his lunch to one of his buddies that went to school every day without lunch. From the time he was little, that was the way he lived: if someone needed something he’d give it to them, even the shirt off his back.
In 2012, Tanner passed away in an accident. To continue his legacy, the family began volunteering and helping with a backpack meal program in Georgia. After relocating to Southern Utah, the Holt family started their nonprofit to give meals to children just like Tanner used to do.
Beginning in 2016, Tan’s Treats began distributing meals to local elementary schools. The typical delivery includes hundreds of bags containing enough food to sustain a child over the weekend, including eight meals for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks.
Holt said the charity’s focus is currently on serving elementary-age children and meeting their needs outside of existing school-lunch programs.
“Who really likes to be ‘hangry?’” he asked. “I know if I go 24 hours without eating I want to pull my hair out sometimes. If a kid shows up to school on Monday morning and they’ve barely had anything to eat all weekend, they’re at a drastic disadvantage in learning, so this bridges the gap between what the school district provides with breakfast and lunch programs.”
In the organization’s first year, they delivered just 50 bags. At the end of last school year, they were providing 800 bags of food per week and serving 24 local elementary schools. Holt said the money provided through BlvdHome’s charity initiative would be enough to supply over 7,000 meals.
The organization is run out of a warehouse at 1392 E. Ridge St. A in Washington City. To get involved or to find out more, visit the Tan’s Treats website or call 435-627-3163.
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