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When Marissa Byrum and the rest of the team at Shell Food and Garden Supplies heard about the Russian invasion of Ukraine, they decided to take action. It’s in the nature of the company to give back, as the Tampa, Fla.-based company usually chooses one or two charities to support each year, but this cause was urgent.

“Usually we find a local charity, but with all, all this tragedy happening in Ukraine, Mr Shell [owner and president] was really moved and motivated to do a different genre. So we decided to look for a charity that supported the people of Ukraine who were trying to flee the war – unless we wanted to get on a flight and go there ourselves and participate, which would be dangerous,” says Byrum.

Shell’s Feed chose to support the American Red Cross in its fundraising efforts, and for every 1-gallon plant in a 1-gallon pot sold March 17-19, the company donated $3. After the fundraiser ended, Shell’s Feed matched the donation from plant sales.

“We ended up raising just under $600, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but it means about 80 people bought at least one plant,” she says.

© Marissa Byrum | Shell Food and Garden Supplies

The team designed a promotional graphic to publicize the fundraiser.

Ahead of the fundraiser, Byrum, who is the Marketing Director of Shell’s Feed & Garden Supply, spread the word on Facebook, through the customer newsletter and through local community gardens to rally their customers. During the event, customers purchased petunias, pentas and daisies. Lobelia was particularly popular, she said, noting that it was likely a popular choice for its blue color, which is part of the Ukrainian flag.

Customers were very receptive to the fundraiser, and many thanked Shell’s Feed for their contribution.

“We had a lot of people saying how terrible everything was in Ukraine, of course (and we agree). Many customers were thrilled that a family business wanted to reach out and try to help other families who might need help, but couldn’t help themselves at the time” , says Byrum.

How to get involved

Byrum has two tips for garden centers who might want to get involved and give back to Ukrainian refugees or other charitable causes. You do not know where to start ? Head toward charitynavigator.orga website that independently screens the financial data of charities.

“It tells you, basically, where their money is going, according to their tax returns and stuff like that,” she says. “We usually try to find charities in general that have a high rating on a site like this.”

Second, Byrum suggests that garden centers talk to friends, family and neighbors, and partner with their vendors to maximize their fundraising efforts.

“I haven’t had a chance to do anything because we kind of rushed it together, but normally I reach out to my suppliers and say, ‘Hey, would you like to would you donate for it? If you donate it for free, we could sell it and all that profit will go to charity,” she says.

Byrum notes that sometimes suppliers participate and sometimes not, but Shell’s Feed always prefers to give them the opportunity to participate. “And then of course, if they To do participate, and then we talk about their business and their brands so we can sell more of them in the future,” she says.

Sherry J. Basler