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Employees pitch in at Chestatee
Part of Belk's 125 Days of Service
Belk WEB 1
Lakeland Plaza Belk employees Michelle Church, left, and Blake Pippin put a picnic table together at Chestatee Elementary School on Wednesday as part of the retailer’s 125 Days of Service campaign in honor of its 125th anniversary. - photo by Crystal Ledford

Instead of big party in honor of its 125th birthday, one Southern retailer chose to give back to local communities.

Belk stores, including the store at Lakeland Plaza in Cumming, celebrated the anniversary by having employees visit community schools as part of its 125 Days of Service campaign.

Cumming Belk employees spent Wednesday morning at Chestatee Elementary in northeast Forsyth.

Kelly Freese, the store manager, said about 10 of her employees visited the school to give back in a number of ways.

“We’re painting little art murals for the school and we’re going to do some inspirational quotes on some of them for the students,” she said. “Then we have my [human resources] manager over there building some book cases and we have several outside building a picnic table for the school.”

Freese said the employees came from a range of the store’s departments.

“We have a little bit of everybody here today,” she said. “I have sales associates, human resources, cash office, my visual team, really just a little bit of everybody. We’re all excited to be here. It’s fun for us to get out of the store.”

Besides the school improvement projects, the volunteers also collected and donated more than 125 books to the school.

In addition, employees made “magic carpet tiles” from soft fabric for the students to sit on while reading.

“Then we also brought a bunch of [Hawaiian] leis and sunglasses, so if they want to have a fun end-of-the-year party or something, they can use those,” Freese said.

Patricia Choquette with Forsyth County Community Connection helped Belk choose Chestatee for the day of service.

“It was my job to find a location that we felt could benefit the most, and Chestatee is out here in the corner [of the county] and I wanted … Belk be aware of our friends up in the north end,” Choquette said.

According to Principal Polly Tennies, having Belk employees at the school was “awesome.”

“We’re just so grateful that we were picked for this,” she said.

“Any time businesses look to the schools and ask what can they do to help, that’s such a modern and fresh approach because it’s not all about them. It has to relate back to the community and I think Belk really demonstrates that.”

Bridget Zernach, one of the employees, said she wanted to participate because she knows as a mother how hard it can be for schools to get everything they need.

“I know how difficult it is for schools to do all the extra things that need to be done,” she said. “We all have kids in school so this means a lot to be able to give back.”

The service campaign is just one of many ways the retailer supports local communities. Others include special discounts for educators and the store’s twice yearly Charity Sale, in which numerous nonprofits sell $5 tickets and keep all the proceeds.  

In exchange, those who buy the tickets get access to specials sales and offers.

The 2013 Spring Charity Sale is set for 6 to 10 a.m. Saturday. Employee Phyllis Martin said Belk leadership always encourages giving back to the community.

“That’s something that’s very important to our company,” she said.

“‘Modern Southern style’ is our motto and giving back to the community is all of those things.”