With the school year fast approaching, The Shops at Willow Bend is encouraging back-to-school shoppers to take advantage of its annual opportunity to give back to local charities throughout August.
The goal of the Willow Bend Gives Back program is to help bring the shopping center and customers together to give back to the community. Shoppers will earn money for one of 10 eligible charities simply by registering their receipts at the Concierge Center or registration table in the Grand Court.
“Initially we wanted to partner with some charities to come up with a way to give them exposure in the center and raise awareness as well as operating dollars,” said Amy Medford, marketing and sponsorship director for the mall. “The first year it was only during Tax-Free Weekend. [In 2013] we expanded it to a month long because in our conversations with the charities and the customers, they both wanted to know more about each other.”
Charities are chosen by the Top Women of Collin County, so participation has varied over the four years of the Willow Bend Gives Back program. Sponsored by Neiman Marcus Willow Bend, the Top Women of Collin County honors 10 women and recognizes their commitment to a specific charity.
This year, the Top Women and their corresponding charities are: Kim Bailey, CASA of Collin County; Charlotte Patterson, Chamberlain Performing Arts; Jane Donovan, The Children’s Advocacy Center of Collin County; Shelly McDaniel, City House; Dawn Mellon, Hope’s Door; Pamela Boich, Lost Paws of Texas; Anita Hawkins, Minnie’s Food Pantry; Jennifer Jaimeson, The Plano ISD Education Foundation; Lisa Rodenbaugh, Plano Children’s Theatre; and Diane Hopson, Women’s Auxiliary at Children’s Health Legacy.
The top three charities will receive donations of $5K, $3K and $2K, respectively. Checks will be presented at the Neiman Marcus Willow Bend Top Women of Collin County event on Thursday, Sept. 10.
“Every dollar spent, regardless [of if the total purchase is] $1 or $1,000, is one point,” Medford said. “When it goes to the Concierge Center to register receipts, they fill out a form and our team will calculate their receipts and stamp them. Every dollar translates into a point for that charity. … If you’re passionate about a cause and want them to raise funds, it’s a great way to do it.”
For shoppers concerned about handing over their receipts, Medford said once the receipts are calculated and stamped, they’re returned to the shopper.
Last year, 2,337 shoppers registered their receipts from about 125 retailers at The Shops at Willow Bend, totaling $643,422. In 2013, more than 1,000 shoppers registered their receipts from 130 retailers at The Shops at Willow Bend, totaling almost $323,000.
“I think the awareness is getting out there, and the charities are really getting behind it and supporting it,” Medford said. “Our whole positioning is really to give back to the charities and community and help out in different ways. We’re helping get awareness out for the charities.”
The top three charities last year were The Children’s Advocacy Center of Collin County, CASA of Collin County and Chamberlain Performing Arts. City House and Children’s Medical Center at Legacy each received $500 for the Most Improved and Shopper’s Choice awards, respectively.
“Every receipt counts, as long as it’s in our shopping center,” Medford said, emphasizing the close competition of previous years. “It could be a $2 Coke at Sonic or something very nice from Restoration Hardware.”
Yesterday, shoppers were able to participate in an American Red Cross blood drive. Participating shoppers received a $10 mall gift card and 100 points to the charity of their choice.
The shopping center is providing a weekly update to all participating charities, as results change daily. Receipts can be registered until 9 p.m. on Aug. 31 and do not have to be registered at the time of purchase.
“The charities enjoy being out here able to engage with shoppers because they’re looking for people who may want to volunteer, donate money to their cause or maybe one day join their board,” Medford said. “The events provide a great platform for that. We want to educate the general public about what these charities do and about their missions.”
For information, visit shopwillowbend.com/giveback.