Aero prioritizes charity

Once again, as the school year kicks off, teenagers far and wide search for the best new school supplies, looking to organize and impress. For some, these choices are not a reality. Kids all across the U.S can’t afford to buy these necessities, leaving them disadvantaged in their learning environment. Between the dates of August 13 and the 21, the local Aeropostale company, residing in the Oshkosh Outlet Mall, coordinated a school supply drive for impoverished students. All items were donated to the Christine Ann Center here in Oshkosh.

“What happens is we will give it out to the clients and their kids as needed, both during the start of the school year and throughout. We also provide school supplies to our outreach clients in need as well,” Kendra Green, Teen Advocate at the Christine Ann Domestic Abuse Services, said.

Aeropostale as a whole looks to promote helping the community, with incentives to push the service.

“The company encourages volunteering, but it is not required of us. It’s all a part of the company’s Values Project; we are given payroll and the option to do whatever we want as far as community service goes. Our store has participated in this program every year,” said Oshkosh’s Aeropostale store manager, Niki Simmons.

To encourage community participation, the customers who donated school supplies for the drive were given a coupon to use on their next purchase.

“I feel like the community just wasn’t as active as we had hoped for,” said Sadona Thompson, sales associate at Aeropostale. “We figured that school supplies would be a huge hit given the relevance to the time of year. We had also had a lot of people in the store recently because of the back to school sales.”

Although the sale did bring in customers for Aeropostale, their emphasis was on giving back to the community.

“The goal wasn’t to make a profit; the goal was to collect supplies for students,” Simmons said. “These kinds of community service projects also help boost our reputation. We have solid core values here at Aero and we want our customers to know that.”

The drive was not as successful as the store hoped, as most of the supplies were donated by employees.

“We could have used more time for promotion, that’s for sure,” Simmons said. “We had employees post it all over social media and such, but we just needed more time. I’m proud of what we got though, something is better than nothing.”

Aeropostale has given back to the community in several other ways as well. The store has donated pairs of jeans to the Christine Ann Center in their program called, “Jeans for Teens.”

“I would love to see the employees get more involved with the volunteering. For the S.O.S Project, a few of us just stood outside at the back to school concert and collected supplies. I feel like if we volunteered more at say hospitals or animal shelters, then we could get more involved and improve the experience overall,” Thompson said.

Besides volunteering for organization just in the Oshkosh area, employees also have the opportunity to better the communities in other states.

“Outside of the Values Project, we have our AeroCares program. Through this program we were able to send huge cases of water down to our store locations in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina struck back in 2005,” Simmons said.

AeroCares is an optional internal foundation designed for Aero employees to help other employees in times of need. Employees can contribute to the fund by donating a small portion (they choose the amount) of their paycheck every two weeks, in hopes of helping others and creating a better community.

“What’s so cool about this program is that you don’t have to donate to be eligible for the grant,”Simmons said.

The fund is given to employees who fall victim to a tragedy within their immediate family.

“I have personally seen this program affect the lives of two former co-workers. When one of the associate’s family members passed on, AeroCares covered the funeral charges. The same was done when the husband of one of the previous managers passed on as well,” Simmons said of the company’s family values.

“At Aeropostale, we take care of our people.”

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