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A representative of Tops Markets recently argued that a company's civic character -- its support for the area it serves -- matters more to a community than where its owners live.

A central tenet of her argument was that partnerships between companies are necessary to build economic growth locally in a global economy.

She also noted Tops' "more than $1 million in charitable contributions to local non-profit organizations" as an example of the ways in which her company "gives back" to our area.

As president and CEO of Goodwill Industries of Western New York, I can attest to the validity of both these statements. For more than 10 years, Goodwill has been among the local non-profits that receive significant support from Tops.

Goodwill exists to help adults with disabilities or disadvantages obtain meaningful work and the better life that goes with it. We earn the revenue required to support our mission through sales of donated goods in area Goodwill stores.

By welcoming Goodwill Attended Donation Centers to its lots, Tops helps us generate the product that stocks our shelves -- and produces more than 50 percent of our yearly income.

The convenience of our 12 Tops sites has markedly increased the quantity and quality of donations.

Last year, revenue from our stores helped support community-based Goodwill training and employment services that provided opportunities for a fresh start to 1,223 individuals in Western New York. Also in 1998, first-year earnings of people who have been assisted by Goodwill and hired by other firms are estimated to be $964,000. In addition, the centers provide paid employment and valuable job experience.

The Tops/Goodwill partnership works. It's getting people off welfare and onto the tax rolls. It's helping to strengthen families and rebuild the local economy.

Big business is a convenient target when things go wrong. Shouldn't we be equally outspoken -- with recognition and appreciation -- when things go right?



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