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The U.S. Department of Labor yesterday presented Safeway chairman, president, and c.e.o. Steve Burd with its 2008 Spirit Award, for his leadership in furthering employment and workplace opportunities for people with disabilities.
Former Major League Baseball player, Jim Abbott, was named co-winner of the award. Abbott, a celebrated pitcher despite being born with only one hand, now works to raise awareness about the benefits and value that disabled employees bring to the workplace.
"Assisting people with disabilities has long been an important part of what Safeway stands for in the community," said Burd. "We have worked hard to ensure that our company is a place where people with disabilities can find rewarding opportunities."
The Spirit award is part of the Department of Labor's New Freedom Initiative, which seeks to increase workplace opportunities and enhance workplace environments for people with disabilities. The award honors those who exhibit five key qualities that comprise the acronym "SPIRIT" -- Strength in leadership, Perseverance in unyielding commitment to achieving success, Integrity, serving as a Role model, Independence, and acting as a Trailblazer.
Safeway employs nearly 10,000 people with intellectual and physical disabilities including hearing and sight impairments. Earlier this year during a launch event in the San Francisco Bay Area to kickoff the company's annual campaign to support people with disabilities, Burd challenged employers in the region to "find a way to recruit from this largely untapped, but valuable talent pool."
As part of the company's employment outreach, Safeway maintains contact with a broad range of organizations and agencies that provide job placement and skills training to people with disabilities. The company's human resource team keeps these agencies abreast of Safeway's hiring needs as well as the skills necessary for being successful in a retail environment.
The Spirit Award is one of several honors given to Burd and Safeway for helping people with disabilities. Earlier this year, Easter Seals recognized Safeway for being the largest corporate sponsor of the organization. In 2007 The Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation (CSAVR) and The ARC (formerly the Association for Retarded Citizens) both recognized Safeway for its work in hiring people with disabilities.
Beyond this commitment to employment, Safeway is also one of the largest contributors to charities associated with assisting people with disabilities. Twice yearly the company conducts companywide campaigns for the cause. In April Safeway raised $10.4 million for Easter Seals and Special Olympics. In August and September, the company raised $10 million for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Over the years, Safeway has raised and donated more than $100 million to Easter Seals and related disability causes.
In other news, Safeway's O Organics division yesterday became one of several sponsors of the CBS and EcoZone Green Schools Initiative in San Francisco. One winning public school from the San Francisco Unified School District will receive a green makeover overseen by a professional "green schools coach."
"This groundbreaking initiative perfectly complements O Organics' commitment to promoting health and wellness through education and inspiring young people to be conscious of steps they can take in their daily lives to benefit the environment," said James D. White, leader of the Better Living Brands Alliance and president of Lucerne Foods. "Thanks to the innovative strategy that EcoMedia has developed for the Green Schools Initiative, we'll be able to help make a sizeable impact on how we teach our kids about the importance of environmental responsibility."
Students, teachers, and administrators can enter the Green Schools Initiative by submitting a creative response that expresses what "being green" means to them, as well as filling out an application at www.ecozonemedia.com/greenmyschool. Winners will be chosen by a committee consisting of members of EcoMedia's advisory board, including USGBC, NOAA, EPA/Energy Star, Waterkeeper Alliance, city and school officials, corporate sponsors, and members of the CBS Corp., and will be announced in January 2009.
The Green Schools Initiative kicked off in Miami last week with a call for entries there and continued to rollout across the country with today's kickoff in San Francisco.
Safeway operates 1,738 stores in the United States and western Canada and had annual sales of $42.3 billion in 2007.