I don’t always pay attention to commercials on the radio and television but one caught my attention recently. It was not because of any bargains that were offered or any catchy slogan or tune. Neither was it due to a new product that was being offered. Actually nothing was mentioned about any merchandise for sale.

The announcement was that this giant retailer had donated $4 million to more than 80 Habitat for Humanity affiliates. This donation will build 40 houses and increase support for more than 60 affiliates. A fully stocked pantry would also be provided to each house that will be built by employees of the company providing these funds.

This generous contribution came from Publix Super Markets Charities, a not-for-profit organization that has $400 million worth of assets under management. The organization was founded as the George W. Jenkins Foundation in 1966 to improve the communities served by the supermarket chain. After Jenkins’ death, the foundation’s name became Publix Super Markets Charities.

George W. Jenkins

George Washington Jenkins Jr. was born Sept. 29, 1907, in Warm Springs, Ga. He was one of eight children of a general store owner. He was 12 when he started working in his father’s store. When he was 16, the boll weevil destroyed the area’s cotton crops and caused economic disaster for the general store.

Jenkins moved to Atlanta with his family and began working at a series of odd jobs including a job working for the Piggly Wiggly grocery chain. After his move to Florida the store where he was employed did not do well and eventually was sold. When that happened  he said, “I turned in my apron, took the money I had saved to buy a new car — about $1,300 — and in 1930 opened my own store next to the one I’d left.”

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That same year Jenkins formed a corporation, Publix Food Stores Inc., and today the private corporation which is wholly owned by present and past employees is ranked No. 81 on Fortune magazine’s list of 100 Best Companies to Work For 2015 and was ranked No. 8 on Forbes 2014 list of America’s Largest Private Companies. The company’s 2014 sales totaled $30.6 billion, with profits of $1.74 billion. Based on 2014 revenue, Publix is the thirteenth largest U.S. retailer and thirty-fifth in the world.

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The phenomenal success of the supermarket chain is very impressive and their commitment to customer service is a basic tenet of the company. But what caught my attention in the radio commercial was the closing comment attributed to its founder George W. Jenkins.

Jenkins was once asked, “If you hadn’t given away so much, how much do you think you would be worth today?” Without hesitation, he replied, “Probably nothing.”

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I don’t know if that would have been the case but I do believe that all we really have is what we give away.

Jamie  Jenkins

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