When Marissa Byrum and the rest of the team at Shell’s Feed & Garden Supply heard about the Russian invasion of Ukraine, they decided to spring into action. It’s in the business’ nature to give back, as the Tampa, Florida-based company usually chooses one or two charities to support every year, but this cause was urgent.
“Usually we find a local charity, but with everything, all of that tragedy going on in Ukraine, Mr. Shell [owner and president] was really moved and motivated to do a different kind. So, we decided to look for a charity that supported the people of Ukraine trying to flee from war — short of wanting to grab a flight and go over there ourselves and pitch in, which would be dangerous,” Byrum says.
Shell’s Feed chose to support the American Red Cross in their fundraising efforts, and for every 1-gallon plant in a 1-gallon pot sold March 17-19, the business donated $3. Once the fundraiser ended, Shell's Feed matched the donation from the plant sales.
“We ended up raising just about under $600, which doesn't seem like a lot, but that means about 80 people bought at least one plant,” she says.
Before the fundraiser, Byrum, who is the marketing manager at Shell’s Feed & Garden Supply, spread the word out on Facebook, through the customer newsletter and through local community gardens to rally their customers. During the event, customers bought petunias, pentas and daisies. Lobelia was especially popular, she says, noting it was likely a popular choice for its blue color, which is part of the Ukrainian flag.
Customers were very receptive to the fundraiser, and many thanked Shell’s Feed for giving back.
“We had a lot of people that talked about how terrible everything was in Ukraine, of course (and we agree). Many customers were excited that a family business wanted to reach out and try to help other families that maybe needed the help, but couldn't help themselves at that moment,” Byrum says.
How to get involved
Byrum has two tips for garden centers that might want to get involved and give back to Ukrainian refugees or other charitable causes. Not sure where to get started? Head to charitynavigator.org, a website that independently screens charity financials.
“It tells you, basically, where their money goes, according to their tax returns and stuff like that,” she says. “We usually try to find charities in general that have a high rating on a site like that.”
Second, Byrum suggests that garden centers talk to their friends, family and neighbors, and partner with their vendors to maximize their fundraising efforts.
“I didn't get a chance to do any of that because we kind of threw it together in a hurry, but normally I reach out to my vendors and say, ‘Hey, would you like to donate something for this? If you donate it for free, then we could sell it and all of that profit can go the charity,’” she says.
Byrum notes that sometimes vendors participate and sometimes they don't, but Shell’s Feed always prefers to give them the option of participating. “And then course, if they do participate, then we talk up their business and their brands so that we can sell more of it in the future,” she says.