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RetailROI Offers At-Risk Kids Necessities and Hope


Modern retail is a global effort to provide consumers with the goods and services they need. Thanks to the charitable initiatives of RetailROI, that effort now includes such goods and services as clean water, schools and computers for children at risk around the world.

“The goal is literally to make a difference in the lives of 400 million kids by leveraging the strengths and reach of our industry,” said Greg Buzek, president of IHL Group and donor trustee of RetailROI, a charitable foundation that seeks to help children in need around the world. Buzek co-founded RetailROI in 2008 after a discussion with the now deceased Paul Singer, who was then CIO of Supervalu, at Oracle OpenWorld.

“I was involved in orphan care and Paul was involved in adoption,” said Buzek. “We said, ‘Wouldn’t it great to do something to help kids?’ ”

The conversation soon expanded to include veteran industry journalist/analyst Marc Millstein, among others, and RetailROI was officially launched as a charitable endeavor with Buzek, Singer and Millstein as donor trustees. When Singer tragically passed away in 2010, Vicki Cantrell, senior VP of the National Retail Foundation, stepped in.

Spreading the Word

“We’re raising awareness of the need,” Buzek said. “There are 400 million kids who are orphaned and at risk, and people don’t know about it. We have the retail industry do the things we do every day to make a difference.”

For example, NetSuite is providing software to help orphans in Zambia run a business where they grow and sell strawberries to local supermarkets. And food and agricultural giant Cargill donated a year’s supply of corn to a project RetailROI is running in Honduras. Donations of services are also made at the individual level.

“People teach marketing classes,” Buzek said. “Managers conduct mock interviews.”

Meeting the Need

Monetary donations from corporations and individuals are used to fund schools, clean water and provide computers with Internet access for disadvantaged children in developing areas.

“Once we have clean water and schools, the next step is to build computer labs with Internet access,” Buzek explained.

So far, RetailROI has run 75 successful projects in 17 countries that have helped the health, education, security and financial stability of 145,000 at-risk children. This month, RetailROI is making its third trip to the Dominican Republic to build its seventh computer lab there, which will be its 18th to date globally.

“It’s a large school with more than 300 underprivileged children,” Buzek explained. “We have a collaborative event with a team going down. Computers are being donated by Starmount and Techway Services, with other equipment donated by ScanSource. Executive computers that were getting replaced are wiped clean and used in the lab. We only have to pay to get the software license for the operating system, so for $2,500 we got a computer lab for 300 kids.”

The Industry Speaks

Mark Haney, senior developer of Tulsa Cash Register, is a veteran of several RetailROI projects who will be making the trip to the Dominican Republic. He discussed the importance of the Dominican effort.

“Having witnessed the change these computer labs bring to these children, I know we can make this wish we have for them come true,” Haney said. “We must [make it come true].”

Recent projects undertaken by RetailROI include building a computer lab in Zambia; providing relief, prevention and education for 700 children at risk of contracting Ebola in Liberia; and ongoing efforts to build and maintain a school in Plan Escalon, Honduras.

Kathryn Murphy, senior VP apps and platform solutions at Tomax Corp., described a volunteer trip she and her husband took to Honduras in March.

“My husband and I were able to go to Plan Escalon, Honduras, in March, and it was an amazing experience for our whole family,” Murphy said. “Like many others who have gone, this was so transformative for us that we plan to go again and again. We have two children, ages 4 and 9. Our 4-year-old son donated 100 Matchbox cars. Our daughter donated stuffed animals and backpacks. We took pictures of these children receiving the donations so that our children could make that connection with the things they had donated. For both of my children, it was the first time that they realized that there are other children out there who don’t have the same things and opportunities they have.”

Murphy added that the mantra of the school she and her family volunteered at Honduras is ‘See the need. Meet the need. Change the nation.’

As soon as orphans and kids from broken homes join the school and have their basic needs met, they start to participate in serving others and giving back to the surrounding mountain villages,” she said. “The whole experience and project is so humbling. The people and children have so little, yet their work ethic is amazing and they are happy and grateful. And it’s remarkable to see how a little bit of effort from each of us can go such a long way. I have had many people tell me they would also like to go on a trip — I hope they do!”

Find out more about how to get involved with RetailROI at retailroi. org/get-involved and how to donate to RetailROI at

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