Publix manager inspires giving through ice water challenge

Publix manager inspires giving through ice water challenge

Publix store manager Gary Smith is pictured as one of five buckets of ice water is dumped on him by store associate Vanessa.

Because October is United Way month, Gary Smith, the store manager of the Publix Supermarket at Old Cutler Town Center in Cutler Bay, wanted to find a way to inspire those working at the store to donate more money to the cause. The idea he came up with was chilling.

Smith told store employees that if they met their goal he would have five buckets of ice water dumped on him. The idea proved successful. His district manager Louis Gonzalez was one of the people dumping water on him, along with Jose Nieto of the United Way, stock clerk Angel Falcon and a few others.

Why did he think that would appeal to everyone?

“To take the opportunity to get the store manager soaking wet with ice water, and it worked,” Smith said. “We had 89 percent participation from the associates, which was up 30 percent over the year before. We raised 46 percent more money this year than we did the year before, by that simple little challenge that I made.

“One of the associates said, ‘I’ll give a little bit more just to let you get wet,’ and that’s what they were doing. It was a good way, I think. Our founder, Mr. George [George W. Jenkins] always wanted us to give back to the community.

That is something I believe in doing, so I made the challenge.”

Smith challenged the employees to raise $23,738, and the associates, giving out of their paychecks, are going to be giving $28,808.

“The year before they did $19,000, so that was a big increase,” Smith said. “And we went from 59 percent participation the year before to 89 percent.”

The challenge to increase donations was made to the store associates, but for Smith the challenge was to endure being doused with five buckets of frigid water.

“It was very cold,” Smith said. “The buckets we filled them halfway up with ice, then we put water in it. Some of the ice melted, so we went back through and put more ice in it. We had a big crowd watching and cheering them on as I was getting wet.”

He won’t repeat that one again, but he has another idea that may appeal even more to store associates.

“I made a challenge already for next year,” Smith said. “My goal is going to be $30,000 and then I will cook a lasagna dinner for the entire store, and myself, the district manager and Jose will come out here and we will feed the entire store. They all know I can cook and have started talking about it, so next year we’re going to hit that goal.”

The store is located at 20425 Old Cutler Rd. in Cutler Bay. For information call 305-235-2214.

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