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Gloria Johns headshot

After the Buffalo Shooting, This Family-Run Company Sets a High Bar for CSR

Shortly after the tragic Buffalo shooting, this local family-run company set the example for the type of CSR blithely sworn to but not as often practiced.
By Gloria Johns
Buffalo Shooting

A Delta Sonic Car Wash on Delaware Avenue in Buffalo, NY

In the last two years, there have been incidents of racial violence that have startled the senses, outraged the masses, and even inflicted emotional stress and pain at a personal level. Two incidents, in particular, have shocked the senses of any reasonable person and driven society as a whole into moral camps of either righteous indignation, or indifference to hate — one being the murder of George Floyd at the hands of a white police officer, and the other the hunt-and-kill execution of Ahmaud Arbery by three white men. Now, the Black community is coping with the aftermath of the recent Buffalo shooting.

Once again, with the slaughter of ten Black people by an angry white man on May 14 at the Tops Friendly Market in Buffalo, New York, we are individually and collectively forced to examine our personal and public commitment to denouncing racism. Suddenly, corporate social responsibility (CSR) is not an embellished proposition that shows off to shareholders, employees and the community, but a test of authenticity and fortitude on the part of corporate leaders. 

The proof of authenticity and fortitude is evidenced by a company’s robust public denunciation of evil and support for equality, or failing to do either. 

How has your corporation or organization responded to the killings at the Tops Friendly Market?

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A local family-owned business in Buffalo, New York, provides a model for the type of CSR blithely sworn to but not as often practiced. The Benderson Family opened the first location of Delta Sonic Car Wash in 1967. There are now 32 locations in three states (one of which is shown above). 

“The tragic events of [that] weekend affected all of us,” said Kim Allen, marketing director for Delta Sonic. “We have a location less than five miles from the Tops supermarket. Our customers and employees live, work and shop in this neighborhood. We waited to see what the needs of the community would be and then determined how we could help the most.”

Within a short time after the Buffalo shooting, it became apparent that the neighborhood, which lost access to its only local grocery store, needed alternative sources of food. In anticipation of an increased burden on local nonprofits to bridge the gap, Delta Sonic made a $100,000 donation to the local food bank, FeedMore WNY, earmarked for residents who frequented Tops Market to help mitigate the expense of travel for groceries and higher prices elsewhere. 

It should be noted that this represents socially-informed giving at its best — providing for an immediate need with direct assistance to those most affected by the tragedy. 

Compound the tragedy of the Buffalo shooting in this neighborhood by the reality of food insecurity that many impoverished Black people face. In 2020, 24 percent of the U.S. Black population experienced food insecurity — more than three times the rate of white households. Black children are almost three times more likely to live in a food-insecure household than white children. Black people, especially Black women, are more likely to be essential frontline workers and more likely to work in the industries hardest hit by the pandemic. 

Seventy-eight percent of the population in the Tops neighborhood of east Buffalo is Black. The shooter specifically chose this location for that reason. The average income in this area is less than $20,000. 

Allen gave TriplePundit an overview of the company’s ongoing local philanthropy, even before the Buffalo shooting made headlines nationwide.

“We work with lots of local organizations and charities with everything from donating services to raising money and making monetary donations," she said. "In Buffalo specifically, we annually partner with Roswell Park Cancer Institute, FeedMore of WNY, Make-A-Wish, Visually Impaired Advancement, Variety Kids and Oishei Children's Hospital. All year we run month-long roundup campaigns for local charities. Currently we are supporting Mental Health Advocates of WNY, and last month was Lyme WNY [a Lyme disease awareness organization], just to name a few.”

Where others may hesitate to lend their businesses’ names and reputations to the muddy waters of fighting racism for fear of treading on sensitive ground and ensuing backlash, Allen said the response from Delta Sonic’s employees and the community to the company’s donation after the Buffalo shooting has been overwhelmingly positive.

“We are getting very positive feedback from both our employees and customers," she said. "They feel supported and confident that we care about them and the community. It is important that they know we stand against racism and all forms of violence. We also had shirts made for our employees to wear to show additional support. They read: ‘Buffalo Strong,’ and ‘Buffalo - The City of Good Neighbors.’”

But in addition to the public display of T-shirts and the generous donation is the message of corporate philosophy and beliefs that Delta Sonic soon posted to its Twitter account and corporate website. It’s a powerful enough message of full-throated endorsement for equality and the rejection of racism that it bears reprinting here, and perhaps will serve as an example for others.

“Buffalo is The City of Good Neighbors. We reject racism and hate. Our hearts ache for the victims of the senseless violence that took place Saturday and we offer compassion and support for their families, friends and everyone affected by the shootings.

“As a community we must counter the immeasurable pain that has been inflicted with vast and endless amounts of love. Diversity is a strength to be celebrated. Bigotry is a sickness to be eradicated.

“As a result of this tragedy, families may be struggling to access food in the area where the tragedy took place. Delta Sonic is donating $100,000 to FeedMore WNY to help meet this need. Let’s all work to help bring light, peace and hope to those who are hurting.

Now would be a good time for corporations to examine their environmental, social and governance (ESG) statements, and the authenticity of their messages in support of equality and against racism. In terms of CSR, and being answerable to our own consciences, perhaps this tragedy in Buffalo is an opportunity for corporate leaders to respond to both with renewed fervor. 

Image credit: Delta Sonic Car Wash via Facebook

Gloria Johns headshot

Gloria Johns' career has included her work as a columnist for Scripps-Howard, Gannett and Tribune News Service. She writes for the San Angelo Standard Times and the West Texas Angelus. Previously she was a special features reporter for San Angelo LIVE! Gloria also has nearly thirty years of award-winning grant writing experience for federal, state and county funds to support social, medical, educational and arts projects. She has enjoyed a successful career in telecommunications and nonprofit management. "Gloria is a Purdue University graduate. She has also attended Angelo State University for graduate courses and studied Texas Family Law at Sam Houston State University. She lives just on the edge of the Chihuahua desert in west Texas.

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