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Has Wal-Mart stolen Christmas?

CYRIL JOSH BARKER Amsterdam News Staff | 11/23/2011, 2:53 p.m.
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Is Wal-Mart New York City's Grinch or not? That is the latest question swirling around the city lately.

Controversy again surrounds the mega-retailer as it continues to try and set up stores in New York City. The latest damning reports about the retailer concern its charity work (or lack of charity) in New York City this holiday season, and the company is scrambling to correct what it is calling misinformation.

Crain's Business News, along with several other New York media outlets, claimed that the Wal-Mart Foundation was skimping out on giving a piece of the $19 million it is giving nationwide to various New York City charities. Critics said that the company was bitter over the thunderous opposition the retailer is facing as it has tried to enter the New York City retail market.

"The gifts will include a $4 million grant to Feeding America for the purchase of 20 refrigerated food trucks and 15 mobile pantries for its food banks around the country-but not in New York City," the Crain's report said.

Further in the story, Crain's reported that Wal-Mart plans to make donations to New York City through other means. Using Facebook, Wal-Mart is allowing users to nominate a local charity worthy of getting a share of $1.5 million this season.

A spokesman from Wal-Mart told the AmNews that some of the news reports were not fully accurate, and while New York was left out of the $19 million donation, the company is giving to charitable organizations in the city and will continue to do so through other campaigns.

"The bottom line is that we've given more than $13 million to non profits in New York City since 2007," said Wal-Mart spokesman Steve Restivo. "We continue to support philanthropic causes in New York City whether we have a store in the city or not."

Restivo pointed to how Facebook users are urged to participate in Wal-Mart's "12 Days of Christmas Giving Campaign," which is how New York charities can get money this season.

"The broader point of our giving is that it's the right thing to do. We have lots and lots of customers in New York City along with workers and suppliers. So it makes sense for us to support programs that are making a difference," Restivo said.

Barry Addison is CEO of the Alpha School/Alpha Riders in Brooklyn and said that last year he received $10,000 from Wal-Mart for a coat drive. Burlington Coat Factory matched to donation and he was able to give away 1,000 coats to the community.

The Alpha School/Alpha Riders is a non-profit organization and school in East New York that works with adolescents who are dealing with drug and alcohol issues.

"Last year they donated $10,000 for us to do something good in our community. They understand what Alpha school does," Addison said. "They had no problem giving me the money without batting an eye."

The Alpha School was in financial strains because it recently lost funding, and this week received $50,000 from Wal-Mart to help the school stay afloat. Addison said that while he would like to receive $10,000 to do another coat drive this holiday season, he said he has yet to find out if Wal-Mart will make the donation.

"I'm hoping that they will," he said. "It's kind of hard right now with them giving me $50,000 for my program so I don't know. I would love for them to do what they did last year and get out there and do good things for the holiday season."