Five will be the magic number on Wednesday, Dec. 7, when each of the county’s five Whole Foods Markets (WFM) locations will partner with five county-based arts organizations for a Community 5% Day to fund youth arts education. WFM will donate 5 percent of the day’s sales to the organizations–Strathmore, Imagination Stage, Metropolitan Ballet Theatre, Glen Echo Partnership for Arts and Culture and Gandhi Brigade Youth Media, each of which will present arts activities at one market location.
Via an application process, a WFC store can hold four 5% Days per fiscal year, supporting local nonprofit organizations with 501(c)(3) status that focus on health and human services, education, environmental preservation, hunger relief, the arts and animal compassion. The event, fundraiser or program must serve the local community and provide information about the organization as well as entertainment or educational programs designed to attract people to attend.
“Our 5% Day was created by our global organization in order to support one of our core values of giving back to our local communities where we conduct business,” said Carrie Coonin, WFM’s metro marketer. “Our business is intimately tied to the neighborhood and larger community that we serve and in which we live. Caring for the diverse audience throughout our communities in which we reside in hugely important to WFM. All children deserve an opportunity to ignite and express their imagination, and these programs help all kids achieve this goal!”
The flyer jointly produced by the arts organizations echoes WFM’s words: The funds raised will provide “arts programming to children who might not otherwise have access to spaces that embrace and encourage creativity.”
Metropolitan Ballet Theatre, said Paula Ross, executive director, took part in a similar program at the Kentlands WFM in 2014. During a conversation early last summer, a WFM marketing representative told Ross she was “hoping to make these 5% Days bigger by involving all five” county stores. Ross proceeded to “collect some of my arts colleagues from diverse arts organizations across the county, and together we pitched a Whole Foods 5% Day for arts education. And WFM generously accepted our pitch!” The proposal was submitted in mid-July and was approved by the end of the month, noted Shana Gerber, Strathmore’s director of marketing and publications.
“What’s unique about this partnership is that we are five very diverse organizations–diverse in size, geography and arts discipline,” Ross said. “We all are linked through missions serving needs in youth arts education, but we have dance, other performing arts disciplines, various visual arts and documentary/film, all represented. Each of our organizations will ‘adopt’ one of the five WFM stores for the day on Dec 7 and have activities throughout the day.”
“We are looking forward to raising community awareness of all the amazing ways kids can get involved in the arts and how local organizations enrich our community through music, dance, theater, and more,” Gerber added. Strathmore, she said, “will be filling the Whole Foods Rockville location (Woodglen Road) with merry music and holiday cheer. You can enjoy the Latin pop sounds of Strathmore Artist in Residence Chris Urquiaga while enjoying your lunch (from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.).” Strathmore Artist in Residence, vocalist-actress Ines Nassara, will perform from 5 to 6 p.m., followed by the Maryland Classic Youth Orchestras from 6 to 6:45 p.m.
“As we have had a great partnership with WFM, we are delighted to build upon our success with this unique opportunity to showcase our holiday offerings,” said Chelsey Christensen, Imagination Stage’s director of development. “We are grateful to Whole Foods for supporting and nurturing the arts in Montgomery County, which is the very heart of our mission.”
Christensen said that the organization’s staff, board members and actors will be on hand throughout the day to greet WFM’s Friendship Heights/Chevy Chase (Willard Avenue) customers and “provide (them with) insight into our award-winning organization and upcoming events.” They also will offer “a unique discount just in time to give the gift of theater over the holidays!” Imagination Stage’s schedule for the day features Breakfast and Story Time with Sister Bear (9 to 10 a.m.), a Meet and Greet with the cast of the current production of “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast” (1:30 to 2:30 p.m.) and a Dinnertime Street Theater Performance (4:30 to 6:30 p.m.)
Metropolitan Ballet Theatre’s activities at the Kentlands WFM will “include short performances from our students and company,” said Ross, “with scenes from ‘The Nutcracker,’ lunch with the Sugar Plum Fairy, character meet and greets, guest baggers.” A staffed table will let shoppers know about MBT’s mission and programs. “We’ll also have a few prizes and giveaways throughout the day,” she promised.
Evan Glass, Gandhi Brigade Youth Media’s executive director, said his group will show its documentaries and interview customers for a short film at the WFM in Silver Spring (Wayne Avenue). The organization, which “teaches media arts to young people so they can tackle civic issues and social injustice through visual media,” he added, “is not a household name, so this is a tremendous opportunity to share the work we do.” As such, this partnership “is a wonderful way to amplify the voices of the youth in the community. Now, more than ever, youth voices matter.”
“The Glen Echo Partnership for Arts and Culture is thrilled … to showcase our programs for young people” at the Bethesda WFM (River Road), said Jenni Cloud, marketing and communications associate. “Opportunities for children and teens to explore their creativity” will be illustrated via “arts activities, performances, a display of youth artwork and some special guests.”
County residents are encouraged to support arts education by doing their WFM shopping on Dec. 7. On behalf of WFM and the five arts nonprofits, WFM’s Coonin added, “It is a really good partnership that will help many in our community enjoy and experience the arts.”