Chuck Lawrence and his wife, Belinda, owners of Tradewinds stores in Bangor, Brewer, Eddington, Milo and Blue Hill, have launched the Pumped Up to Fight Cancer campaign. They have pledged a penny from each gallon of gasoline sold at their stores to benefit Blue Hill Memorial Hospital in Blue Hill, Mayo Regional Hospital in Dover-Foxcroft and Eastern Maine Medical Center’s CancerCare of Maine. The goal is to raise at least $70,000-$100,000 that will be earmarked to assist cancer patients with out-of-pocket expenses related to receiving treatment for cancer, such as gasoline, lodging and prescription costs. The Pumped Up campaign will be in effect throughout 2012, Chuck Lawrence said.
“This is a phenomenal gift to the the community,” said Allen L’Italien, executive director of CancerCare of Maine of EMMC. “It’s a gift we can use to support patients from any county.”
Lawrence was motivated to take the philanthropic step because he has friends, family and employees affected by cancer.
“It hit me that as a company it was the right time to get our customers to feel good by helping people when they buy gas,” he said.
One of the friends affected by cancer was Lawrence’s business partner Dave Butterfield of Glenburn, manager of the Milo Tradewinds, which opened in March.
“I lost my dad to cancer — I traveled every day to Augusta to visit him. I realized that not every family would be able to pay for the gas to make that kind of trip. The Pumped Up campaign will help those families be there for their loved ones,” Butterfield said. “You don’t think a penny a gallon is much, but with as many gallons of gas as we sell, it adds up. We hope we can make a difference.”
“What’s different about the Lawrences’ gift,” L’Italien said, “is that this it’s a locally-owned family business, a group of hardworking people, making a community need part of its strategy for success. The biggest group this will help is working-class cancer patients. The funds will help pay for medication, gas assistance, lodging — even tires or a shattered windshield. It’s not restricted. The need is unbelievable. Every two to three weeks we award $1,000 in gasoline assistance. But the need is much greater.”
Lawrence, who grew up in Augusta, met Belinda in Houlton more than 22 years ago — he was learning the ropes of the supermarket business and she was training him to use a cash register.
“As we have more, we want to give more, and Belinda really inspires that effort,” Chuck Lawrence said.
Before establishing the Tradewinds stores, he worked at Hannaford stores in Waterville, Lincoln, Caribou, Millinocket, Bangor and Ellsworth, learning the business from the ground up.
“It’s also important to us to have my children see us do the right thing, for them to know that we have a responsibility to the community.”
Lawrence said he was inspired to acquire his own business by the late Doug Brown, who owned the Shop ‘n Save supermarkets.
“I asked him out to lunch so I could pick his brain,” Lawrence said. “The advice he gave me was to be visible in the community and show that your business supports the community. He said, ‘Don’t be greedy, give back.’ I remember it so well. I wanted to buy him lunch, but he wouldn’t let me. I trained in his Bangor stores and I saw how he treated people with respect and that his employees liked him.”
Lawrence took Brown’s advice to heart. In addition to the Pumped Up to Fight Cancer campaign, he and Belinda have made a personal contribution of $100,000 to EMMC’s Children’s Cancer and Treatment Center.
“We wanted to make this commitment to Eastern Maine so children with cancer can stay in the area for treatment and not have to go so far from home,” he said. Children’s Cancer and Treatment Center will be moving to the Lafayette Family Cancer Center in Brewer, and is now in the planning stages. The couple also have supported many other community endeavors, including the Brewer High School eight-lane track project and the gymnasium floor replacement project at George Stevens Academy in Blue Hill.
“We treat 300 cancer patients a day so the volume coming in the door is extreme. Mainers are stoic, they’re quiet. They don’t want to bankrupt the family and that fear can be a barrier to choosing to access care,” L’Italien said. “Cancer patients are already burdened with illness, so these funds [to help with costs related to being ill] gives them hope.”
“I couldn’t do what I do without my wife and the quality staff I have working for me. I have some of the best people. They are behind me in this. It’s nice to see everyone pulling together for a good cause,” Lawrence said.