Samuels Jewelers, the 201-store national chain based in Austin, Texas, has pledged to raise $250,000 for the Jewelers Charity Fund for Children (JCFC), the industry’s only national charity, by May 1, 2001. The money will come from small change and bills donated to JCFC countertop canisters in Samuels stores, and voluntary pay deductions by Samuels officers, managers, and 1,500 employees.

It’s the largest pledge yet made by a jewelry retailer to the JCFC, which raised a total of $1.05 million last year and which so far this year has raised $50,000 from its canisters alone. (Samuels plans to match that with a short-term goal of raising $50,000 of its $250,000 by Christmas.)

JCFC, which raises money for three charities that help critically ill children, launched its countertop canister program in late 1999. Jewelers of America, the largest U.S. retail jewelers organization, picked up the tab to produce 10,000 canisters, and JCFC pays the cost of mailing them to jewelers who request them. At present, 8,500 U.S. jewelry stores participate in the program.

At Samuels’ annual managers meeting in late September, JCFC executive director Pattie Light outlined JCFC’s efforts, and Samuels president Randy McCullough challenged his 201 store managers to raise at least $3 a day each in the JCFC canisters in their stores. That equals $600 a day or about $126,000 by May. In addition, offices and departments at Samuels’s headquarters are competing to see which group can raise the most money.

The rest of the pledge would come from JCFC payroll deductions, a fundraising method first used by 11-store G. M. Pollack & Sons in Maine. Nearly all of Samuels’s officers, managers, and employees have pledged to donate $1 to $5 per paycheck. “That’s voluntary,” says McCullough. “We’ve only asked our people to consider personal donations-but almost everyone is making a deduction.” That $3 a day per store or $5 per paycheck “may look small,” he says, “but with 200 stores and 1,500 employees, it adds up.”