Location: Louisville, Ky.
Justin Gordon didn’t grow up with much, but he always had presents under the Christmas tree. When he started working at Kroger (No. 20), the supermarket chain, the store manager was dismayed to learn that many of his coworkers and customers found themselves too financially stretched to buy gifts for their own kids. That year, 2006, Gordon organized a fundraising drive and cookout that brought in enough money to give 85 children gifts for the holiday. Now called the Broadway Christmas Project, Justin has made community gift-giving an annual tradition at Kroger. By connecting with local schools, Gordon finds families who need extra help during the Christmas season—and makes a concerted effort to give the kids the presents on their wish list, even if it’s a laptop or bike. (One gift he couldn’t deliver was for a little girl who asked for her grandmother to have a day off from work.) A little before Christmas, Gordon invites the families and children to Louisville’s Metro United Way Building—the project has outgrown the Kroger breakroom where the gift-giving used to be held—for a day of pizza and activities. The store manager and his co-workers, who have helped more than 700 families in the community wake up to presents under the tree, even load the wrapped gifts into the parents’ cars.