Fruth says her father believed in paying success forward by making a positive impact on the community, and that philosophy continues to be the lifeblood of Fruth. It is most apparent in the company’s robust scholarship program.
Fruth says she takes great pride in the fact that her parents, despite growing up poor, established scholarships at various institutions in the region, including Marshall University, West Virginia University and Ohio State University, after putting her and her siblings through college.
“My dad believed the best way to change the community for the better was through helping kids get an education,” Fruth says. “Hundreds of kids have been helped through our program.”
Many of those receiving Fruth scholarships are first-generation college students, which Fruth says is the focus of the company’s scholarship program, along with students in need. Currently 10 Fruth employee scholarships are in place at Marshall; they are set aside for Fruth employees, their children or their grandchildren. Fruth says these are the scholarships that are the most meaningful to her.
In total, the company sponsors 40 scholarships in areas including pharmacy and general education at city colleges and technical schools — any further education that will help the recipients get a leg up. Fruth estimates that the company has given out $750,000 in scholarship money.
Most recently, Fruth established four scholarships for selected graduates of Recovery Point, a drug rehabilitation program in Huntington, W.Va.
Although the company’s primary philanthropic focus is education, it also emphasizes community outreach, Fruth points out, adding that the company requires its stores to sponsor at least three community-centered events a year. These events cover many themes but share the common thread of small-town values that define Fruth philanthropy.
For Fruth, it all goes back to what she learned from her father — that it’s not just about serving the community but being in the community. “We live here,” she says, adding that if the big conglomerates take over it won’t be just the small businesses that will be driven out in the process, but also the spirit of community service that makes all the hard work worthwhile.