Target's gifts to schools end next spring; charitable arm shifting to health

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Target says it's ending a charitable program that has given hundreds of millions of dollars to schools across the U.S. and will instead focus future giving on health and wellness.

Target says since its Take Charge of Education program started in 1997 it has delivered $432 million to America's schools.

Under the program, Target donates one percent of a REDCard holder's purchase amount to a school chosen by the cardholder.

But the Minneapolis-based company's chief corporate responsibility officer, Laysha Ward, tells the Star Tribune the program was innovative when it started and now Target wants to continue to innovate.

Ward tells the newspaper Target's commitment to donating five percent of its profits – about $4 million a week – is not changing, but the retailer plans to focus future giving on health and wellness.

Target tells WCCO the partners and details of its new health and wellness initiatives are being worked out, but they may center on healthy eating or active living.

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The principal of Expo Elementary in St. Paul tells WCCO the school has typically received a few thousand dollars a year from Target and used it to buy school supplies for students who lacked them or to fill classroom libraries.

Target recently celebrated a milestone when it announced that the company's total gifts to education passed the $1 billion mark.

Ward told Forbes in a 2011 interview that reaching the $1 billion mark in 2015 was a goal for the company's giving program.

The Take Charge of Education program will continue until May 14 of next year and Ward tells the Star Tribune Target will also make a one-time grant to schools to help during their transition to other funding sources.

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