Shared from the 11/23/2018 The Columbus Dispatch eEdition

Expanding hope

Owner of renovated Ten Pin Alley gives 2 percent of proceeds to charity


The expanded Ten Pin Alley, reopened in January, lets customers choose among three nonprofit groups for their donations.



Sarah Purdy, owner of Ten Pin Alley in Hilliard


Seemingly out of nowhere, in the middle of the night, the idea struck Sarah Purdy.

On vacation in Puerto Rico 19 months ago with husband T.R. Gross, she woke up remembering her thought about Ten Pin Alley, a bowling and entertainment center closed for expansion at the time: When I renovate and reopen my business, we are going to give 2 percent of all proceeds to charity.

“I had been trying to think of a way to give this expansion more meaning,” Purdy said. “And it just came to me suddenly.”

Gross, a senior vice president for G&J Pepsi Cola Bottlers, was initially skeptical of his wife’s brainstorm.

“I was like, ‘Oh boy,’ because she was not quite sure how the whole (expanded) business was going to come together (financially) yet," Gross said. “But she was bound and determined from Day One to do it.”

True to her word, since Ten Pin reopened on Jan. 23, Purdy has been writing monthly checks to three charities: Action for Children, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Ohio and the Hilliard Food Pantry.

Through October, the donations provided by the Heart and Bowl program totaled $41,919.

Officials at all three charities said they have no similar arrangements with any other business.

“I am so impressed with her innovative thinking and so humbled by this generous act," said Erik Karolak, chief executive officer for Action for Children, a child-care resource and referral agency.

Purdy has owned Ten Pin Alley, just off Main Street south of Scioto Darby Road, since 2006. She spent several years planning an expansion, closing the business in mid-2017 to see it through.

The project, which cost about $5 million, increased the space from 14,600 square feet to 37,000, with eight more bowling lanes (for a total of 24) and a new two-story laser-tag arena.

Along with the physical transformation, Purdy, now 53, felt strongly that she could use the business to give back to Hilliard and the greater central Ohio community. (She and her husband, who have five grown children, live Downtown.)

“I always felt that we support children and families when they come in, emphasizing care and service and giving them a good experience,” Purdy said. “That’s terrific, but then they walk back out the door, and there’s a lot of need out there."

The latter notion got her thinking about financially supporting programs that directly aid children and families. She and her staff chose the charities, and, when customers pay their bill, they're asked which charity they want their money to benefit.

“Sometimes, ... the parents will look at the children and ask them — so everybody gets to participate,” Purdy said. “It gets kids thinking about it and then maybe they will go on to make a difference, too.”

On a recent weekday afternoon, Katy Acerra of Hilliard visited Ten Pin Alley with her second-grade son, Joey, and one of his friends. She said her family patronizes Ten Pin often (her husband, Justin, is in bowling and bocce leagues there) and usually designates the food pantry or Big Brothers Big Sisters as their beneficiary.

“I love it — it’s amazing,” she said of the Heart and Bowl program. “We talk to (Joey) about it, because kids don’t understand that some kids don’t have food to eat, so we try to have that conversation.”

Officials at the charities say the money has made a difference.

Matt Austin, director of the Hilliard Food Pantry, said that, with the $18,739 the nonprofit received through October, the pantry is on track to make up nearly 25 percent of its budget of about $100,000.

“It’s also about marketing,” Austin said. “Every day, I hear someone say they didn’t know Hilliard had a food pantry. We struggle with that awareness gap, so to have a sign up in a local business that says, 'Hilliard Food Pantry' gets our name out there.”

Abby Fisher, vice president of programs for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Ohio, said it takes about $1,800 to set up and support a one-on-one match between a mentor and a child. The $11,879 the group had received to date, then, is enough to support more than six matches.

Purdy said that she and the staff are discussing which charities to help in 2019. She would like to give more at some point, she said, but is thrilled with the program's success so far.

“I believe that if your intentions are pure and honest and you’re doing the right thing, then it’s going to work,” Purdy said.

"And it’s working.” @kgdispatch

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