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Dallas Market Center announces The Next Big Give winners

DALLAS — Dallas Market Center announced the two winners for The Next Big Give, the third annual national search for specialty retailers that make a difference in their communities through volunteering, raising funds or donating goods.

The winners were announced during a filmed video broadcast that can be viewed here. The winners are Journeys of Life, a gifts and accessories store in Pittsburgh, and Leon & Lulu, a furniture, gifts and accessories store in Clawson, Mich.

Journeys of Life owner Jean Haller and her store have participated in efforts benefiting the community for more than 20 years. In 2011, a fire destroyed Journeys' entire inventory. The community rallied and helped reopen the store through vendors sending product, neighbors pricing merchandise and volunteers coming to help bring Journeys back to life. Although the store and its contents were declared a total loss, Haller approached the insurance company and gave the customers the opportunity to purchase the almost destroyed treasures at a reduced rate with all proceeds benefiting charities. In one week, the Fire Fund earnings were $3,500. Each day benefited a different local charity. The Fire Fund sales continue with more than $8,000 raised to date.

"Giving back to the community has always been at the forefront of our store's calling," Haller said. "It's because of the community where I live and work that Journeys grew to be the service-oriented business that it is. Neither the community nor I was ready to see Journeys disappear. That is evident from the support that brought the store back from the ashes."

Leon & Lulu owner Mary Liz Curtin has a community-focused marketing plan for her furniture, gifts and accessories store, which includes more than 60 charity events annually. One event includes the store hosting local artists and craftspeople for a two-day market to introduce the community to a range of handcrafted items made in Michigan. The event benefits Cass Community Social Services, a Detroit agency committed to fighting poverty and creating opportunities by providing food, medical, mental health, vocational, youth and homeless services. Other events throughout the year promote literacy, donating blood, diabetes and breast cancer research.

"Any business can support the local community," Curtin said. "Whether it is a gift of product, providing space for a fundraiser, donating a percentage of sales or just writing a check - all of us can make a difference. We have a commitment to our community and to help others; our strategy has been the perfect blend for us. We've found new customers through our charity outreach while helping many groups both large and small through our events program."

After receiving dozens of applications from across the U.S., the entries were narrowed down to 10 finalists, and then two winners were selected by a panel of industry experts and Dallas Market Center representatives. Retailers either nominated themselves or were nominated by a manufacturer, sales representative, buyer or customer.

The winners will receive a complimentary trip to the March 21-24 market in Dallas including round-trip airfare and two nights hotel stay. While at market, the Next Big Give winners will be recognized during The Inspired Event on Thursday, March 21.

For additional information on the contest, visit www.dallasmarketcenter.com/give or email thenextbiggive@mcmcmail.com.

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