For Franchising Gives Back award winners, doing good is second nature
Ten employees from the Edible Arrangements corporate office in Wallingford, Connecticut, volunteered with Junior Achievement. They spent a school day introducing students in grades K-3 in nearby Hamden to financial literacy and entrepreneurship topics.
September 12 marks the second annual celebration of Franchising Gives Back, the International Franchise Association’s recognition of franchise companies’ contributions to the well-being of their communities through monetary and in-kind donations and volunteer hours. One winner in each of five categories will receive the gold distinction from the stage prior to the IFA’s Franchise Action Network initiative, where members visit their congressional leaders. Two other franchises will bring home the silver in each category (the Spirit of Franchising has three silver winners). Franchise Times has profiled the winners selected by the IFA Educational Foundation here, but communities benefit through every franchise’s charity activities, as does franchising’s reputation on the Hill.
Spirit of Franchising
At Edible, it’s ‘an honor’ to serve
CEO and founder Tariq Farid has built Edible Arrangements into a 1,300-store franchise, delivering fruit bouquets from stores located around the world. But his personal philanthropy targets two specific places: the state of Connecticut where his company is headquartered, and the country of Pakistan where he was born.
“Tariq’s philosophy is taking care of home first,” says Kelly Hebrank, director of the Tariq Farid Foundation, the family foundation started by Tariq and his wife, Asma, in 2013. “The purpose is to alleviate suffering, through the provision of basic needs, food, healthcare and things of that nature, and also to help people reach their potential and pull them out of poverty.”
In his hometown in Pakistan, Farid’s foundation started a medical clinic that sees a few thousand patients each month. In Connecticut, the foundation donates to food pantries, a diaper bank serving low-income parents, a refugee resettlement organization and more.
In all, the foundation gives about $1 million each year. “As you know and can imagine, the needs are so great throughout the world,” Hebrank says, “so it helps to have a geographical focus.” It is her job to evaluate grant requests, visit the sites and “recommend them to the grant review committee, which is an elaborate name for Tariq and Asma,” she adds with a laugh, acknowledging the hands-on approach of this family foundation.
Edible Cares is the corporation’s philanthropic program, which donates money to employees in crisis. “It started when Tariq would travel around and meet franchisees, and hear stories about people who were really struggling in the local stores,” she says. “He thought our people are so important to the work we do and he wanted to be able to take care of them.”
Store managers can make requests to corporate to help employees who may be going through a medical emergency or financial crisis. It is her job to sort through the requests, share them with Farid or Edible Arrangements’ President Rob Price, and decide on grant amounts, from $250 to $1,500. “It’s not a huge amount of money but it’s enough to get people through a crisis,” she says. “There have been some tragic stories, car accidents, home fires.”
Over the past three years Edible Cares has given $130,000 total, about half in assistance to employees and the other half in donations to non-profit organizations. In addition, the corporation makes a sizable donation to breast cancer causes each October, when stores sell a special bouquet and corporate pays a portion of each bouquet to that cause. In October 2015, $44,000 was donated to breast cancer efforts, Hebrank says. Individual franchisees, too, contribute dollars and hours of time.
At Edible’s annual convention in Las Vegas in July, attendees spent one evening packing food bags for kids to take home over the weekend, then donating $5,000 to the organization that runs the program. One volunteer told Hebrank, “It’s so good to do this hands-on thing. It’s tangible and we can see what the organization does.”
For Hebrank, too, making a direct difference in her home state, where she formerly worked at a non-profit organization that sought grants, is meaningful.
”One thing I love about this work is, it’s all human services, it’s all helping individuals, helping them thrive, meeting their basic needs,” she says. “Having come from the other side I know how hard they work, and it’s really an honor to be able to serve.”
“It only takes one person to help change someone’s world, but at Citrin Cooperman we believe it takes a village,” says the nomination form for Citrin Cooperman Cares, the program that features a day of service in which employees break into teams to provide time, resources and dollars in their local communities. In June 2016, that day of service included 700 staff members/volunteers.
Express Employment Professionals
An annual international day of service called Brand it Blue Day is the charitable centerpiece for Express Employment Professionals. Franchises across the U.S. and Canada join together to fight against hunger in their communities, an epidemic that has “particularly impacted families struggling to find work,” as the nominator explains. “Each Express franchise makes this event their own,” the company says. In 2016, more than 235 offices participated in Brand it Blue Day.
Dunkin’ Donuts’ Ron Portnoy
Ronnie Portnoy operates 27 Dunkin’ Donuts restaurants in 12 neighborhoods and towns in New York. He takes part in leading a multitude of events and programs on behalf of the Mid-Atlantic chapter of the Dunkin’ and Baskin Robbins’ community foundation, including: annual Long Island fund-raising gala; the Henry Viscardi School serving people with disabilities; and the Papericon Special Olympics in Long Island. Most recently, Portnoy was recognized as the Dunkin’ Donuts Philanthropist of the Year.
Snowball Express hosts a four-day gathering each year to bring together children of military parents who have died on active duty since 9/11. This year’s event included a motorcade led by the Dallas and Fort Worth police departments, a Walk of Gratitude and a concert.
Support our Veterans
Ampex backs ‘beautiful’ program
Growing up in a 12 by 20 square-foot house in Pakistan, Tabbassum Mumtaz saw other children with new clothes and a better life than his own and wondered, “Why can’t we have this? Why not us?” Now the CEO of Ampex Brands, a franchisee of six brands with 10,000 employees in 17 states, Mumtaz knows the impact that can be made by a collective of fortunate and generous people.
Ampex supports Snowball Express, a Texas-based charity dedicated to helping the children of military fallen heroes who’ve died on active duty since 9/11. While that help comes in many forms, Snowball Express is built around a four-day experience that includes sports, dances, amusement parks and the camaraderie of like-minded families.
“For a small period of time they forget that they have lost a major piece of their family,” Mumtaz said of Snowball Express events. “You’re providing an opportunity not only to mingle with other kids who have the same feelings and issues they have, but also at the same time, other folks who are mentoring them and becoming a part of their family. It’s a very beautiful program.”
A father of two teenagers, he said it’s easy to interact with these kids and their families, but very difficult to imagine what it would be like if his own family experienced a similar loss.
“I think of what it would be like if my kids had to be raised without a parent, how would they lead their lives?” he asked. “As a parent, if I would lose any of my children, god forbid, how would I feel and carry that stress? I don’t think I could handle that.”
With teams of volunteers, Snowball Express events are designed to show children and spouses of our fallen military service members that they are not alone, while also honoring their ultimate sacrifice for us all. Returning every year, participants are able to reunite with friends they’ve made through the program.
Ampex supports the charity through direct financial contributions and volunteer hours. Last year its Dallas team alone raised $50,000 and more than 60 employees donated their time. Mumtaz said that mindset goes all the way up the chain, from store and district managers up to the C-suite.
At Snowball Express’s annual event, children write messages to their loved ones on balloons, which are then released.
Snowball Express is Ampex’s biggest cause, but far from its only charitable effort. It provides scholarships and hosts events in all of the 17 states where the brand’s restaurants provide thousands of free meals.
“If this business has given you that much, our job is to make sure we give back,” he said. “I love making money, but I only want to make more money so I can give more, and I am proud to say that I want to give more, whatever I can, as much as I can.”
Hearing his motivations, it’s clear Mumtaz hasn’t forgotten his roots, both as a child of poverty and an immigrant to the United States. He’s open about his difficult background, and encourages everyone in franchising to work together to help anybody in need—as a duty and a privilege.
“Franchising is the reason I’m here,” he added. “It’s an absolute need to have other franchisees, whether they are larger or smaller than you, actually help others in our country. If nothing else, your brand gets recognized and people will give blessings to your brand.”
With the support of Sport Clips as its primary sponsor since 2013, The Ageless Aviation Dreams Foundation honors seniors and U.S. military veterans through once-in-a-lifetime Dream Flights. Many of its participants have served during World War II and the Korean War, all of whom recognize the Boeing Stearman biplane that was used to train our country’s military aviators in the 1930s and 1940s. In addition to monetary donations, Sport Clips donates time and on-the-ground physical assistance to support Dream Flights in cities across the country.
The Wounded Warriors Family Support “High Five Tour” is a 48-state road trip across the continental United States to honor our veterans and military families, which has been supported by Marriott International for the past three years. Starting at a Fairfield Inn and Suites and concluding in Escondido, California, all money raised (approximately $1 million) supports the mission of improving the quality of life, including the purchase of mobility-equipped vehicles for combat wounded vets and their families. Part of Marriott’s contribution includes $14,000 in Marriott gift cards and $5,000 in reduced room rates from its franchisees and owners.
Lily Adkins poses with Auntie Anne’s mascot, Twistee, in front of a 1,700-gallon lemonade cup. The cup was part of an Alex’s Lemonade Stand fundraiser where Adkins, a brain tumor survivor, and her family raised $14,000 with support from Auntie Anne’s.
Lots of lemonade at Auntie Anne’s
Every year, the more than 1,100 Auntie Anne’s locations around the country are emblazoned with yellow ribbons to help raise funds for Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation.
The charity was started by a brave young girl whose life mission became finding a cure for all cancer-stricken children. Alex lost her battle, but her mission lives on as the foundation raises money for childhood cancer research, a desperately under-funded area of research.
To date, Auntie Anne’s has raised more than $2.4 million to help fund the organization’s sophisticated research grants as well as a fund that helps families get their sick kids the treatment they need.
“With a national brand like Auntie Anne’s, to have them pushing out our message and have them supporting us and making people aware of the need to fund childhood cancer research is incredible,” said Lisa McQuiston, chief partnership officer at Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation. “Auntie Anne’s has been an amazing partner with us since 2011 and has really checked all the boxes in terms of being the perfect partner for the foundation.”
Mel Sickler, a franchisee in New Jersey with two locations, was there from the beginning. As a part of the franchisee committee, he was among those to choose Alex’s Lemonade Stand as the corporate charitable partner. He said from their first meeting, the entire company was behind the foundation.
“It was a big committee,” said Sickler. “I was looking around at everyone else, and it was powerful, folks were tearing up and pretty much immediately after that the decision was made.” Since then, the company has funded 48,000 hours of research through store promotions and company contributions and events.
“After meeting with Liz and Jay Scott, Alex’s parents and the foundation’s co-executive directors, and hearing Alex’s story and their commitment to honoring her legacy, we knew it was the perfect cause for us to support,” said Auntie Anne’s President Heather Neary. “On top of that, Auntie Anne’s is known for its pretzels and lemonade, so partnering with ALSF was a natural fit.”
Sickler and Auntie Anne’s even helped break the world record for largest cup of lemonade for a family raising funds for Alex’s Lemonade Stand.
Last year, the Adkins family came up with the idea, and got a giant cup to fill with more than 1,700 gallons of lemonade. Auntie Anne’s provided the lemonade as well as a mobile pretzel stand, from which all proceeds went to the foundation.
The family was aiming for $9,000, but as donors lined up to pledge for some of all that lemonade and snacks to match, they raised $14,000 in one afternoon.
This year, the company social media is blowing up with pictures of child cancer sufferers talking about their cancer-free future, something that Neary said was especially meaningful.
“It’s inspirational to meet the foundation’s Hero Children, kids who are either currently battling cancer or are in remission. These are some of the most remarkable people—not just kids, but people—you’ll ever meet,” said Neary. “It’s heartbreaking to hear what they’ve had to endure and this motivates us, as a system, to work as hard as we can to raise funds to help fight childhood cancer.”
Sickler said no matter how busy they get, they can always help out.
“Sure we’re all busy as heck being a franchise or in a small business,” said Sickler. “But you know what, something like this? You just find the time.”
Rainbow International of Columbia, SC
Young mothers have a tough job, but when cancer strikes, it can become overwhelming emotionally and financially. To address the needs of young, cancer-stricken mothers battling late-stage cancer, Rainbow International of Columbia, South Carolina, holds an annual golf tournament to help take care of their financial needs. In its sixth year, the annual Rainbow International Charity Golf Classic has raised $180,000 for 12 struggling local families.
Arby’s has been a diligent champion for the one in five kids who doesn’t have access to enough food. To help those 16 million kids, Arby’s partnered with No Kid Hungry via an in-restaurant donation campaign every fall. The company has also became a founding sponsor of the No Kid Hungry Center for Best Practices, an organization dedicated to researching ways to end childhood hunger. It helped create the first guide to ending hunger along with other charity partners. The company raised more than $21 million among various hunger organizations over the last five years alone.
Gary Denton, standing, is an AAMCO franchisee who refurbishes wheelchairs and gives them to disabled veterans and their families. He is with Richard Schmidt, one of his Wheels of Freedom recipients.
The Newcomer Award
AAMCO ‘zee donates wheels to vets
Robert Martens, a disabled veteran, stopped into Gary Denton’s AAMCO franchise last summer to be the first recipient of the Wheels of Freedom program. He wasn’t exactly eager to be there.
“He was just kind of slumped over, head down, he didn’t want to look up,” Denton said. “I don’t think he liked getting out, he was just uncomfortable.”
Denton rolled Martens outside and showed him the chair. Denton and his wife helped Martens get in, and the veteran grabbed the toggle and took off. “He went down our parking lot, turned around and came on back,” Denton says. “He had the biggest smile on his face I’ve ever seen.”
During the next day’s drive to work, Denton realized there must be more who need this service, and didn’t want the experience to stop with just one veteran.
The AAMCO franchisee then decided to create the Wheels of Freedom foundation that same day. The organization has now donated 16 electric wheelchairs to disabled veterans in the Prescott Valley area.
Wheels of Freedom was never a long-time vision of Denton’s, rather something he literally stumbled upon before opening his business. Sifting through the junk and parts of his newly purchased AAMCO franchise last year, Denton came across what looked like an old electric wheelchair in disrepair.
Denton looked up the serial number and found it was worth four to five thousand dollars used. He then decided to fix it up and donate it after finding Martens.
Denton promoted the organization heavily through the American Legion and VFW meetings, among other things. He then started to find other disabled veterans who truly needed the services, eventually expanding donations to disabled spouses of veterans.
Like Martens, many of the veterans Wheels of Freedom serves have become reclusive. The electric wheelchairs make it easier for them to get around, and allow them to feel more comfortable about going out.
Donations for Wheels of Freedom are set up through a GoFundMe account, and individual donors along with the ALS Foundation in Phoenix donate the chairs.
Insurance companies generally pay for the chairs, and patients aren’t allowed to resell them. He soon realized just how many people have electric wheelchairs sitting around their houses and garages that they were willing to part with.
Denton has worked closely with the American Legion in Arizona, and the organization is pushing him to take Wheels of Freedom statewide, something he estimates will happen by the end of 2017. If the statewide expansion is successful, he would like to find other groups and franchises that could bring the charity to other states.
Prescott Valley is a relatively small town, so Denton often gets to see his contributions in action. A month after the first donation, he was out promoting both AAMCO and his charity at Prescott Valley Days, a local festival, when he saw his first recipient once again.
“Here comes Robert buzzing around the corner with his grandkids running after him laughing,” Denton said. “His whole life changed, and he was so excited.”
Hot Dogs for Homeless is a month-long philanthropic effort with a mission to feed the homeless and empower youth to better their communities. For the past two years, Wienerschnitzel has partnered with Skate for Change, a non-profit youth-focused organization that encourages students to make a change. For 30 days, a Wienerschnitzel-wrapped RV, declared the “Wienerbago,” visits cities with heavy homeless populations to lift spirits and provide hot meals.
Painting It Forward is a national event put in place by Pinot’s Palette. Last year, the event included a special painting class in which a portion of proceeds were donated to the St. Jude Research Hospital. That year, $34,537 was donated to St. Jude through the work of 77 Pinot’s Palette studios; this year the goal is $50,000 to the hospital with 115 studios participating.
—Alex Van Abbema
The Little Rock Foundation for the Blind partnered with a New Jersey YMCA to run a weeklong camp for blind and visually impaired campers. Above left is Rocco N. Fiorentino, the namesake of the camp, in 2012, At right, a volunteer helps a camper feel safe on a horse.
Innovation & Impact
Benetrends offers camp experience
The Little Rock Foundation for the Blind has nothing to do with the city in Arkansas and everything to do with the founder Rocco Fiorentino’s son Rocco N. Fiorentino. Rocco was born 18 weeks early, which cost him his twin brother, who only lived six hours, and his sight. At a birth weight of 1-pound, 2-ounces, it was a miracle that blindness was his only remaining developmental challenge, his father says.
“In the hospital, as parents we struggled with how to raise a blind child,” Fiorentino says. This was 1996, he adds, and “the internet was nowhere near as robust as it is today.”
In their search for answers, the couple collected enough information for a library, which is exactly where it ended up. The Wills Eye Hospital in Philadelphia donated a room to house their library-worth of resources to help decrease the learning curve for other parents of blind or sight-impaired children.
As a teen, the elder Fiorentino was involved with a nonprofit, so he already knew the benefits of organizing like-minded people with causes. The Little Rock Foundation started out as a resource for families and offered college scholarships to sight-impaired students. It blossomed into much more when its 5-year-old namesake became an activist lobbying for more braille time at schools.
At 5, Rocco appeared before the state legislature on behalf of blind children. At his neighborhood school, he only received one hour a week to learn braille. Sighted children, he argued, were able to practice their reading 24-7, because of nonscheduled opportunities, such as reading signs outside car windows and cereal boxes at breakfast.
He told the legislators to blindfold their sighted children and only allow them one hour a week to see. Then they’d understand his plight. “He had a standing ovation,” Fiorentino says, and instead of cutting the budget for services to blind students, they increased it significantly.
When Rocco expressed frustration that no camps would take him as a summer camper, the Little Rock Foundation partnered with the YMCA across the border in New Jersey to run a weeklong camp for blind and visually impaired campers. Miles of boardwalk has to be laid to accommodate wheelchairs and canes, he says.
Special ed teachers in training volunteer to run “beeper baseball,” archery with balloons so the kids can hear the balloons pop when they hit the target, fishing and canoeing. The ratio of campers to counselors is one-to-one, thanks to volunteers.
“Benetrends has been a huge sponsor,” says Fiorentino, who has been the CEO of the financial services company for five years. Over the years, other franchise companies he worked for also contributed. Employees volunteer their time and money to Little Rock, but they are encouraged to support other charities as a group and individually, as well. One of the benefits he implemented when he joined the company was a day off for a family activity that doesn’t fall into the norm, and a day to volunteer. What the employee did on those two extra PTOs is shared at the all-staff meetings.
In-kind services have been estimated to equal $3 million in the last 15 years and 50,000 volunteer hours. The dollar amount donated is $5 million. And the amount of good the foundation has done for both the children and the parents of blind children is why they were chosen for the Innovation and Impact Award.
As for the foundation’s namesake, “Little Rock” has indeed become a “rock star,” Fiorentino says. After finishing high school in three years, he attended Berkley Music School in Boston on scholarship and then switched to a music school in Nashville. An accomplished jazz singer and pianist, Rocco has opened for Tony Bennett and been a guest on Sesame Street. He lives on his own with his guide dog, who is like “a dance partner,” they’re so in tune with each other, his father says proudly.
Newk’s Eatery ensures its passion for goodness goes beyond its kitchen offerings and into a community awareness program for the early detection of ovarian cancer.
Newk’s Cares was formed in honor of the cofounder and CEO’s wife who was diagnosed with the deadly disease. Through its Ovarian Cycle fundraisers, where volunteers ride spin cycles to raise funds for research, and other events, the Jackson, Mississippi, chain has donated about $420,000 specifically to ovarian cancer research, and 1,840 volunteer hours.
Painting with a Twist
Founders of Painting with a Twist, Cathy Deano and Renee Maloney, started the sip-and-paint franchise as a way to help their community add a little beauty to its post-Katrina landscape. They formed the Painting with a Purpose foundation to grant artists funds for education or to help with expenses during family crises. In the nine years since it was formed, the foundation has donated $2 million to nonprofit organizations across the country—all raised at a yearly event held at each studio.