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FGB winners go beyond the bottom line


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Innovation & Impact Award

Ready for rainy day at Massage Heights

Patricia Zweig-Franson has done it all at Massage Heights, the San Antonio, Texas-based massage and facials chain co-founded by her daughter, Shane Evans. She’s run the legal department at corporate, bought a failing store in Austin with her younger son to try to turn it around, and even knocked down a wall or two if that needs doing.

But her latest task, chairing the Massage Heights Family Fund, the gold award winner, is a challenge both exhilarating and draining.

“I’m going to get emotional and I don’t normally do,” she told Franchise Times in an interview last fall, when describing the foundation’s work. “I’m pretty tough after caring for my husband for 15 years.” Her husband, Glenn Franson Sr., died of early onset Parkinson’s disease in 2014.

For the foundation, she collects and reviews requests from employees of franchisee-owned stores, and makes small grants to help them through tragic circumstances. “We’re there to have a rainy day fund. It’s meant to supplement the care of other team members,” she said. In four years, the Massage Heights Family Fund, a 501(c)(3) organization, has awarded 16 grants totaling $15,500.

This year, the foundation has a goal of reaching $100,000 in donations. Thirty corporate employees and 90 franchisees rally together to raise money, from automatic payroll deductions to wine pulls to old-fashioned phone calls to cash and in-kind donations.

Jim Branch

Massage Heights Family Fund donor Jim Branch, left, hugs Patricia Zweig-Franson as company co-founders Shane Evans and Wayne Evans look on.

Photo Credit: www.THELXA.COM

The stories are emotionally draining, like the $1,000 grant to mourn the loss of a staff member’s daughter killed in an automobile accident two weeks before her wedding. Another $1,000 went to provide short-term accommodations after the total burn-down of a staff member’s home. Grants have gone toward travel and accommodations during a child’s hospital stays or medical co-pays for a spouse’s breast cancer treatment.

Of course, a thousand dollars doesn’t come close to covering all the expenses, but Zweig-Franson says it’s a show of support when employees are at the bottom. When her older son, Glenn Franson Jr., Massage Heights’ CEO, first proposed the family foundation several years ago, Zweig-Franson resisted—she thought the franchise was too fledgling to support such a venture. But then Shane Evans, president and co-founder, went on the hit CBS show “Undercover Boss” and learned about the struggles of workers with relatively low wages common in the retail space. “She came back and said ‘I totally get it now,’” Zweig-Franson says, and she was charged with heading up the new initiative.

Like everything she does, Zweig-Franson did her homework, reaching out to other franchises with foundations, such as Whataburger. “I learned what to do and not to do,” she says. At an Olive Garden restaurant, she asked about the buttons employees were wearing, and was told, “We have Darden’s Dimes—all of our employees give a dime” from each paycheck to that chain’s fund. (Darden owns Olive Garden.)

For a woman who’s done just about everything in her career, both in and out of Massage Heights, this could be the most rewarding of all.

Massage Heights Family Fund

The Massage Heights Family Fund helps support team members like these during times of crisis.

Silver Winners

Dunkin’s Branded Management Group—Box 4 Special Services

Box 4 Special Services has a storied history—all the way back to 1921 when a major fire broke out along Main Street in Worcester, Massachusetts. The temperature that night was around 10 degrees below zero, so a group of residents provided warm drinks and blankets to firefighters. The group became known as Box 4 Special Services. Fast forward to 2011, when the Worcester Fire Department suffered its first line of duty death in a decade, and it was decided to get a canteen truck for Worcester. As a nod to the original group, they called themselves Box 4 Special Services. When Box 4 approached Dunkin’ Donuts to ask for donations, not only did local franchisee Branded Management Group donate coffee, cups and lids, but also Dunkin’ Donuts corporate offered to pay for a brand new truck worth $250,000. Staffed 24 hours a day by volunteer firefighters, police and EMS technicians, the Box 4 Special Services Canteen is a full-service recovery vehicle. Franchisee Rob Branca recalls when he and his colleagues told Box 4 Special Services that they would fund the entire project, not just make a small pledge as they had originally been asked. “You never saw such macho men cry so hard. It was one of the best moments of my entire career,” he said.

Abrakadoodle—Arts for All

Abrakadoodle believes in the power of art to help children develop their “imagination quotient.” “In no other venue can children actively express, explore, create, innovate and challenge without fear of rejection or negative judgment,” says the nomination form. With that in mind, the franchise in 2007 started its annual Arts for All Campaign, to provide access to children who could not otherwise afford to take part. In 2017, the franchise broadened the program with a challenge to its franchise partners to “identify and meet community needs,” resulting in a sharp increase in the number of people served. Along with the corporate-funded Arts for All Scholarship each year, this year’s franchisee-funded initiatives have included a “Your Keys to the City” event in Denver, in which Team Abrakadoodle collaborated on a “visual masterpiece that they painted on a piano during the live event.” Abrakadoodle of Metro Detroit planned three free arts events this year to benefit families served by Samaritus, a community organization. And Abrakadoodle of Montgomery, Alabama, hosted workshops honoring Black History Month to benefit residents of Brantwood Children’s Home. The arts education franchise estimates 2,200 hours of volunteer labor, $22,800 of in-kind services and $11,000 have been donated through the program.

Dunkin’s Naples Donuts—Safe & Healthy Children’s Coalition

Tragedy struck during a month-long effort to raise awareness during drowning prevention month in Florida in May, when two siblings under the age of 3 drowned. Patricia Moskol, the Dunkin’ Donuts franchisee who led an effort to partner with the Safe & Healthy Children’s Coalition of Collier County, noted the partnership received extensive publicity on its message to never swim alone. “Numerous members of our communities addressed their swimming pool safety measures,” the nomination form stated. “Our network strongly believes that proactivity towards prevention has a greater impact than reactivity” after a tragedy.

—Beth Ewen

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