Businesses have an important role to play in society

Whitney M. Young Award reminded me of that responsibility

In February, I received the Whitney M. Young Award from the Laurel Highlands Council, Scoutreach Division of the Boy Scouts of America. I am thrilled by the honor, but it has also prompted me to think about the social role and responsibility of businesses.


Please allow me to explain.

First, I believe I may need to provide some background about the late Whitney Young. Young, the former executive director of the national Urban League, was a truly remarkable individual and a man from whom we can still learn today.

He was the son of an educator, a graduate of MIT and a man who was committed to working for change and greater understanding. He advised Presidents Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon. Some of his biographers say he was successful because he helped bridge racial divides and worked with business leaders for full integration of organizations and businesses.

His New York Times obituary quoted him: “`I’m not anxious to be the loudest voice, or the most popular. But I would like to think that, at a crucial moment, I was an effective voice of the voiceless, and an effective hope of the hopeless.’”

I think we can all learn from that and we’ve tried to adopt that philosophy at Covelli Enterprises where we think of our work as more than just a food service operation.

We see our organization as part of the communities we serve, providing not only great quality food, but decent jobs with advancement opportunities.

And we take diversity seriously and go to great lengths to ensure that the restaurants that are part of our growing network are staffed with people of varying ethnicities and ages. For instance, we are launching a training program at McGuffey Center intended to help us identify interested associates.

And then, there’s a whole other part to how we view our corporate responsibility. We take philanthropy very seriously and each year give about $27 million in food or cash to various non-profit organizations in communities where we operate.

But we do more than just write checks. We partner with organizations, lending the expertise that we have.

I recently received a letter from Retired 6th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Nathaniel Jones, a Youngstown native, applauding our company for the work that we are doing. I am so proud of the letter that I want to share part of it with you.

“I have been involved in civil rights activities for well over fifty years.  In my early years, the business community was generally a stumbling block to progress.  A change has now taken place.  An enlightened view toward social and economic change has been demonstrated by business persons resulting in more businesses stepping forward.  Sam Covelli and Covelli Enterprises are in the vanguard of this change,” Jones wrote.

This letter, the award from the Boy Scouts, the support that we receive from customers every day and most of all, the satisfaction that I have knowing that we are doing our part to make the world a better and more just place are amazingly rewarding for me and for our family of 25,000 associates at Covelli Enterprises.

1 reply
  1. John Mackin
    John Mackin says:

    Hi Sam! I doubt if you remember me but I lived in the apartments at the University of Miami when you went to the University. I had very long hair then and had mutual friends like John Sorgi and Dave Mahady. I still remember your yellow sports car and how the wheels were stolen one night. I didn’t expect that! Anyway, I started to follow Jesus during that time and ended up living overseas for 16 years as a missionary in the Philippines after graduating. I have three children and three grandchildren now and work as a campus minister at Penn State. I was glad to hear how well your company is doing and wanted you to know that the church I attend benefits from the food Panera gives away at the end of the day.We also have our staff meeting weekly at our local Panera. I appreciate the impact that you are having on other areas of society.
    John Mackin


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