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Covelli Enterprises accepts National Philanthropy Day Award for support of Dayton Community

On Friday, November 15, 2019 Albert Covelli walked the stage at the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) of Greater Dayton’s 2019 National Philanthropy Day Awards to accept the recognition for Outstanding Large Corporation on behalf of Covelli Enterprises.

National Philanthropy Day (NPD) is a worldwide event celebrated by all AFP chapters recognizing outstanding philanthropy within the community. Covelli Enterprises was nominated by Dayton Children’s Hospital for its extensive support of both the hospital, specifically its Autism Diagnostic Center, and the Dayton community as a whole.

Adam Blanchard, Director of Donor Engagement at Dayton Children’s Hospital Foundation said, “[Covelli Enterprises is] deserving of this award, not only because of what [they] do for Dayton Children’s Hospital, but what [they] do to help improve the lives of families throughout our region. The Dayton community is fortunate to have a company dedicated to supporting and making a positive change for those neighbors facing great challenges.”

Covelli Enterprises’ partnership with Dayton Children’s has resulted in more than $132,000 over five years to support the hospital’s autism programs. In 2019, Covelli Enterprises stepped in to help Dayton during times of crisis, securing 35,000 bottles of water for displaced families and first responders in the aftermath of the devastating tornadoes. The company also raised an additional $60,000 for the Greater Dayton Disaster Relief Fund through its Chip in for Dayton promotion and continued its support of the community following the tragic August shooting with a $10,000 donation to support victims’ families. Covelli Enterprises makes it a priority to stay involved and respond to the needs of the community and also raises funds throughout the year for organizations like A Special Wish, Humane Society, and Pink Ribbon Girls within the Dayton Community.

According to David Seyer, Executive Director of A Special Wish and NPD organizer, it is companies like Covelli Enterprises that make Dayton an exceptional place.

He said, “Dayton is a small city with a big city attitude.  The community strives to provide world class services to its citizens and is successful due to strong leadership and donors who understand the importance of community.”

“We believe that when our community is strong, our business is strong,” Albert Covelli said in his acceptance speech, a conviction exemplified by the company’s focus on philanthropy. “Our goal is to be deeply rooted and woven into the fabric of the communities that we serve. We know that we would not be in the position we are in today without the complete support of the community around us.”

He also explained, “We never give back to the community for awards, accolades, or recognition; we give back because it is the right thing to do.” He went on to highlight the incredible things Dayton Children’s is doing every day to save and enhance the lives of children going through difficult trials in their life. He said, “We look forward to watching Dayton Children’s change the world, one day at a time, and we will continue to play our part in the journey.”

David Seyer summed up the reason for Covelli Enterprises receiving this honor saying, “Covelli Enterprises is Dayton.  Covelli Enterprises is community.  When I stop by Panera on my way to work in the mornings I don’t think of Panera as a national chain.  I think of Panera as a local business who cares and gives back.  I see the Covelli family and team as partners in our mission, friends to the organization and a group of kind, hard-working people who is making a positive difference in Dayton every day.” 

Covelli Enterprises is the grateful recipient of the Outstanding Large Corporation Award presented by the Greater Dayton Association of Fundraising Professionals at this year’s National Philanthropy Day Awards Luncheon.

Girl Scouts is about more than just the cookies… it’s about G.I.R.L.s!

Dena Chislak is a mother of two daughters, so she understands the importance of providing positive role models, enriching experiences, and opportunities for empowerment to young girls. Dena is also the Regional Marketing Director in Covelli Enterprises’ West Palm market overseeing Panera’s community partnerships in Broward and Palm Beach counties. For her, getting involved with Girl Scouts was a natural fit.

It was three years ago that Dena and Rebecca Schaffer, Director of Sponsorships & Community Partnerships for Girl Scouts of Southeast Florida, began their dynamic partnership. Since then, Panera has been a part of all things G.I.R.L. (Go-getter, Innovator, Risk-taker, Leader)™!

Girl Scouts is the recipient of funds from Panera’s Community Breadbox collection canisters several months out of the year in all 31 cafes in Broward and Palm Beach counties. Panera also supports the Girl Scouts’ Thin Mint Sprint 5K each year, during which girls are challenged to compete against the Girl Scouts CEO. This past January Panera was the Presenting Sponsor of the S.M.A.R.T. Cookie event that kicks off the annual and famous Girl Scout Cookie Sale Program.

The Cookie Sale Program is what most people think of when they think of Girl Scouts, but they may not often think of what participating in this entrepreneurial program can do for a young girl.

Schaffer explained the Girl Scouts mission to builds girls of courage, confidence, and character who make the world a better place, and the ways the Cookie Sale Program helps to achieve that.

Girl Scouts aim to provide girls with early experiences in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), Entrepreneurship, Life Skills and Financial Literacy to help guide them in future careers or in how they choose to serve their communities. The Cookie Sale Program essentially becomes each girl’s own business through which they learn how to interact with the public, take ownership of their sales, and set their own financial goals.

Beyond cookies, Girl Scouts also encourages girls to take on real and impactful projects within their communities. These projects can range from creating a cookbook that includes recipes with ingredients readily found at food pantries to implementing anti-bullying and suicide prevention curriculum within the local school system. The organization recognizes individuals who create these types of initiatives with Bronze, Silver, and Gold Awards. Less than 6% of Girl Scouts receive the Gold Award, Girl Scouts’ highest honor. Girl Scouts also log a combined 75,000 volunteer hours annually within their communities.

So, yes, these girls are doing A LOT more than selling cookies.

Taken from the Girl Scouts website is the following:

“While some people still think of us as just cookies, badges, campfires, and friendship bracelets, Girl Scouts are so much more. Girl Scouts are groundbreakers, big thinkers, and role models. Girl Scouts design robots, start garage bands, and improve their communities—and yes, they sell the best cookies on the planet. When she’s a Girl Scout, she’s also a G.I.R.L. (Go-getter, Innovator, Risk-taker, Leader)™.”

In 2017, our own G.I.R.L. Dena was recognized for her work with Girl Scouts at their annual Emerald Awards, which honors women who exemplify leadership and serve as role models for young women in the Palm Beach community. Dena was presented with the Healthy Living Award for all she does to promote clean eating habits and wellness through her work at Panera.

Dena has also led Business Ethics workshops for various troops to share with young girls the importance philanthropy holds for Covelli Enterprises and why supporting the community is the right thing for any business to do. In her workshop, Dena discussed the MyPanera loyalty program and invited girls to design their own loyalty cards. The drawings of the Girl Scout loyalty cards hung inside Palm Beach and Broward County Panera cafes for a year as an outward symbol of Panera’s commitment to these G.I.R.L.s.

“These types of interactions are so meaningful,” Schaffer said. “They connect our girls with strong female role models. Allowing them to see what Dena does in the community and in her role within her organization helps them see positive behaviors to model.”

Schaffer, also a mother to a young girl, summed up what she loves about working for Girl Scouts saying, “The whole concept of empowering girls, and not just empowering them, but showing them how to empower themselves. Teaching them to use resources and giving them skills while also providing them a safe, supportive, all-girl environment. It’s a place where they can find their voice, develop courage, speak up, and lead!”

Because of its combined contributions over the last three years, Panera is now recognized as an Annual Advocate for Girls.

In defining why she feels passionate about supporting Girl Scouts, Dena echoed Schaffer’s sentiments saying, “Everything Rebecca said. That’s why. The organization takes what we give them and does such good with it. Then the girls take it and run with it.”

Only a couple more months until everyone’s favorite cookies are back! This year, when you buy them (and we know you’ll buy them), think about the role those cookies play in transforming girls into G.I.R.L.s (Go-getters, Innovators, Risk-takers, Leaders)™ as they learn vital life skills that will stay with them forever. For more on Girl Scouts of Southeast Florida, visit

Panera Bread in Central Ohio Recognized as Community Employer of the Year

Tabbi Erb is serious about her job at the Maxtown Panera in Westerville, Ohio. She stays busy excelling at her cleaning duties and making lattes for customers. She loves her job at Panera for more than the typical reasons like working for one of the nation’s most popular fast-casual food brands and coming home without smelling like french fries. 

Tabbi came to Panera through a partnership with Alpha Group, a Central Ohio nonprofit organization that provides employment, rehabilitation, and support services to individuals with high functioning disabilities – or rather unique ABILITIES. To Tabbi, her job at Panera means being a valued member of a team and being an independent and contributing member of the community as a whole.

On Wednesday, October 16, Covelli Enterprises/Panera Bread was recognized as Alpha Group Community Pairings Employer of the Year.  This award is presented to employers who go above and beyond in helping their clients – referred to as ‘consumers’ – obtain meaningful, competitive, and supportive employment.  According to Matt Green, a vocational specialist with Alpha Group, the decision to nominate Panera for this award was unanimous among its committee members. 

“[Panera] has been so great in working with and supporting our consumers as well as partaking in our job fairs. It’s a great partnership, and Clare and Mindy are such wonderful, caring people,” said Green. 

Panera’s Central Ohio Recruiters Clare Huddy and Mindy Riley, to whom Green is referring, accepted the award on behalf of the company. They initiated and have fostered the relationship with Alpha Group by attending job fairs and working closely with job coaches for each consumer that has been hired to be able to ensure a good fit for both the employee and the cafe they serve. 

And it isn’t always a perfect fit from the start. 

Green explained that often they will place a consumer in one position within the cafe and then they have to be moved to another area until they find what works for that person’s skill set. 

“We started one individual on the sandwich line and it ended up being too fast-paced. We moved him to the dining room, and now he’s a rock star. It meant so much that the manager didn’t give up,” said Green. 

That, he said, beyond the active attendance at job fairs, is the main reason for Panera receiving the award. 

“Panera has been absolutely phenomenal. They go above and beyond to give everyone their fair chance. They work to make it successful, and continue to find solutions until it clicks.” 

That’s exactly what happened with Tabbi. The General Manager at our Maxtown Panera, Jaclyn Craddock, admits there was an adjustment period after she was hired where she had to be accompanied by an Alpha Group job coach for six weeks. After time, though, Tabbi began to flourish independently in her job. She is now always finding ways to be productive in the cafe as well as ways to make people around her smile. 

“She is always in a great mood,” Craddock said. “She creates a more positive work environment for her coworkers and the customers.”

According to Alpha Group job coaches, Panera managers have been accommodating with varying skill levels and finding things consumers are able to do, providing different positions to try out within the company, flexible schedules, and opportunities to move up.

That growth potential was something that was particularly important to another individual who works at our Sunbury, Ohio Panera. He had previously held a position collecting carts for a local grocery store chain. He knew he could handle more and longed for work that had potential for advancement and a place where he felt like the work he was doing mattered. When he found his position at Panera, he found a place that cared about his development and considered him a trusted and valued member of the team. The cafe invested in his success.

Green said, “Panera employees and managers don’t treat our consumers differently. They don’t talk down to them. They treat them like everybody else. They just get it.” 

The benefit to the partnership isn’t just one-sided. According to Clare Huddy, working with Alpha Group has helped fill important and unique needs within the Panera cafes and also helps the company demonstrate its core values.

Huddy said, “We have been able to bring more diversity to our workplace through hiring some amazing individuals with unique gifts and abilities. At Covelli Enterprises, we are always looking for ways to make our customers smile and let each and every person know they are valued and respected. Alpha Group has helped us achieve this by introducing us to individuals that boost employee and customer morale, and represent an important part of our customer population.” 

Alpha Group currently serves about 130 consumers in Delaware, Franklin, and the surrounding counties helping them find real-life employment, develop interview skills, build relationships, and become independent participants in the workforce. Covelli Enterprises is the proud recipient of Alpha Group’s Community Pairings Employer of the Year Award, and is grateful to employees like Tabbi for their hard work and contribution to our company. 

To inquire about job opportunities with Panera Bread, an equal opportunity employer, visit


Covelli Enterprises is not new to the restaurant game. The Ohio-based company has been in the business for more than fifty years, once one of the largest franchisees of McDonalds and now the single largest franchisee of Panera Bread, LLC with more than 315 locations nationwide. Throughout its experience, the company has witnessed countless trends and mounting consumer preferences. First customers wanted a ‘third space’ or ‘home away from home’. They also wanted convenience. Next they wanted unmatched food quality. Then they wanted complete menu transparency. Now it seems they want all of this and more – including all day access, anywhere they are. For any other brand, that might feel like an impossible mountain to climb. Sam Covelli, CEO of Covelli Enterprises, explains why Panera was built exactly for the purpose of addressing these ever-growing demands, and why his commitment to the brand only gets stronger as he watches it evolve to lead the industry where it is headed.

More than 20 years ago, Covelli Enterprises began franchising Panera restaurants to align with the consumer trend toward healthier food options. The bakery-cafe brand sought to challenge the expectation that quick service meant low quality and founded itself on the commitment to bake fresh bread every day with simple ingredients. The tradition of serving ‘food as it should be’ continues to be the foundation of the brand and has allowed it to remain ahead of the curve in addressing what customers want – and in Covelli’s opinion, this ability is exclusive to Panera.

“What makes Panera unique is that we didn’t need to change anything to give our customers what they wanted. The brand was built to already be that for them,” Covelli said.  “That’s the reason we took a chance on Panera back in the 90s before anyone knew what it was. We saw what was happening with customer preferences and found a brand we knew would not only be able to respond, but to help shape where the restaurant industry was going,” he said.

Panera has begun testing a 10-item dinner menu in Lexington, KY and Providence, RI available from 4:30-10 p.m. that includes three new product categories: artisanal flatbreads, hearty dinner bowls, and seasonal sides. If testing goes well, the brand seeks to bring these options to the entire chain in the near future. In a first step, all Panera locations launched two new grain bowls this month – including Baja and Mediterranean – served warm and with the option to add chicken or keep it plant-based. The company’s goal is offer more grains, plants, and proteins, with a focus on delivering craveable food that makes you feel not just full, but fulfilled.

Daniel A. Wegiel, EVP and Chief Growth and Strategy Officer at Panera said in a company release, “Interest in bowls that feature an abundance of nutrient-dense, fresh, layered ingredients, lean protein, veggies, grains and flavorful sauces is on the rise. We believe this product is the best example of what we stand for when we say ‘good and good for you.’ Panera’s warm grain bowls deliver on consumer demand for options that are both hearty and nutritious, that they can feel good about, without compromise.”

The warm grain bowls are designed to fit into a flexitarian diet and contain at least 29 grams of protein. They are the brand’s answer to the customer’s desire for something heartier than a salad, but healthier than a traditional sandwich, and is intended to appeal to a dinner crowd.

Panera’s recent menu additions are not its first attempt to branch out of the lunch daypart. In April it launched another set of menu items designed to attract the highly loyal and convenience-focused breakfast guest. The launch of new breakfast wraps and cold brew coffee along with a revamp of its hot coffee allowed Panera to add to its appeal for the busy morning visitor.

According to a recent QSR magazine article by Danny Klein, the benefit Panera has is that is has always been a brand with products that people believe in. The article sites data from a mobile location analytics platform saying, “when you consider’s data, it shows there’s customer demand and trust in the offering at Panera. The chain didn’t have to reinvent the wheel with breakfast. Guests know it’s there. It was a matter of changing how they access it and incorporating those products into daily routines” (Klein, 2019). In other words, these new products, rather than appearing like a diversion, made complete sense to the customer.

Panera has always been a food innovator. In 2004, Panera was the first major chain to launch chicken raised without antibiotics, and by 2005, it had removed all artificial trans fats from its menu. In 2010, it became the first national restaurant to voluntarily display calorie information on the menu boards, and in 2014 it committed to remove all flavors, sweeteners, preservatives and colors from artificial sources from its food. In 2015, Panera shared a comprehensive list of ingredients it planned to remove or never use with the unveiling of its famous ‘No No’ List. It also promised to use all cage-free eggs by 2020. In the midst of its menu modifications, the brand was also working to implement its Panera 2.0 initiative, incorporating technology to improve the customer experience through conveniences like online ordering. By early 2016, Panera had delivered on its promise of a 100% clean menu while simultaneously launching its small order delivery service. By the end of 2016, digital sales accounted for more than 20 percent of its business.

Recent menu changes, however, have not been made necessarily to appeal to new customers, but to appeal to the same customer at different times of day – or rather all day. The QSR article stated that brands are using customer frequency to fill the void of slower in-store traffic, attracting ‘stickier’, more loyal customers who are willing to dine with the brand more often and spend more while doing so (Klein 2019). The new products are also designed to fit in with the new ways people are accessing them – more portable wraps, for example. With the success of its Rapid Pick-up and Delivery programs, Panera has made its products as accessible as they are craveable. Panera now receives about 1.4 million online orders a week. That means while its stores may see less traffic during traditional dayparts, its digital sales continue to grow and allow customers access to the brand anytime, anywhere. The new, diverse products – designed to be transportable and for anytime-of-day appeal – fit perfectly into this tech-driven shift.

Covelli Enterprises has made it a priority to implement as much of the Panera 2.0 technology into its locations as possible. The company has invested in building new locations and remodeling existing ones to include drive-thrus, Delivery, Rapid Pick-up, and digital ordering kiosks. These changes required a significant monetary investment by the company – all part of Covelli’s long-established commitment to the Panera 2.0 vision, many years in the making.

“We’ve spent decades building the systems and the framework that allow us to react quickly and even be ahead of trends. Instead of working backward, we’ve always been thinking forward,” Covelli said.

For Covelli, his belief in the Panera brand has only strengthened as he has watched many other concepts jump through hoops to try and keep up. In his mind, Panera is the only brand that has taken steps from its inception to be ahead of customer demands. Panera’s forte is in its food, but also the tech behind it including a MyPanera database of more than 34 million people and now more than $2 billion in digital sales under its belt.

“Some concepts have to make sweeping changes. They have to stop in their tracks and reinvent who and what they are. We’ve never had to do that with Panera because even as everything changes, there are some things that remain the same. The customer will always want to be treated well and offered delicious food they can feel good about in a clean, friendly environment. The technology, the responsibly-sourced ingredients, the varied menu… that’s all just part of that. We’re still just delivering on those most basic promises,” he said.

Late this summer, Panera announced its partnership with third-party delivery providers DoorDash, GrubHub, and UberEats to be able to further expand its delivery business. The exciting changes from Panera will continue as it tests breakfast delivery, adds new conveniences like an easy reorder function to its app and more fast-pay options, and launches menu items designed to be enjoyed anytime – morning, noon, and night from wherever the customer pleases.

Covelli said, “We’ve had to get creative with how we are delighting our customers, but that’s what makes our industry – and our brand – fun. It’s the versatility of Panera in the face of new challenges that makes it so powerful.”


Klein, D. (July 2019). Is Panera Just Beginning to Reach its Potential? Breakfast and dinner strategies could turn the fast casual into an all-day giant. QSR Magazine. Retrieved from

Nurses Breathe Life into Community Event

In late August 2014, Mary Shortreed and Amy Weaver, both professors in the nursing department at Youngstown State University, participated in the Panerathon 10K/2 Mile Walk/Run for the very first time. They looked around them that day in amazement at the overwhelming number of people gathered in support of the Joanie Abdu Comprehensive Breast Care Center and got to thinking how the YSU nursing program could get involved.

There were two of them that year. Now, the YSU Nurses make up a massive chunk of the largest team ever to participate in the event: the YSU Team Penguin Mega Team. This team had nearly 400 members in 2018, and the mass-interest in participating all began with the passion of these two nursing professors.

Mary said their goal has always been to show their students that being a nurse means more than just clocking in and out each day. It’s about a deeper connection to the community as a whole.

Her lesson to them: “Don’t just go to work and be a nurse. Support your community. Be active.”

In 2015, they decided to arrange a Panerathon team of nursing students. It didn’t take much for Mary and Amy to get their students excited about the event. The thing that makes nurses special – their desire to care for others – is the thing that ties them to their communities and motivates them to be a part of something bigger than themselves. Mary and Amy focused on encouraging the juniors in the nursing program to participate. They were blown away by the amount that signed up that year and also the number of sophomores, seniors, and alumni who decided to join them. The nurses did what nurses do – they showed up in a big way to be a source of support for their community. There were 160 of them total that year.

In that same first year of the YSU Nursing team, they arranged a choreographed dance and performed it before the start of the walk/run. This “YSU Nurses flash mob” has become an annual tradition ever since, and it is one of the most exciting things that happen before the runners take off.

“It’s a lot of fun, and it adds so much excitement,” Mary said. And each year she gets to relive what she fell in love with at her first Panerathon through the eyes of her students.

“Each year it’s a new group and a new team and that makes it even more special. It’s always fun to see the new nurses experience it and take it all in,” Mary said.

The YSU Nurses’ connection to the cause goes even deeper than their pre-race dance routine. The department’s involvement with Panerathon affiliated them with the Joanie Abdu Comprehensive Breast Care Center and now 15-20 YSU nursing students filter through the center each year for their clinicals.

“They love it there. They get to see so many different things at the center including screenings, biopsies, and more,” Mary said.

She also noted that her nursing students always seem to comment on the personal approach of the center, its calming environment, and its impressive ability to address patient needs quickly and effectively.

She said, “Our nursing students are experienced enough to know and appreciate that if something is found in a patient, that it can be dealt with that day.”

The nurses’ relationship to the center and their experiences working there give them a unique understanding of how crucial it is to the women of the Valley. It renews their resolve to continue supporting it in any way they can – including through their flash mob group dance!

Amy doesn’t see the tradition going anywhere. She knows that the connection among the YSU Nurses, the JACBCC, and the event that brought them together – the Panerathon – will continue to be on display year after year.

She said, “Twenty to thirty years from now, we will look back on these first years that we started getting involved, and Panerathon will probably play our first flash mob video when it’s 30 years old…and we will look back on it fondly and laugh!”

It’s these unique ways that groups (like the YSU Nurses), businesses, teams, and individuals find to participate in Panerathon that make it a truly amazing and one-of-a-kind experience. Each member of the community embraces the event and makes it his or her own. In the case of the YSU Nurses, they have done with Panerathon what they do every day in their field – they breathe life into it with their enthusiasm, their support, their creativity, their spirit, their dedication, and their care.

Join the YSU Nurses at 9:20 a.m. in the runners corral Sunday, August 25 to kick off our race in the most fun way possible! View the video below to learn the dance and be a part of this amazing tradition.

Special thank you to Ashley Milligan Smith, YSU Nursing Alum and Shauntiaonia Johnson, YSU Nursing Student, who along with Amy Weaver choreograph, record, and star in the Flash Mob videos. At least one of them lead the dance at Panerathon every year.


Panerathon is presented by Covelli Enterprises and Panera Bread.

The Panerathon Effect

How one community initiative supports another

Panerathon has been the region’s largest community fundraising walk/run for 10 years. It’s Covelli Enterprises’ largest undertaking, hosting 12,000 participants annually and raising more than $2.5 million for the Joanie Abdu Comprehensive Breast Care Center in Youngstown, Ohio. Pulling together an event of this magnitude requires the cooperation of many diverse community members, some of which act completely behind the scenes. One of the most prominent examples of vital behind-the-curtain work is the time-consuming job of packing of the Panerathon race bags.

Each one is filled with promotional items and special offers from sponsors and needs to receive the exact same items as the next. Multiply that task by the thousands, and the result is an incredibly labor-intensive feat. There’s an extraordinary group of individuals who pack these bags for us each year, and we are taking this opportunity to pull back the curtain and share a little about who they are and why we are so proud to work with them: the clients of Lark Enterprises.

About 30 miles from our Warren, Ohio headquarters just over the border into Pennsylvania, Lark Enterprises is serving many notable businesses and groups including McKesson Pharmaceuticals, Adams Manufacturing, Lowes, Big Lots, Walmart, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, and the Army Reserve. These, however, are NOT the clients of Lark Enterprises. It’s the employees of Lark Enterprises who are referred to as ‘clients’, because Lark is not a typical employer. It is a nonprofit vocational rehabilitation organization and day services provider for people with significant disabilities. The organization’s sole mission is to provide job training, employment opportunities, and social engagement for their clients so they can live full, independent, and meaningful lives.

Mary B. has been a client of Lark Enterprises for 38 years. She wakes up every day and goes into work doing very important projects for the high-profile partners of Lark. Her favorite job is stapling weights in vacuum bags. For Mary, the best part about her job is the people. Her job at Lark has taught her new skills, and given her friends and a pay check, things many may take for granted. For Mary, her position at Lark means being able to demonstrate her abilities, learn new skills, and venture into the community to develop meaningful relationships.

There are more than 200 clients at Lark Enterprises just like Mary B., and they are working in the community in very versatile positions and serving a wide-array of industries. Lark clients are providing everything from screen printing, mailing, and packing services to manufacturing, janitorial, auto detailing, and recycling services, all while receiving a living wage that helps them contribute to their families.

Susan Lautenbacher, Ph.D., CEO of Lark Enterprises, only the third in the nonprofit’s 62 year history, explained that raising a child with a disability is an expensive, life-long commitment. The clients of Lark Enterprises feel pride not only that they are able to work and support their communities, but that can help offset their cost of living and care expenses.

The clients of Lark Enterprises enjoy giving back and helping others. Their favorite projects are ones that benefit the community including supporting schools, churches, and the military. One project they were especially excited about was their support for Cribs for Kids, an initiative to promote safe infant sleep practices. They packed gift boxes with sleep sacks, pacifiers, crib sheets, and educational materials to distribute to low-income mothers to prevent sleep-related death among infants. Lautenbacher said the Lark clients took ‘a measurable pride in making a real difference and keeping the newborns safe’. When they aren’t working, Lark clients are also very active community volunteers doing food deliveries for Meals on Wheels or assisting at the local food banks. This type of work they find vastly rewarding, like the work they do for Panerathon.

“They realize the community does so much for them, so they love giving back. We all want to feel like we are a part of the solution. Through Panerathon, they feel like they are making a difference for breast cancer and getting that opportunity to give back. We are grateful for that,” she said.

Lautenbacher said that opportunities to support the community are a significant part of Lark’s full continuum of services. They aren’t just providing job training, but instead providing the chance for their clients to be fully involved in all aspects of community life. Lark clients spend 25% of their time in social activities like volunteering or attending baseball games and other community events. Lautenbacher believes that investing in ‘every part of the person’ is the best way to lift them up, and ultimately lift up entire communities – and she knows from personal experience.

Lautenbacher is a mother to an adult child with autism. When her son was young, she was told by doctors he would likely end up in a group home. Due to early intervention, he far exceeded the group home expectation and is now a high-functioning adult who is married to the love of his life with a seven-year-old son of his own. That is what helps ground her in Lark’s mission and drives her to continue to find ways to level the playing field for its clients.

“Everyone has the capacity to work 100% in the community,” she said, “we just have to be willing to support them.”

Dave Freshcorn, Director of Production Services at Lark Enterprises, feels the same way about investing in developing the talents of Lark’s clients, but he admitted that’s not the original reason for joining the organization. He took his position to find a better work-life balance after many years as the Operations Manager at a company in New Mexico. He wanted to be able to coach his son’s little league team and spend more time at home with his family. He accepted the job with Lark thinking it would be short-term solution. Fourteen years later, Freshcorn is still with Lark and credits the clients for keeping him there. He said he gets the same joy from watching the clients grow as he did from coaching.

“Watching our clients grow is just like coaching little league. It’s amazing to see the strong team members work hard to help others learn. To see them have money to buy their first iPhone and come to work and show me. It’s like planting a seed, watering it, and watching it grow.”

For Freshcorn, he found fulfillment in witnessing the clients’ progress and watching them find confidence.

“For many years you live with a label and you think less of yourself and then suddenly you can do a job anyone else can. What was out of reach for them, is now in reach,” Freshcorn said.

Debbie B. has been a client at Lark for 27 years. Her favorite work is packing giant cups and wiring light boxes. Debbie says that Lark has made her life better by teaching her new skills and helping her make friends. Debbie thinks that Panerathon is a very good thing especially for her, having lost someone to cancer. It makes her feel excited to help others out.

Freshcorn said many of the clients feel this way about packing the Panerathon bags. “They always love doing the job. It brings variety to what they do and they know they are helping the community. They take pride in doing it correctly. One program complements the other.”

We are proud that our Panerathon has helped so many women in the Youngstown region get the breast care they need, and we also grateful that our efforts are able to support wonderful organizations like Lark Enterprises and its clients, who in turn are out there giving back to their communities. It’s the Panerathon Effect!

We thank the clients at Lark for their hard work and for helping to make our event what it is. We couldn’t do it without their dedication to what they do.

For more on Lark Enterprises, visit Be sure to register at for the Panerathon 10K/2 Mile Walk/Run Sunday, August 25 to get your hands on one of these perfectly-packed bags and keep the Panerathon effect going.

The Music Behind the Man

Covelli Enterprises supports exhibition featuring rock and roll photography with special meaning for its CFO

The sun is just coming up in Warren, Ohio, but Bob Fiorino’s mind is already on his work. It’s 6:00 a.m. on a Sunday, but it’s very typical for him to head into the office. It’s because he’s incredibly hardworking, but also because he simply loves what he does. Bob is CFO of Covelli Enterprises and has been for the last 33 years, spending many weekends as the only one in the office. He knows the financials backward and forward of every one of the 315 Covelli-run restaurants. He spends his days diving into spreadsheets and analyzing numbers. Some people might think with how much he devotes to his day job that he wouldn’t have much time for any other interests. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Bob loves his work, yes. But there is so much more to this man than meets the eye.

You see, under his desk covered with sales reports and labor projections, Bob’s toe is tapping. He’s got music in his soul (and always playing on his computer).  And long before he was a CPA, Bob was the lead singer of a popular 1970s rock band called Mom’s Apple Pie that toured all over the country. The 10-person band played such venues as Whiskey A Go Go on Sunset Boulevard and Madison Square Garden with The Kinks. Their album cover has been featured in Rolling Stone Magazine. Now, the band will be showcased all summer long in “First Three Songs, No Flash: From Hometown Heroes to Hall of Famers,” a concert photography exhibition made possible by a donation from Covelli Enterprises that recently opened at Trumbull Art Gallery in downtown Warren.

Photo credit: Bob Jadloski

Photo credit: Bob Jadloski

The exhibition features the work of many Mahoning Valley photographers and the stars they’ve captured in their photography spanning decades including Elton John, Rod Stewart, Tony Bennett, Joe Walsh, KISS and many other Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees and top-drawing performers like Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen, and Willie Nelson. It also features acts with Valley ties, both recent and from the past, including Bob’s Mom’s Apple Pie.

One featured photographer Bob Jadloski, a Warren native, joined Mom’s Apple Pie as a “roadie” through its touring days and documented the band’s time on the road and in the recording studio. His work has been compiled in a Mom’s Apple Pie feature wall within the gallery exhibition.

Bob said, “Of course it is a thrill to be ‘on the wall’, and sharing pictures and experiences with others will be a blast.” To him, this exhibition opens a door to recount stories from his musical past, something that has shaped him into the man he is today, but it’s also about giving well-earned acknowledgement to the men behind the scenes.

“Seriously, I’m more excited for the photographers than for me. They really deserve this recognition,” he said.

An opening reception was held July 13 at Trumbull Art Gallery with music by – you guessed it – Bob Fiorino in his newest musical act, FM Acoustic, a duo formed with his Mom’s Apple Pie bandmate Bob “Rollo” Miller. The two play local venues throughout the Valley, typically after Bob has already put in a full day at the Covelli office as CFO.

Bob’s interest in music began with watching Elvis Presley movies as a young child. “I thought it couldn’t get any cooler than that,” he said. But his love for music truly began in February 1964, with the appearance of The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show. He joined a band in the 7th grade and the rest is history. Music continued from then on to be a major part of who Bob is. Mom’s Apple Pie was formed and signed to a record deal with Brown Bag Records in 1970. They toured for four years from Boston to LA, but Bob eventually ended up back in Warren, Ohio where he got his accounting degree from Youngstown State University and started a family with his wife Lori – having two sons. After working several years at a CPA firm, he came to work for Covelli Enterprises in 1986 when the company owned just 24 McDonalds. Now the company is the single largest franchisee of Panera Bread in the country.

So how did he end up here? How did he make a complete 180 degree turn from rock star to accountant? If you ask Bob, he didn’t.

“Music and math have much in common with symmetry in scale, rhythm, pattern and so on,” he said. “Music also promotes inspiration and creative thinking. I think creativity at work is much underrated these days. I feel that I create at work every day.”

But music means even more to him than that.

He said, “Music may be doing more for me now than it even did back in the seventies. Back then I was a twenty year-old with a dream and not much else. These days, my life and our world are much more complex. I think my resurgence with music helps ground me in what is important. In fact, the [Warren] office thinks that music, and my grandkids, have made their work lives a little better.”

Music rather than being “extra-curricular” for an already busy CFO is actually a deep part of how he maintains a sense of balance. It allows him to be able to put so much of himself into everything he does. There’s a rhythm, a beat, to his entire existence that comes together like a beautiful song. There’s music behind it all.

Being CFO of Covelli Enterprises, a company that issues more than 35,000 W-2s annually, can be demanding. The one thing that continues to fuel his passion for his job are the individuals receiving those W-2s: the employees.

“My favorite part is without a doubt our people. I’m proud of the interactions and relationships within our company. In fact, when visiting our markets with Panera LLC company employees, I find that over and over they comment on the culture and friendship that exists within our organization,” he said.

When he’s not in the office or playing gigs with Rollo, Bob is “Papa” visiting his two grandchildren in Columbus, Ohio, a role he absolutely cherishes. He often brings his guitar and has begun instilling his affinity for music in his grandson. Both of Bob’s sons also play instruments and often join Bob for family jam sessions even now that they are grown and married themselves.

For Bob, there’s no end to his passion for the things he loves: his family, his work, and, of course, the thing that keeps his toes tapping: the music.

The “First Three Songs, No Flash” exhibition runs through August 24 at Trumbull Art Gallery where you will find among the beautiful concert photography, some gems from the past of our singing CFO.

Of the exhibit, Bob said, “We grew up with many of these photographers seeing their names captioned with so many pictures in the local newspapers. In fact, I grew up with two of the featured photographers, even taking a 9th grade photography class with them in high school. I think our community is excited that they are being featured at the art gallery. Couple that with pictures of some local rock bands that many grew up with, and also with pictures of some of the biggest names in rock. Now that sounds like a successful exhibit.”

For more on the exhibition, curated by Andy Gray Entertainment Editor at Warren’s Tribune Chronicle, see the following story link from the Trib:

Be sure to follow @FMAcoustic on Facebook for upcoming appearances to hear for yourself the music behind the man.


The Ohio State University Department of Athletics celebrated the Covelli Center grand opening Tuesday, June 18th as the newest edition to the Ohio State Athletics District. The Covelli Center will serve as a competition space for six varsity sports and over 150 student-athletes – projected to host at least 50 competitions annually in addition to numerous summer camps and Ohio high school tournaments.

The Covelli Center, a $48.9 million project funded entirely through private philanthropy, with Caryn and Sam Covelli at the forefront with their donation of $10 Million, provides a modern home for Ohio State student-athletes, coaches and staff.

“It is an honor to be a part of new traditions at The Ohio State University, the preeminent university in the country in both academic and athletic excellence,” said Sam Covelli of Covelli Enterprises, the largest franchisee of Panera Bread. “We are proud to have our name associated with this state-of-the-art facility that will mean so much to thousands of student- athletes and fans for years to come.”

Construction for the 100,000 square foot facility commenced in September 2017, The arena which holds 3,700 hundred people, also includes 10 locker rooms, 7 coach’s offices, a spacious athletic training area, and enhanced team meeting and study spaces. The arena will offer improved concessions and catering capabilities and an unparalleled guest experience for thousands of Buckeye fans during volleyball, gymnastics, and wrestling competitions.

“None of this happens without the amazing Buckeye philanthropy that is a part of the Ohio State University’s pay-it-forward tradition,” Alex Fischer, university trustee and chairman of the master planning and facilities committee, said. “To all of those who have helped us, especially the Covelli Family, thank you.”

“When you walk into a place like Covelli, it’s impossible to not to be grateful,” said Geoff Carlston, head women’s volleyball coach. “So when we’re breaking bread, we’re talking about ‘what are you thankful for today? What are you grateful for?’ And all of them [student-athletes], at one point or another, have said this building, this space, the ability to be here.”

The Covelli Center replaces the Buckeyes’ previous location in St. John Arena which was built in 1956. This incredible addition to the Athletics District will have a transformational impact upon current and future student-athletes, continuing the Buckeye tradition of excellence for years to come.

“I’m starting my first year as head coach in the best facility for a men’s volleyball program in the country,” Kevin Burch, head men’s volleyball coach said. “To be in a place like this, it was so well thought out, everything from the service space to the practice courts, to the amount of cameras and the technology that we have in here is second to none.”

Support for Autism Brings Communities Together To Help Make Dreams Real

Our company has hosted our highly visible ‘Pieces of Hope for Autism’ cookie campaign since 2011 to raise both funds and awareness for autism. What may not be as visible are the stories of how this cause touches lives at the national, regional, local, and even individual level. Our support for autism organizations has surpassed $2 million over the last 9 years, and it has helped us make lasting connections in every community we serve. This year’s campaign raised more than $310,000. It also helped us connect with a very special fire department in North Charleston, SC.

Autism is a cause near and dear to Captain David Reindollar of the North Charleston Fire Department.  His son Dawson was diagnosed with autism when he was 4 years old. Dawson, who was non-verbal until the age of 7, always had an affinity for drawing. In fact, drawing for a time was his primary way of communicating. One of his most inspired drawings was of a firetruck covered in puzzle pieces.

This drawing became the blueprint for a real-life Autism Awareness Firetruck and start of tradition by the fire and police departments and Lowcountry firefighter support team in North Charleston to immerse themselves in the community wherever they could. The truck allowed for both departments to engage with people in a very different and special way than they were used to. It also opened the door for meaningful partnerships like the one we formed with them this year.

In early April, we hosted a first-ever cookie decorating competition between the North Charleston Fire and Police Departments at our Centerpoint cafe to kick off the ‘Pieces of Hope for Autism’ cookie campaign. It was not only a blast for all who attended (and the nearly 3,000 viewers who watched via Facebook LIVE), but it was a remarkable coming-together in support of the cause.

Capt. Reindollar said the event gave them the opportunity to show their ‘human’ side to the members of the community in order to build the trust and connectivity that is so important between police and fire departments and the people they work to protect in their jobs every day.

“Our partnership with Panera gave us a platform to strengthen both sides – police and fire,” he said. “The event allowed us to come together and show personal care from both departments. Seeing the Mayor there and the police chief in a chef’s hat and apron, it matters. It’s something you don’t forget.”

Several customers were selected at random to judge the cookie decorating contest. Coincidentally, they said the reason they were meeting at Panera was to speak about their support for autism, unaware of the event that was taking place that day. The customers picked one of the police officers as the eventual winner, but the event – which helped kick off a record-breaking number of puzzle piece cookies sales – created winners all around.

Capt. Reindollar said his department’s support for autism has also meant a lot to him personally. “It helps me to know that I’m with a department that cares. They invest in me, so I invest back,” he said.

His sentiments are most certainly echoed throughout North Charleston. When government departments invest in their communities and causes important to its residents, the support, cooperation, and goodwill is reciprocated.

The Autism Awareness Firetruck is repurposed throughout the year in support of many other community causes. What started as a mere dream meticulously designed by a talented 10 year old is now a real-life symbol of unity for an entire community.

“I told Dawson that one day we would make his dream real, and now we’ve shown that truck at so many community events. It really builds his spirits to see people connecting over it,” Capt. Reindollar said.

The truck and the fire department’s support for the autism cause serve as a sort of glue bringing together many diverse community members. It strengthens the important bond between the police and fire departments and the residents of North Charleston.

Dawson is now 18 years old and just graduated high school this past month. Even at age 10, when he first drew the truck, he struggled to communicate. Now, he will be going off to college to study engineering, welding, and graphic arts.

“They are geniuses. You just have to let them find their area of focus,” Capt. Reindollar said of his son and those diagnosed with autism.

He said his family just allowed Dawson to grow in his areas of strength. He went on to say that children with autism need support and resources to be able to realize their potential. That’s why we at Covelli Enterprises passionately got behind this cause nearly a decade ago. We have been honored to use our Panera cafes and products to bring people together to give that support to those living with autism.

“An autism diagnosis isn’t an ending. It’s a beginning,” said Capt. Reindollar. “I can’t wait to see what is next in his story.”

100% of the proceeds from the annual sale of Panera’s ‘Pieces of Hope’ cookies are donated to support various autism causes including The Rich Center for Autism, Potential Development, Autism Speaks of Central Ohio, Dan Marino Foundation, autism centers at Cleveland Clinic, Dayton Children’s and Cincinnati Children’s Hospitals, and Autism Societies of South Carolina, Georgia, North Carolina, and Northwestern Pennsylvania. Funds are used by these partners to provide services, scholarships, research, treatment, advocacy, and resources for families to help more kids like Dawson make their dreams, reality.

Thank you to the thousands of community members across eight states who joined us in making this year’s campaign the biggest in our company history.


Panera Bread’s largest franchisee will donate 25 cents from every cookie sold June 3-16 to benefit the Greater Dayton Disaster Relief Fund

Covelli Enterprises announced this week it will host an emergency fundraising campaign called ‘Chip in for Dayton’ in its nearly 100 Dayton, Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky, and Central Ohio Panera bakery-cafés. From June 3-16 for every cookie sold, Panera will donate 25 cents to the Greater Dayton Disaster Relief Fund of The Dayton Foundation to support relief efforts for local victims of the tornadoes that devastated communities in Dayton and surrounding areas last week.

In addition to the ‘Chip in for Dayton’ fundraiser, Covelli Enterprises also committed all Panera bakery-cafes in Dayton and Central Ohio to raising additional funds for the cause during the entire month of June through its Change Roll-up program at the registers. Ohio-native Sam Covelli, Owner and Operator of Covelli Enterprises, upon hearing of the destruction that occurred Monday, immediately pledged his company’s resources to the relief effort and began working with vendors to source urgent donations for victims including 35,000 bottles of water that was delivered Friday to The Foodbank in Dayton. The delivery was made possible thanks to the help of Covelli Enterprises’ partners Pink Ribbon Girls and United Building Materials.

“We’re doing all we can to help the situation in our Dayton-area neighborhoods, and we invite all other community stakeholders to do the same,” Covelli said. “Our goal is to give the people in the region as many ways to get involved in the relief effort as possible. We want the families affected to know they have our support and they are not alone in this.”

The benefitting fund, the Greater Dayton Disaster Relief Fund, was created by The Dayton Foundation this week to quickly respond to the most urgent needs within the community including food, water, clothing, and shelter for families affected by the storms, as well as to assist in long-term rebuilding and recovery efforts in the affected areas. The Foundation will distribute funds among several organizations including the local chapter of the American Red Cross and the Dayton Foodbank. More information on the fund may be found at

All cookies are baked fresh daily by Panera bakers, and the purchase of any cookie of any kind within participating Panera cafes in the region at any price point will benefit the “Chip in for Dayton” fundraiser.

Covelli Enterprises is committed to doing everything it can to assist the people of Dayton during this time of need.