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Panera Bread’s largest franchisee leverages regional partnerships to source critical donation delivered Friday to The Foodbank in Dayton

Ohio-based Covelli Enterprises – the largest franchisee of Panera Bread including nearly 100 stores across Dayton, Cincinnati, and Central Ohio – announced this week a critical donation to The Foodbank in Dayton of 35,000 bottles of water in the aftermath of the storms that devastated parts of Dayton and the surrounding communities late Monday night. The donation will be used by The Foodbank as part of the on-going tornado relief efforts and as the water supply in many areas remains in a fragile state.

“The response to tornado relief efforts has been incredible,” said Lora Davenport, Advocacy & Programs Manager at The Foodbank. “Covelli Enterprises and Panera Bread quickly stepped up and took action to make sure our neighbors affected by this disaster have drinkable water on hand. The Foodbank is thankful for their continued support.”

“Our hearts are beyond heavy after seeing the damage that occurred this week in our Dayton-area communities. The homes destroyed are those of our neighbors, friends, and employees,” said Sam Covelli, Owner and Operator of Covelli Enterprises. “We are so deeply saddened, but we are committed to doing all we can to help restore the light that makes this community shine so bright. Our hope is that we can encourage every partner we have in the region to get involved in some way and inspire other businesses to do the same. Now is the time to unite behind this effort.”

The City of Dayton and much of the surrounding areas have been under boil advisories for days after thousands of homes lost water service as a result of the storms. Davenport emphasized that even as boil advisories are lifted in areas, the vast need for water continues. The Foodbank, which has already exhausted much of its bottled water supply, will continue to serve homes and facilities left without running water and will maintain a special focus on providing food and water to the displaced families whose homes were destroyed. The water will also be used in areas where the boil advisories are still in effect and will be used for the teams of volunteers and first responders who will continue the clean-up and recovery efforts in the coming weeks.

The massive water donation is a result of the Covelli Enterprises’ partnership with Absopure, its water supplier based in Plymouth, Michigan. The company also leveraged partnerships with Pink Ribbon Girls and United Building Materials to ensure the fastest delivery possible to The Foodbank where it will be distributed to the areas of greatest need. The donation was delivered Friday morning and was received by volunteers from The Foodbank, Pink Ribbon Girls, and Covelli Enterprises/Panera Bread.

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

Small Change Leads to Big Impact

Change Roll-Up and Community Breadbox Programs make major difference for causes in need of mass-support

It may be hard to imagine how a donation of a few cents can amount to any substantial worth for the partners that appear on our Panera change collection canisters. How much could it possibly amount to? We’ll tell you. It’s more than you might think.

In 2018 alone, these programs resulted in nearly three-quarters of a million dollars for partners in the communities Covelli Enterprises serves. A total of $623,557 was collected through these programs and directed back into the neighborhoods surrounding our cafes, benefitting causes that support children, autism, breast cancer, cancer, animals, veterans, education and more.

Still, these fundraising programs aren’t just about dollars and cents. These programs bring a significant level of awareness for our partners and their focuses, starting a conversation with our more than 2 million monthly customers. This type of exposure is invaluable to certain causes, especially ones like the On Our Sleeves initiative from our partner Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. This cause has in the past been an under-supported one, but Niki Shafer, Senior Vice President of Outreach for Nationwide Children’s Hospital Foundation explained how the hospital is working to change that.

Nationwide Children’s has started a national movement to break the silence surrounding children’s mental health. This cause is so important and affects so many, and that is why On Our Sleeves was created – to provide a network of support around the millions of families around the country dealing with mental illness by addressing the stigma associated with the diagnoses and providing the tools necessary to improve behavioral health outcomes.

“1 in 5 children is affected by mental illness,” Shafer said, “and the lack of resources for kids is compounding the problem.” According to the National Institute of Mental Health, less than half of these children receive the treatment they need.”

Many local community partners and businesses have now started lending their support to this cause that some experts consider a national crisis, and we are proud to be among them. Mental and behavioral health is at the center of Nationwide Children’s future strategic plans. In 2020, a new facility will open on its main campus that will be the largest behavioral health treatment and research center dedicated to children and adolescents on a pediatric medical campus in the country. The Big Lots Behavioral Health Pavilion has already broken ground and upon completion will be a nine-story, freestanding facility fully dedicated to children and adolescents with behavioral health conditions. It will also house researchers and provide for expanded education and training for those in the mental health field.

Nationwide Children’s goal is to develop a national model for pediatric mental health care and research and to share the learnings to improve care for children everywhere, including kids like Aubry, who at just 11 years old struggles with anxiety and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Aubry experienced symptoms as early as preschool and has been treated by the Behavioral Health team at Nationwide Children’s. These diagnoses, however, do not define her, and with the help of her clinician and the Nationwide Children’s staff she has been able to make positive strides in managing her fears and her compulsive behavior in order to function and prosper.

Aubry’s mom, Nikki, said “Nationwide Children’s has been there as a supportive organization for my daughter throughout her mental health issues. I look forward to working with the Behavioral Health team for as long as my daughter needs them. We want other families to not be afraid to speak up and acknowledge these issues in their own children. Ignoring issues and pushing them off for fear of someone judging you or your family is no way to live. The conversation starts with those of us that deal with mental health disorders, and we can carry that to our community.”

Aubry eloquently added her sentiments saying, “Just because you need to go to counseling or therapy does not mean that there is anything wrong with you! Be yourself and be happy with who you are, including your quirks and weirdness. Being ‘normal’ is boring, anyway!”

We at Covelli Enterprises are passionate about supporting amazing kids like Aubry, who need our help to move beyond their mental health issues. Our objective is to let children everywhere experiencing similar challenges that it is okay to talk about those challenges and seek help in managing them. To be happy being themselves!

The Change Roll-Up Program in Central Ohio resulted in a $30,000 donation for Nationwide Children’s in 2018. The On Our Sleeves campaign will be the featured partner during the months of May and November 2019. According to Shafer, dollars raised will support Behavioral Health Research and Care and will be used by the hospital for the areas of greatest need including, but not limited to, staffing, research, and programs for patients at the new state-of-the-art behavioral health facility. The goal of Panera’s 2019 Change Roll-Up campaign is two-fold: to raise at least $50,000 to support Nationwide Children’s pioneering work and to help garner support for this important cause.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. In honor of this, Albert Covelli, who also sits on the Foundation board at Nationwide Children’s, along with his wife Sarah, and son Theo appeared in several ads promoting our company’s support for the On Our Sleeves movement. In the campaign photos, they wear shirts with the phrase “I break stigmas,” which is exactly what the initiative aims to do. The message is clear: It’s okay to talk about children’s mental health, and it’s more than okay for companies and business leaders to step out and show their involvement. It’s crucial.

“Our family and the Central Ohio Panera Bread locations within Covelli Enterprises are proud supporters of the On Our Sleeves campaign,” said Albert Covelli. “We believe that we are not only in the food business but rather in the customer business, working to help individuals in our communities. We are honored to raise funds and awareness for pediatric mental health. Our children are the future, we need to care for them today to give them success in the years to come.”

With your help, our Central Ohio Change Roll-Up program will be fueling a positive change in the mental health outcomes for children of all ages like Aubry and countless others across the country.

Shafer said, “Support of children’s mental and behavioral health is desperately needed and we are sincerely grateful that Covelli Enterprises has been one of the first companies to step forward as an important voice in this critical effort.”

We are proud that our Panera cafes are able help lead this conversation, shedding light on and raising funds to support a necessary shift in the way we care for our nation’s kids. For more on Nationwide Children’s groundbreaking On Our Sleeves movement, click here.

We thank our customers for their on-going support of our Change Roll-Up and Community Breadbox fundraising programs and the difference they have been able to make for our community partners.

Does your change really make a difference? Absolutely!

How Your Contributions Support Our Communities:
The below chart breaks down the categories of non-profit organizations that Change Roll-Up and Community Breadbox funds benefitted in 2018.

Out of the Garden Project Turns Panera Product into ‘Tangible Signs of Love’ for Hungry Children in North Carolina

I decided to try and write this blog at 11:46 a.m. on an empty stomach just before lunch. It’s hard to concentrate as I struggle to ignore the loud grumbles and sharp pangs of hunger in my gut and the lightheadedness that comes with low blood sugar. I’m cranky. I’m slow. I’m not myself. This is how I feel, and I ate a full breakfast at 7:00 a.m. There are people out there who deal with this feeling all day, every day, chronically, and sadly most of them are children.


Five years ago, the Greensboro, North Carolina area ranked #1 in the nation for hunger. Now, the area is #9 on that list, but Don Milholin, Co-Founder, Executive Director, and President of Out of the Garden Project, explains that the number of hungry children over the last five years has remained unchanged.

The sad reality is that thinking about children going hungry is an uncomfortable thing to do, so people simply… don’t. But childhood hunger, especially in North Carolina’s Piedmont Triad, is rampant even if it isn’t always overt.

“It’s not like with breast cancer how everyone is aware of someone who has it or someone affected by it,” Don said. “The truth is, 67% of public school children in our area are hungry, but people just aren’t aware.”

That means that if your child goes to public school and isn’t the hungry one, each of the two children on either side of your child IS. Wow.

For this reason, Don considers this the worst and most urgent epidemic facing the Triad right now.

Don and his wife and Co-Founder, Kristy, are no stranger to ‘living in lack’, as he put it. This is what he feels makes them uniquely inclined to help. They approach their mission from the perspective of their clients because they’ve actually been in their shoes. They were those children in need.

Don grew up in the Midwest with very little. His family lived in a dilapidated house – one he compared to the dwelling of TV’s The Munsters – that his family was unable to afford to fix. When he wasn’t being bullied for the state of his home, he was being teased for his size or for his dream of becoming an opera singer. His wife Kristy also grew up ‘in lack’, often having to accept mustard on bread as a complete sandwich or eating nothing but rice for weeks.

Both Don and Kristy eventually found themselves in better circumstances. Kristy put herself through beauty school, and Don pursued and achieved his dream of becoming an opera singer before getting his Masters and eventually teaching at both Duke University and UNC. But Don always wanted to do more to impact the world, if only just to help one other person or family in need.

Don and Kristy met and married, and they now have four children including two boys, 29 and 22, and two girls, 17 and 14. When the girls were in elementary school, Kristy took note of some children in their school who wore the same clothes every day and brought the idea to Don to do something to help.

That’s how Out of the Garden Project got its start. Don and Kristy began every Thursday in their kitchen packing small bags of food to serve 10 families over the weekends, to help nourish the children when they weren’t in school to be fed. Now, their organization is the largest of its kind in the region and recently celebrated 11 million meals served since 2009. They went from wanting to help a few families to now serving more than 10,000 people a month, with a focus on families with children.

For the last 6 years, Out of the Garden Project has been a recipient of food from our Day-End Dough-Nation program, receiving the unsold leftovers from 7 area Panera Bread bakery-cafes, 6 days a week. Panera bakery items are distributed to families through the organization’s Fresh Mobile Markets that distribute fresh produce, bread, meat, and shelf-stable items monthly to families throughout 18 locations in Greensboro and High Point. Each of the thousand or more qualifying families leaves with at least 65 pounds of food for the month. Panera products are also distributed to schools, as the organization partners with 50 Guilford County schools to feed nearly 2,000 students and their families on a weekly basis.

When asked what he appreciates most about Panera’s donations, he said, “Panera gives without any expectations except that we do something good with the food.” He went on to say,

“Panera has donated millions of dollars in food that could have been sold. Just by [the company’s] generosity, thousands of lives have been changed.”

In addition to being a Day-End Dough-Nation recipient, Out of the Garden Project was also the beneficiary of funds from our Change Roll-Up program at the registers of our North Carolina bakery-cafes last June. This year, the organization will be the benefiting organization during the month of August.

No matter how they distribute our food or utilize our donated funds, it is done so in a way that supports a single and clear mission: to provide tangible signs of love so that no child goes to bed hungry, to nourish children’s minds and bodies with food and with hope.

We are grateful and proud that our food can be that tangible sign of love for these children and families in need.

“When our clients receive the Panera their eyes light up,” Don said.

That light may just be the spark of hope for the future, and that is the gift we strive to give through our Day-End Dough-Nation program.

Don and Kristy believe that if you fix hunger, you fix many other problems in our collective society. Without adequate nutrition a child is unable to learn, grow, and create a promising future. “If you’re paying for tutoring for child who is hungry, you’re throwing your money away,” he said. Through the work of Out of the Garden Project, Don hopes to level the playing field. Before they can prosper in any other aspect of life, children must first have their most basic needs met.

The bottom line for Don, Kristy, and their operation is this: “Every person should have the dignity of being fed, clothed, and taken care of. Especially our children.”

For more on Out of the Garden Project, visit

Click here to read about our Day-End Dough-Nation Program and how it supports the communities we serve.

Panera employee designs t-shirt for annual Autism Cookie Campaign

This is Bashir.

He’s one of the friendly faces you see at our Voice of America Panera Bread in West Chester, Ohio in our Cincinnati market. He started with our company as an Associate a year ago and has quickly grown to become the Assistant Manager at that location. According to Belinda, the cafe General Manager, it isn’t just his natural ability to serve the guest that makes him special. There’s so much more that makes Bashir who he is.

“He is very hardworking and humble,” Belinda said. “He really enjoys working for Panera Bread and in this community that he loves dearly.”

Bashir is also a very talented graphic artist, submitting the winning design for our recent company-wide t-shirt design contest. This April, the t-shirt he created will be worn by thousands of Panera employees across eight states during our annual Pieces of Hope for Autism campaign. The campaign will run from April 8-14 in all Covelli-owned Panera cafes to support various autism organizations, and Bashir couldn’t be prouder to have been selected as the winner.

“When I heard ’you won’ I felt like a dream came true,” he said. “This contest gave me the chance to do something for children with autism. From a young age I have always wanted to do something to help children in need of assistance. This is my way to do that.”

Perhaps it’s Bashir’s background that motivates him to give back. He comes to us from the country of Jordan. There he studied graphic design and after graduation worked for 8 years as a designer and media manager for a media company before starting his own graphic design business. After 3 years of managing his own business, he wanted to realize his dream of coming to the United States because of his love for this country and the people.

Bashir knew this leap of faith would mean having to start over, but he said “You can accomplish anything you want to if you work hard. You can start over and over if necessary to make your dream come true.”

When he got to the United States, he searched for a company that had the potential for career advancement and the chance to work with and help people.

“Panera provides the chance for me to serve the people. I have the chance to make an impact on someone’s day.”

The t-shirt design contest gave him the chance to use his graphic design skills to magnify that impact in support of a cause that affects so many.

The Pieces of Hope for Autism campaign is hosted annually to support causes including The Rich Center for Autism at Youngstown State University, Potential Development, Autism Speaks of Central Ohio, Autism Society of Northwestern Pennsylvania, Autism Society of North Carolina, Autism Speaks Georgia Chapter, South Carolina Autism Society, Dan Marino Foundation, and autism centers at Cleveland Clinic, Dayton Children’s, and Cincinnati Children’s Hospitals. Funds are used by these partners to provide services, scholarships, research, treatment, advocacy, and resources for families.

The campaign is near and dear to Belinda’s heart as she has both a niece and a nephew with autism.

“I am happy that Covelli Enterprises devotes a whole week to raise funds and mostly awareness to our communities and our associates. It starts a conversation of what autism is and how we as a community can help.”

For Bashir, it’s the children, like Belinda’s niece and nephew, who are the most important thing.

“When I was designing the t-shirt, I already decided that the design was a gift for them,” he said.

Bashir donated the $100 prize he won through the contest back to the cause.

This is Bashir.

Belinda was very proud and excited that the winning design came from her cafe, but even more, she was touched by Bashir’s generosity.

“Anything he can do to support children with autism is more important than any prize won. How amazing is that?” she said. “In my eyes that makes him a rare individual.”

Bashir would like to thank Mr. Covelli for all of the charities his company supports. He also extends his gratitude to Belinda and all who work for Panera.

“I would like to take a moment to thank you for the chance to design something for this great campaign. I’m very proud to work for a company that supports great causes and organizations. Win or lose, my goal in my design was to show support for the children and do my best for them,” he said.

“Now let’s sell some cookies!”

Look for Bashir’s winning t-shirt design on the backs of every Covelli Panera employee this April 8-14 during the Pieces of Hope for Autism cookie sale. 100% of proceeds from every puzzle piece cookie sold will be donated to autism organizations in the communities we serve. To date, the campaign has raised more than $2 million for our partners.

Cookies can be pre-ordered now at

Click here to see highlights from last year’s campaign.

A special thanks to all Panera employees who submitted design ideas for this year’s contest!

2018 at Covelli Enterprises

Last year was another great year for our company with store openings and remodels, special fundraising promotions and events, community donations, volunteer activities, and so much more!

Our company opened 6 new restaurants in 2018 and remodeled several more locations across all of our markets to better accommodate customer needs and enhance the guest experience. New services like drive thrus, digital kiosk ordering, and delivery were incorporated into all new Panera Bread locations to provide our craveable and clean food in the most convenient ways possible.

In 2018, we established Covelli Cares, a program designed to formalize the philanthropy that has always been a part of our culture at Covelli Enterprises. The Covelli Cares umbrella encompasses all of our community giving programs and activities.

Our company was able to donate $32 million to charitable organizations in 2018, in both monetary and product donations. Much of this total was donated daily through each and every cafe as part of our Day-End Dough-Nation program to hunger relief agencies, but it also includes fundraising within the 4-walls of our cafes through our Community Breadbox, Change Roll-Up programs, and in-store fundraising promotions where a portion of our sales are donated to local partners. Our most notable campaigns are our Pieces of Hopes for Autism cookie campaign in April and our Pink Ribbon Bagel sales in October. Each of these promotions raises hundreds of thousands of dollars annually for our partner organizations.

Other community donations are given as we see needs arise in our communities for example, our support for tornado victims in North Carolina, families of fallen police officers in Central Ohio, or people in need in Warren, Ohio where we are headquartered.

Our commitment to giving back doesn’t stop there, and in 2018 we continued to encourage volunteerism among our employees in all of the markets we serve. Covelli employees gave their time to such worthy causes as Toys for Toys, Reds Rookie Success League, local foodbanks and more.

Our goal is use our success in business to continue to make a positive impact on our communities. So as we grow and continue to mold our brand to fit the needs of our customers, we also hope to continue to address the needs of the neighborhoods around us.

Sam Covelli, the Covelli family, and the entire Covelli Enterprises organization thanks both the wonderful employees who represent us in our local communities and the customers who join us in our restaurants each day for giving us the opportunity to accomplish so much in 2018.

Here’s to 2019!

Covelli Enterprises’ Third Generation: A Family Business Through and Through

In 1959, when the late Al Covelli Sr. founded Covelli Enterprises and opened his first McDonald’s restaurant, he could never have envisioned how the company would grow over the next nearly 60 years. Now the single largest franchisee of Panera Bread with more than 315 locations, Covelli Enterprises has become one of the biggest restaurant franchisees in the nation, employing more than 35,000 people in eight states. The business has changed a lot since the fifties, but one thing has remained the same. It’s a family company through and through.

Al Covelli Sr. raised his son Sam in the business. Al had started with a small open-air market selling produce and eventually made enough money selling potatoes to McDonald’s that he was able to purchase a location of his own. He did so in Warren, Ohio, which remains both the headquarters and home of Covelli Enterprises and the Covelli family. Al rooted in Sam his simple philosophy of success: do what’s right for the customer and the community.

And that humble way of thinking and operating is still at the core of Covelli Enterprises today, now run by Sam Covelli. You will see Sam inside his cafes daily talking to customers and even clearing their plates. His company donates more than $32 million to charities and hunger relief organizations annually.

Sam and his wife Caryn have raised their children in the business the same way Al raised Sam. All three of Sam’s children, Candace, Albert and Danielle, had their first jobs inside Covelli restaurants as hostesses at O’Charley’s or dishwashers or sandwich line workers at Panera. All three are grown now and hold positions within the company ranging from operations to marketing, Albert working in the Central Ohio region and Candace and Danielle working in the South Carolina/Georgia market.

Danielle Covelli, the youngest of the Covelli third generation, said, “I feel honored and humbled to carry on the legacy of a company that not only makes hard work and success a priority, but also giving back to the communities that we serve.  This is something that my father and grandfather always saw as their duty and something that has been ingrained in my brother, sister, and I as we continue in our company roles.”

Sam’s sister, Annette, along with her husband Gavin Ford and son Kevin Ricci also operate Panera cafes in Tampa, Orlando and the East Coast of Florida. Kevin, who serves as Director of Operations for this region, was extremely close with his grandfather Al and continues the same legacy in the markets where he oversees operations.

As the business expands into new markets and evolves to take on new challenges, it’s both comforting and refreshing to know that the simple philosophies that helped make Covelli Enterprises what it is today will always guide the company compass. The Covelli family tradition of excellence through hard work and giving back continues on in the third generation with the same strength and fervor as it started so many years ago and will stay at the foundation of the company for years to come.

Watching Hope SOAR: How Panera Cookies are Creating Change for Families in Cincinnati and Beyond

During the recent holiday season, millions of Americans boarded planes and endured the modern inconveniences that often come with airline travel in order to spend quality time with family and friends hundreds of miles away. Others remained local, participating in annual hometown traditions with the family, like a visit to the Cincinnati Zoo’s Festival of Lights, or an afternoon at The Taft’s Children’s Theater of Cincinnati to take in “Santa Clause the Musical.” These are common holiday activities that include mom, dad and the kids, and make for cherished memories. Although, for many families contending with an autism diagnosis, these experiences are few and far between. It’s just too difficult.

But, Covelli Enterprise’s Panera Bread locations around the country sell a delicious Puzzle Piece Cookie for a week every April…and it’s making a small, but powerful difference in the lives of families in the Cincinnati market and beyond.

Making a Difference – one Puzzle Piece Cookie at a Time.
Since the franchise’s annual Pieces of Hope for Autism cookie campaign kicked off in 2017, Covelli’s Cincinnati Panera Bread locations have sold tens of thousands of cookies for a cause over the last two years, and donated in upwards of $50,000 to Cincinnati Children’s Kelly O’Leary Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders (TKOC). And, the funds from the campaign are being used to support an innovative cause – the hospital’s Starting Our Adventures Right (SOAR) program. SOAR integrates the hospital with local experience-based companies and venues like the Cincinnati Northern Kentucky International Airport, the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden, the Cincinnati Recreation Commission, the Taft Theater, the Cincinnati Opera, and many others, to integrate families with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) more successfully into their communities.

“We’re making a difference here in Cincinnati one cookie at a time,” said Albert Covelli, Owner and Operator of Covelli Enterprises, at the recent Cincinnati Children’s Dinner with Champions event where the franchise was named the hospital’s “Corporate Cause Marketer of the Year” for its annual Pieces of Hope campaign.

Since 2010, Covelli’s Pieces of Hope for Autism campaign has raised more than $1.7 million for autism-related beneficiaries in the communities the franchise serves across eight states through the sale of the Puzzle Piece Shortbread Cookie every April. Cincinnati Children’s is a rapidly growing part of this amazing effort.

Shortly after the franchise’s 2016 Pieces of Hope campaign, Covelli Enterprises purchased the Cincinnati, Ohio market, and a visit to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital occurred soon there-after to begin exploring options and ways the two organizations could best merge their efforts for the good of the community. Cincinnati Children’s Kelly O’Leary Center was an integral part of those initial discussions.

Julia Anixt, MD, Program Director at TKOC, and Donor Relations Officer, Natalie Gerano, were among members of the Cincinnati Children’s staff who guided Owner/Operator, Albert Covelli, and Regional Marketing Director, Melanie Murray, through the halls of the center back then. The Covelli staff learned about the groundbreaking work Cincinnati Children’s Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics group spearheads at TKOC. They witnessed classes in session with hard-working teachers at the helm, and ASD students in an engaging and colorful environment, where learning is made interactive and hands-on. It was clear there’s never a dull moment at TKOC! And, Covelli’s partnership with Cincinnati Children’s soon became reality.

“We were so honored to be selected by Covelli as the beneficiary of its Panera’s Pieces of Hope campaign,” said Anixt. “We knew this annual campaign would raise enormous awareness about ASD in our community, and help us improve outcomes for children with a diagnosis.”


Pieces of Hope: A community-wide effort
The Cincinnati market kicked off its first Pieces of Hope campaign in 2017 with a splash raising nearly $23,000 in one week! And, the effort maintained momentum into 2018. Twenty-three participating Cincinnati / Northern Kentucky Panera Bread locations sold 17,616 Puzzle Piece Shortbread cookies to once again benefit the Kelly O’Leary Center. In all, the 2018 Cincinnati Pieces of Hope campaign raised another $24,100 this past April for Cincinnati Children’s TKOC.

The excitement in the Cincinnati market is hard to ignore every April, as local well-known organizations and individuals have now joined the Pieces of Hope campaign to help Covelli move the dial. The Cincinnati Reds invite members of Covelli, Cincinnati Children’s, and a designated hospital Champion Family from TKOC out to Great American Ballpark each April for some recognition and awareness of the Puzzle Piece Cookie during campaign week.

“The Cincinnati Reds organization is honored to be a part of the collaborative effort between Covelli Enterprises and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital every April through generating awareness at Great American Ballpark about the Panera Pieces of Hope campaign,” said Jaqueline Sprague, Cincinnati Reds Corporate Partnerships Manager. “Autism is something that impacts so many families in the area, and these two organizations are doing some amazing outreach to help make a difference in our community and beyond.”

In addition, billboard company, Lamar Advertising, donated in upwards of $13,000 in digital billboard space across the Cincinnati market in 2018 to help generate awareness across the community about the Panera campaign during that one special week in April. And, local radio morning show host, Jenn Jordan, takes part in the franchise’s annual cookie decorating party at Cincinnati Children’s with local autistic patients of TKOC the week before the cookie campaign. Jordan is a local spokesperson for autism awareness and research due in large part to her teenage son, Jakob, who has autism and has been a patient of Cincinnati Children’s for many years. Jordan’s radio station, WKRQ Q102 FM in Cincinnati, supports the campaign with local interviews and media awareness. The Cincinnati community rallying around Covelli’s Pieces of Hope has been an integral component of its overall success.

“Everyone in this region knows someone impacted by the world-renown services of Cincinnati Children’s,” said Covelli. “And, more impactful to this particular cause, everyone knows a family touched by ASD. And, that’s why our Pieces of Hope campaign has resonated among the residents of Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky in such a short period of time. It’s very powerful.”

In an effort to select a cause within Cincinnati Children’s that aligned best with Covelli, the SOAR program checked all the boxes. Through SOAR, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital’s Kelly O’Leary Center partners with local Cincinnati experience-based stakeholders, like the airport, the zoo, local museums, parks and theaters to increase participation in activities by families of children with developmental disabilities.

According to Jennifer D. Smith, PsyD at TKOC at Cincinnati Children’s, SOAR’s mission was predicated on the fact that “participation in recreation and leisure activities offer an opportunity to practice life skills that are essential for community integration.”

Smith leads the charge for Cincinnati Children’s SOAR program, and couldn’t be more grateful for the support of partners like Covelli. The Cincinnati Northern Kentucky International Airport staff now gets trained on how to better equip themselves and their facility for families with autism. The Cincinnati Zoo created a sensory map for ASD families to utilize during their visit and interactive experiences that are sensory-friendly. And, special sensory-based performances are now offered at The Taft, The Cincinnati Ballet, the Victoria Theatre, and other venues around the city through SOAR, thanks to companies like Covelli Enterprises, whose funds make a difference in the lives of the local community.

“Generosity from Covelli Enterprises means so much to the patients and families who turn to Cincinnati Children’s for care,” says Natalie Gerano, Donor Relations Officer at Cincinnati Children’s. “Their inclusive support provides opportunities for our patients to learn, grow and socialize as we seek new and innovative ways to nurture and support their individual interests and needs.”

The Kelly O’Leary Center continues to make huge strides in state-of-the-art diagnostics, treatment and support services, education and training that enhance the lives of individuals living on the Autism Spectrum. And, Covelli Enterprises will continue to support this effort through the Panera Bread Pieces of Hope campaign. This is just one example of how something so small, just one Puzzle Piece Shortbread Cookie, can make a huge impact in the lives of others. Every cookie truly does count.

The annual Pieces of Hope for Autism campaign will occur April 8-14th in the Cincinnati market (and most other Covelli markets as well), and will once again benefit Cincinnati Children’s Hospital’s Kelly O’Leary Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders. Click here for a list of all other Panera Bread locations participating in this worthwhile cause to benefit local autism charities across the communities where Covelli operates Panera Bread bakery-cafes. #everycookiecounts

Year In Review by Mr. Covelli

Wow! What a year it is has been…

Between opening new stores, acquiring new markets, and relocating and renovating several existing locations, we’ve had a busy 2018 to say the least!

One of the most exciting things to happen was the relocation of our very first Panera Bread ever in Boardman, Ohio. We opened the cafe the summer of 1998 when most people had never even heard of Panera Bread.  Fast forward 20 years and look where the concept is today! This September, we relocated that very first cafe just around the corner, and it now features a drive thru, delivery service, and the latest in store model upgrades with an updated, modern design. The opening marks 20 full years of Panera Bread for our company, and we couldn’t be prouder of how far we’ve come with the brand in the last two decades.

This move, along with other relocations and drive thru retrofits, is all part of our focus on fulfilling the commitment to our customers to continue to grow, to improve, to provide new conveniences, and most importantly, to give back.

Our goal is to keep delivering on our promise to serve the community in any way we can.

As I look back on this year, I’m overwhelmed with everything we’ve been able to accomplish, and I’m grateful for the support of our patrons, guests, and friends for helping us make it happen.

It began at the start of 2018 when we were able to donate $60,000 to the US Marine’s Toys for Tots as a result of fundraising efforts across all of our markets during the month of December last year. These funds will ensure local Toys for Tots Foundations are able to provide gifts and hope for children in the areas we serve. Many of our markets supported this cause again in 2018, and we continue to be the largest contributor to the local Toys for Tots program where we are headquartered for more than three decades now.

This year we launched Covelli Cares, a program designed to formalize the philanthropy that has always been a part of our culture at Covelli Enterprises. This program encompasses our community donations, corporate giving, fundraising promotions, partnerships with local non-profit organizations, and local volunteer activities. 100% of all donations to Covelli Cares benefits non-profit partners in the communities we serve.

Our annual Pieces of Hope for Autism campaign was another huge success. Each year we sell our specially-designed puzzle piece cookies for a week in April with 100% of the proceeds benefitting local autism programs, hospitals, centers, organizations and advocate groups. This year’s cookie campaign put us over the $2 million mark for funds raised for this cause.

In many of our newly acquired markets, we were thrilled to develop some new relationships with various non-profits. In Cincinnati, we began a first-time partnership with the 2nd & 7 Foundation to promote literacy and provide positive role models for children in at-risk communities. In South Carolina and Georgia, we launched a Summer of Wishes campaign in partnership with the Make-A-Wish Foundation that resulted in nearly $20,000 to grant wishes to sick children and their families. In our Central and Northeast Ohio markets, we continued to foster both new and existing partnerships with groups like Flying Horse Farms, Pink Ribbon Girls, Animal Protective League, local Children’s Hospitals, and the LeBron James Family Foundation and their new I Promise School that opened this year in Akron.

We hosted our largest Panerathon 10K/2 Mile Walk/Run in its nine-year history with 12,000 participants and spectators. The event, held in Youngstown near our headquarters, has raised more than $2.5 million for the Joanie Abdu Comprehensive Breast Care Center since 2010. This event continues to grow each year, and we can’t wait to see what our 10th annual event will bring in the coming year!

Our Pink Ribbon Bagel campaign launched in October to raise funds for local breast cancer organizations in our communities. The campaign along with our additional fundraising efforts has raised nearly $6.5 million since 2010. These funds have been used to open new breast cancer facilities, purchase mobile mammography units, support education and outreach programs, and provide transportation and assistance for those undergoing treatment.

In November, we hosted yet another annual tradition offering free meals to veterans and military service members in honor of Veterans Day. We have fed more than 150,000 veterans since 2011 and have donated more than $1.7 million in food and monetary support to military organizations since the tradition began.

And, of course, we have continued to donate the leftover bread and baked goods from our cafes every night to hunger relief agencies and food banks in our neighborhoods and surrounding areas. This program, our Day-End Dough-Nation program, benefits thousands of partners each year and provides millions of dollars in food product to those in need.

I look forward to 2019 being another year of unparalleled growth for us. I feel fortunate to be able to use our success in business to be able to make a positive impact on our communities. It’s something I feel more passionate about with every passing year, especially as the end of year approaches.

I wish to thank our loyal customers for allowing us to continue doing what we do. We are able to do all this because of YOU.  I wish you all a 2019 filled with love, prosperity, and joy.

Thank you sincerely
– Sam

Free meals for veterans and military is just part of Covelli Enterprises’ deep commitment to service members

Covelli Enterprises saluted those in uniform with free meals on Monday, November 12 in observance of Veterans Day in its participating Panera Bread locations across all eight states where it operates restaurants. The company has made it an annual tradition since 2011 to honor all veterans and military service members in this way and has given away nearly 150,000 free You Pick Two® meals since it began.

To participate, service members and veterans needed to only wear their uniform or show their valid military I.D. or discharge papers at participating Covelli-owned Panera Bread locations. The company honored free meals for veterans within its Dairy Queen and O’Charley’s restaurants, as well.

“Not a day goes by that we don’t remember those who have fought to give us the freedoms we enjoy as Americans,” said Sam Covelli, Owner/Operator of Covelli Enterprises. “This is simply a small gesture of gratitude to those men and women who have sacrificed so much for those freedoms, and from the bottom of our hearts, we thank all veterans and service members for their dedication to our country.”

Covelli Enterprises’ support for veterans groups is not limited to food donations on Veterans Day. The organization supports organizations like American Red Cross, National Air Force Museum & Marathon, Veterans Affairs Hospitals, Disabled American Veterans, The Freedom Warrior Charitable Fund, Military Order of the Purple Heart, U.S. Marine Corp Foundation Toys for Tots, Wags 4 Warriors, Northeast Ohio Foundation for Patriotism, Wounded Warrior Support Foundation, Wounded Warriors of South Florida, Mission United, United Military Care, and various local VFW Posts in the form of monetary and product donations throughout the year. In various markets, Covelli Enterprises representatives deliver free food to patients at the VA hospitals several times a year, and in others, our organization sponsors programs that offer free haircuts or free custom-made suits for returning military service members to ease their transition back to civilian life.

But as a society, we have become all-too-aware of the challenges of that transition, and it is clear that a free meal or a new haircut may not be enough to overcome all of them.

A staggering 22 veterans commit suicide each day, a number that Project Welcome Home Troops, an organization dedicated to teaching coping methods to returned soldiers, is working to decrease. Covelli Enterprises’ passion for supporting veterans led to a partnership with Project Welcome Home Troops that began several years ago and resulted in Covelli Enterprises raising nearly $60,000 to bring several workshops to Ohio, enough to reach 400 veterans with the group’s emerging, and potentially life-saving, coping tools.

Project Welcome Home Troops’ workshops involve using practical breath-based tools to decrease the stress, anxiety, and sleep problems commonly experienced by veterans and service members. The Power Breath Meditation Workshop, as it is called, is an interactive, mind-body resilience building program that uses a set of rhythmic breathing patterns to bring deep mental and physical relaxation and build a framework for empowerment, self-awareness, connectedness to community as well as a positive outlook. The best part is – it is actually making adifference in many veterans’ lives.

Army veteran of the Iraq war, Tom Voss, was deployed in 2004 to support Operation Iraqi Freedom. While in Iraq, Tom participated in hundreds of combat missions, convoys, security patrols, raids, area clearance operations, and humanitarian relief operations including providing security for the first democratic elections in Iraq since the invasion. Tom also conducted several scout sniper missions with the 160th SOAR (Special Operations Aviation Regiment), the Army’s most elite helicopter unit. Voss was honored to be selected for these responsibilities, but when he left the Army in 2006 and returned to civilian life, many of the experiences continued to negatively affect his well-being.

“[I] have been in the depths of my own hell and back dealing with PTS for more than 10 years,” Voss said. “It was the Power Breath Meditation that brought me back.”

Voss now serves as an advocate for Project Welcome Home Troops and their Power Breath Meditation Workshops.

The positive effects of this type of integrated health approach are far-reaching beyond the obvious relief it provides to veterans and their families. Utilizing these alternative treatments for PTSD and traumatic brain injury is less expensive than many medications prescribed, and over-prescribed, to veterans who continue to struggle with depression and insomnia. These coping methods are gaining in popularity on both sides of the aisle in Washington for that reason.

Representative Tim Ryan (D- Ohio) said of these coping techniques, “It’s time for legislators to learn about it because it hits all the buttons – it is helping the veterans, it’s low-cost, it’s low-tech, and there are no side effects… if that doesn’t cross partisan lines, I don’t know what’s going to.”

In addition to monetary support, Panera Bread also provided free food for the veterans and their families during the workshops. Leslye Moore, Director of Program Development for Project Welcome Home Troops, says food is an important way for workshop participants to socialize and connect.

“With veterans, so many of them self-isolate and some also don’t often take the time to take care of their bodies and eat healthy food,” Moore said. “The workshops help expose them to new and healthier ways of eating, but most importantly, the food helps them bond as a group. [It] helps to draw them out of their shells and into conversation.”

Moore recounted a story of a Vietnam veteran at one workshop where they were having a family-style meal prepared by volunteers for all of the participants. She said, “He had tears streaming down his face and said that this was the first time since he came back that he felt welcomed home. We never underestimate the power of food in our workshops.”

Covelli Enterprises uses Veterans Day as an opportunity to give all veterans and military service men and women that same feeling.

“We welcome all veterans and active duty service members to our restaurants to enjoy a meal, share their stories, and feel appreciated for all they have done for the rest of us,” said Sam Covelli. “Our commitment to honoring their service will continue in all the ways we support veterans organizations throughout the year in the communities we serve.”

Covelli Enterprises continues to seek ways to give back to military organizations and veterans in need. The company’s support for these groups has exceeded $1.4 million in food and monetary donations since 2011.

Bringing Joy: A look at Panera Bread’s transformative partnership with Dayton Children’s Hospital

In 2014, Dayton Children’s Hospital opened its brand new Autism Diagnostic Center with the goal of improving outcomes for their child patients on the autism spectrum. Four years and more than 1,500 patients later, the center is achieving that goal and continuing to transform the lives of children and families affected by autism. They are doing so with the help of Covelli Enterprises and its Panera Bread cafe locations in Dayton. As the largest donor investment in autism services at Dayton Children’s, the partnership has generated nearly $110,000 in support over four years and the funds are having a major impact.

Every April, Panera Bread hosts its annual Pieces of Hope for Autism cookie campaign through which 100% of the proceeds from every puzzle piece cookie sold is donated to Dayton Children’s. The Dayton Panera Bread cafes have also raised funds through its Covelli Cares Community Breadbox collection canisters at the registers and through its new Change Roll-Up program. These programs have generated funds to support the Autism Diagnostic Center and autism support programs at the hospital.

Mary Beth Dewitt, PhD, a clinical child and adolescent psychologist at Dayton Children’s Hospital, has witnessed the positive effect of the partnership on outcomes for her patients and their families. The funds have been used to expand diagnostic services, add staff members, purchase books and other resources for families to receive upon diagnosis, and create sensory distraction kits to entertain children hospital-wide while they are being treated. With the additional staff, Dr. Dewitt said they have been able to cut down on wait times for assessments and improve access for their patients.

“We are typically able to get kids in for an assessment within a week, which has really helped to relieve anxieties of concerned parents waiting for answers,” Dr. Dewitt said.

Dr. Dewitt also said her entire team was able to attend a training session together when in the past they may only be able to send one representative. This allowed for more collaborative and timely discussion among all team members to be able to get the most out of the training, something that wasn’t able to be done as effectively before.

The funds have also allowed the hospital to expand services into Springboro to serve the population south of Dayton with a new Behavioral Health facility that opened last year. The center was able to be designed specifically with children with autism in mind including special accommodations like small, soundproofed waiting rooms for children to be able to wait in comfort rather than in a larger, crowded waiting room that may overwhelm a particularly sensitive child.

Dayton Children’s is planning another expansion with a new building set to open in the near future close to the main hospital. The Center for Community Health and Advocacy will be home to the hospital’s community outreach programs including primary care, specialized clinics, foster care and kinship programs, nutrition services for families in need, and child safety programs. The facility will also be designed with children with autism and special needs in mind and will include a closed circuit set-up where parents may remain involved as observers in their child’s care without disturbing any assessments. The same goes for training, as the closed circuitry allows for students to view activities without interfering with results.

Dr. Dewitt said, “I’ve seen it in my kids and in the research. Early diagnosis and intervention with a multi-disciplinary approach is key. You can’t put a price on getting the optimal care for a child to allow them to live a successful and healthy life. The bottom line is we really can help these kids; they do get better with our help.”

Adam Blanchard, Director of Donor Engagement at Dayton Children’s Hospital Foundation, said that even with all the advancements that the Panera Bread partnership funds have helped to bring out, it isn’t just about what the money can do. It’s also about creating a reason for people to take action.

Blanchard recounted a story of special education classes from Magsig Middle School that made an annual tradition out of field trips to Panera Bread during the month of April in order to support kids just like them by purchasing puzzle piece cookies.

“[The campaign] touches more people than we will ever know, from all of us at Dayton Children’s to the community as a whole in all aspects. The power of people engaging can never be underestimated.”

Blanchard said one the biggest benefits of the partnership with Panera Bread is that it has helped to strengthen the Dayton Children’s connection to the community. There is now awareness that families don’t have to travel outside of the Miami Valley for expert care for their children.

“Our partnership with Panera Bread is just that, a true partnership. It’s not at all transactional. Both parties are genuinely concerned about bettering outcomes for children with autism,” Blanchard said. “It’s all about coming together to elevate each other’s organizations in the goal to solve a common problem.”

Dr. Dewitt agreed that the campaign means more than just money for the center. She said, “I just want to say thank you. The partnership has brought such enjoyment to our staff, our families, and our patients. It’s amazing that we are able to bring so much joy with a little cookie.”

You can look for ways to support Dayton Children’s Hospital and their Autism Diagnostic Center within the Dayton area Panera Bread cafes throughout the year. The Pieces of Hope for Autism cookie campaign is set for early April 2019.