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

7 replies
  1. Rosanna & Dan
    Rosanna & Dan says:

    You give selflessly, Sam & ‘all’. May you be blessed 7-fold, in return. Dan & I are thankful to have you & your family as friends to us, humanity and our earth.
    Onward Ho to many more great things ahead.

  2. Lindy
    Lindy says:

    Your Day-End Dough-Nation program is my absolute favorite! Working in and with the restaurant/hospitality industry for years, knowing the amount of good, quality food that is thrown out each and every day while there are so many who go hungry is frustrating and dumbfounding! When in a position to do so, I used to pack up and take the leftover food from our restaurant’s lunch buffets to the Youngstown Rescue Mission. I swear we could almost end hunger in this country if every restaurant, hotel, etc. did the same thing!

    • Sam Covelli
      Sam Covelli says:


      Thank you for your comment! We are so proud of our Day-End Dough-Nation program. It’s the biggest way we support the communities we serve. If you have an interest in reading more about our program, check out a blog post we did last year on it Thank you for what you’ve done to support your neighbors in need, as well. We agree that it’s so important to give when you can!

  3. Michel Cocons, PhD, MSW, LSW
    Michel Cocons, PhD, MSW, LSW says:

    I didn’t expect to read this or any other story having come today to eat a great lunch and sit at a table for hours working on things from MY world. I knew in Columbus that the Clintonville store donates bread and other treats at the store’s closing to area shelters who come to pick up the food as I have often been the last customer there as closing happens!

    I have donated myself but the scale and scope of both the changes in your stores as well as philanthropy are great for a social work who wants to encourage social entrepreneurship to social work students so they will instill in clients. Who knows where the next great worker or super idea will come from, right?

    Which brings me to my real point of writing. When I saw your donation to Veterans, a thought crossed my mind. Could something be done, similarly or differently, for people returning home from prison? Maybe it is a card for a welcome basket? Maybe it is a free lunch that has a talk by area employees who may have been previously incarcerated or elevated by other circumstances? Maybe an opportunity for that person to bring someone to lift them up – that is, give the person “in need” a chance to help which, in turn, is amazing to feel (empathy may be in shorter supply than clean water. . .).

    I am not affiliated directly with any single social service entity but ODRC in Ohio has the Circles project, there is the Healing Broken Circles program that focuses on male prisoners only, and other reentry efforts around Ohio.

    I know folks reentering have had issues, sometimes many or grave or intense issues, but you base your stores on a promise of good service, taste, and continual improvement. Showing that to folks coming out to a sort of “Welcome Back” or Welcome Home would be an amazing effort for some organization. Why not Panera, cutting edge and leading in so many other areas?

    • Sam Covelli
      Sam Covelli says:


      Thank you so much for reaching out… we agree that you never know where the next great idea will come from. We truly appreciate your suggestion and will take a serious look at what we can do to be supportive in this area. While we already have our areas of focus for our philanthropy, we are continuously looking for new ways to help our communities where they need it most. Thank you again!

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