Panera joins Power Pack program to help childhood hunger

UPDATE: The Power Pack-a-thon was a major success – read the details here

power-pack-postDonate at Cincinnati, Northern Kentucky Panera restaurants

As the director of training for Covelli Enterprises/Panera Bread operations in the Cincinnati area, Ken Bloebaum works with hundreds of people each year and travels to the company’s 21 different Panera Bread restaurants in Southwestern Ohio and Northern Kentucky.

But in all of his travels and work, he was not aware of one of the biggest problems plaguing the region where he lives and works: childhood hunger.

His eyes opened to the issue last year when he joined his co-workers in packing food for hungry children as part of the Freestore Foodbank’s Power Pack-a-thon, which is being sponsored by Panera/Covelli Enterprises.

“Child hunger and food insecurity is a problem that doesn’t get talked about much and is much more prevalent than most of us realize,” Bloebaum said.

He and about 25 to 30 other Panera Bread associates will again spend Martin Luther King Day packing such items as sun butter, whole grain cereals, sunflower seeds, apple and oatmeal bars, complete pasta meals and other healthy options. The Power Packs are then sent home on every Friday during the school year to 5,000 children weekly between the ages of 6 and 12 who attend 100 different area schools.

In addition to the day of packing, Panera/Covelli will also be collecting funds for the Power Packs through coin boxes at each Panera cash register this winter. To donate to the effort, visit a Panera bakery-café in the Cincinnati region during January and February.

“The opportunity to address the issue of child hunger and food insecurity (even in this small way) makes me feel like I’m having a positive impact in my community,” Bloebaum said.

power-pack-post-2The Freestore Foodbank estimates that 94,000 children are among the 294,000 people at risk for hunger in the Cincinnati region.

Kurt Reiber, Freestore Foodbank president and chief executive officer, said support from Panera is critical for the effort.

“We truly appreciate Panera Bread’s continued support as we work to provide children with nutritious, easy-to-prepare food to take home on weekends and schools vacations when other resources are not available. Together, we can solve hunger and ensure our children have the nutrition that they need to grow healthy and strong,” Reiber said.

The Freestore Foodbank’s long-term goals include decreasing childhood hunger, and it hopes to do this by expanding the Power Pack program.

Research has shown that hungry children do not perform well in school. “Through programs like Power Pack, the Freestore Foodbank provides more meals to children at times when they are most at risk for hunger. Everyone has a role in making sure every family member has enough to eat,” Reiber said.


Covelli Enterprises supports Books for Breakfast in Columbus


Community initiatives help
spur gains in students’ reading scores


At the start of the 2013 school year, only 42 percent of the third-graders in Columbus City Schools passed the state-mandated reading test required to move on to fourth grade.

Two years later, 92 percent of them passed.

What happened?

The Columbus City Schools worked diligently to make sure that its students were reading – all of the time.

School officials wanted students to read not just in the classrooms, but when they were at home or riding school buses.

It was a big project and the schools quickly realized that they needed community partners to help.

Columbus Schools partnered with the Columbus Metropolitan Library to equip the buses with books.

In 2015, Covelli Enterprises joined the initiative, which was then called “Books on the Bus,” because it understood the importance of the work that the schools and the library were doing and wanted to help expand it. That year, “Books on the Bus” collected a record-breaking 8,000 books for students to read while they were riding buses to and from school.

This year, the book drive’s focus has expanded beyond just buses. “Books for Breakfast” seeks to raise at least 8,000 books which would mean that about one-third of the district’s 25,000 elementary students could take a book home for breakfast.

“Our goal is to have one book for each of the students and this drive would make a big dent in that,” said Scott Varner, executive director of strategic communications at the Columbus Schools. “It’s a strong start.”

The drive ends at noon Aug. 31 at the German Village Panera, where people who bring in a book will receive a free breakfast entrée coupon valid on breakfast sandwiches, egg soufflés and oatmeal.

But if you can’t make it that day, please consider dropping off a book or a cash donation at any of the Columbus Metropolitan Library branches or at any Panera Bread in the Columbus area.

In addition, Covelli Enterprises will present Books for Breakfast with a $5,000 check on the final day of the book drive to be used to purchase additional books.

Donated books can be new or gently used and as for recommendations about titles, Varner said that “Pete the Cat” books have been popular.

In addition to books into children’s hands, Varner said “Books for Breakfast” sends a powerful message to the larger community about the importance of reading.

“Breakfast time is a great time to read. We want young minds to be engaged early in the day,” Varner said. “It’s also important for adults to talk about reading and model good reading habit. When we give children a book, it shows them importance of reading.”

Varner said the “Books for Breakfast” campaign and last year’s “Books on the Bus” both show what can happen when the community pulls together.

“We have seen amazing success when we focus on a goal such as third grade reading,” Varner said.

books-on-the-bus-2This partnership is a natural fit for Columbus Metropolitan Library, which has made early literacy its top priority. Story times equip families of kids from birth to preschool  with the tools they need for reading success.

The library’s Reading Buddies program offers 15 minutes of one-on-one reading practice for children K-3 and Homework Help Centers provide free after-school help for students K-12. These programs are free at all 23 library locations.

Ben Zenitsky, a spokesperson for the Columbus Metropolitan Library, said the library’s goal is to connect children with books and “to create a love of reading that we hope will stay with kids the rest of their lives.

He said reading is an essential life skill. “It puts people at an immediate advantage in life and an immediate disadvantage if they don’t know how to do it.”

Zenitsky said he hopes that more businesses and organizations work to help promote literacy and a love of books and reading.







Melissa Hale, the president and owner of Leiden Cabinet Company in Twinsburg Ohio, will be running in this year’s Panerathon; the same way she has for all but one of the seven years Panerathon has existed.

She won her age group nearly every year and has placed in the top 10 overall women, but Panerathon is much more than a race to her.  It is a way to support a cause she strongly believes in, as well as a way to promote the importance of health and wellness to her employees.

“Supporting the fight against breast cancer, or any form of cancer, is extremely important not only to me, but also my family,” Hale said.  “My grandmother had breast cancer; my cousin is a survivor of breast cancer; my aunt was taken too early in life by lymphoma; my uncle by esophageal cancer, and another aunt is currently fighting liver cancer.  This is a horrible disease that impacts so many friends, family and people we know, so anything we can do to raise awareness and funds may help one less person suffer from its painful impact.”

When asked how Panerathon compares to the marathons, half-marathons and other 10k races she has run, Hale said, “The Panerathon feels very family-oriented.  You see big groups of people participating whether it is walking, running or volunteering.  Many people are able to bring their children, who also participate in the day.  People aren’t just there to run.  You aren’t there to only compete.  People are there for a cause, to possibly save the life of someone they may never know.  That’s what makes it special.”

75th-Logo-V6-w-TextHale said the event is emotional for many who participate.  “You see so many teams with t-shirts supporting a specific group, or even an individual who is impacted by cancer, and those who wear “Survivor” shirts are the ones I admire the most.  I get choked up every single year,” she said, describing the moment of silence before the start of the race.

Hale said Sam Covelli and Tom Leiden, the former owner of Leiden Cabinet, are the big reasons why she began her affiliation with the Panerathon.

Leiden Cabinet has partnered with Covelli Enterprises for almost 18 years on Panera Bread stores.  The two companies have a very strong partnership, and Covelli has been very good to Leiden Cabinet and its employees.

When asked to support Panerathon, the Leiden family did not hesitate.  After purchasing the company with her partner, Mike Hopp, in 2015, Hale did not think twice about continuing to support this event.

Leiden Cabinet not only helps sponsor the Panerathon but Hale enjoys participating in the 10k event.  She believes there are strong similarities between training for a race and running a company.  “Whether I am running the company or running in general, both require dedication, determination, hard work and initiative,” she said.  “It takes all you have to do both, and these are qualities we try to instill in our employees.”

Leiden Cabinet has increased its number of participants in Panerathon each year and is on a mission to educate employees about the importance of a healthy lifestyles and the need to get routine physicals and necessary testing for early detection of cancer and other diseases.  Company officials also believe in the importance of involving family, so Hale’s parents and daughters Megan (13) and Olivia (8) will be participating in Panerathon with her again this year.  Leiden Cabinet, as a team, will have multiple employees with their spouses, children and grandchildren participating.

Leiden Cabinet is proud to sponsor Panerathon again this year and look forward to participating in the event for many years to come.

Panera-Covelli fuel riders’ fundraising journeys for Pelotonia

Riders in Columbus want to end cancer. Panera has joined the cause and is contributing to each rider’s fundraising goals.

Steve Clifton pictured above

Steve Clifton pictured above


Panera-Covelli fuel riders’ fundraising journeys for Pelotonia
Paula Garrett-Malaska died 10 years ago and her only son, Matt, will ride his bike 50 miles to help raise money for a cure for cancer – the disease that took his mother’s life.

“She was a great woman who was simply selfless,” Matt Garrett said, explaining that he was only 24 years old when he lost his 50 year-old mother. “My hope is that we get to a cure and I feel like I am contributing by this ride.”

Matt and Melanie Garrett

Matt and Melanie Garrett pictured above

Matt and his wife, Melanie, will be among more than 8,000 bicyclists participating in the Pelotonia ride in Columbus Aug. 5 through Aug. 7.

Matt and Melanie will each raise $1,500 to support their rides and Covelli Enterprises and its Panera Bread restaurants are helping.

The Covelli-Panera program, Receipts for Riders, donates 10 percent of what riders, their friends, co-workers or family members spend at Panera restaurants. Riders turn in their receipts and Panera Bread deposits 10 percent of the total in the riders’ fundraising accounts on

As of late July, Covelli-Panera will be contributing about $50 to Matt and $100 to Melanie’s Pelotonia fundraising goals. But they’ll keep turning in receipts until the end of September 2016.

Sam Covelli said he is thrilled that his company can help support the Pelotonia riders who are helping to fund cancer research. “It is our sincere honor to be able to assist the Pelotonia riders and, ultimately, the researchers and the staff of The James in their important work to end cancer,” Covelli said.

Covelli’s company opened a Panera Bread in February 2016 next to The James Comprehensive Cancer Center, on the campus of the Ohio State University Medical Center.

In addition to the physical demands of the ride, Matt and Melanie said they know the ride will also be emotional. “It’s been an emotional year for us. We were married earlier this year and it was tough my mom wasn’t there,” Matt said.

Melanie said she never met Paula, but recognizes they have a great deal in common.

Paula worked for 22 years as a registered nurse for The Ohio State University Medical Center; Melanie is also a registered nurse at OSU. “I know she was a great woman and very caring and she was too young to have died,” Melanie said.

All of the money raised from Pelotonia will be donated to The James to help fuel strategies that prevent, better treat – and some day – cure cancer.

Steve Clifton pictured above

Steve Clifton pictured above

Like Melanie and Matt, Steve Clifton’s ride is also fueled by a desire to help others
escape cancer that claimed the lives of so many of his family members. “My mother
never knew her father because he died of cancer when she was just two months old, and my Dad’s father died of cancer when I was 8” Steve said. “I never got to know either of my grandfathers because of cancer.”

Unfortunately, that’s not all. Steve said cancer claimed his wife’s grandmother, to whom she was very close, a year before they were to be married.

“Needless to say, as a descendant of numerous cancer victims from both sides of my and my wife’s families, I am very passionate about what Pelotonia stands for: End Cancer,” Steve said.

Steve’s journey is also being supported by the Covelli-Panera Receipts for Riders
program which has already donated about $600 of his $2,000 fundraising goal for his
100-mile ride. So far, he has turned in 170 receipts to Panera Bread, with plans to keep going until the deadline of Sept. 30.

Steve, who works at Cardinal Health, said he was concerned that he would be asking Panera for too much support. “They told me not to worry about how many receipts I turned in – the more the better. They told me there was no limit,” he said.

Learn more about the Receipts for Riders program here.

Culinary Arts Training Program

Mt. Ararat Baptist Church and Covelli Enterprises have formed a Culinary Arts Training Program. Learn more about it here.

Confidence is key ingredient for ultimate baker competition


Just after learning that team Panera won, Izzy raises his arms to declare victory as Dallas also celebrates.

Izzy Caminero wasn’t nervous when he sat in front of dozens of people, reporters and television cameras in early February at the South Park Mall in Cleveland to compete in the Panera Bread Ultimate Baker Junior Competition.

The 7 year-old said he knew his team was going to win. His secret ingredient: He has been cooking with his mother, Sandy Caminero for years.

The first-grader at Messiah Lutheran Elementary School in Fairview Park said his mother is the second best cook he knows. “I’m the best,” he said.

So, when A Special Wish Cleveland and Covelli Enterprises, the owner of Panera Bread restaurants in the region, teamed up for the competition, it made sense for Izzy to enter. After all, Izzy likes to cook.

Izzy and his partner for the competition, Lily Von Glahn, worked with Dallas Cox, director of baking for Panera’s Cleveland’s operations. And judges selected their creations over those made by celebrity chef Dante Bocuzzi.

But baking is just one of Izzy’s interests.

He likes science, especially how the human body works. And that probably stems from his battle with bone cancer. He finished chemotherapy treatments in June 2015 and has had two clear scans since then. “No cancer,” he shouts.

But he lost part of his leg and will face several surgeries and adjustment to life with a prosthetic leg.

Izzy said his thoughts are on whether he should be a “vet, a chef or a pilot.”

Covelli Enterprises’ Sam Covelli writes more about this event in his blog, Sam Says.

Dear Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Covelli Enterprises was honored to sponsor the Fourth Annual Martin Luther King Writing Contest and Leadership Award in Pittsburgh in January.
Dozens of youth entered.

Lessons from MLK inspire and educate young and not-so-young

People learn in all ways.

People learn in many different ways.  I believe that I learn best by studying others. I was fortunate to have learned from my parents and countless role models throughout my life.

And I am still learning – every day. I learned a lot and gained amazing inspiration from dozens of Pittsburgh youth who entered Covelli Enterprises’ Fourth Annual Martin Luther King Writing Contest and Leadership Award.

These young people, who will be presented with awards on Saturday, Jan. 16, showed great sensitivity, passion and energy for the ideals for which Dr. King worked.


Daviona Clemons,  author of the first place essay, titled “An Open Letter,” described how sad Dr. King would be if he could see the lack of progress in society. She wrote, “Dear Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., If you could only see what I am seeing now, there would be no way to keep your tears from streaming down. The hurt that our people are going through today. It’s like your speeches didn’t amount to anything anyway.”

Daviona’s words are beautiful and she is an accomplished writer, but more importantly, her ideas convey the kind of unwavering hope that Dr. King had in humanity. “I believe in what you said that day. ‘The time is always right to do what is right.’”

I was honored to read her essay and am grateful for Daviona and the others who possess such wisdom at such an early age.

Thank you Daviona and thank you to all who entered.



The full list of winners is here:


1st Place: Daviona Clemons – An Open Letter

10th Grade – University Preparatory Academy

2nd Place: Johnte’ Jackson-Thomas – The time is always right to do what is right.

8th Grade – Falk Laboratory 

3rd Place: Frank Smart – Where Has the Time Gone?

10th Grade – University Preparatory Academy



Amir Hutchins – 11th Grade – University Prep

Rashawn Edmundson – 12th Grade – Barack Obama Academy

Damon Peters – University Prep

Terrell Coleman – 6th Grade -University Prep

Denay Clemons – 9th Grade – University Prep