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Kevin Bartolotta, president of Bartolotta Inc. in Torrington, CT, is a prime example of the generosity the produce industry typically displays, and his heart is as big as the moon when it comes to caring about people in need. Even when he’s in the middle of his day-to-day business of overseeing his company; a broker, distributor and logistics provider specializing in Western, Eastern and Southern vegetables, his mind is never far away from the next fundraiser he is organizing or donating to those in need.

One charity that is always dear to his heart is the Friendly Hands Food Bank in Torrington. He began the Bartolotta Charity Fundraiser & Promotion in 2011, donating five cents on every package purchased from his company and $50 per truckload for those in need during the Thanksgiving holiday.

This year he donated all of the fresh produce for the 350 baskets of food donated and separated and packaged for the Friendly Hands Thanksgiving drive, and repeated his per package and truckload donations.

“We donated over $1,000 in produce for the baskets, similar to last year,” said Mr. Bartolotta. “There are still a lot of people struggling in this area due to the economy.”

photo1Director of Friendly Hands Food Bank, Mo Hubert (in the blue jacket) standing next to Elizabeth Foster, wife of Dana Foster, a salesman at Bartolotta Inc., in Torrington, CT, with volunteers filling baskets and assisting in handing them out to people in need at Thanskgiving. (Photos courtesy of Bartolotta)“Friendly Hands also does a huge amount of toy and gift baskets for those in need at Christmas,” he continued. “Many of the toys are donated, but they also buy some fill in for what they need. I donate money to the organization throughout the year, and some of that goes to the toys they buy.”

Mr. Bartolotta also runs a produce industry fund raising promotion, which will run from Jan. 7-25, 2013. Last year it was accompanied by a contest — the winner received a trip to Cancun.

“Last year we raised a little over $19,000,” he said. “My goal this year is $25,000. This is a substantial amount when you consider that it was promoted by one ad and word of mouth. I passed the information on to my vendors and customers, and they helped to spread the news from there. This year we’re going to do a little stronger promotion by email in hopes that word spreads wider.”

He is also thinking about eliminating the contest portion of the fund raiser in January’s event, noting, “I realized that people really wanted to help in the fund raising, and weren’t so impressed with the winning prize. That being the case, I’d rather see all of the money go to people in need.”

Friendly Hands will receive half of the proceeds from the fund raiser, but because of the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy, he will be giving half to another important cause.

“Half will go to the Staten Island Rotary Foundation; which does all its fundraising and distribution of funds on Staten Island,” said Mr. Bartolotta. “The Island suffered horribly during the storm, and it was days before they began getting the aid they so desperately needed. This donation will go toward whatever the Rotary Foundation feels is most needed.”

He added that come January, people will be moving on from the after effects of the storm, but that there would still be many people in need of assistance, likely for years to come.

In the midst of all this fundraising, Bartolotta continues to grow and evolve as a company. In October, the company opened a second location in Glassboro, NJ.

“I am in the process of expanding to the Philadelphia area,” said Mr. Bartolotta. “I have opened an office in the Eastern Propak facility in Glassboro. “Now I have office space and access to warehouse and repacking facilities that will enable me to expand my services to additional vendors and customers.

“Once we’re up and running and things are going smoothly, I plan to assist people with rejections and other needs that may arise such as repacking,” he continued.

Bartolotta also hired a new broker, Damon Twomey, this past summer. Mr. Twomey has been in the produce industry his entire career. He was a buyer for F&S Produce Co. in Rosenhayn, NJ, and prior to that he worked at C.H. Robinson in Philadelphia.

“He is a perfect fit with my plan to expand to the New Jersey and Philadelphia areas,” said Mr. Bartolotta.