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With help from Genpro, Bartolotta sees success in third annual charity fundraiser

Kevin Bartolotta, president of Bartolotta Inc., headquartered in Torrington, CT, held his third annual fundraiser, which ran from Feb. 10 to March 1.

The annual project has grown consistently each year since its inception. This year, Bartolotta partnered in the project with Rob Goldstein, owner and president of Genpro Inc. headquartered in Rutherford, NJ. Goldstein's human resource director also became involved in organizing the fundraiser.

"We raised $36,150, about $4,000 more than what we raised in 2013," Bartolotta told The Produce News. "That number is short of the $40,000 we were hoping to raise, but we feel good about the fact that the donations increased over last year."

Bartolotta and Goldstein plan to partner again in future annual fundraisers and they hope that they will be joined by other companies. Bartolotta remains faithful to his favorite charity group, Friendly Hands Food Bank, also in Torrington. The organization works year round to help people, and is especially helpful during the holidays.

But Bartolotta also chooses other groups in need to split the money raised, and he feels it's important that he consult with other produce companies across the country for suggestions on nonprofit organizations that the fundraiser can help.

This year two additional beneficiaries were chosen. One is Dorothy's Place in Salinas, CA, a day center that provides meals, a health clinic, after-school child care, emergency walk-in shelter for homeless women and much more in community aid.

The third beneficiary is the Wounded Warrior Project, an organization with centers across the country that work to honor and empower wounded military people and in raising awareness for the needs of injured service members.

"Each of the three groups will receive $12,000 this year," said Bartolotta. "While we had many new donors this year, some companies that donated heavily in the past two years had to pull back a little this year. We appreciate every dime that we receive."

Bartolotta also digs deeply into his own pockets. He donated 7.5 cents per package that his company sold during the fundraiser, in addition to $50 per truckload.

"We raised $10,000 and the remainder came from donors," he explained. "And the donations came from all over the place -- not only produce people -- which tells us that word is spreading each year. Even Rob Goldstein's three kids dug into their personal bank accounts to make a donation."

Employees of Genpro also reached out to help. The company is a leading truck brokerage operation that provides produce-specific end-to-end, technology-driven service with continuous systematic shipment visibility.

Stacy Petriello, Genpro's human resource manager, put the fundraising information on the company's website, which brought awareness to many more people.

"In my past job, I focused a lot on fundraisers and I know that people are more prone to offer up a credit card number when they're donating," said Petriello. "In the past, Kevin was having checks sent in to him. We believe that in the future the fundraiser can be organized so as to make it more streamlined and efficient."

Bartolotta concurs, noting that he was still waiting for some checks to arrive in early April.

"I learned a lot this year, and Rob and Stacy really helped with their suggestions for the future," he said. "We are now planning to establish a 5.03 non-profit organization to help us be better organized."

Petriello also developed a letter for Bartolotta to send out announcing the fundraiser, "and as best as I could I collected money to pass on to Kevin," she added.

The annual fundraiser also includes an incentive award program for donors. Based on the amount of money a company donates it is put into a category for a prize drawing.

This year the grand prize, a seven-day vacation for two to Villa del Palmar Beach Resort & Spa in Cabo San Lucus, Mexico, which was donated by Van Solkema Produce in Byron Center, MI, was won by Richard Cochran, president of Robt. T. Cochran & Co., a full-line produce distributor located in the Bronx, NY.

Lance Dichter, general manager of LD Logistics LLC, a truck brokerage company also in the Bronx, won the second prize, which is a trip to Las Vegas.

"Several gift cards were also awarded," said Bartolotta. "Bobby Peraza, a sales representative for J&J Family of Farms at the company's Nogales, Arizona office won a $250 gift card. He plans to use the money to hold a party with fellow employees."

Other gift cards were also presented, including one for $500, but the winners chose to remain anonymous. One of Bartolotta's New England customers, who also wishes to remain nameless, won four tickets to a Boston Red Sox' game.

"Special thanks for the success of the fundraiser are also extended to my own staff -- Becky Helterbran, my administrative assistant, and Lisa Zampaglione, my officer manager," Bartolotta said. "They, like so many others, were a tremendous help.

"We look forward to next year's fundraiser, and we'll be implementing all of the lessons we learned from the three we've held so far in an effort to streamline it, market it more heavily and make it an even greater success," he added. "And we hope to partner with at least one more produce company next year. It's a very rewarding thing to be able to help people in need, and anyone who would like to join our effort is welcome to contact me."