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Kevin Bartolotta heads industry fundraiser for Friendly Hands Food Bank

Kevin Bartolotta, president and owner of Bartolotta Inc. in Torrington, CT, understands how the downswing in the economy has affected many Americans. He is a strong supporter of Friendly Hands Food Bank Inc., also in Torrington, and served on the organization’s board in the late 1990s and in 2000. Now he is reaching out to the produce industry to lend the food bank a “helping hand” through a fundraiser.

Volunteers preparing toys to be given to children at Helping Hands Food Bank in 2010.

“Things are very tough for the average family in this economy, and all food banks are struggling to stay open today,” said Mr. Bartolotta. “There are two food banks in Torrington, and one was nearly forced to shut down before it was rescued by a donor. The Friendly Hands needs funding in order to continue to help people in the community, and I felt that a fundraiser was a great way to involve the produce industry.”

The promotion will run from Oct. 31 to Nov. 21, and during that period, five cents from every package purchased from Bartolotta Inc. will be donated to the Friendly Hands Food Bank. In addition, $50 per truckload procured from Bartolotta will be donated.

“As an incentive to help our customers increase their purchases from us and as incentive for new customers, all truckload purchases will result in an entry being given to the respective buyer in a drawing to be held in December,” said Mr. Bartolotta. “The grand prize is an all-expense-paid three-day weekend in Boston, Massachusetts, at the Hilton Boston Back Bay hotel; dinner for two; and two premium seats to a Boston Bruins hockey game. Round-trip transportation for two from the winner’s home city is also included.”

The second-prize winner will receive a $500 American Express gift card. Third prize is a $250 American Express gift card. In addition, the supplier or suppliers responsible for the grand prize load will receive a $250 American Express gift card.

Mr. Bartolotta said that besides promoting the fundraiser directly to industry professionals, he is advertising it in print ads, including one that will run in the Eastern Produce Council’s Dinner Dance Journal, which will be distributed at the event on Nov. 5 at the Westmount Country Club in Woodland Park, NJ.

Numerous companies in the produce industry have responded with additional corporate sponsorship donations to the Friendly Hands Food Bank. Mr. Bartolotta said that as of Oct. 18, the following companies, listed with their headquarters locations, donated to the fundraiser:

• Genpro Inc., Rutherford, NJ.

• Sunsation Farms Inc., Monterey, CA.

• Ippolito Fruit & Produce Ltd., Burlington, ON.

• Allen Lund Co. Inc., Los Angeles.

• Dayka & Hackett LLC, Reedley, CA.

• M&M Produce Inc., Hartford, CT.

• R.J.S. Logistics Inc., Monroe, NC.

• Wm. Rosenstein & Sons Co., Scranton, PA.

• D.M. Rothman Co. Inc., New York City.

• S&S Marketing & Sales Inc., Salinas, CA.

• Sunterra Produce Traders Inc., Newport Beach, CA.

• Target Interstate Systems Inc., New York City.

• Church Bros. LLC, Salinas.

• LD Logistics LLC, New York City.

“Sponsorship support is coming in from across the country and from all sides of the industry,” said Mr. Bartolotta. “Our goal is to raise between $12,000 and $15,000 in sponsorship contributions.”

He noted that the food bank has seen an increase in the number of people it has served to 2,500 from 1,200 during the past four years. The biggest increase was in 2009-10, when it jumped by 31 percent.

“It has been extremely tough,” he added. “They have seen a 50 percent increase in people it serves during the last two years, while at the same time government funding has decreased. They need our help.”