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Bartolotta fundraiser relies on generosity of produce industry

Just about everyone in the produce industry gives from the depths of their hearts when it comes to natural or man-caused emergencies and in helping organizations to raise money or collect food to help those in need.

For the third consecutive year, Kevin Bartolotta, president of Bartolotta Inc. in Torrington, CT, is stepping up for those in need and is holding his annual fundraiser, which began Feb. 10.

thanksgivingVolunteers at Dorothy’s Place in Salinas, CA, preparing a Thanksgiving meal for people in need.A longtime supporter of the Friendly Hands Food Bank in Torrington, Bartolotta has donated food to the organization for many years. Volunteers pack boxes of food products to give to those in need in the community. Friendly Hands works year round to help people, but during the holidays its needs increase substantially. Bartolotta is always there to do whatever he can to make sure that it gets what it needs and is especially generous during these times.

The satisfaction he has gained from being a loyal friend and supporter of the group inspired him to step up his fundraising efforts. In 2012, he held his inaugural fundraiser to benefit Friendly Hands by reaching out to suppliers and customers across the country. That year $19,000 was raised.

In 2013 the Northeast was ravaged by Superstorm Sandy, and Bartolotta realized that there were other organizations that also needed his help, and decided to choose another organization and share the donations. He chose the Staten Island Rotary Foundation, which was accepting donations and distributing them to people who were in dire need of help following the storm.

His 2013 goal was to raise $25,000, but he ended up raising $30,000, which the two nonprofit groups shared.

The 2014 fundraiser will start on Feb. 10 and run through March 1, and Bartolotta is thinking even bigger this year. He has chosen three groups who will share equally in the money that is donated to the cause this year. In choosing his benefactors, he considered a few factors.

“I reach out to a lot of my suppliers and customers asking for their donations during this fundraiser every year, and many of my sources are in the West,” said Bartolotta. “I felt it was only fair to help support a charity group that does similar work in another area, and one customer suggested that I consider Dorothy’s Place, headquartered in Salinas.”

Dorothy’s Place provides a day center, meals, a health clinic, after-school child care, an emergency walk-in shelter for women who are homeless and provides much more in aid to those in the community who need it.

His third choice, the Wounded Warrior Project, which has centers scattered throughout the country, is one he believes touches everyone.

The organization works to honor and empower wounded warriors. Its goal is to raise awareness and enlist the public’s aid for the needs of injured service members, to help them to aid and assist each other and to provide unique, direct programs and services to meet the needs of those injured.

Bartolotta also participates in giving every year. This year his company will donate 7.5 cents for every package it sells, which is a 50 percent increase over the previous year’s donations. And he’ll donate an additional $50 per trailer load of product sold. In addition to his Connecticut headquarters office, he has a facility in Glassboro, NJ.

He didn’t specify a financial goal this year, but he believes that every year word of the fundraiser reaches more and more people who are willing to take part in the good that the event is doing for so many people in need, and so he likes to use terms like “the sky’s the limit.”

Donors to the Bartolotta fundraiser are also potential winners. As an added incentive for produce professionals and friends to dig deep in their pockets for donations, the fundraiser will be accompanied by a contest this year. Every person who purchases a minimum amount of product from the company during the fundraising period will receive an entry into a drawing to win one of several prizes.

The grand prize winner will receive a seven-day vacation for two to Villa del Palmar Beach Resort & Spa in Cabo San Lucus, Mexico. The grand prize has been donated by Van Solkema Produce in Byron Center, MI.

All vendors who meet a minimum sales amount during the fundraiser will also have an opportunity to win gift cards starting at $500. Numerous other prizes will also be awarded.

“Produce professionals have always been known to dig deeply into their hearts and their pockets to help those less fortunate, and this fundraiser is proof that we continue to care about those who are in need and whom we can reach out to help in countless ways,” said Bartolotta.