For the sake of the city

A victim of cerebral palsy, Brian Skinner is confined to a wheelchair. Despite a desire to work, Skinner repeatedly faced rejection.

“He was told five times that he had no work skills and that they should just put him in a home,” says Jay Lucarelli, vice president of MinuteMen Group.

MinuteMen’s executives looked past the wheelchair.

The company recognized Skinner’s journalistic skills and offered him a job. With a modified keyboard and a computer, Skinner produces a monthly newsletter that goes out to the company’s 250 employees and its clients. And Skinner isn’t simply a token employee.

Courtney Oatey is more severely afflicted with the debilitating motor-control disorder. Working with the state, the company developed a special workstation that allows her to shred documents several days a week.

“It’s not just shredding paper,” Lucarelli says. “She’s in an environment where she’s interacting with people on a day-to-day basis. She’s been here for such a long time now, you forget that she’s handicapped. She just fits in so well.”

It’s the essence of philanthropy.

For some companies, charity begins and ends with the checkbook. And while corporate gifts are extraordinarily valuable, companies like MinuteMen Group imbed philanthropy into their corporate cultures.

The company’s philosophy is simple.

“In the last three years, we’ve grown quite a bit,” Lucarelli says. “In 1998, we did $60 million in sales. This year, we’ll do $250 million. Obviously, we feel very fortunate. It’s always been a belief of ours that what you give, you’re going to get back.”

For the past several years, MinuteMen Group has given back with a Thanksgiving Turkey Giveaway. It began several years ago when a newspaper article illuminated St. Augustine’s food shortage. MinuteMen’s management sprung for “a bunch of turkeys and took them down there,” Lucarelli says. “Every year, we just kept doing it, and it started getting bigger and bigger.”

The trio expects to provide more than 1,200 turkeys to needy families this year. And MinuteMen does more than just put up money for turkeys. Lucarelli donates his time to serve on the board of directors of the Hunger Network of Greater Cleveland.

And this year, the company has teamed with WTAM radio and Coats For Kids. Participating in these activities has an enormous impact on the company and the community.

“You learn so much about the people you work with,” says Michael Settonni, director of marketing. “You learn so much about your community and your customers.”

Not content with the status quo, MinuteMen seeks new ways to provide for the less fortunate. This summer, the company hosted its First MinuteMen Open Golf Tournament at no cost to any of the participants. MinuteMen paid more than $65,000 out-of-pocket to organize and run the event.

The outing raised more than $40,000 for United Cerebral Palsy, but Lucarelli recognizes the value in giving goes beyond any monetary contributions.

“It’s fun,” he says. “It serves a lot of purposes. With the golf outing, all of our employees got involved. It was a good time to get all of our customers together. It also served the purpose of doing our client PR.”

When they can’t physically take part in the process, the executives at MinuteMen have opened the company coffers. Among the recipients of their largesse are the Italian American Cultural Foundation, the Hebrew Academy of Cleveland, the Holy Rosary Montessori School and numerous foundations.

“We’ve been headquartered (in Cleveland) for 30 some years now,” Lucarelli says. “We feel that it’s important to be civic minded.

“We feel it’s our corporate duty to give back to the community.” How to reach: The MinuteMen Group (216) 426-9675

Daniel G. Jacobs ([email protected]) is senior editor of SBN.