It started as a simple fund-raiser -- a bake sale, but on a grand scale -- and a campaign to help raise awareness of breast cancer in the Akron area.
The first year, it raised a modest $5,000. Since then, the Muffins for Mammograms program has blossomed into a nationally award-winning program that has raised more than $120,000 for free mammograms and helped make Main Street Gourmet a household name in Northeast Ohio.
In partnership with the Akron General Health System's Women's Health and Cancer Center, every October, Main Street Gourmet's 100-plus employees, along with hospital workers, volunteer to bake muffins, brownies and cookies beginning as early as 4 a.m. to deliver to local businesses.
Each year, the program sells more baked goods than the year before. This year's effort helped raise nearly $20,000 for the cause, which is planned for October to coincide with National Breast Cancer Awareness month.
"Every year, more people take advantage of it, and it's just gotten bigger," says Main Street Gourmet co-founder Steven L. Marks. "It's going to sound cliché, but it's the right thing to do, first of all, and it has other benefits, as well. The employees feel good about the fact that we're responsive to this community; they know they work for a company that cares."
Since Main Street and Akron General started the fund-raiser in 1992, word has spread about Muffins for Mammograms. The program received a Bronze Award from the National Breast Cancer Board in 1994 and has been recognized by the Ohio Hospital Association. The company and Akron General are planning to launch the program with a Toledo hospital next year.
"It's actually saved lives," Marks says. "People who wouldn't otherwise be able to afford mammograms have been able to afford them and changed their lives by early detection."
"We also deliver information for the buyer, or the buyer's organization, about breast cancer with the products, so it's a good package of information," explains Mary Adams, vice president of communications for Akron General Health Systems, who helped found the program. "Women in the community are really starting to see this as a resource because we make these free mammograms available year-round."
Although it may be best known for the Muffins for Mammograms fund-raiser, Main Street Gourmet has its fingers in the dough of many other community organizations in the Akron-Canton area.
Since 1995, the company has supported the Weaver School Workshop program, which empowers its mentally challenged students by having them work at Main Street's corporate and production facilities. In 1996, the Board of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities awarded Main Street for its partnership with the Weaver School.
Marks' business partner and co-founder, Harvey S. Nelson, has volunteered as chairman of the Akron-Canton Food Bank since 1997. Main Street annually supports the nonprofit organizations both with financial contributions and with donations of its frozen bakery products and custom formulations.
"A business deciding to take on an effort like this shouldn't feel reluctant, because it has other benefits," Marks says. "By doing that, your employees come closer, your employees feel good about the company they work for. They get a reward, too, by helping."
How to reach: Main Street Gourmet, (330) 929-0000
Morgan Lewis (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a reporter for SBN.