The South Carolina Autism Society was presented a check by Covelli Enterprises Tuesday for almost $38,000. The presentation took place at the Panera Bread located in Columbia’s Vista on Gervais Street.
Covelli is the largest franchisee of Panera Bread, and all their locations throughout the state took part in a fundraising effort. The campaign, entitled ‘Pieces of Hope for Autism’ ran from April 8 through 14. Funds for the cause were collected through the sale of puzzle-shaped cookies, along with the Change Roll-Up program, allowing customers to round up their totals to the nearest dollar.
Sam Covelli, owner and operator of Covelli Enterprises had this to say: “We were blown away by the support for our ‘Pieces of Hope for Autism’ campaign received in its second year in South Carolina Panera cafes. It matters to us the 100 percent of these dollars remains here in South Carolina and will help level the playing field for local people in the neighborhoods we serve.”
South Carolina Autism Society representatives were also present to accept the gift. Sheila Raulerson, who has been with the Autism Society for 19 years, said she was over the moon about the success of the fundraiser. “They (Panera representatives) came to us to ask us to do this.” And when asked how the funds will be used, Raulerson said, “We do try to, as much as we can, use funds that were donated to go directly back to the families.” Raulerson also said she makes sure a majority of the funds stay in the community, and work for the families they are serving through their “Quality of Life” fund.
“To me, that’s what it’s all about, being a nonprofit and working for families,” she added.
This is the second year of the ‘Pieces of Hope for Autism’ campaign in South Carolina, raising $18,000 last year for SC Autism Society. Pieces of Hope is Covelli Enterprises’ largest annual in-café fundraiser, which started in 2011.
“This campaign is huge for our company as a whole. We have Paneras in eight different states, and we’ve been executing that campaign in other states since 2011, and total we’ve raised over $2 million,” said Marketing Coordinator Danielle Covelli.