Our founder Mike Servello was recently interviewed by Fox Business News below is the transcription of the interview and you can watch the interview here.
David Asman: Well, Thanksgiving marking the beginning of the season for giving and many businesses offer support to organizations, like the Compassion Coalition & Bargain Grocery. It’s a non-profit, it’s been working for 20 years to make food accessible to those who are less fortunate. This Thanksgiving they are distributing hundreds of meals to inner city schools, other nonprofit organizations the elderly and the disabled. Joining us now on the panel is its founder Pastor Mike Servello.
Great to see you here Mike. The thing that makes the Coalition unique that appealed to us as a business network is that it has kind of an entrepreneurial business model. Can you explain?
Mike Servello: Yeah absolutely. When I started it 20 years ago, we stepped into this arena there was a tremendous need in our city and region for food and personal hygiene items. So, a very generous local businessman donated a 30,000 square foot warehouse to us. We then went and approached Walmart distribution centers, who began to donate product to us. It just began to happen, so we were giving away a trailer after trailer product every week. But then we started to realize that there’s a cost to maintain an operation. So, we had to staff it, we had to pay for the building, we had to pay for transportation costs.
I went to numerous meetings and began to apply for the same monies, though they’re not for profits. We’re applying for and I realized the pie was getting slice smaller and smaller and smaller. I thought I can’t do this every year we’re too busy trying to do the work. So, I got this idea to start a salvage low-cost grocery store in the back part of our warehouse. So, we opened up in a 1200 square foot space a low-cost food store. Primarily, we wanted to make food available to those that were on EBT and food stamps.
So, we contacted our Social Service Commissioner, asked them to send those folks. But you know and to make just enough profit to sustain the operation and it’s worked for 20 years, worked phenomenally well. We give away about 20 million a year, in product with no outside funds needed.
David Asman: That’s incredible.
Steve Forbes: Yeah Steve Forbes here, Pastor Mike congratulations. You exemplify what Alexis de Tocqueville the great Frenchman who wrote a great book about America back in the 1830s. He said, ‘The amazing thing about Americans and when they see a problem they just go and find a way to solve it think whatever way they need to do it’. So, you’re part of a great historical a tradition. I want to ask you though, how is government treating you? Are you’re doing things in a little unusual way? Sometimes regulators, bureaucrats that look askance at that. Are they leaving you alone letting you do your thing?
Mike Servello: I’ve got it yeah; I’ve got to say this. I’ve had nothing but a wonderful relationship with the government folks in Utica in our County, the state, from the governor’s office. The folks that I’ve encountered in New York state government are the most dedicated servant hearted people. I’ve been humbled by the help that they give me truly.
David Asman: Carol.
Carol Roth: Pastor, it’s Carol Roth. What a blessing the work that you’re doing is. Obviously, there are people like myself we’re watching this right now wondering how they can help. Whether it’s you directly or in some other way. If somebody wants to get involved to help those less fortunate, what do you recommends?
Mike Servello: Okay, I think that these problems of hunger can be addressed very economically. We can do it for a low cost. I think there’s a lot of money being wasted. One thing that we need where we could use help is for more national donors. One of our biggest supporters has been Walmart and right now there that relationship is might be a little bit jeopardized by some edicts that are coming from Bentonville. We’re in conversations with them and our state government yes helping us with that.
But the key to this is, it’s an entrepreneurial model it’s not like anything else that I’ve seen in America.
David Asman: It sounds great.
Mike Servello: We’re just, I’m sorry.
David Asman: No, I’m sorry Pastor. We have to go we’re up against a hard break as we say here. But we wish you the best very happy Thanksgiving. Happy holiday throughout the season.
Mike: Thank you.
David Asman: : You’re doing remarkable work, you’re a model to all nonprofits all over the world really. Thank you for being here, best of luck.
Mike Servello: thank you for having me.
David Asman: Of course, anytime.