Central Louisiana Food Bank Program is a Winner

When Suddenlink’s Tony Cifelli — field system manager, Alexandria, La. — attended a group planning meeting in March 2007, peer pressure almost convinced him to ignore his first instincts.

Of 15 Suddenlink cable systems represented at that meeting, 12 decided to focus their primary 2007 community programs on the hot topic of “Internet Safety.” But Tony hesitated, approaching the meeting facilitator during a break.

“We did this food bank program a few years back and it was exciting to see how everyone came together to support it,” he said. “The need for that type of program is even greater now. I’d really like our team to focus on that issue. What do you think?”

The facilitator responded that Tony knew his community better than anyone else in the room, so he should trust his knowledge and act accordingly.

What Tony knew was that Central Louisiana has one of the highest levels of “food insecurity” in the country, with an estimated 30 percent of need families are often forced to choose between paying for food and paying for medical care.

For those and other reasons, Tony followed the facilitator’s advice, trusted his knowledge, and together with colleagues both in and outside Alexandria, designed and launched the “Connecting to Those in Need” campaign. By Thanksgiving 2007, the campaign had netted more than five tons of non-perishable food items for the Food Bank of Central Louisiana, with another drive planned for the spring to keep the momentum going. Moreover, Food Bank officials reported a measureable increase in the number of other organizations wanting to host food drives on its behalf and an increase in requests for Food Bank speakers at church, community, and corporate events.

The results were far too meaningful to ignore: The Food Bank declared Suddenlink its “2007 Corporate Partner of the Year.” The Louisiana cable association granted the Alexandria team a Community Service Award and Tony a coveted President’s Award. And just last week the company learned that the “Connecting to Those in Need” campaign was a finalist for the industry’s highest honor for such programs, a Beacon Award.

Kudos to Tony for following his heart, and to everyone else who contributed to this best-in-class effort.