Among 18 Monmouth County Schools to Benefit From Panera Bread Partners and Family & Children's Service Program

Red Bank, NJ - Panera Bread today named Family Children's Service (FCS), Monmouth County's oldest non-profit agency, its Monmouth County Operation Dough-Nation® partner for a second consecutive year, continuing its pledge to support FCS programs and services that foster literacy and promote student well being. Panera's Operation Dough-Nation® encourages customers to give back to their local communities by donating to the Community Bread BoxT containers located near the cash registers in every cafe.

At a gathering today at Red Bank Primary School, one of 18 area public schools to directly benefit from the partnership, Panera Bread District Manager Ron Kowalski presented the agency with a check for $11,641.33, representing the total amount donated in 2010 by Panera customers in the Shrewsbury, Howell, Freehold, Middletown and Ocean Township cafes.

The District Manager of Panera Bread, Ron Kowalski, presents Family & Children's Service with a check for $11,641.33 for its Reading Buddies child literacy program.  The money came from Panera customers at the five Monmouth County cafes who donated the money through its Operation Donation program.

"The Community Breadbox T program offers Panera Bread customers the opportunity to donate to important causes in the region while they are visiting our bakery-cafes," said Kowalski. "The monies feed directly back into the communities around our cafes; we are proud to support Family & Children's Service's mission."

Accepting the check on behalf of the agency, FCS President & CEO Vincent L. D'Elia thanked Panera for its continued support.  "For more than 100 years, our agency has been creating programs and opportunities designed to make life a little easier for people in need of help and guidance," he said. "Today's donation will help us continue that mission, by providing much needed school supplies and thousands of free books to hundreds of elementary school children throughout Monmouth County."

The money raised through Community Bread BoxT will go directly toward FCS programs that foster child literacy and support student well being, including "Reading Buddies," a weekly intergenerational shared reading program implemented by the agency's Retired and Senior Volunteers Program currently operating in 18 county  public elementary schools.

Reading Buddy volunteer reader Doris Mahoney of Tinton Falls reads to first-graders at Red Bank Primary School.

Donations will also be used distribute backpacks filled with much-needed school supplies to students in underserved communities, and free books for children to build their home libraries.

At Red Bank Primary School, FCS's child literacy programs are designed to augment the school's regular reading curriculum.  Every week during the school year, eight volunteer "Reading Buddies" visit the school to read aloud to small groups of first-graders.  Volunteer Doris Mahoney, who has been a reader at the school for more than five years, says their regular Friday visits are always met with smiles and enthusiasm.

"The children are so cute, so receptive to everything I say and do. They hang on to my every word," Doris says. "It's such a nice feeling when you are retired to have people so excited to see you!"

Doris and her fellow volunteers come from across the county and even other states to read with the children, primarily because they understand the importance of encouraging literacy at an early age. Research has shown that students who do not read well by the third grade are less likely to catch up to a basic level at later grades and are at greater risk of dropping out.

To ensure that good reading habits continue at home, every student at Red Bank Primary School is given an opportunity to choose three new books a year for their home libraries. The children are encouraged to take their books home and read them aloud with their families, then complete an activity that showcases their favorite part of the book.  Classrooms that achieve 100 percent participation receive special prizes, such as bookmarks and pencils.  During Panera's visit to the school, Principal Richard Cohen pointed out the Valentine's Day themed book reports lining the hallways, many of them carefully and colorfully illustrated with school supplies they received during "Backpack Buddies."

D'Elia says the children are likely too young to make the connection between their new books and supplies and the programs that make them possible, but he is hopeful the community will.

"We are grateful to Panera Bread for providing the opportunity to partner with them through Operation Donation," D'Elia said, "but we know it is Panera's customers, our friends and neighbors, who are helping us make the difference in the local community. We encourage them to continue to support us in our mission to serve countless children in Monmouth County who would otherwise go without."

Panera Bread cafes in Shrewsbury (1050 Broad Street), Howell, (4715 Route 9 North), Freehold (531 Soloman Way-Mount's Corner), Middletown, (776 State Road 35) and Ocean (Ocean Plaza 1100 Route 35) NJ will raise money for Family & Children's Service.