KEENE, N.H. — As a wholesaler, C&S Wholesale Grocers is skilled at getting products where they need to be.
So it should come as no surprise that the company was able to play that role in the wake of January's devastating earthquake in Haiti, when C&S Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Rick Cohen spearheaded an all-out effort to provide relief.
“Don't tell me how little we can do, tell me how much we can do,” Cohen said when approached about the possibility for C&S to provide relief, according to Gina Goff, director of community involvement.
“That was, to me, a green light,” she told SN. “It doesn't get any more direct or more powerful than that.”
It turned out there was quite a bit the company could do, from raising cash contributions among its employees to providing shipments of food and medical supplies to donating the use of its corporate jet.
Cohen was not available for comment for this article, but Goff explained that it was his full-fledged support for an all-out relief effort that allowed C&S to provide as much assistance as it did.
Joseph Briggs, vice president of aviation for C&S, who piloted a plane that delivered relief supplies to Port au Prince, praised Cohen in a company presentation, a video of which is on the C&S website.
“We all should feel so proud to be part of something like this, where the owner is going to approve a trip like this,” he said. “How many people would do that? So, I thank Rick Cohen, I thank the Cohens and I thank everybody in this room. It was a great thing for all of us to do.”
After dropping off the disaster response professionals and medical supplies, the plane picked up its return cargo — a team of medical volunteers from Cheshire Medical Center, also located here.
The workers had been volunteering at a clinic in Haiti before the earthquake, and the hospital asked for help to evacuate them because no commercial carriers were flying into Haiti at the time, Goff explained. The company worked with a group called CARE: Corporate Aircraft Responding in Emergencies to complete the evacuation.
She said once Cohen approved the company's support of supplying relief to Haiti, she made it a priority for C&S.
“Twenty-four hours after the earthquake, and when the world realized the extent of the damage to Haiti and the scope of humanitarian aid that was needed, Rick Cohen agreed that C&S should get involved,” she said. “We had the wherewithal to make a difference and the needs in Haiti were both urgent and enormous. It's a hallmark of C&S that the men and women who work here can get things done amazingly quickly. Everyone wanted to help.”
C&S quickly donated medical supplies for the response and trauma teams in Haiti, including analgesics, bandages, gauze, medical tape, gloves and hydrocortisone cream, all of which the company had on supply in its main warehouse in Keene. In addition, the company donated nearly 115 tons of water and food, which was delivered via military cargo or Federal Express planes.
C&S also launched Stand With Haiti, a campaign to collect cash donations from employees across its network of companies: C&S, ES3, Grand Union Family Markets and Southern Family Markets. All donations were matched dollar-for-dollar by C&S. The donations were given to Partners In Health, Oxfam America and Heifer International.