Portland, Ore. Area Cinnabon Franchise Partners Spread the Valentine’s Day Love

– 2010 fundraiser generates over $100,000 for local
Meals On Wheels chapters –

West Linn, Ore. (Feb. 16, 2010) – In 2010, more than 400 Loaves & Fishes drivers delivered more than 4,000 Valentine-O-Gram (VOG) boxes filled with two Cinnabon Classic® rolls; a jar of Cinnabon’s signature Makara® Cinnamon; a travel mug and bag of ground coffee from Seattle’s Best Coffee®; Sun Orchard® orange juice; a 9-piece box of Candy Basket Chocolates ®; and Cinnabon, Jamba Juice®, and Good Dog Bad Dog gift certificates to individuals and businesses in the Portland area.  Priced at $29.95 each, proceeds totaled over $100,000.

It all started in 1994 with an urgent phone call and a last-minute plea for help.  A Loaves & Fishes Meals On Wheels® center near Portland, Ore. contacted Cinnabon®, Inc. franchise partners Steve Foltz and John Whittaker of West Linn based Cinnamon Bums, Inc. to pinch hit in Valentine-O-Gram (VOG), the center’s annual Valentine’s Day fundraiser allowing people to send baked treats and personalized notes to their special someone, with all proceeds earmarked for providing hot meals to inbound seniors. 

The local baker the Loaves & Fishes center usually worked with wasn’t able to provide cinnamon rolls, so staffers thought the Bums’ world famous Cinnabon Classic® rolls would be a nice substitute.  Undeterred by the quick turnaround, Steve and John readily donated 400 rolls packaged in 200 two-count boxes, which were sold for $5 each.  The fundraiser generated $1,000, and the Bums’ rolls were a hit.

But the buck didn’t stop there; in fact, that’s where it started.  Everyone loved the rolls so much that the next year, another Loaves & Fishes center held their own VOG fundraiser and asked Steve and John to assist them, too.  From there, it snowballed to three, then four of the centers taking part in VOG and requesting the Bums’ aid in selling two-count boxes of Classic rolls for $9.99 each.  On top of that, Loaves & Fishes decided to make VOG a major annual fundraiser for all its Portland-area centers and turned to Steve and John to help lead the effort.

Ever since then, the Bums have worked with Loaves & Fishes to form the VOG committee each November, set fundraising goals and timelines, and divvy out roles and responsibilities.  They also determine how much to charge per box each year.  “When we knew we couldn’t get more than $9.99 for two rolls, we started adding other items,” recalls Steve.  “But since everything in each box is 100 percent donated so all the proceeds can go towards hot meals for seniors, we started soliciting our vendors and business partners to join the effort, especially when Loaves & Fishes began requiring all their major fundraisers to generate at least $100,000 per center each year.                                                                           

Enter a slew of Steve and John’s team members, vendors, and business contacts.  As the saying goes, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.  Luckily for Loaves & Fishes and the seniors they serve, the Bums know plenty of good-hearted people.  Through the years, they’ve recruited suppliers such as General Mills®, Sun Orchards®, Food Services of America®, Brill Frosting®, Paris Packaging®, Kerry Foods®, Seattle’s Best Coffee®, and Jamba Juice®, among many others, to join the effort.  They’ve also enlisted a local art school and printer to design and print the VOG brochures each year, completely free of charge.  And thanks in part to their media savoir faire, they’ve reeled in extensive VOG publicity from local television and radio stations.

Due to their combined years of experience plus the variety of brands they own, such as Seattle’s Best Coffee, Jamba Juice, Good Dog Bad Dog®, and their original concepts Tenemos Tacos and Rainier Roaster, the Bums have plenty of restaurant savoir faire, too.  That’s why they’ve gotten the VOG box preparation down to a science.  “The first few times we did it, it was pretty hectic,” recalls John, “but now it’s like clockwork.” 

Each February 13th, Steve, John, and over 50 volunteers from their teams, Cinnabon, Loaves & Fishes, and various vendors set up shop in a Loaves & Fishes kitchen at 4:30 am to spend the day baking and frosting the rolls and putting all the goodies in the VOG boxes, personalized notes and all.  The fun continues at a Loaves & Fishes distribution center on Valentine’s Day, with volunteers arriving at 7 am to work the drive-through for three hours. 

 As for what happens on February 15th, “We send out stats and photos, and then we go to bed!” jokes Steve.  All kidding aside, the Bums thoroughly enjoy VOG year in and year out.  “We do it for the human element,” says John.  “The way we see it, we’re taking care of people’s parents out here, and they’re taking care of others’ parents all over the country.”  Echoes Steve, “When seniors receive the hot meals the fundraiser pays for, that interaction with the deliverer might be the only person they see or talk to all day.  You can’t do much better than that.”