Throughout her childhood, Annette Ford was witness to her parents – prominent business owners in Stuart, Florida – give back to others in their community. As role models for the importance of philanthropy, her parents often got the whole family involved too. This nurtured her own values and beliefs that giving back is an important responsibility to any business owner.
Along with her husband and son, Ford is the owner of Panera Bread stores throughout Central Florida. Through giving campaigns and specialty items, the family encourages their customers to help them help others in the community who desperately need it. “Our success comes from our customers in the community,” she says. “We have an obligation to give back to them.”
Drawn to women’s and children’s charities, Ford has worked with New Hope for Kids, Winnie Palmer Hospital, Arnold Palmer Children’s Hospital, Children’s Miracle Network, local schools and so many more local organizations. She is currently looking to become involved with a program for foster children, where she can provide tutoring assistance with the help of her past experience as a teacher. No matter what the charity is, it’s most important to Ford to keep their efforts local. “We like to see our money making a difference here in the same community where we have our businesses, where we have become successful,” she says.
It’s also important for her to maintain an active role in the giving, whether she’s choosing the charity that her Panera Bread stores will be giving to for its next campaign or volunteering her free time to help others in the community. “I actually like being hands on when if I can,” she says. “I feel more fulfilled when I have something in my life that keeps me grounded and aware of the needs of the community.”
This month, Ford’s Central Florida Panera Bread locations are partnering with the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce to help Second Harvest Food Bank’s Feed the Need campaign. The program will receive 100 percent of the proceeds from the sale of every Harvest Cookie from November 1 through November 11. While the cookie will only be in stores for a limited time, Community Bread Boxes at all Panera Bread registers will be accepting donations for the campaign during the entire month of November. This year, Ford hopes to raise $15,000 to beat last year’s fundraising efforts of $11,238.
When it comes to being philanthropic, Ford believes there’s never enough that can be done to fulfill every need but she does her best to do her part. She does it, she says, “So we can make our community a better and healthier place to live.” The fulfillment that she feels from her efforts is the bonus that keeps the cycle of philanthropy going for her children, just as her parents efforts did for her. “It’s what I feel we are here for, she says.