Bruster’s Real Ice Cream recently held its first mentoring contest, seeking individuals making a difference in the lives of young people. The first recipients were from Florida, North Carolina, and Kentucky.

“Bruster’s is in the people business,” says Jim Sahene, CEO. “Each year, we have an opportunity to teach thousands of young people skills they may not be learning elsewhere, skills they are going to need as tomorrow’s leaders.”

Nearly 30 videos identifying a franchise owner, supervisor, or general manager who changed—or is changing—their lives were submitted. The Bruster’s Franchise Advisory Board selected five entries.

Blake Struss of Jacksonville, Florida, nominated owner/mentor Tom Devenny. Struss is in a local program that helps find jobs for people with developmental and acquired disabilities. Two-and-a-half years ago, Devenny created a food preparation/maintenance position for Struss that taught him work skills and ethics, which now allows him to live independently. Devenny says he, too, has learned important lessons from Struss.

Brittany Kessinger, who worked at Bruster’s in Monroe and Indian Trail, North Carolina, nominated owner/mentor Tom Zak. Kessinger began working at Bruster’s while in high school, later becoming a general manger. She worked her way through college and is applying to medical schools with the goal of becoming a doctor. Today she is an emergency medical technician. Zak inspired Kessinger to create a dream and to chase it. “I began helping people from the other side of a window at an ice cream store to helping them with medical emergencies from the bedside of an ambulance,” Kessinger says. Another Charlotte-area winner is Nathan Mulholland. He works for owner Lee Underwood in Mooresville. Underwood, a former technology executive with a passion for helping young people, rehired the one-time scooper as a new store manager to help him develop the skills needed for a career in management. He taught Mulholland about operating the business, as well as household finances. A 14-year cancer battle cost Mulholland his voice. He now communicates via gestures and written notes. “You always have options in life, you just have to figure out what they are,” Underwood says. The Bowling Green, Kentucky, Bruster’s produced the final two winners. Maddie Powers nominated general manager Caleb Hayes, while Johni Lecoffre recounted the role owner Stuart Kirby has played in her life. Powers says Hayes has been a role model since her first shift. She started working at Bruster’s to earn money for photography equipment, but Hayes taught her that relationships and personal growth are also important benefits.

Johni Lecoffre started working at Bruster’s as a newlywed college student. She nominated Kirby as her mentor. Kirby taught Lecoffre that balancing work, family, and studies is an art that cannot be neglected. Lecoffre plans to be an elementary school teacher. She and her husband just built a new home two doors away from Kirby.


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