Ordinary people are doing extraordinary things across the country. That’s evident from the number of nominations — more than 6,900 — received to earn one of five Jersey Mike’s Sub Abover Grants. That is more than double last year’s submissions.
Jersey Mike’s presented the five $5,000 grants to those making a difference in their local communities. The grants are designed to help the winners make an even bigger impact. This is the third year that the company has presented the grants.
“It’s inspiring to read the stories of so many who are making a difference in someone’s life,” says Rich Hope, Chief Marketing Officer, Jersey Mike’s Franchise Systems, Inc. “That’s been a guiding principle of Jersey Mike’s since our Founder Peter Cancro bought his first sub shop at the age of 17, and we’re happy to recognize these 2020 award recipients who are fulfilling that vision.”
The 2020 Sub Abover Grants were awarded to:
Laura and Kevin Cieslukowski, We See You San Diego, in San Diego. The organization started modestly in 2017, when the Cieslukowskis gathered six members of the homeless community for a home-cooked meal in a local church parking lot. This became a weekly tradition, and soon word spread. Now they share a weekly meal with nearly 200 people. It continues to be 100 percent volunteer based, with no budget. The grant will go toward needed supplies. “Be faithful in small things,” Laura said. “There is value in making a difference in one person’s life.”
Mario Claussen, Stand With Mario, in Ontario, California. Mario, 20, was born with rare severe syndromes. After repeated bullying from peers, he decided to take action. He started Stand With Mario in 2017, a campaign to end bullying. He hopes to create opportunities for kids to be buddies instead of bullies, and he is doing this with buddy benches, a place where children can sit at school if they are feeling left out or lonely until somebody invites them to play. Soon there will be a total of 14 buddy benches in six states. The grant money will help Mario purchase an additional 10 benches. Mario said, “I want a bench in every state.”
Peter Kelleher, Support the Soupman, Bridgewater, Mass. After losing his son, Travis, to the streets and eventually to opiates, Peter decided he needed to do something to help others in a similar situation. He made a big batch of hamburger soup, visited homeless areas and passed it out. He started doing this weekly and was soon nicknamed ‘The Soupman.’ Today, in addition to donating hot soup and lunches, the organization provides survival backpacks and winter gear to homeless across the region. Support the Soupman also operates one of the only portable shower units in New England for homeless. “A hot cup of soup means warmth, kindness and love,” said Peter. “We have given out thousands of bowls of soup and passed out thousands of coats, boots, gloves and hats just in the last two years. I can’t believe it myself.”
Kristena Kitchen, Bryanna’s Love, Inc., Burtonsville, Md. The organization was started in 2017 in honor of Kristena’s daughter Bryanna, who passed away from a rare form of leukemia at 9 years old. Bryanna's Love has provided over 1,500 stuffed animals and blankets to children and their siblings battling childhood cancer through their Give Kids A Snuggle program. Their Sibling Love program helps fund a respite trip for siblings and parents within a year of their loss. The nonprofit also helps fund research. Kristena said, “With a sick child, it’s a dark hole, and we hope to offer a little light.”
Katie Stagliano, Katie’s Krops, in Summerville, S.C. When Katie was 9 years old, she received a tiny seedling. Under her care, it grew into a 40 lb. cabbage. Katie knew her cabbage needed a special home and she donated it to a local soup kitchen. The cabbage was served to 275 guests and her life was forever changed. Katie, now 21, has empowered other children to start vegetable gardens in their communities. She now has 100 gardens in 34 states and has donated more than 300,000 lbs. of fresh produce to help end hunger. Katie said, “I’ve come to realize that it doesn’t matter how old or young you are, or how big or small your efforts, it all makes a difference.”
“Giving … making a difference in someone’s life” has been the mission of Jersey Mike’s from the beginning. It started with Jersey Mike’s Founder Peter Cancro who shares the importance of giving back and inspires the rest of the company.
This March is Jersey Mike’s 10th Annual Month of Giving fundraising initiative, when more than 1,700 Jersey Mike’s locations across the country are joining forces with more than 200 local charities. Last year’s Month of Giving raised more than $7.3 million for local charities nationwide, and this year Jersey Mike’s wants to break last year’s record-setting total.