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To know Bob Sewall is to know he is larger than life – abundant confidence and swagger, a fabulous sense of humor with a side of razor sharp wit that manifests itself through an infectious storyteller with a thick, endearing “Rhody” accent.
If you know that about Bob, then you also know he has a heart of gold as big as the North Pole. Oh, and of course there is the fact that his Catholic schoolboy humility means he will be very uncomfortable with what has just been said … and what will be shared next.
About a decade ago, Bob Sewall, EVP of sales & marketing at Blount Fine Foods, started to feel that those less fortunate neighbors in the communities Blount employees call home could benefit from a little help, especially around the holidays, when many of our most vivid memories are formed.
“It was on a drive to the office in late-summer that I found myself reflecting on my own childhood, and what stood out from it the most,” said Sewall of the inspiration for his annual charity drive. “What I remembered first were accomplishments and high points, especially in sports. But what I remembered most vividly, and found myself spending the most time thinking about were holidays – the times we were all together, laughing and sharing stories over a feast my mother made with love.”
Believing that every child deserves magical childhood memories, and that every loving parent deserves to provide those memories, Sewall made a promise to himself that he would personally make a difference in his own community each and every holiday season.
This was the birth of what has today become Bob’s Big Give, an annual drive for donations that are used to make an impact on families that live in the communities Blount calls home.
To Sewall, “making a difference” means making a difference personally, but also enlisting friends and colleagues to join in. It's a grassroots effort where every dollar (and every hour) donated makes a difference in the lives of families.
“Over the years I have asked my colleagues, friends and family not to get me birthday or Christmas presents, but rather to make a donation to this cause,” says Sewall. “I revel each year as the number grows and we get to help more and more of our neighbors.”
So far this holiday season, Bob’s Big Give has donated more than 100 turkey dinners through the Newport Public Schools and Faith & Hope Baptist Church in Providence.
According to Jim Davis, pastor at Faith & Hope, 87 families received Thanksgiving dinner baskets, and another 55-60 people came to dinner at his church because of the donation dropped off last week by Sewall’s friends and colleagues, Tennie Lawrenson and Rachael Girard.
Davis, in a note to Sewall, said “You gave more than food. You gave hope and love to the forgotten. I will always remember your support and the acts of kindness you have shared with me and the people God has entrusted to our care.”
Sewall has two keys to asking for donations: the first is that 100 percent of the funds donated go directly to those in need. The second, which is what keeps it so personal for Sewall, is that he personally matches every donation, effectively doubling the impact of donations made by his colleagues, friends and family.
Over the last 10-plus years, Bob’s Big Give has been there for many area families through support of local charities, including:
- The New Bedford’s Women’s Resource Center
- Faith & Hope Baptist Church
- The Newport School System
- Fall River’s St. Vincent Home for Children
Donations range from turkey dinner baskets at Thanksgiving and ham dinner baskets at Christmas, to toys, warm coats, blankets and other supplies needed when the days and nights turn cold.
Bob’s Big Give has been there for families in Providence and Fall River, Mass., that have needed a hand keeping their home warm and the lights on. It has also been able to help a number of Sewall’s fellow Blount employees in trying times.
Sewall says there are a couple of things to remember about The Give.
“In order for ALL of the funds go to charity, there can be no overhead, so we are not a formal tax deductible charity, because that would mean spending several thousand dollars a year on on tax prep and other accounting and legal expenses,” says Sewall. “This does not appeal to all potential donors, which I truly understand. Doing it this way maximizes out impact, which is an imperative.”
The second thing Sewall points out is that he does not undertake any of this alone.
“All the work is done by a few great associates of mine, not just by me. These people are tireless and wonderful, and none of this happens without them.”
Not lost on Sewall is the fact that there are many worthy charities, and in the midst of extended difficult economic times, it's hard to support them all.
“I tell folks ‘give if you can and don’t sweat it if you can’t,’ because pressure is the last thing anyone needs at this time of year.”
If you would like to support Bob’s Big Give, send a check made out to:
c/o Blount Fine Foods
Attention Tennie Lawrenson
630 Currant Rd
Fall River, MA 02720.