October 11, 2015

A Very Special Retirement Party

On March 18, I spoke at a retirement party for one of the members of my executive assistant staff, Connie Telesco, an event that was truly one of the most special I have ever attended.

Retirement parties are a great tradition at Pitney Bowes. They celebrate the career and life of the person honored in ways that recognize the person’s contributions to the company, enable friends and family to come together and strengthen relationships, and reinforce company values. Connie’s party, through the superb leadership skills of my former executive assistant MaryJane McDonough, had all of those elements.

However, this event far surpassed the already high standard of Pitney Bowes retirement parties. Connie, who served at the Company for 42 years, after having joined the Company right out of high school, is married to John Telesco, a Vietnam war veteran. As the U.S. engaged in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, Connie remembered the inadequate emotional support U.S. citizens gave to John and other armed forces personnel when they were serving in Vietnam.

She investigated alternative methods for providing support to our armed forces personnel, and found the anysoldiers.com web site. She began at a simple level: baking cookies and shipping them to personnel stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan. But she went far beyond that. She broadened the range of items she sent, and even found ways to get items from others, such as athletic equipment and other kinds of foods, to the soldiers, sailors, and marines.

As one of the speakers, Dave Nassef, himself a Marine veteran, said: “In your mind, you were sending cookies. To those receiving the cookies, it was an act of love.” That remark contained a profound message. When we give to others, it is often not the dollar value of what we give, or even the permanence of the gift, but the emotions conveyed by the gift. As Dave noted, the mail call each day is a very emotional time for combat participants and a time that can energize or depress them.

When Connie started her efforts, she did it with no one prodding her to give, and was not doing it as part of a local, community, or company community service effort. While she has won a Company Volunteer of the Year award because of her long and deep commitment to community service, this was truly an inspiring entrepreneurial effort that has made a big difference. The difference came not only from what she did herself, but what she eventually inspired others to do.

We think of entrepreneurs as individuals who start successful for-profit businesses. However, some of the best entrepreneurs are those who develop a new way of delivering high-impact charitable giving. By that broader definition, Connie has to be a role model of successful entrepreneurship.