It is early October in the afternoon and Jamie D’Ercole is peeking inside the back of Crown Relocation’s moving truck. The bright red semi-trailer just made stops at AVE Somerset and AVE Union and Jamie, the general manager of AVE Clifton, is curious to see how many boxes of donations her fellow AVE communities in New Jersey collected.
“We have a little friendly competition among the communities to see who could generate the most donations,” she laughs.
A few hours later, Jamie receives an email from Move for Hunger showing AVE Clifton’s donation weigh-in at 322 pounds. She smiles.
AVE is a brand of Korman Communities. They specialize in flexible-stay furnished suites and unfurnished rental residences. They announced a partnership with hunger relief nonprofit Move for Hunger in September 2015. They decided to kick off a partnership and raise awareness, since September is Hunger Action Month. AVE organized food drive parties at each of its six communities in northern New Jersey and the Greater Philadelphia Area. AVE residents enjoyed food trucks and live entertai nment. The teams only asked they bring a nonperishable food donation for Move for Hunger.
The six food drives generated an amount just shy of 1,000 pounds, which was donated to the Community Food Bank of New Jersey and the Salvation Army of West Chester, Pennsylvania.
“The residents were so excited about it,” Jamie, who has been with AVE for almost four years, shares. “It made us all feel good knowing we were making a difference in the community.”
Kim Schimenek, senior vice president of AVE’s Key Strategic Accounts division, first met Move for Hunger’s founder Adam Lowy at a luncheon in 2013. Adam was invited to speak about his growing organization to corporate housing providers. Adam’s family has owned a moving company, Lowy’s Moving Service, in Monmouth County, New Jersey for nearly a century. At a young age, he realized that when people move, a lot of things get thrown out.
After graduating college in 2008, he earned his dream job in special event marketing. Simultaneously, he started a program at his family’s moving company. He collected unwanted food from their customers and donated it on their behalf to The Food Bank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties. The volunteers there shared with him that there were 100,000 people in those two counties who didn’t have enough to eat. This motivated Adam greatly.
“I was so taken by that number because I’d lived there my entire life and knew nothing about hunger or poverty, but here it was right in my community,” he says. Adam and his family collected 300 pounds of food their first month. “Customers were so excited about it,” he says. “People want to do good. They just don’t always know how or where, but if you give them a simple opportunity, they’re going to take that opportunity.”
Adam quit his job in marketing a year later. He wanted to devote his attention to Move for Hunger, now an official 501(c)(3). Adam has been recruiting partners from the relocation management, real estate and corporate housing industries. He had one clear, but large mission—to mobilize the relocation industry to reduce food waste and fight hunger. AVE’s Kim was also enthused.
While AVE specializes in stays of 30 days or longer, usually, many of their furnished residents stay with them four to six months while they are relocating to the area for work, doing a major home renovation or on an extended business trip or project.
“Our suites feature a fully accessorized kitchen, so most residents do cook while they stay with us. Naturally, there is leftover food when they move out,” Kim says. “I thought Adam’s idea was genius and a natural way for our industry to make a difference in our communities.”
Lea Anne Welsh, AVE brand president and chief operations officer of its parent company Korman Communities, was immediately impressed with Adam. He shared with her Move for Hunger’s history and mission at AVE Union in 2015.
“I knew he was a special guy,” Lea Anne says. “The fact that he realized he could do something more with the family business to help others, and then acted on it— that was very inspiring.”
Lea Anne also saw synergies between AVE and Move for Hunger’s operations and culture. Lowy’s Moving Service and Korman Communities are both fourth-generation family-run businesses. The Korman family, like Adam’s, believe it is their responsibility to be good corporate citizens and help others.
“The Korman family has such a long history of giving back,” says Lea Anne, who has been part of the Korman family for 24 years. “They do it because they genuinely care about people. They care about their team. They care about our residents and they care about the people who live in the areas where we operate our real estate.”
In 2012, Steven H. Korman, founder of Korman Communities, awarded a $12,000 scholarship to 20 students in financial need from Temple University’s School of Tourism and Hospitality Management at the Fox School of Business’ Annual Musser Awards dinner. He was being honored for his business achievements and commitment to the community. This generous gift came as a surprise, as those 20 students thought they were competing for a single $10,000 scholarship from an anonymous donor.
“Being in the audience that night, it was so heartwarming seeing the students so emotional, knowing they could return to school,” Lea Anne shares. “I felt a great sense of pride knowing that we’re part of something really special.”
The AVE team participates in various civic events and charity drives. Every November, the teams at all six communities organize a food drive to donate to local food banks for Thanksgiving. Every December, they organize a toy drive to donate to the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation. When Super Bowl 48 was held at MetLife Stadium, all three New Jersey AVE communities joined the Super Community Coat Drive. It’s an effort created by Jersey Cares, the NY/NJ Super Bowl Host Committee, Wal-Mart and New York Cares. They collected and distributed more than 60,000 winter coats to families throughout New Jersey. Sixteen AVE team members recently completed the Corporate FunRun 5K North Jersey at the Meadowlands Racetrack to benefit Tackle Kids Cancer.
“This made me so proud that so many team members showed up and wanted to participate—from maintenance to asset to resident services to sales to management,” Lea Anne says. “They understood it was such a good cause and they wanted to go out and be together to raise money for children’s cancer research and treatment.”
Individual AVE team members also regularly participate in fundraisers including City to Shore MS Bike Ride, Blue Cross Broad Street Run, Susan G. Komen 3-Day Race for the Cure and the New York City Half Marathon.
In addition to the six food drive parties AVE organized last September, the brand has seamlessly integrated Move for Hunger into its daily operations to regularly collect food for local food banks.
“We have a captive audience. We have the team. We have the infrastructure,” Lea Anne explains. “We have the ability to promote saving food that would otherwise be thrown out and donating it to those who need it.”
When an AVE resident provides his or her checkout notice, a team member reaches out to remind them about their partnership with Move for Hunger. A donation bag is delivered with their next housekeeping service. After a property collects 10 bags of food donations, they reach out to Move for Hunger to schedule a pickup. In New Jersey, Crown Relocation picks up the food and delivers it to Community Food Bank of New Jersey. As of print date, 2,000 pounds of food have been collected for the Salvation Army of West Chester, Community Food Bank of New Jersey and Heaven’s Helpers in Egg Harbor, New Jersey, providing 1,667 meals.
Adam presented Lea Anne and Kim, who also serves as a board of advisor for the Meadowlands Regional Chamber, with the inaugural “Corporate Housing Provider of the Year” award at the annual Corporate Housing Providers Association (CHPA) conference in Texas in February. Move for Hunger is CHPA’s official charity.
“AVE has always been really, really enthusiastic about our mission. They were one of the first corporate housing providers that got on board with our efforts,” Adam says. “They’ve shown what it is to go above and beyond in partnering with an organization like ours. I admire their competitive spirit between the properties with food drives, and they’ve been really strong advocates in encouraging others within the industry to get involved as well.”
This September, to raise awareness for Hunger Action Month, every AVE community will host resident events, with food, vendors and games reminiscent of carnivals and the Jersey Shore. The cost of admission is simply a food donation.
AVE recently announced it broke ground on a new flexible-stay community in Florham Park, New Jersey with developer The Rockefeller Group, as well as a new flexible-stay community in The Village at Valley Forge in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania.
“As we continue to grow our real estate portfolio, it gives us the opportunity to impact more communities; it gives us the opportunity to touch more people,” Lea Anne says. “As we recruit and look for team members to join our brand, we’re looking for people who share our sense of community, and our sense of wanting to go above and beyond, not just for their own purpose, but for the purpose of the greater good.”