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1-800-Flowers CEO: Good works are good for companies' bottom lines

Kevin McCann, 61, of Eastport, stops to admire

Kevin McCann, 61, of Eastport, stops to admire a planter he helped make while working in the greenhouse at Smile Farms, Inc. in Moriches on June 11, 2015. Photo Credit: Heather Walsh

1-800-Flowers.com Inc. founder Jim McCann spoke publicly for the first time Thursday about his personal philanthropic efforts with a new nonprofit that employs 35 developmentally disabled adults at a 4.5-acre farm in Moriches.

"We wanted to get up and running and organized," said McCann, CEO of 1-800-Flowers, the online florist and gift company based in Carle Place. "This is really our coming out party."

McCann spoke about his endeavor as part of a panel discussion on how partnerships between for-profit and nonprofit businesses can help companies generate revenue, attract and retain talent, and create a competitive advantage. The event was hosted by the Hauppauge Industrial Association of Long Island at the Hamlet Golf & Country Club in Commack.

For-profit organizations think about "the triple bottom line: people, profit and the planet," said Kenneth Cerini, co-chairman of the Long Island chapter of the Social Enterprise Alliance, an organization that supports such partnerships. "That is really what social enterprise is about. It is looking at the social issues that exist today . . . and trying to find business-oriented ways to resolve [them]."

McCann and his family have provided seed funding to create Smile Farms Inc., a nonprofit that hopes to replicate the Moriches farm operation nationally. The family has supported the local farm since its founding 15 years ago by the Independent Group Home Living Program Inc., a Manorville nonprofit that provides housing and jobs to the developmentally disabled.

"Working with IGHL has been both a personal mission and a good-for-business mission as well," said McCann, whose brother Kevin McCann, 61, is developmentally disabled, works at the farm and has been a resident of IGHL's group homes for 20 years.

Originally named the Flower Barn, the retail and wholesale operation with 17 greenhouses sells flowers, plants, vegetables and herbs to local 1-800-Flowers franchisees, restaurants and caterers.

As a corporate sponsor of Smile Farms, 1-800-Flowers will support the farm with donations, volunteer support, business mentorship and marketing campaigns.

This type of philanthropic effort helps 1-800-Flowers attract "the right talent with compassion and capabilities," McCann said.

As for IGHL, "our first return of investment is . . . providing [our clients] with a job, providing them with a home and providing them with a stable family," CEO Walter Stockton said. "The second is a return of investment for their families."

The organization also runs a bed-and-breakfast in Center Moriches and a thrift shop in Shirley.

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