BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Employees of Mercedes-Benz sell high-end, elegance on wheels. That's why it may be a surprise to learn that recently company CEO Joe Agresti ordered all employees to assemble for a so-called "Employee Culture Training" class at the dealership.
All 90-plus employees stepped away from the daily machinations of a car dealership to learn about the poor, under-employed people served by St. Vincent De Paul Society. Then, by choice, half the employees chose to put actions to what they had just learned.
Baton Rouge Mercedes loaded up employees and headed to Costco!
"Costco was chosen because we wanted to be able to purchase in bulk for St. Vincent de Paul," said Fran Kretzsinger, marketing director for Mercedes-Benz Baton Rouge. "St. Vincent de Paul provided us a list and we used that to make our buy."
When the employees deployed into the store aisles to loaded up cart after cart at Costco, you could see the concentration on their faces. They wanted to get this right. Agresti had given employees just under $5,000 to spend. They lined up at the check-out still figuring out if they had gotten everything.
"We bought anything from butter to flour and rice and beans," said Fran. "It was mostly all dry goods and cans."
As they drove across town to St. Vincent De Paul's Soup Kitchen, they may have remembered the powerpoint they had seen earlier in the day. When they arrived about 50 employees emerged from the vans into the night air. The sun had set in the meantime. In darkness, they opened the vans and started unloading their donations.
"We pulled up in the front and they opened the door and had people to help us unload into their kitchen storage area. The shelves seemed empty to me, but by the time we left, they looked like they were having to find places to put the food."
Employees formed a human chain from the van to the shelves, and as they passed a crate of green beans, bags of flour, there were smiles on everyone's faces. It obviously felt good to be working as a team to deliver something that's very needed.
I asked Fran Kretzsinger if this was something they do often.
"This is actually the first time we've done something like this since I've been employed [at Mercedes BR.] I've been there about a year. Our CEO came up with the idea. He made it possible for us to make that donation, he's done it with our sister stores in Birmingham and Houston-area The Woodlands. It feels so good to give back to our community!"