Also supports various causes in community, offers scholarship opportunities to employees
Interviews with members of the company’s leadership team were conducted by Shelby Publishing EVP Bob Reeves and compiled by Shelby’s Mary Margaret Stewart.
Something near and dear to the hearts of Mimi and Marie Song is the Superior Foundation, which was founded 20 years ago as the nonprofit arm of Superior Grocers. Over the past two decades, the foundation has donated more than $3 million to schools and non-profits in support of youth and education in Southern California.
“The vendors that they’re working with have really brought the support together,” said Brenda Sarti, executive assistant for Superior Grocers. “And Mimi and Marie’s intentions are to help the community with education efforts – that’s the primary focus of the foundation.”
Mimi Song added, “I know how important education is. That’s why I’m involved in children’s education.”
With this focus, Sarti said there are three components of the foundation’s work – to bring music and art programs into schools; health and wellness programs; and scholarships for better access to college.
“One other thing I learned in this country is most of the public schools, especially in a city – they don’t have enough art classes,” Mimi Song said. “They don’t. That’s why we collaborate with the Music Center and LACMA to do something and keep them in art class. Seems to me, art is really important.
“There’s a lot of personality that art can provide. Besides IQ, EQ is very important.”
And Sarti added that budget cuts to the arts have been all too commonplace in schools, affecting children’s exposure to different subjects.
“The Music Center and LACMA…design specific, customized programs for Superior Foundation, so that they can go in and bring artists into each classroom and do a focus program with each school.”
Another piece of the foundation’s work goes directly to Superior employees who would like to pursue a higher education. The way VP of HR Enrique Montes looks at it, giving is one of Mimi Song’s virtues.
“[She] always wants to do more,” he added. “We do have a scholarship. We provide scholarships for our employees. And when I ask for more scholarships, as long as people are applying and people are qualifying for it, she’s always said, ‘Yes, go ahead, and we’ll provide more.’”
The Superior Foundation is primarily funded by the grocer’s annual golf tournament, which hasn’t been held in a few years.
“Unfortunately, we had it slated to start again [in 2020] and we weren’t able to do that [due to COVID-19 pandemic], but we’re hoping to have it again [this] year,” Sarti said. “As far as scholarships, we do have some funding sometimes coming in – Coca-Cola is one of our sponsors. But as far as the programs that go directly into schools, Superior Foundation is primarily in support of that through the golf tournament.”
While missing out on the opportunity to raise funding has been a challenge, Sarti said, “Mimi is very smart.”
“We don’t spend everything every year that we raise,” she continued. “We do have reserves that we allocated during times like this, so we have been able to continue supporting these programs.
“Now, due to the pandemic of course, there are no schools. Some of these programs were taken online, and the Music Center is still continuing to work with kids. Obviously, artists can’t walk into the classroom and they can’t do events, but they’re still trying to bring some of the arts into homes.
“We continue to explore other avenues and ways to support the community…hopefully next year, we’re able to continue our fundraising and bring back the programs even stronger in person.”
And these programs from Superior Foundation are needed in the communities in which the company operates.
“A lot of our stores are in lower income communities. We know that the schools in the area probably need the most support,” Sarti said. “We do work with some nonprofits as well that help identify the schools that need work.
“We also support big programs, like City of Hope and Muscular Dystrophy Association. We work with Olive Crest as well.”
Looking to what 2021 holds, Sarti said the foundation plans to keep building.
“We’re going to have to continue strengthening our partnerships and see what the needs are,” she said. “We’re going to base it on the needs of the community. We go to these nonprofits and these experts to tell us what they need from us, so we’ll be open about them [this] year.”