Libertyville School District 70 is honoring John Cortesi, president, CEO and owner of Sunset Foods Mart Inc., with its 2013 Character and Leadership Award.
The honor is the school district's only award bestowed on an outside organization. Created by Superintendent Guy Schumacher, the award is given with appreciation by the school board, administration and staff "in honor of exemplary character, leadership and service." Cortesi was presented with the award Dec. 16 at a school board meeting.
"You have a sense of character and leadership that guides us in so many ways," Schumacher said when presenting the award. "You are one of our most dedicated business partners and are extremely visible. There is not a school in our district that has not been touched by your generosity."
Cortesi and his Sunset Foods have a long-running relationship with District 70 schools, often donating food for a variety of school events and items -- like plastic containers -- for classroom projects, and supporting a wide selection of projects, including classroom parties and scouting sales outside the store.
But his contribution to D70 stood out when he attended a third-grade economics fair at Copeland Manor school last year and talked about how his grocery store worked and took the time from a demanding business day to answer student questions. Third grade teacher Julie Jermakowicz noted that at the end of the presentation, he brought out a giant lobster that he had flown in from Maine just to show the students.
"They loved it," Jermakowicz noted.
A longtime environmentalist, Cortesi joined forces with District 70 several years ago in a "Five for the Future" campaign. The program encourages customers to use reusable bags in lieu of paper or plastic bags. Sunset Foods then donates .5 cents to District 70 for each reusable bag a customer uses. The program has generated $4,799.05 for District 70 and promoted environmental responsibility.
"There are many businesses in Libertyville that exemplify the pillars of good character," Jermakowicz wrote on her nomination essay. "Sunset Foods leads the way."
Cortesi's generosity is well known throughout Libertyville.
"I am tremendously proud and greatly honored by our relationship with John Cortesi and the team at Sunset Foods," Schumacher said. "The commitment offered on behalf of our students, schools and district, as a whole, are greatly valued and appreciated. Sunset is at the core of our community, and John Cortesi offers support with a generous heart."