Southern Wine & Spirits of Illinois Corporate Social Responsibility

Will Conniff, Executive Vice President, General Manager of Illinois, Kentucky and Minnesota, notes with pride the number, range and extensive involvement not only of Southern’s corporate support of local and statewide charitable groups, but also the volunteer time given by the company’s team members to numerous community non-profits. According to Conniff, in 2013 and continuing through 2014, Southern has offered support to more than 125 different charitable groups and community-based, non-profit organizations across Illinois.

I. We Don’t Serve Teens

In 2013 and 2014, Southern Wine & Spirits of Illinois teamed up with the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS), the Foundation For Advancing Alcohol Responsibility (formerly Century Council), and Sidney Frank Importing Company to lead an aggressive statewide We Don’t Serve Teens campaign to discourage and combat underage drinking.

The Federal Trade Commission and The Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility launched the We Don't Serve Teens public awareness campaign designed to prevent underage drinking by informing adults that providing alcohol to minors is unsafe, illegal and irresponsible.

“Here in Illinois, we at Southern are extremely proud to partner with DISCUS, the Foundation For Advancing Alcohol Responsibility, Sidney Frank Importing Company, and numerous local community police departments, as well as dozens of cooperating retail merchants across our great state to get the word out—loud and clear—that We Don’t Serve Teens. We want to thank everyone involved in this community-based awareness effort,” commented Conniff.

The latest government research shows that more than 90% of underage drinkers do not purchase alcohol, but get it from family and friends or ask someone to buy it for them. We at Southern Wine & Spirits don't serve teens and you shouldn't either.

The We Don’t Serve Teens campaign is supported by many national, state and local public and private organizations. For more information on the campaign, please visit:

II. 2014 Chicago Gourmet Festival

In September 2014, Southern Wine & Spirits of Illinois continued its sponsorship of the seventh annual Chicago Gourmet, a celebration of food and wine. As the event’s exclusive wine and spirits sponsor, more than 12,600 visitors enjoyed dozens of live cooking demonstrations, expert seminars and gourmet tastings held in collaboration with the Illinois Restaurant Association (IRA) and the City of Chicago.

 “Southern Wine & Spirits of Illinois was again honored to partner with the Illinois Restaurant Association and Mayor Rahm Emanuel for the 2014 edition of Chicago Gourmet. More than $100,000 was raised through charitable efforts at this year’s event. In 2015, we look forward to continuing this great collaboration and raising the bar even higher. Our support reflects our commitment to the importance of the restaurant and hospitality business in Chicago and throughout the great State of Illinois,” said Conniff.

Chicago Gourmet featured two days of exciting culinary and sensory diversity, all held within the breathtaking Millennium Park. Thanks to continued support from Southern, Sam Toia, President of the Illinois Restaurant Association, noted that Chicago Gourmet featured the highest quality wines and spirits along with some of the best chefs, cookbook authors, sommeliers and culinary experts from not only Chicago, but around the globe.

Mary Barranco, Vice President, National Training Director, said, “We are excited to participate again in Chicago Gourmet. Our Master Sommeliers from across our enterprise are involved in exciting educational events. We hosted a number of seminars that showcased our fine wines and brought together the largest collection of Master Sommeliers and wine makers in the history of the event. Our nationally recognized team of Mixologists here at Southern delivered useful skills, industry knowledge and excitement in a series of spirit-focused workshops. We are proud that the proceeds from Chicago Gourmet will help support many hospitality industry charities across Illinois.”

At the 2014 event, Southern proudly took part in a number of well-attended charitable auctions, with proceeds supporting the Illinois Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (IRAEF), whose mission is to build the state’s hospitality workforce through career exploration and development programs, scholarships and image enhancement.

For more information about Chicago Gourmet, please visit:

III. DePaul University’s Driehaus College of Business Honors Southern with School of Hospitality Leadership Industry Award

In February 2014, DePaul University School of Hospitality Leadership (SHL) in Chicago, Illinois, awarded Southern with its SHL Industry Award. Dr. Chris Roberts, Director and Professor at DePaul University’s School of Hospitality Leadership, Driehaus School of Business and the university commended Southern for its record of superior educational support.

In a letter to Conniff, Dr. Roberts stated, “In recognition of your firm’s numerous contributions to the success of our students and our program, the School of Hospitality Leadership is pleased to confer upon the company our SHL Industry Award for 2014. Southern Wine & Spirits of Illinois has given in many, many ways, aiding greatly in that education process.”

In acknowledging the DePaul SHL honor, Conniff remarked, “We are all extremely humbled and honored with the DePaul award. On behalf of our entire Illinois team, I want to underscore not only the importance that our Illinois division attaches to supporting area educational initiatives and institutions, but also the high level of commitment our corporate parent places on giving back to the communities across the U.S. where we live and do business.”

Southern of Illinois would also like to recognize the superb contributions that our Southern of Illinois training and education team members have made to the DePaul effort, including Bridget Albert, Regional Director of Mixology; Serafin Alvarado, Director of Wine Education & Master Sommelier; Mary Barranco, Vice President, National Director of Training; Debbi Peek, Director of Mixology; Brian Orlik, Director of Education & Trade Relations; and Matt Schoenberger, Field Training Manager, and many others who have contributed to this honor.

For more information about DePaul University’s Driehaus College of Business, please visit:

IV. Careers Through Culinary Arts & The Chicago Public School System

In the 2013-2014 academic year, Southern provided financial support to students of the Chicago Public School system via the national non-profit Careers Through Culinary Arts. The Careers-Through Culinary Arts Program (C-CAP) works with public schools across the country to prepare underserved high school students for college and career opportunities in the restaurant and hospitality industry.

A national nonprofit organization founded in 1990 by well-known culinary educator and author, Richard Grausman, C-CAP has awarded students $37 million in scholarships and donated $2.8 million worth of supplies and equipment to classrooms. C-CAP operates programs in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia region, Hampton Roads, Virginia, District of Columbia/Prince George’s County, Maryland, and statewide in Arizona.

For more information, please visit:

V. SERVSAFE Alcohol Awareness Program

Since 2009, Southern Wine & Spirits of Illinois has partnered with the Illinois Restaurant Association (IRA) and SERVSAFE Alcohol, a division of the National Restaurant Association (NRA), to raise server alcohol awareness training in restaurants, bars, nightclubs and hotels that comprise the hospitality trade.

Open to employees and managers at on- and off-premise establishments, the SERVSAFE Alcohol 4-hour training program, called Beverage Alcohol Sellers and Servers Educational Training (B.A.S.S.E.T.) is the State of Illinois’ certified seller/server train program. The SERVSAFE certificate program was developed by the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF) to raise the bar in responsible alcohol service training and certification. The SERVSAFE program offers real-world training solutions, as well as practical knowledge and best-in-class resources that seek to prepare and protect hospitality operations across the state, according to the NRAEF.

To date, SERVSAFE has trained 10 Southern Wine & Spirits of Illinois employees as certified instructors. Barranco noted, “To help promote the SERVSAFE Alcohol training program, our education team at Southern is distributing promotional information to our sales representatives to distribute as widely as possible. We continue to offer on-site training and quarterly public courses which will be posted on our website, as well.”

For more information on SERVSAFE, please visit: Illinois Home or

VI. United Way

In 2014, Southern became a supporter to the United Way of Will County, Illinois. Additionally, Southern is conducting a United Way campaign drive for employee individual pledges.

Dale Huhnke, Vice President, Operations of Illinois, Kentucky and Minnesota added, “We are extremely proud to support United Way in Illinois. We want to thank those team members across the state that have voluntarily supported this great organization.” 

VII.  ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

Terry Brick, Vice President, General Manager, Southern Wine & Spirits of Illinois, along with Southern’s Senior Illinois leadership team participated in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge to raise funds to find a cure for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

The ALS Association is the only national non-profit organization fighting Lou Gehrig’s disease on every front. By leading the way in global research, providing assistance for people with ALS through a nationwide network of chapters, coordinating multidisciplinary care through certified clinical care centers, and fostering government partnerships, the association builds hope and enhances quality of life while aggressively searching for new treatments and a cure.

For more information about ALS, please visit:

VIII. Community Outreach Activities

According to Conniff, the above-noted charitable and community service activities are only the tip of the iceberg in terms of the company’s activities across Illinois. In addition, Southern supported more than 125 charitable events in 2014. Southern Wine and Spirits of Illinois proudly supports Alexian Brothers Children’s Hospital, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Chicago, Child Care Center of Evanston, Esperanza Community Services, Girls on the Run Youth Program, Hope Institute, Lincoln Park Zoo, Lookingglass Theater Company, March of Dimes Foundation, Montessori Academy of Chicago, National Multiple Sclerosis Society/Chicago Chapter, Northwestern University Center for Public Safety, Ride Janie Ride Foundation, Special Olympics Chicago, St. Baldrick’s Foundation, Susan G. Komen Foundation, Washburn Culinary Institute, and a host of other local charities.