The March of Dimes took a big step forward in their efforts to help ensure stronger, healthy babies after the non-profit received a large donation by a local fast food franchise group.
 “Envision Foods and its Jack in the Box group blew us away when they told us that they raised $41,000,” said Chris Huyett, executive director for the Inland Empire March of Dimes. “We were shocked, thrilled and bouncing off the walls screaming when we found out. Envision completely rocked it.”
On Wednesday morning, representatives of Envision and the MOD took turns taking pictures with the large check in front of the Apple Valley restaurant in the Jess Ranch Marketplace.
Huyett said the entire Envision team, led by owners Terry Shindle and Hamid Sharafatian and Marketing Manager Cassey Cinqmars Fisher, helped raise the money by selling specially designed MOD pins at 51 store locations for $1 a piece.
There are four Jack in the Box locations in Apple Valley.
“This is the first year Jack in the Box partnered with us, so in their rookie year they hit it out of the park,” Huyett said. “They are also doing a fall (season) campaign during World Prematurity Awareness Month in November.”
Shindle said the company’s “corporate culture” drives their business to give back to the community.
“We care about our employees and the community,” Shindle said. “It builds pride in our employees and the entire company when they are involved in helping the March of Dimes and other organizations.”
Shindle said Envision’s marketing department designed the metal pin, which includes a purple ribbon with a set of baby footprints printed under the March of Dimes logo and script.
“The special pins quickly became a conversation piece in the community,” Sharafatian said. “Instead of handing out round paper stickers, the March of Dimes now has a pin.”
As drivers along Bear Valley Road honked and waved, Envision and MOD representatives broke out their cell phones and tablets and took photos of the check and each other.
“My team did an amazing job and it was an honor to present that check,” Fisher said. “This was our first fundraising campaign of this nature. It took a little work to get started, but in the end, a lot of babies are going to be helped.”
Store manager Sonia Ramos was all smiles as she watched the check presentation in front of her store and took care of her guests.
“This was an exciting day for all of us,” said Ramos, who’s been with the company for 10 years. “We had customers buying multiple pins when they found out that it was for the March of Dimes.”
Sharafatian said he’s looking for his team to exceed this year’s goal, and is excited to see the excitement in the community as people talk about the pin and what it represents.
“It’s important to give back to the community because they are the ones who help us stay in business,” Sharafatian said. “Even during the thick and thin of the economy, the community helped us to be successful. We owe the community so much, so helping this great organization to help babies was the natural thing to do.”
Fisher said she hopes the fundraising campaign will challenge other businesses to come along side the MOD or another nonprofit.
“If we can all work together, we can help a lot of people,” Fisher said. “Just think of the outcome that it could have.”
  Rene Ray De La Cruz may be reached at 760-951-6227, RDeLa or on Twitter@DP_ReneDeLaCruz.