Southern Wine & Spirits of Florida – Corporate Social Responsibility

John Wittig, Executive Vice President, General Manager of Southern Wine & Spirits of Florida (SWS-FL), noted that since the company’s founding in 1968, corporate sponsorship, community support and educational excellence have been extremely important to the Chaplin family, senior leadership and all of its employee team members.

  1. Florida International University - Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management

    In 2011, Florida International University (FIU) announced that its top-rated hospitality school had been named the Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management. Designated in honor of the Chaplin family, the school continues to provide cutting-edge management education for students who intend to pursue careers in the hospitality and tourism industries.

    One of the most important, and visible, ways that Southern supports FIU is as the founding sponsor and host of the South Beach Wine & Food Festival (SOBEWFF) — the nation’s largest wine and food festival. Since the festival’s inception in 2002, more than $20 million has been donated to FIU’s Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism Management. “This is a wonderful way to recognize our long-standing commitment to FIU,” said Southern’s President & Chief Executive Officer Wayne E. Chaplin. “We are committed to the education of the hospitality industry’s future leaders and dedicated to providing them with an exceptional learning experience.”

    A section of the state-of-the-art facility includes the Southern Wine & Spirits Beverage Management Center—a 4,500 square-foot facility that was built in 1999 and offers the latest approaches and technology for beverage tasting and analysis. Created for a variety of users, the center is designed to accommodate students and industry professionals, including winemakers and distillers. Additionally, the Jay W. Weiss Wine & Spirits Laboratory supports product evaluation, industry research and teaching in a specialized setting. The laboratory is named in honor of Weiss, a founding executive of Southern.

    Further enhancing the quality of the education offered at FIU, the Harvey R. Chaplin Eminent Scholar Chair is the first and only eminent scholar chair in the country devoted to beverage management. The holder of the Harvey R. Chaplin Eminent Scholar Chair, Dr. Barry Gump, leads the Beverage Management Studies program at the school and oversees the operation of the Southern Wine & Spirits Beverage Management Center.

    The FIU partnership with the Chaplin family and Southern has placed the university at the forefront of hospitality education. Their support has contributed to the school’s recognition as one of the leading hospitality and tourism management schools in the U.S.

    In the spring of 2012, the Chaplin School opened a brand new teaching restaurant where students have access to the highest-quality kitchen facilities, wine cellar, bartending training area and expansive teaching dining room to support a hands-on, experiential learning approach. Containing thousands of the finest wines from Southern’s vast portfolio, the custom-designed Mel Dick Wine Tower is a high-tech storage facility outfitted with individual, temperature-controlled storage units. The Mel Dick Wine Tower can accommodate up to 12 guests and used for special functions. The newly renovated 140-seat restaurant and wine tower is funded by proceeds from the South Beach Wine & Food Festival.

    FIU’s Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management is one of the highest-rated hospitality and tourism programs in the U.S. Each year, more than 1,500 undergraduate and graduate students from across the U.S. and around the world choose FIU for its outstanding reputation, advantageous locations, impressive faculty, rich curriculum and fast-track career advantages in the international hotel, foodservice and tourism industries.

  2. The 2014 Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival
  3. Under the leadership of Patrick Cassidy, Vice President, General Manager of Southern’s South Florida division, the company provides support to the South Beach Wine & Food Festival and its founder, Southern’s Lee Schrager, Vice President, Corporate Communications & Special Events.

    Southern partners with Florida International University (FIU) to produce the annual Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival. Each year more than 400 students of the FIU Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management experience the festival hands-on by providing logistical assistance and much needed manpower in the areas of marketing, ticketing, as well as working side-by-side with world-renowned visiting chefs and winemakers alike.

    All proceeds from the South Beach Wine & Food Festival benefit the FIU Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management’s Teaching Restaurant and the Southern Wine & Spirits Beverage Management Center at FIU. Since 2002, FIU and Southern Wine & Spirits have raised more than $20 million in support of educational programs at FIU.

    The 2015 South Beach Wine & Food Festival is scheduled for February 19–22. For more information about the festival or to purchase tickets, please visit:

  4. Kids in Distress (KID) 13th Annual Inlet Challenge
  5. The Kids In Distress mission is to prevent child abuse, preserve the family and treat children who have been abused and neglected.  Recognized as a premier agency in South Florida, the organization provides family strengthening services as well as children's services for more than 10,000 children and their families. All of their programs and services are designed specifically to give children and their families the tools, skills, services and education they need to maintain a safe, stable and healthy environment in which to thrive.

    Southern has been an active partner with the Kids In Distress (KID) organization for the past 20 years and a title sponsor in their annual Bicycle Inlet Challenge for the past five years. In the 2014 Inlet Challenge, a total of 250 cyclists participated in the event, raising a total of $120,000 for KID’s programs. Dollars from events such as the Inlet Challenge go to support the program with the greatest need, which can be foster care, Healthy Start, therapy, KID Preschool PLUS, and aftercare to name a few. Southern Wine & Spirits of Florida is proud to be a part of that mission.

    For more information, please visit:

  6. Step Up For Students
  7. In 2014, Southern committed $30 million to the Step Up For Students Scholarship Program for the 2014-15 school year. Southern’s commitment is the largest single contribution to date in the nonprofit organization’s 12-year history, and will fund more than 5,500 scholarships.

    Step Up For Students administers the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program, which provides scholarships to qualified low-income families throughout Florida. These scholarships are funded by corporations that receive a dollar-for-dollar tax credit for their contributions. The program will allow recipients to choose between a scholarship to help with private school tuition and fees, or a transportation scholarship to attend an out-of-district public school.

    “At Southern, we know the importance of a quality education,” said Southern President and Chief Executive Officer, Wayne E. Chaplin. “This program is truly changing lives, and we take great pride in making a positive impact on so many Florida families.”
    This marks the fifth year Southern has contributed to Step Up For Students, bringing the company’s total to an astounding $90 million.

    For more information, please visit:

  8. Jay Weiss Center for Social Medicine and Health Equity
  9. The Jay Weiss Center for Social Medicine and Health Equity was officially established in 2005 to join forces with the social medicine and health equity movements that are gaining momentum across the globe. The center is based at the University of Miami, Miller School of Medicine and was established in memory of philanthropist Jay W. Weiss, who was a co-founder of Southern and a longtime champion of the underserved in the Miami-Dade community.

    Lack of access to health care is responsible for preventable deaths and the suffering of millions of people in today’s world. The founders of the Jay Weiss Center believe that a critical need is the development and support of physician practitioners and policy advocates who will be effective in increasing access to health care and improving the quality of life of the poorest members of our society.

    Continuing a tradition of annual support since 2005, Southern has donated product and funds to fundraising events that have been held on behalf of the center. Southern will continue to support their efforts in 2014 and beyond.

    For more information, please visit:

  10. South Florida Employee VolunCheers Program
  11. VolunCheers is a unique employee volunteer program created to encourage Southern South Florida employees to donate their time, resources and talent in support of local non-profit organizations, schools and community based programs. Founded in 2012, the VolunCheers Program has already provided more than 600 volunteer service hours and raised more than $60,000 for local programs such as Big Brothers / Big Sisters Mentorship program, Dress for Success, United Way of Miami-Dade, Becca’s Closet, Feeding South Florida, Kids in Distress, National Multiple Sclerosis Society of South Florida, and the Florida Breast Cancer Foundation—to name a few.

    VolunCheers has supported the following initiatives:

    • Raised $30,000 for Back-to-School — allowing VolunCheers to donate more than 1,200 backpacks filled with school supplies for the Children’s Home Society of Florida children in need across Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and Collier counties
    • Donated 30 dresses to the South Florida Chapter of Becca’s Closet, a non-profit that provides prom dresses to low income high school students
    • Worked with The United Way of Miami-Dade campaign to raise $38,194 through employee donations and fundraising activities
    • Contributed 45 boxes of Back-to-School supplies to Brentwood Elementary School in Miami Gardens
    • Participated in Hunger Action Month by supporting Feeding South Florida (local chapter of Feeding America) thru food collection drive, fundraising activities and volunteering at the Feeding South Florida warehouse. Feeding South Florida provides food and essential non-food items to more than 500 charities in Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and Monroe counties.

  12. The Tom Coughlin Jay Fund
  13. “Corporate sponsorship, community involvement, and educational excellence continue to be the cornerstone of Southern Wine & Spirits of North Florida’s social responsibility activities,” added Barry Zeidwig, Executive Vice President and General Manager of Southern Wine & Spirits of North Florida.

    Based in Jacksonville, Florida, the Tom Coughlin Jay Fund mission is to assist children and their families who are stricken with Leukemia and other childhood cancers by providing emotional and financial support to help reduce the stress associated with treatment and to improve their quality of life. To this end, Southern sponsors both an annual Wine Gala as well as a Celebrity Golf Tournament. Local restaurants, celebrities and Southern’s supplier partners combine their efforts to attract more than 1,000 attendees to the events that continue to grow in size and scope.

    As of 2014, the foundation has helped hundreds of North Florida families with grants totaling more than $4.5 million. Because of the huge success in Florida, the Tom Coughlin Jay Fund Foundation has now expanded to New York as well.

    For more information, please visit:

  14. WineQuest
  15. For nearly 50 years, Quest has helped people with disabilities achieve their dreams of going to school, having a job, and living on their own. Quest inspires and empowers Central Floridians with disabilities by offering opportunities to learn, live, work, and play. Through Quests’ comprehensive family services, children and adults imagine and achieve their full capabilities.

    In 2014, Southern Wine & Spirits continues to be the sole sponsor of this annual series of events.  The 18th annual Wine Quest event series took place in May 2014 and was hosted by Southern at JW Marriott Orlando Grande Lakes.

    At Quest, support activities include adult day schooling for autism, Quest Kids and extended care facilities. Southern is the exclusive partner for Quest, Inc. and through WineQuest events has raised in excess of $2.5 million dollars over eight years.

    For more information, please visit:

  16. Rosen College of Hospitality Management, University of Central Florida
  17. Southern established an endowed scholarship fund in 2013 at the Rosen College of Hospitality Management, University of Central Florida. The Pinnacle Vodka Endowed Scholarship fund will exist in perpetuity, with a portion of the annual earnings being made available for scholarship awards. The Scholarship is awarded annually to an outstanding full-time undergraduate student at the Rosen College of Hospitality Management interested in beverage management within the college’s Food Service Department.

    For more information, please visit:

  18. The Brandon Foundation Tampa Bay Wine & Food Festival
  19. Southern is a long-time partner of the Brandon Foundation. Founded in 2003, the Brandon Foundation’s mission is to improve the quality of life and shape the future of their community by creating public awareness, developing resources, and supporting the initiatives that address local needs. To date the Foundation has distributed approximately $2 million dollars to local charities.

    In September 2012, Southern Wine and Spirits, with the assistance of the Brandon Foundation, re-launched the Tampa Bay Wine & Food Festival. This popular event now incorporates the annual Southern Charm Wine & Food Gala and a spectacular indoor/outdoor Grand Tasting newly tagged as The Wine Down in Downtown.

    Together these two exciting sellout events have become the Tampa Bay Area’s pre-eminent wine and spirits festival. Southern Wine & Spirits of Florida North Division’s large number of supplier partners, local restaurateurs and other business leaders have united to create a new and different venue with all profits going to as many as 50 registered charities supported by the Brandon Foundation.

    For more information about The Tampa Bay Wine & Food Festival, please visit:

  20. YMCA of North Tampa and Other Charitable Groups
  21. Rich Spiro, General Sales Manager, Costal Wine & Spirits of Florida, a division of Southern Wine & Spirits of America, is active in the Tampa-area community and serves on the Board for the YMCA of North Tampa. He is an active sponsor of YMCA’s annual Caribana fundraising event every year, as well as volunteering at the local Metropolitan Ministries where Rich donates many hours to the holiday food and toy drives. Southern’s Tampa managers and employees also participate in the “Paint Your Heart Out” Tampa Bay outreach to help the elderly and the poor clean up their properties and paint their houses. Rich has been active in volunteer sports coaching for the city of Temple Terrace and Chamberlain High School. Rich is also an Honorary Hillsborough County Deputy that enhances his commitment to continued community service and support programs - especially those supporting, mentoring and coaching Tampa Bay area youth.