The Community Foundation of Herkimer & Oneida Counties honored its partners in philanthropy, the Mele family, well known for Mele & Co., a fixture in the Utica area, Tuesday, August 6, with more than 150 community members in attendance.
In recognition of the Mele Family Fund’s investments in the community over the last decade, the family was presented The Community Foundation’s highest honor, the Rosamond Childs Award for Community Philanthropy. Sadly, hours after company president Raymond Mele accepted the award on behalf of the family, his father, Joseph Mele, passed away in Florida at age 98.
“We offer heartfelt condolences to the Mele family on the passing of Joe Mele,” said Alicia Dicks, president/CEO of The Community Foundation. “Our entire community has benefited from his dedication and the Mele family’s commitments, both as a steadfast and valued employer and as a generous contributor to programs that support education and health care.”
The Mele family is best-known for Mele & Co.—the premier provider of jewelry boxes and accessory organizers in the nation. Founded in 1912 in New York, the company has been committed to offering innovative and timeless designs while also instilling the community with the familial heritage and values upon which it was founded. A skilled craftsman at heart, Italian immigrant Emidio Mele built the jewelry box business out of a vision to create a better life for his family and others by providing secure jobs. Many of its current employees have been with the company for more than 20 years, a direct result of its promise to treat employees with trust, respect, and always maintain a “family” atmosphere in the workplace. Emidio’s sons Edward, who died in 2003, and Joseph joined the family business in the 1940s, moving the company’s operations to Utica shortly thereafter.
In the late 1950s, the Mele family, known for their stewardship and community involvement, established a foundation that they hoped would help grow their philanthropic impact. In 2009, they honored that commitment by transferring their foundation’s assets to The Community Foundation, creating a donor-advised fund. Since then, the Mele Family Fund has awarded nearly $2.8 million in grants to 73 community organizations across the region. With a focus on education and the elderly, the Mele family believes it is their corporate responsibility to help create a brighter future through the fund’s continuing community investments.
“Mele has been a well-known and well-respected name in our community for decades,” Dicks said. “The family’s dedication to philanthropic leadership and investment in important causes is creating not only a better community but a better world.”