Small olive harvests fund charity that helps kids


Lori Gilbert of The Record wrote about our S.O.O.P.C.O., Stockton Olive Oil Project. Here is an excerpt from the July 6, 2015 article:

Posted Jul. 6, 2010 at 12:01 AM.

They laughed when he planted his olive tree. A barrage of “Do you have any idea what kind of mess those trees will cause in your yard?” questions greeted Chris Flaherty before the first piece of fruit fell. Flaherty’s stubborn determination, though, has resulted in nearly $200,000 being donated to organizations devoted to children’s causes. Seriously. Flaherty was out in his yard picking the first olives from his tree back in 2002 when Tom Cortopassi arrived, bringing his son, Joey, to play with Flaherty’s son, Keegan. He couldn’t resist making a comment about the Irishman not knowing what to do with the olives.

“He tried to eat it straight off the olive tree,” the Italian Cortopassi said. “He said, ‘What are you supposed to do with these?’ ”Cortopassi laughed, but by the time he’d returned later to pick up his son, he’d done a little quick Internet research on olives. Although he’d grown up in the agriculture industry and runs Stanislaus Food Products, a tomato processing plant in Modesto, he wasn’t experienced with olives.Over a glass of wine, he explained the options he’d learned about, either curing the olives in brine or pressing them for their oil. “I said, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we could pick the olives off all the olive trees in Stockton, make olive oil, sell it and give all the money to some kind of charity? ‘ ” Cortopassi said. “With Chris, you don’t just say it. If he likes an idea, he’s gonna run with it.” Run he did. Flaherty lined up five friends. Cortopassi picked five more, and S.O.O.P.C.O., Stockton Olive Oil Project Charitable Organization, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, was formed.

The group, made up of area businessmen of different stripes – Flaherty is a contractor, and there are bankers, lawyers, accountants and other professions represented – toured the Sciabica and Sons olive oil plant in Modesto, and the firm agreed to produce oil under the S.O.O.P.C.O. label. Each member of the club bought three cases of the oil, at a cost of $750, and the proceeds went to charities. Members, in turn, gave the bottles of oil to family, friends and colleagues. Cortopassi thought the venture it would be a one-time deal. Instead, the group has grown to 28 members and last year produced 225 cases. Unlike other men’s organizations, or traditional service groups, there are few requirements of S.O.O.P.C.O. members. “Once you come in, you’re never allowed to get out,” Flaherty said. “And you have to make a donation. You’re committed to $750 per year, each year.” They meet as a group four or five times a year for lunch or dinner, and it’s not the end of the world if one of them can’t make it. Sometimes they have a dinner with their wives. “It’s a fun group,” Flaherty said. “We give each other a hard time. Everyone checks their ego at the door.”

Read the full article here.

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