Calabrese receives Champions of Hope award

Utica resident John Calabrese, Jr., was recently honored with the Champions of Hope Award from Express Employment Professionals.

The award was introduced in 2016 and celebrates Express franchise staff members across North America who consistently go above and beyond their job descriptions to spread the spirit of hope and embody a culture of caring.

Calabrese Jr., a staffing consultant at the Utica-Rome Express office, was recognized at the company’s International Leadership Conference in San Francisco in February.

“John has a servant’s heart in his day-to-day interactions,” said Jennifer Anderson, Vice President of Marketing and Communications for Express International Headquarters. “Recently, he proposed an idea that would help raise funds and collect items for local veterans.”

The idea Calabrese Jr. brought to his father, Express owner John Calabrese, was to purchase an M923A2 military cargo truck to act as both a moving billboard and a way to collect much needed donations for veterans struggling to get back on their feet.

In order to convince his team of the value, Calabrese Jr. put together a business plan, complete with a vision of bringing on community partners and an overall budget to operate and maintain the vehicle. After the truck was purchased, he taught himself how to operate the unique vehicle and worked to secure important partnerships throughout the community.

Since its purchase, the truck has taken part in parades, visited schools and appeared at sporting events. Additionally, Express utilizes the truck to collect food donations during local hockey games.

“One of the great things about this partnership with Express is the visual of the truck coming in and the interaction with the veterans, kids, players and fans,” said Robert Esche, President of the Utica Comets. “Everybody getting together to fill that truck up is pretty spectacular.”

To date, Calabrese Jr. says Express has collected roughly 17 tons of food for local pantries that serve veterans.

“John’s contributions and dedication to feed our veterans really opened the eyes of our community and let them know what we do and who we help,” said Richard Synek, founder of Feed Our Vets, a 12,000-square-foot food pantry for veterans in Utica. “It’s a significant turnaround in our endeavor to feed vets and their families.”

“I believe this has become such a great success because of the community and the partnerships we have,” Calabrese Jr. said. “It’s a symbol of hope for veterans, so they know someone is looking out for them after they looked out for us.”

“Express is proud of the outstanding people who work in our franchise offices,” said Bob Funk, CEO and Chairman of the Board for Express. “It is my privilege to celebrate those who go the extra mile every day in order to make a difference for so many. John is a shining example of the spirit of Express, and he is undoubtedly a Champion of Hope.”

The Utica-Rome office is located at 520 Seneca St., Ste. 103, and is currently accepting applications. The office serves Oneida, Herkimer and Madison counties with staffing and HR services.

Express is on a mission to put a million people to work annually. For more information, visit

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