“Giving Back” is Petaluman’s job description.
Long-time Friedman employee oversees the company’s support to the community
Few people can honestly say they enjoy their jobs. Again, few jobs are built around donating other people’s money. Sue Sarno is.
For Sarno – the community relations coordinator for Friedman’s Home Improvement – being generous and supportive is her main job description. And that’s why the longtime Petaluma resident is one of those lucky few whose work is also a source of happiness and personal satisfaction.
âIt’s great, it’s wonderful,â Sarno said of her 32-year career with the local home improvement chain, the 75-year-old. As Community Relations Coordinator, Sarno leads the company’s long-standing efforts to identify and respond to the needs of individuals and nonprofits within Petaluma, Sonoma, Santa Rosa and Ukiah – the four sites of the local channel.
âIt has been a blessing to work with this company and this family,â said Sarno. âThey support our team and our community so much. “
Sarno has lived in Petaluma for 45 years, since she and her husbands, Dominick Sarno, moved from the Sunnyvale and Foster City area. They were married 48 years before Dominick died in 2020. Sarno’s children and grandchildren continue to live in Petaluma, making it their third-generation hometown.
Growing up in Indiana, Sarno remembers his first impressions of Petaluma nearly half a century ago.
âAt that time it was what we thought was a very small town and it reminded us, quite frankly, of the Midwest,â she said. “It was very agriculture-oriented and people had been here for so many years.”
Since Sarno started at Friedmans in 1989 – originally as an administrative assistant to Harry Friedman – she has played a role in the philanthropic side of the business.
âAs president, every time a non-profit organization called and said they were doing a fundraiser, the call came to our office,â she said. âAnd that’s how it started. I would take those calls, collect the information, and relay it to him. “
Having started with the business shortly before Thanksgiving that year, Sarno discovered a certain tradition already in place.
âI found out that the Friedmans buy frozen turkeys, not gift cards, but real frozen turkeys, to personally hand out to each employee every Thanksgiving,â she said.
This tradition continues to this day, now extended to four stores.
âI just ordered over 650 turkeys for this year, plus another 250 turkeys that we donate to nonprofits in the area,â she said.
In 1999, when Sarno had been with the company for 10 years, Harry Friedman retired from his role as CEO and his son Bill took over. At that time, Sarno became a buyer for the flooring department, but maintained her community outreach efforts.
When it was time to retire from full-time work in 2009, Sarno recalled that the Friedmans approached her with a plan.
âThey wanted me to remain their community relations coordinator, and that’s what I did,â she said.
Over the years, Friedman’s has supported many youth programs including schools, youth advocates, little league teams, and Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops. The company has also donated to numerous efforts to tackle homelessness in the region.
The requests Friedman’s receives are not always for simple financial support. The business is, after all, part of a hardware store. Sarno recalls a time when she started hearing from Little League and local softball leagues who described the need for five gallon buckets to carry balls for the team to practice.
âIt was amazing how many leagues needed buckets,â she said. “A little thing like a utility bucket made a difference.”
Thinking about her career, which she has devoted largely to helping the Friedmans improve their community, Sarno recognizes the gift she received in the process.
âI think I’ve been with the company for so long because not only does the company provide great customer service,â she said, âbut they also strongly believe in giving back to the community where we are. work and live. “