It's been almost two weeks since Anthony "Tony" J. Meoli received the American Red Cross Northeastern District's second annual Business Community Service Award. But the Bel Air resident still isn't sure exactly what he did to earn the honor.
"I guess it was not only my business involvement, but my involvement with the schools and education," he said. "I wasn't aware of their involvement with the schools and their education programs -- you know they do all kinds of education."
Those education programs, along with other service and community projects, were the main reason that Red Cross selected Meoli this year for the award, said Wayne E. Wigglesworth, the Red Cross Northeastern District director.
"The award is intended for those who have gone above and beyond the call of duty in improving the quality of life in their community."
"He was an excellent choice," Wigglesworth said. "He was chosen for his many years of community service, especially to the youth."
The second annual Business Community Service Award was given to Meoli Nov. 2 during the Community Outreach Breakfast at The Colonel's Choice Restaurant in Aberdeen. Meoli was given a plaque for the honor.
"The purpose of the breakfast was to get these community and business leaders in one room together and explain our programs to them in the hope that they would get involved," said Wigglesworth.
Perhaps Meoli was surprised to get the award from the Red Cross because the organization is one of the few Harford civic groups Meoli has not been active in.
But Wigglesworth said the award is aimed at honoring non-members.
Meoli does, however, belong to so many other education, youth, service and civic groups that he often has trouble juggling civic group meetings and events with his business and family.
"I do it because it's the right thing to do," he said of his civic involvement.
"I like to think I'm helping people -- that I have some knowledge to impart to them and that I'm helping them in that way. It's just giving back to the community."
Meoli and his brother-in-law Jim Dresher are owner/operators of the Edgewood Corp., headquartered in Bel Air.
The company operates the largest McDonald's franchise in a four-state area.
The company, founded by the two men in 1972, owns 12 McDonald's restaurants: two in Edgewood, one in Havre de Grace and nine in Baltimore County. They employ more than 850.
First and foremost, Meoli -- who refuses to reveal his age except to say he's "forty-something" -- is a businessman. "I love McDonald's," he said.
"You know McDonald's is involved in a commitment to education -- they do a lot to help the youth."
Besides hiring and training young people for his own business, Meoli, a former schoolteacher from Boston, loves to go into schools and give talks to students about the business world.
"I've talked to a number of classes regarding business, marketing, advertising, what employers look for in students -- basic working skills," he said.
His corporation also sponsors numerous youth athletic teams and helps schools and organizations with fund-raisers and award programs.
Meoli, who said he enjoys working in his restaurants ( "I love to run the drive-through register") credits the company's employees with the company's growth and success.
Over the years, Edgewood Corp. has earned awards for outstanding quality control, advertising, marketing, landscape, decor and community involvement. They have been given three Ronald McDonald awards and last year received the coveted Golden Arch Award.
"The Golden Arch Award goes to the top operators in the world," Meoli said. "Only eight in the world, four in the United States, were given out, so it really was quite an honor."
The Ronald McDonald Award is the regional award for top operators.
"We've been lucky -- we've worked hard and had good people," he said.
"We have a director of operations who started with us 17 years ago as a crew kid, and several others have been with us 15, 16 years. It's our people who deserve the credit for that."
When he's not in the restaurant, Meoli can often be found doing volunteer work, particularly in educational pursuits. It's that whirlwind of volunteer work that got the attention of the Red Cross.
Among the schools and civic groups he offers time and advice: the John Carroll School, the Essex Community College Foundation, the Harford Community College Advisory Committee, the Chesapeake High School Cooperative Education Employer Advisory Council, and the Lions Club.
In his leisure time, he enjoys tennis and skiing and pursuits with his family.
Meoli and his wife, Virginia, have been married 27 years and have a son, Michael, 25. He manages one of the Edgewood restaurants. They also have a daughter, Melanie, 18, a student at Loyola College in Baltimore.
He also is one of four owners of the Clipper City, a 158-foot, two-masted schooner, which the group charters. During the summer, the ship is docked in Baltimore's Inner Harbor.
He's also involved with a residential land development project, Glen Angus, near Bel Air.