St. John honored by the government for being awesome to its military employees
Irvine-based apparel brand St. John-- which recently traded Angelina Jolie for Karen Elson, right, as the face of the brand -- was honored Thursday morning by the California Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR), an agency of the Department of Defense.
During a ceremony at the company's largest sewing facility in Irvine, the brand was presented with the "Above and Beyond Award," the "Seven Seals Award" and the "Patriot Award" in recognition of "extraordinary support of its employees who serve in the California National Guard and Reserve."
How did a clothing company come to earn such accolades? National Guard serviceman Magul Ahmath, who's a clerk in St. John's finance department, nominated the brand. He was deployed to Iraq for a year, starting in August 2008, and kept in close contact with the office while serving overseas.
Ahmath's supervisor, Sally Reese -- who received the "Patriot Award" and the "Seven Seals Award" -- "came up with the idea to organize care packages for Magul and his unit in Iraq," said Dan Burke, executive vice president of administration at St. John, who accepted the "Above and Beyond Award" for the company. "The idea really caught on in our company – a number of departments took turns putting together care packages with food and candy and small gift items, along with provisions that are hard to get in Iraq like socks and shaving kits."
The packages, which were sent biweekly, also included hand-written notes from employees. And Reese often took personal messages from Ahmath to pass on to his wife on the rare occasion he was able to call the U.S. but could not reach her. But, perhaps most magnanimous of all the company's niceties was the fact that St. John held Ahmath's job for his return.
Burke said the honors came as a huge surprise to the company, but that the ceremony was action-packed. "We had the color guard from the National Guard and the All-American Boy’s Chorus sang the 'National Anthem,' " he said. "It was tremendous."
Photo: Model Karen Elson in St. John. Photo credit: St. John