This week Samuel Truett Cathy celebrated his 91st birthday! The founder of Chick-fil-A, Truett continues to play an active role in the company as well as in the community through his leadership, writing, speaking, and philanthropic efforts which impact countless lives.
Many people know that Chick-fil-A is a Christian company because of their uncompromising commitment to promoting Christian principles, their unwavering dedication to serving high quality food, and their policy to be closed on Sundays. However, most don’t grasp the magnitude of how Chick-fil-A’s core values impact their practices both within and beyond the company.
Growing up in a boardinghouse his mother operated during the Great Depression, Cathy learned the principles of hard work, honesty, loyalty, and respect. He opened a small restaurant in 1946 with his brother Ben, and put those principles to work and immediately began to experience rewards. Over two decades later in 1967, Cathy opened his first Chick-fil-A restaurant. It was the first fast-food restaurant to operate in a shopping mall and to serve boneless breast chicken sandwiches. Today, the more than 1,600 Chick-fil-A restaurants in 38 states boast over $3 billion in sales and – just like its founder – the company shows no signs of slowing down.
But Cathy didn’t stop with just restaurants. He’s also the founder of the WinShape Centre Foundation, which offers college scholarships, summer camps for children, a marriage retreat center, and homes for foster children. WinShape Homes is a collection of foster homes Cathy started in 1987. Their motto is, “To accept children, God’s special gifts, into a Christ-centered family and to guide them on a lifelong journey so they may discover their unique and God-given potential.” Since WinShape Homes was started, the program has expanded and impacted hundreds of children, setting a high standard for those involved with foster care efforts.
“Nearly every moment of every day we have the opportunity to give something to someone else – our time, our love, our resources. I have always found more joy in giving when I did not expect anything in return,” Cathy wrote in his 2002 book, Eat Mor Chikin: Inspire More People.
This purposeful and generous attitude is demonstrated among those who work to carry out Truett’s vision, and it is evident that they feel a vital part of the mission. “WinShape is the heart and passion of Truett and his wife, Jeannette,” said Emily Landis, an employee of WinShape Homes. “So long as there are children in need of a good place to live, Truett will keep seeking them out and welcoming them with open arms.”
Despite Chick-fil-A’s unparalleled quality of food, service, and charitable contributions, the company has been criticized by some who take issue with their Christian principles and traditional family values. Recently, the company has even faced opposition from certain college campuses over their affiliation with several Christian organizations some activists consider “anti-gay.” Chick-fil-A insists it is “not anti-anybody” and simply wants to “graciously serve great food and have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A.” They have a track record of doing just that, and their decision to stand firm in such instances – while graciously serving everyone they encounter – increases the admiration and respect that many of us share for the company.
While Truett Cathy has been successful by any measurable standards, he reminds others that he has experienced both poverty and plenty and emphasizes that the true riches are family and friends. His mother cultivated in him a deep appreciation for scriptural principles, and Cathy has referred to the Bible as his guide-book for life. “Wealth is not the answer,” Cathy often says, an idea he focuses on in his latest book, “Wealth: Is It Worth It?” Cathy’s favorite scripture verse, which is prominently displayed in Chick-fil-A’s corporate headquarters, is Proverbs 22:1 – “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favor rather than silver and gold.”
S. Truett Cathy is a phenomenal leader, and he sets a tremendous example of excellence, integrity, and humility in meeting people’s spiritual and physical needs. Now let’s all go enjoy an original Chick-fil-A Chicken Sandwich to celebrate the birthday of a great man!