Benco Dental recognized for civic activity

GIA MAZUR, Times Leader Intern

January 31, 2013

At Benco Dental, a family-owned and operated business based in Luzerne County, leadership and volunteerism seem to be part of its everyday operation, and people have noticed.

The Cohen family and the Benco Dental team will be presented the 2013 Patrick J. Solano Community Leadership Award on Friday during the annual Leadership Wilkes-Barre Mid-Winter Cocktail Party.

Benco Dental, the largest privately owned distributor of dental equipment services in the United States, has provided community support for decades, said Lori Nocito, executive director of the leadership program.

Criteria for the award are what the person does for our community at large, in addition to exemplifying strong leadership practices, she said. Their outreach to our community and support and sponsor of nonprofits coincides with the philosophy of Leadership Wilkes-Barre.

The family donated a gift to Nanticoke-based Luzerne County Community College in the form of a dental clinic, which serves as a learning center for LCCC dental students and provides dental hygiene services to the public.

During Wilkes University's Achieving Our Destiny Company Campaign, family patriarch Larry Cohen and wife Sally donated $2.5 million to Wilkes University for the Lawrence and Sally Cohen Science Center. The 72,500-square-foot facility features classrooms and lab space.

They are being very proactive and looking for opportunities to be helpful, said Mike Wood, the university's vice president for advancement.

Lawrence Cohen, a 1957 graduate, remains involved with Wilkes, Wood said. Although the Cohens would rather stay behind the scenes, he said, the naming of the building was to honor the Cohens' years of support.

Larry and Sally Cohen's sons, Chuck and Rick Cohen, share duties as executive managing directors of Benco Dental. Both brothers strive to make a positive difference in the lives of the people in the community.

We're committed to growing our business here in Northeastern Pennsylvania, so we need Northeastern Pennsylvania to be strong and vibrant, said Chuck Cohen.

The family empowers the employees of Benco Dental – all 1,200 of them – to be involved in their communities, Nocito said. Benco supports the United Way, the Toys for Tots campaign, the American Heart Association and others.

Last year, Benco was chosen as Head Start's company of the year. Benco employees visit Head Start classrooms regularly to read to the children and help teachers. The company also gives a college scholarship annually to an outstanding Head Start graduate.

Giving money is great, but we're particularly proud of situations where our people get involved personally and make a difference, said Rick Cohen. That level of involvement is exciting to us.

If you go

1922: A 19-year-old Russian immigrant, Benjamin Cohen, fills a suitcase with dental instruments from Premier Dental and travels by train to sell to customers within walking distance of train stations.

1924: He incorporates as Benco Dental Supply Co.

1930: Benco Dental opens its first depot in a 2,500-square-foot space in The Miners Bank Building, Wilkes-Barre.

1959: After college and a brief stint in the military, Benjamin's son Lawrence joins a dozen associates at Benco Dental, now serving 500 customers.

1972: Hurricane Agnes washes out Benco's operations. Lawrence Cohen and his team rebuild the company.

1998: Benco achieves $100 million in sales.

2009: Benco moves into its 272,800-square-foot, state-of-the-art headquarters and distribution center in CenterPoint business park, Jenkins Township.

2001-11: Benco Dental opens distribution centers in Jacksonville, Fla., Fort Wayne, Ind., Dallas, Reno and Los Angeles.

What: Leadership Wilkes-Barre Mid-Winter Cocktail Party

When: 5 to 8 p.m. Friday

Where: Westmoreland Club, 59 S Franklin St., Wilkes-Barre

Details: Reservations are $40 per person; for information, call 823-2101 ext 135 or visit www.leadershipwilkes-barre.org