2014 Pillar Award for Community Service, Columbus, Rea & Associates Executive Directors of the Year

2014 Pillar Award for Community Service, Columbus

Rea & Associates Executive Directors of the Year

Elfi Di Bella
President and CEO
YWCA Columbus

Empowering women 

Elfi Di Bella’s leadership has made YWCA Columbus a national model

As head of one of Central Ohio’s largest organizations focused on eliminating racism and empowering women, Elfi Di Bella, president and CEO of YWCA Columbus, is passionate about helping women succeed.

Under her leadership, the YWCA Family Center — an emergency shelter for families — has continued to serve as a national model. Cities and organizations countrywide have reached out to Di Bella for guidance.

Since 2009, the Family Center has seen a 70 percent increase in homeless families seeking help. Di Bella has worked to improve the YWCA’s processes to care for these families while raising the necessary financial donations to cover the costs.

Di Bella has grown YWCA Columbus’ budget by more than $1 million, increasing fundraising efforts through events. She has also instituted giving circles and engaged constituents who haven’t been involved in decades.

Despite a rocky economy, the YWCA’s largest fundraiser of the year, Women of Achievement, has seen a record number of attendees. The 2013 event hosted nearly 2,100 attendees, raising more than $550,000. The organization’s second largest fundraiser, Woman to Woman luncheon, saw a 20 percent increase in attendance this year. Both examples illustrate Di Bella’s community following.

Di Bella has led the YWCA through a feasibility study for a capital campaign and application for $15 million in tax credits. YWCA Columbus has been given the No. 1 priority for 2014, an achievement for which Di Bella is largely responsible as she leads the organization into a new chapter. 

Mimi Dane
Flying Horse Farms

Serious fun for children

Mimi Dane hit the ground running to make Flying Horse Farms soar

Mimi Dane left a successful 21-year litigation career as a partner at Squire Sanders to become the CEO at Flying Horse Farms, a fledgling camp for children with serious medical conditions — and hasn’t looked back.

Within days of taking over as CEO, she led an effort to make Flying Horse Farms a full member of the SeriousFun Children’s Network, an international family of camps founded by the late actor and Ohio native Paul Newman. Flying Horse Farms is the only camp of its kind in the Midwest.

Dane recently recruited and hired a team of experts to fill many crucial roles at camp: medical director, nursing director, VP of advancement, camper recruiter and database manager. This additional staff has made it possible to expand camp programs, recruit more campers and deepen donor relationships.

Ensuring the safety and security of the campers, volunteers and staff are Dane’s top priorities. Flying Horse Farms is the first camp in the SeriousFun Children’s Network to implement a crisis communication plan.

Perhaps the biggest impact she has made on Flying Horse Farms is her commitment to offer camping experiences for more children with serious illnesses. In just three camp seasons, the total number of campers served has increased more than 40 percent.

Dane’s greatest strength as CEO is her servant leadership approach. Flying Horse Farms has a set of 10 core values, one of which is “All Crew. No Passengers.” which means employees should take on other duties as “unassigned.” Dane lives this core value every day to the fullest. ●

Stan Ross
Co-founder and executive director
Positive Influence Team

For children and families

Nicholas Rees leads The Buckeye Ranch to new heights in programs and services

In four years as president and CEO of The Buckeye Ranch, D. Nicholas Rees has driven the programs and services offered by the nonprofit entity to a higher level, focusing on hope and healing for children and families.

These include a 24-by-7 residential program; day treatment schools, one at the Rosemont Center and the other at Cross Creek; foster care program; Protective Families Solutions Network; outpatient services; and community-based outreach services around Central Ohio. Expansion areas include the development of the Common Ground Program; increased presence in foster care around Ohio; acquisitions of MyPlace, a transitional living facility and the Rosemont facility, which now offers outreach with Somali families; Functional Family Therapy; and additional foster care homes.

The staff at The Buckeye Ranch says it will be exciting to see the next phase of success as Rees starts to revise the strategic plan and launch a rebranding to help increase knowledge and awareness of The Buckeye Ranch.

Rees has led The Buckeye Ranch from being a moderate-sized nonprofit to a nearly $50 million operation. He has helped streamline processes to improve how teams work together, thus producing more impact to afford more hope and healing to children and families. The staff has grown from just less than 400 to almost 500 members.

Rees helped The Buckeye Ranch meet its goal of a $5.2-million capital campaign for the physical needs of The Buckeye Ranch facilities. This was accomplished through outside donations as well as generous contributions from the staff. ●