2015 Pillar Awards honor greatness in the name of outstanding community service

Nonprofit Executive Directors of the Year Awards


New directions

Linda S. Danter helped transform dreams into reality

col_pa_LindaDanterLinda S. Danter
Executive director (retired)
New Directions Career Center

Linda S. Danter possessed an intrinsic ability to fuse passion with the bone-breaking hard work necessary to transform her unique vision — as well as other women’s dreams — into reality at New Directions Career Center. She accomplished this through innovative programming, unique collaborative efforts and an expansive fund development plan.

This ensures that every woman, regardless of her ability to pay, can access services. In short, Danter produces outcomes that exceed expectations.

During her time as executive director, Danter worked to expand the agency’s programs and services in order to better prepare clients to meet the changing needs of today’s workforce. She retired from the role in October 2014.

Danter also worked collaboratively with The Ohio State University’s Moms2B program, the Columbus Health Department’s Caring for 2 Program, Women Affirming Women and many more social service organizations. These organizations now refer their clients to New Directions to create financially sustaining lives.

Seventy-eight percent of individuals who attend the organization’s core and support services report that there has been an increase in overall household income or economic stability as a result of their new job.

Beyond programming and collaborative efforts, Danter recognized the need for strong operational practices. She secured accreditation through the Ohio Association of Nonprofit Organizations, and also brought a benefits package to New Directions in order to attract and retain the best employees in their respective fields.

While at New Directions, Danter expanded the center’s signature fundraiser by 70 percent. Furthermore, she positioned the agency for future financial survival.


Give me shelter

Michelle Heritage keeps the Community Shelter Board on the leading edge of the fight against homelessness

col_pa_MichelleHeritageMichelle Heritage
Executive director
Community Shelter Board

Michelle Heritage has made a deep and far-reaching impact in her work to end homelessness and human suffering in the Central Ohio community.

She has dedicated her career to human services and improving the lives of others, spending more than 20 years in leadership roles in the homeless, mental health, child welfare, and alcohol and drug system.

Heritage has emerged as a trusted and thoughtful community leader whose work is admired both locally and across the U.S.

In her role as executive director at the Community Shelter Board, she facilitates and leads the community plan to end homelessness. She collaborates to bring together diverse organizations to work as an efficient system, rather than as a fragmented set of resources.

Heritage serves on national, statewide and local boards and committees for human services, diversity, homelessness and community research. She is a frequent presenter at national and regional conferences. She also is regularly sought out to provide technical assistance and guidance to other communities across the U.S.

Under Heritage’s leadership, the CSB received United Way’s Carrick Award. New in 2013, this award recognizes United Way agencies demonstrating leadership in working collaboratively with others to implement innovative solutions to community needs. The CSB was honored for its work redesigning the shelter system for single adults.

In private fundraising and major gift development activities, Heritage has raised more than $8 million during her five-year tenure at CSB to fund critical programs that keep men, women and children off the streets.


Moving mountains

Ellen Moss Williams and the Godman Guild Association promote family and community

col_pa_EllenMossWilliamsEllen Moss Williams
President and CEO
Godman Guild Association

The Godman Guild Association has been a neighborhood resource in Weinland Park for more than 30 years, and in her short tenure as president and CEO, Ellen Moss Williams has positioned the association to be the anchor for neighborhood stabilizing activities.

Williams has spent 17 years with the Godman Guild, first serving as director of Youth and Family Services and associate director and director of Workforce Development, helping to promote strong families and strong communities in Columbus.

Williams’ outwardly focused work centers on creating synergies with corporate and not-for-profit partners to create successful programs and economic development igniters for the community. Within the organization, Williams has created tremendous growth in terms of the guild’s potential to impact individuals and communities on a much broader scale.

She has worked diligently to help each staff member understand his or her role in accomplishing the guild’s mission and supporting them to greater levels of achievement.

In addition, Williams’ hard work has helped to set the Godman Guild on a trajectory of self-sustainability within the next 10 to 15 years.

In 2013, just 14 months after Williams initiated an agency-wide reorganization, the board of trustees adopted a five-year strategic plan that created internal alignment with a corporate level of transparency, back office support and a plan for revenue diversification.

Williams’ determined spirit has repurposed a long-standing organization and infused it with energy and the understanding that each action has the possibility to move mountains — not only in the community but also in the lives of the individuals it serves.