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


On behalf of everyone at Medical Mutual of Ohio and our Pillar Award co-founding partner, Smart Business, we present these annual awards for community service for the sixth consecutive year.

I personally want to congratulate this year’s recipients for their understanding of “commitment to community.” That is what the Pillar Awards are all about — leading by example and helping to improve the quality of life for Central Ohioans.

As we at Medical Mutual celebrate our 80th anniversary, our company has long understood the commitment to improve Columbus and the communities we serve. We strive to live up to that responsibility in everything we do.

You will notice that one of the Pillar Awards is a special honor given to a company whose employees best exemplify the values of Medical Mutual’s volunteer employee SHARE Committee.

SHARE, which stands for serve, help, aid, reach and educate, is the heart and soul of Medical Mutual’s charitable giving effort. Each year, this committee helps coordinate more than two-dozen community events involving nearly half of the company’s 2,300 employees.

“Improving the communities we serve,” is a common theme for all of the Pillar Award recipients over the past six years and, once again, Medical Mutual of Ohio is honored to be in such outstanding company.

Rick Chiricosta, chairman, president and CEO
Medical Mutual of Ohio


Pillar Award honorees


Serving how you can

Accel employees take care of the community in which they work

col_pa_TaraAbrahamscol_pa_DavidAbrahamsTara Abraham
Chairwoman and co-CEO
Accel Inc.

David Abraham
President and co-CEO
Accel Inc.

Chairwoman and Co-CEO Tara Abraham, with the support of her husband — and business partner — David Abraham, president and co-CEO, seek grass-roots community involvement from their managers and production workers at Accel Inc. They stress that the community in which you work and live takes care of you, so you have to take care of it.

Accel encourages participation in the AHA Heart Walk by managers and line workers alike. The company also has employees who provide baked goods for on-site bake sales to raise money for Accel-supported charities.

In addition, Accel employees solicit toy and clothing donations for the United Way, and popcorn is popped and sold at breaks in support of Accel-supported charities.

None of this is forced upon the employees, but those that participate are recognized at Accel’s annual holiday party.

Tara sets an example by helping to improve health, quality of life and growth in diversity and women’s leadership roles in business, while serving on the board for several nonprofit organizations.

She mentors women in opportunities that nurture their leadership and business skills, and also is a member of the National Women’s Business Council, which reports to the president, Congress and the Small Business Administration on women’s business issues and policies.

David has been very active with New Albany’s efforts to attract businesses to the New Albany Business Park. He is also concerned about employees’ ability to get to work and provided counsel to New Albany’s Development Department and the Central Ohio Transit Authority. As a result, COTA considered and eventually agreed to additional bus routes into New Albany.


Community powerhouse

AEP shows its true worth by helping support those in need

col_pa_NickAkinsNicholas K. Akins
Chairman, president and CEO
American Electric Power

In judging a company’s greatness, it’s easy to only consider revenue, growth and stock worth. The value of American Electric Power in the Central Ohio community, however, far exceeds any of those numbers.

True, AEP is a powerhouse. Literally, it is one of the largest electric utilities in the U.S., serving more than 5 million customers in 11 states. It can be argued, however, that the true worth of a company comes from the value it places on the community in which it serves.

Through its foundation, AEP has given millions to organizations that cross all cultural and economic lines and span areas of education, safety and health, hunger and housing, youth, the environment, and arts and culture.

To highlight one specific example of AEP’s charity, the company has had an enormous impact on YWCA Columbus, providing support for more than 30 years. Most recently, AEP has stepped up to help with the YWCA Columbus’ Believe in Women campaign — an initiative that will renovate the historic downtown Griswold Building to provide much needed upgrades to the housing units so homeless, low-income women can gain life skills for independent living.

AEP’s approach and philosophy regarding community service is “to support and play an active, positive role in the communities where we live and work,” making it a true pillar in the community, Ohio and the country.


Charity champions

Champion Real Estate Services makes sure charity is top of mind

col_pa_BrianYeagercol_pa_MichelleYeagerBrian Yeager
President and CEO
Champion Real Estate Services

Michelle Yeager-Thorton
Co-founder and COO
Champion Real Estate Services

With the rapid growth Champion Real Estate Services has experienced in the past four years, the firm knows without Central Ohio and the growing cities in which the company’s apartments are located, it would not be where it is today. Therefore, giving back to the community is very important to Champion’s culture.

Champion has been a big supporter of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Ohio for several years, which provides quality mentoring relationships to children and youth in need of a friend. The firm even has a competition based around fundraising for the BBBS Bowl For Kids’ Sake event, giving away extra paid time off and gift cards to those who raise the most money.

Champion not only asks employees to be involved in charity events, but to actively fundraise as well.

To help drive this commitment home for its employees, Champion has closed its offices early or completely to allow team members to be involved in events that are held during normal business hours.

Champion also allows its employees and residents to give back to the community on an individual basis through the Champion Cares Foundation, which was created to use Champion’s resources to make a bigger impact.

With the Round Up Your Rent program, Champion residents can round up their monthly rent by $1 and donate to the foundation. The firm matches every dollar, later donating the funds to BBBS, the YWCA Family Center, Children’s Hunger Alliance and LifeCare Alliance.


Scoring community goals

How Columbus Crew players and staff spread the benefits of soccer

col_pa_AndyLoughnaneAndy Loughnane
President of business operations
Columbus Crew/Crew Soccer Foundation

The Columbus Crew, a Major League Soccer club, does not confine its hard work to the field of play. The club has a strong commitment to making a positive impact in its surrounding community, with a committed focus on serving challenged youth, encouraging healthy and positive lifestyles, honoring the military and keeping Columbus beautiful.

As in years past, Crew staff and players donated more than 800 hours and hundreds of thousands of dollars to community efforts. The Columbus Crew has long-standing relationships with community organizations that focus on education, health and recreation, with a special emphasis on assisting young people in at risk areas of Columbus.

One such program is the JDRF, Mid-Ohio Chapter. Soccer Aid, which capitalizes on soccer fans’ passion for the sport, raises money for charitable causes, including JDRF. The Soccer Aid Sports Memorabilia Auction and Raffle gives fans the opportunity to win unique items from sports stars around the world and assist JDRF in its mission to find a cure for Type 1 diabetes and its complications.

The Crew also places a large emphasis on its staff and player outreach efforts. As part of this commitment, the Crew offers a unique assembly program targeting Columbus area public elementary schools, libraries and recreation centers. Through this program, the Crew visited with more than 3,000 children focusing on the importance of healthy eating, exercise, reading and, of course, the game of soccer and its recreational benefits.


Creative community outreach

Delta Energy Services consults employees, suppliers and customers to coordinate charitable initiatives

col_pa_SheriTackettSheri Tackett
Founder and CEO
Delta Energy Services LLC

The over-arching philanthropic philosophy of Delta Energy Services LLC is to focus on making an impact in the local community. This year, Delta wanted to include customers in the company’s decision-making process on which initiatives to support.

Delta asked its clients to submit a few organizations they were passionate about. The list was consolidated to three organizations and was included in holiday card emails to clients where they were asked to vote for the charities they would like to support in the coming year.

The community service team at Delta coordinates several initiatives to raise money for charity. The longest running program is its Jeans Day Fund. Employees are given the option to wear jeans on Friday’s in exchange for a $2 donation. The funds are matched 100 percent by the company. At the end of the year, the funds are donated to a handful of charities nominated and voted upon by Delta employees, which now include client votes as well.

Funds are also raised through the company’s Soda Fund. If associates choose to have a beverage from the company refrigerator they make a donation of 25 cents.

Delta, its management team and employees maintain a relentless focus on giving back. The company chooses causes that are close to employees and finds creative ways to contribute time, talent and money to advance its charitable goals.


Foundation focus

Diamond Hill offers a meaningful charitable giving program

col_pa_RicDillionRic Dillon, CFA
Diamond Hill Capital Management Inc.

Diamond Hill Capital Management Inc. has always had a passion for helping those in need. It’s been said that company culture is formed by its earliest employees, and philanthropic work has certainly permeated the culture at Diamond Hill, inspiring employees to the point where giving back to the community is not just commonplace, but pervasive.

The firm established the Diamond Hill Capital Management Charitable Foundation in 2006, which aligns the company and its shareholders’ interests with those of the community in which the employees, and many of its clients, live and work.

The foundation focuses its grants in four strategic areas: community, relationships, client/stakeholder causes and employee matching gifts.

The foundation’s annual planning and allocation of funds are guided by organizations that support children’s needs, poverty needs, medicine, education and arts.

The first year saw the foundation give more than $40,000. Since that time, annual contributions have risen almost 600 percent. Cumulatively, the foundation has given more than $1 million to charitable causes in and around Central Ohio, with the employee match being the single largest contributor.

In addition, Diamond Hill employees have collectively volunteered more than 1,500 hours since 2011 for a variety of local causes, including Meals on Wheels, Faith Mission, Habitat for Humanity and LifeTown.

Diamond Hill’s goal is to support charitable organizations over a multiyear period, exhibiting longer-term support to causes it believes in, as well as striving to support charitable organizations with a strong presence and operations in the Central Ohio area.


Getting to work

How Fifth Third is helping out-of-work customers get back in the game

col_pa_JordanMillerJrJordan A. Miller Jr.
President and CEO
Fifth Third Bank (Central Ohio affiliate)

Recently, Fifth Third Bank (Central Ohio affiliate) launched a re-employment campaign dedicated to helping job seekers get back to work sooner.

The campaign used digital advertising to help the bank’s customers, and many others, find employment, by featuring actual job seekers participating in Fifth Third’s re-employment program with NextJob, a national re-employment solutions company.

Fifth Third piloted the first-of-its-kind re-employment program in 2012. The bank identified mortgage customers who were behind in their payments due to job loss and offered to help them land a new job.

The assistance included one-on-one job coaching, NextJob’s proprietary online training program called the Job Seeker’s Toolkit, and weekly coach-led job club webinars. On average, participants had been out of work for 22 months and were long-term unemployed.

After six months, nearly 40 percent had landed jobs. The two companies deployed the full program to mortgage borrowers in 2013 and quickly extended availability of the Job Seeker’s Toolkit to all Fifth Third online customers.

The bank took this a step further in 2014 by allowing the public to utilize their own social networks to expand the job seekers’ reach. For every 53 retweets, Fifth Third funded a job search coaching package for another unemployed person.

Fifth Third also offers the Job Seekers Toolkit in its 40-foot financial classroom on wheels, which travels year-round throughout the bank’s 12-state footprint. This mobile classroom came to Columbus in July and the bank partnered with workforce development agencies, such as IMPACT Community Action Agency, to host the bus.


Connecting to the community

How Ice Miller and its employees stay involved in the region

col_pa_RichardBarnhartcol_pa_SusanRectorRichard Barnhart
Managing partner
Ice Miller LLP

Susan D. Rector
Ice Miller LLP

At Ice Miller LLP, attorneys and staff members are actively involved with many community organizations. Through their involvement the firm supports more than 100 nonprofit organizations.

A team of attorneys comprises Ice Miller’s Community Involvement Committee, which meets regularly to evaluate requests about funding nonprofit causes for the firm.

Some organizations the firm supports in Central Ohio are the American Red Cross, BalletMet Columbus, Children’s Hunger Alliance, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, Community Shelter Board, Pelotonia, ProMusica Chamber Orchestra, United Way and Women’s Fund of Central Ohio.

As an example of how Ice Miller connects to the community, the firm was contacted by an arts organization looking for sponsorship dollars and a board member. After the firm hosted an educational luncheon on the nonprofit, a partner joined the arts organization’s board. When his term expired, another attorney took his place.

Similarly, when the firm was approached to contribute to a walkathon for juvenile diabetes, an employee whose son has Type I diabetes stepped forward to organize a group of attorneys and staff members to participate. The firm’s team will be participating again this year.

In addition, at the Women’s Initiative’s most recent signature event, Judge Paul Herbert’s CATCH Court program for human trafficking victims was featured. The networking event helped spread the awareness to female clients and friends, as well as serving as a forum to make attendees aware of the opportunity to support the program.

Ice Miller attorneys also perform pro bono work for nonprofits who need legal assistance.


Guiding principles

Charitable giving has been at the core of Worthington Industries for generations

col_pa_JohnMcConnellJohn P. McConnell
Chairman and CEO
Worthington Industries

For nearly 60 years Worthington Industries has operated with the Golden Rule as its guiding principle, and giving back to the community is an essential component.

Volunteerism and charitable donations are the basis of a philanthropic program, which focuses on education, civic organizations, health and human services, and arts and culture.

Worthington Industries established a foundation at The Columbus Foundation in 2004 to support its charitable-giving program. A significant portion of its funding is provided by that foundation. On average it contributes about $1 million to the community each year, supporting a broad range of needs.

Worthington Industries also encourages support of worthwhile causes in Central Ohio on many levels. A number of its employees are members of nonprofit boards, and volunteer their time to provide direction and stewardship for organizations like the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, LifeCare Alliance, Community Shelter Board, Easter Seals and Boy Scouts.

Several employees have also provided leadership for capital campaigns, including Mid-Ohio Foodbank, YWCA Columbus and Community Shelter Board.

Employee councils at each location in Columbus raise money every quarter for designated charities through jeans days and raffles.

There is also a close connection with Meals on Wheels. For about 10 years, Worthington Industries’ employees have delivered Meals on Wheels. They also work with LifeCare Alliance and save about $10,000 annually in transportation and hiring costs.

In addition, the company provides a dollar for dollar match for employee donations to the United Way.

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.


Nonprofit Board Executives of the Year Awards


Feeding hungry minds

Jeffery E. Hastings and Children’s Hunger Alliance work to provide children a healthy and nutritious breakfast

col_pa_JeffHastingsJeffrey E. Hastings
Governing board chairman
Children’s Hunger Alliance

Jeffery E. Hastings has brought the Children’s Hunger Alliance to new heights of effectiveness and vision over the past seven years while serving on the organization’s governing board.

And as of Oct. 1, 2014, he was unanimously elected to serve as governing board chairman. By taking on this role, Hastings extends his board service two years beyond the typical six years.

Through his role at CHA, Hastings has become a pillar in the community by finding new and innovative ways to connect CHA to additional resources and opportunities throughout the state, while providing significant personal contributions of time, talent and treasure.

Through his role at U.S. Bank, Central Ohio, Hastings has helped to direct tens of thousands of dollars to CHA where 100 percent of the contributions go to support its programmatic work and its mission of feeding hungry minds and bodies of children throughout Ohio. This has helped CHA feed more than 10,000 children at more than 175 sites statewide.

Hastings’ leadership has enabled CHA to increase its school breakfast participation — more than 340,000 children are now participating. These kids now have access to a healthy and nutritious meal while also promoting best practice breakfast programs such as Grab N’ Go Breakfast and Breakfast in the Classroom.

Studies have shown that children who eat a healthy and nutritious breakfast score higher on school achievement tests. A hungry child cannot learn, and an uneducated adult cannot earn. Hastings’ efforts, and those of CHA, are working to change that.


Heart of gold

Drew McCartt has a lifelong connection to the American Heart Association

col_pa_DrewMcCarttDrew McCartt
Board executive
American Heart Association

Drew McCartt’s connection to the American Heart Association started early on in his life, as a heart disease survivor in his 20s. Since that time, he has been volunteering and speaking on behalf of the association and the impact the research it does had on his life and many others.

McCartt has served on the board of the American Heart Association for more than 20 years, and became chair in the early ’90s. He recently left his role as chair in July 2014 to become the chair of the Advisory Council. McCartt has continued to be a strong leader for the association, giving significant leadership, support and guidance over the years.

He helped to grow the association’s Heart Walk from 200 attendees to more than 30,000. He has been extremely supportive of the Heart Ball, chairing the event in 2010, and has since been the Open Your Heart chair.

In 2013, McCartt led a Strive For 25 initiative celebrating his 25 years of survivorship, raising $45,000 personally for the American Heart Association. He was also the first board member to join the association’s Cor Vitae Society in 2012.

McCartt lends his support and expertise to all of the American Heart Association staff and volunteers. He is often a mentor to new board members and encourages new staff in their fundraising efforts.

He also became a member of the association’s leadership development committee, recruiting the 2015 Heart Ball chair and several new Cor Vitae Society members. In McCartt’s own words he is a thrivor, not just a survivor.


Laughter and love

Carole Watkins helps Flying Horse Farms and its mission to success

col_pa_CarolWatkinsCarole Watkins
Board chair
Flying Horse Farms

Carole Watkins believes wholeheartedly in one simple, life-changing practice — begin each day by asking what you can do to make others successful. For Watkins, this is not just an internal mantra — it is a way of living, of treating people, of building a career and creating a culture of giving.

Flying Horse Farms has directly benefitted from Watkins’ ability to make others successful in her role as chair of the board. The relationship between Watkins and Flying Horse Farms began in 2010 when she was one of the initial donors to align with and financially support the mission of Flying Horse Farms, which is to provide magical camp experiences for children with serious illnesses and their families — free of charge.

With Watkins on the board of Flying Horse Farms, the organization gained strength of leadership, strategic planning and innovative thinking. By applying her expertise in human resources and business operations, Watkins offers guidance regarding governance, building a well-developed professional board, instituting effective leadership principles and encouraging inspired involvement from constituents.

As a cancer survivor herself, Watkins has intimate insight into some of the fears, thoughts and needs of the campers and families of Flying Horse Farms. Because of her own journey with cancer and the intrinsic generosity of her spirit, she has a deep recognition of the necessity of camp.

She gives her time, talent and treasure to Flying Horse Farms because she understands that, above all, campers and their families must have a place for respite, silliness, laughter and love on their path to wellness.