Medical Mutual along with Smart Business, our co-founding Pillar Award partner, presents the 19th annual Pillar Awards for Community Service.
The Pillar Awards honor organizations of all types and sizes that make outstanding contributions to their communities. For nearly two decades we have recognized companies and their employees who have gone above and beyond to invest time and resources to strengthen the relationship between for-profits and nonprofits.
At Medical Mutual, we recognize that companies are only as great as their employees. We are committed to improving Cleveland and the communities we serve and strive to continually live up to that responsibility in everything we do.
I’d like to congratulate this year’s recipients for their outstanding service and dedication and for helping to improve the quality of life for the residents of Northeast Ohio. This is truly what the Pillar Awards are all about.
One of the Pillar Awards that will be presented tonight is a special honor given to a company whose employees best exemplify the values of Medical Mutual’s own 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. The SHARE Committee helps coordinate more than two-dozen community events every year, involving nearly half of the company’s 2,400 employees.
It’s truly an honor to be in the company of such outstanding organizations that exemplify the theme of “improving the communities we serve” by encouraging a charitable environment and directly supporting the communities in which they live and work.
On behalf of Medical Mutual and Smart Business, we congratulate all our 2016 Pillar Award recipients.
Pillar Award Honorees
AXA Advisors LLC strives to build a culture that promotes employee volunteering to support the communities in which the business operates. As a company whose mission is to protect people over the long term, AXA Advisors feels a responsibility to make a positive contribution by offering its skills and resources to help build a stronger and safer society.
Under the leadership of Executive Vice President Gregg LaSpisa, AXA volunteers and donates its time, talent and treasure to a number of organizations.
Annually from February until May, AXA coordinates a Harvest for Hunger campaign for the Greater Cleveland Food Bank. During the campaign, donations are collected through various events and fundraisers. Contributions in 2016 provided 26,428 meals to hungry families, children and seniors throughout Northeast and Central Ohio.
In June 2016, AXA was honored to receive the Harvest for Hunger Edmond V. Worley Award presented by Cleveland Mayor Frank G. Jackson and Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish. The award recognizes companies that have gone above and beyond to help aid the campaign through hard work, dedication and commitment.
Every holiday season, AXA “adopts” a family from Forbes House or The City Mission. Forbes House is a women’s and children’s shelter for victims of domestic violence and abuse, while The City Mission is a refuge for those struggling with homelessness, poverty, domestic abuse and other various crises.
AXA’s donations to Forbes House and The City Mission provide a mother and her children with gifts for Christmas that they could otherwise not afford to purchase themselves.
Clarity 2 Prosperity promotes community involvement by all its team members, giving them the flexibility to participate in volunteer activities during the work day. A committee of volunteers has the ability to explore opportunities and select the ones in which the organization will participate.
Members are currently involved in assisting with high school sporting activities, food bank distribution and senior citizen assistance programs.
Clarity 2 Prosperity is led by Founder and CEO Jason L. Smith, who actively helps others through church and other charitable organizations. Through education and drive, Smith launched The JL Smith Group and headed its evolution into a comprehensive, client-focused practice focusing on wealth management, retirement income and tax and legacy planning.
He has segued his experiences as a highly accomplished adviser to teach others how to achieve the same result and regularly trains advisers through live events, monthly coaching calls and study groups.
His skills as a leader and entrepreneur have positioned Clarity 2 Prosperity to make a difference in the community it calls home. The company has made corporate financial contributions to numerous organizations including the Muscular Dystrophy Association; North Ridgeville Community Care; Project Love; the Lake Erie Crushers; St. Francis Cabrini Catholic Church; Girls and Boys Club of Washington County; New Oaks Community; the Women’s Resource Center of Manatee; and Mission Northeast Inc.
Each team member at Clarity 2 Prosperity is given $100 at Christmas to pay forward for a worthy cause. Many different charities, individuals and causes have benefited.
First Interstate Properties Ltd. is a Northeast Ohio based full-service real estate development and management company that has built a sound reputation as a responsible, can-do developer of environmentally respectful, high-impact projects.
These projects create value for surrounding communities, for residents and occupants, and for the investment community. Mitchell Schneider is the founding principal of First Interstate and serves as president. In 1989, he set out to create First Interstate as a development firm with a difference.
First Interstate becomes an active member of local communities in which it owns and manages properties. It utilizes its venues for community gatherings and fundraisers. It provides resources to make community improvements such as providing 22 acres to build a park in South Euclid and funding a one-mile section of the Towpath Trail in Cleveland.
Further, it provides monetary support to local charitable and worthwhile organizations located throughout Northeast Ohio.
First Interstate’s shopping centers sponsor and host a variety of community events. For example: Avon Commons Shopping Center hosts and sponsors several annual community events including the Avon Eagle Run benefitting Avon Schools, the American Heart Association’s Lorain County Heart Walk and the annual Duct Tape Festival.
It also supports a Thanksgiving feast at St. Mary Parish in Elyria. Further, Avon Commons donates $5,000 to the American Heart Association’s Lorain County Heart Walk each year, as well as providing the venue. First Interstate Properties encourages its employees to join in the event by matching staff donations and coordinating a team to participate in the event.
Moore Counseling & Mediation Services Inc. is an outpatient substance abuse and mental health organization with six locations in Northeast Ohio. MCMS also provides employee assistance programs, organizational development, mediation services and training.
Over the past 15 years, MCMS has positively impacted the lives of thousands of people through its mental health, substance abuse and employee assistance services. Led by President and CEO Martina Moore, Ph.D., MCMS is in the community every day actively looking to make changes within families locally and around the world.
The community service efforts put forth by the MCMS team are never-ending. Moore leads the organization’s staff in volunteer efforts, such as offering a monthly feeding program in Euclid that feeds hundreds in need of a healthy hot meal.
Moore wrote, and was awarded, a grant from SAMHSA to purchase 300 Naloxone kits that were distributed throughout Northeast Ohio. Naloxone is used to reverse the effects of heroin and other opioids overdose. The kits received from the grant were given free of charge directly to patients dealing with opioid addiction and their families members in hopes of saving lives.
Several organizations benefit from MCMS’s community services. MCMS, along with the Cleveland Municipal Courts, started the first human trafficking docket in Northeast Ohio under the leadership of Judge Marilyn Cassidy. MCMS provides treatment, transportation, employment training, employment placement and other vital services to assist human trafficking victims. MCMS partnered with Jordan Community Resource Center to open three recovery homes for victims of human trafficking.
PolyOne Corp. has developed a strong partnership over the years with Neighborhood Alliance that has changed lives.
Every year, PolyOne associates visit the organization’s Child Enrichment Services child care centers to interact with children and teach them about polymer science through hands-on experiments. The children love the visits from PolyOne and benefit from the education and exposure to the professionals the company makes available to support the partnership.
In addition, PolyOne associates participate in the Neighborhood Alliance Christmas for Caring program, providing donations of Christmas gifts for children from low-income families, care boxes for senior citizens and baskets filled with essential household items for families.
“The support for this program from PolyOne associates has been truly overwhelming, filling our truck so full that a second visit was required to gather all of the donations,” says Connie Osborn, president and CEO of Neighborhood Alliance. “The relationship between PolyOne and Neighborhood Alliance is a model for how for-profit corporations and nonprofit organizations can collaborate and build a lasting partnership to benefit our community.”
PolyOne was established in 2000 through the merger of two companies — MA Hanna and BF Goodrich. The transformation from a struggling, commodity-focused company to a global specialty, material science polymer innovator whose products touch lives every day is similar to the evolution of PolyOne’s philanthropic efforts.
Under the leadership of Robert M. Patterson, the company chairman, president and CEO has helped countless nonprofits further their causes. PolyOne encourages its associates to get involved in their communities and give to causes that are close to their hearts.
PwC is committed to its purpose to build trust in society and solve important problems. Working collaboratively with all of its stakeholders, the firm aims to deliver positive social impact, with measurable and long-lasting results.
Locally, the Lake Erie market ranked first out of 21 markets nationally within PwC as the firm nearly doubled its goal in hours volunteered this year. The PwC Cleveland office has over 40 partners that serve on nearly 40 boards providing leadership talents throughout the region. It is led by Mark Ross, managing partner for the Lake Erie market.
PwC’s Trees for Threes program with the Cleveland Cavaliers is helping to rebuild the tree canopy in Cleveland. PwC and the Cavs are committed to planting one tree for every three-pointer the Cavs make during regular season home games.
This season, PwC collaborated with The Davey Tree Expert Co., Western Reserve Land Conservancy and the City of Cleveland’s Office of Sustainability to announce the Cleveland Tree Plan — a comprehensive assessment of the city’s current urban forestry and a unified strategy to reclaim the city’s lost canopy.
With only 19 percent tree canopy in Cleveland, the city has lost about 100,000 public trees since 1940. In addition to leading the Trees for Threes program to add more than 1,100 trees in Northeast Ohio at schools and parks over the past three seasons and working with hundreds of volunteers and students, PwC also participated in WKYC Channel 3’s Arbor Day Challenge to plant additional trees in the community.
The partnership between Quicken Loans and the Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland started locally in 2010. What began as a cleanup day and a meal preparation turned into a complete embrace of the Ronald McDonald House by the local Quicken Loans team.
And then in January 2015, a team of staff members from groups led by Mark Mazey and John Wargo took the level of community service to even greater heights.
In the last 18 months, the Quicken Loans team enthusiastically has supported four activity nights; provided 2,900 meals to families at the Ronald McDonald House; managed a fall cleanup; hosted four fundraising events; and organized 13 chore groups.
The company’s impact is felt every time Quicken Loans team members volunteer, especially by the families who stay at the House.
“I don’t remember their individual names, but thank you to the Quicken Loans team member who played peek-a-boo with my son while they also cleaned,” says a mother whose son was at Ronald McDonald House. “My son really misses his brother and they absolutely made his day with their smiles and attention to him. Thank you!”
In addition, the Quicken Loans team piloted a new program to serve families in the Ronald McDonald Family room locations within University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital; Cleveland Clinic Children’s; MetroHealth Medical Center; and Fairview Hospital by providing healthy brown bag lunches. This was in direct response to a cry for help from parents who didn’t want to leave their children or were unable to pay for more expensive meal options within the medical facility.
ShurTech Brands LLC prides itself on sharing its success with others by giving back to the community. The company is extremely active in the social fabric of the local communities in Avon and Cleveland, as well as the national and international communities via financial, product and in-kind donations.
In recent years, the company led by CEO John Kahl has assisted more than 200 nonprofit organizations annually.
While the company has a specific focus on education, it also recognizes its responsibility to answer the many needs in its community, and has thus expanded support to aid the community at large. Much of this support is done in partnership with — and through involvement by — ShurTech employees. In recent years, the company has opened its doors to many community groups for on-site factory tours and Duck Tape® crafting sessions, encouraging and inspiring the creativity within.
Duck® brand has partnered with PACER’s National Bullying Prevent Center to spread the word about what young people can do to prevent bullying. To kick off the “Stick Together™” program, Duck® brand launched a special print to reflect the “Stick Together™” theme.
The tape features a multi-color handprint pattern to signify the importance of joining hands in this cause, while the adhesive qualities of Duck Tape® symbolize the strength students can possess when they “Stick Together™” and help one another.
To further amplify this important lesson of respect and show support for PACERS’s NBPC, a monetary donation of 10 cents for every roll of this product purchased (up to $20,000) will be made to PACER’s NBPC.
WhiteSpace goes above and beyond in an effort to give back to the community it calls home. One of the most creative outlets for its philanthropy is the WhiteSpace Pro-Bono Creative Marathon.
During this event, WhiteSpace closes its doors for two full business days and works around the clock (24 hours straight) for select nonprofit organizations from throughout Northeast Ohio. Led by President and CEO Keeven White, the company creates everything from websites and social media plans to brochures, signage and annual reports to complete brand makeovers.
Since 2002, the event has served more than 100 organizations, produced more than 300 projects and donated more than $1 million worth of goods and services. In return, WhiteSpace has felt immeasurable pride resulting from the countless smiles, cheers and overwhelmed tears from those WhiteSpace has helped.
Here are the seven nonprofits that benefited from this year’s WhiteSpace Pro-Bono Creative Marathon: The Arc of Summit & Portage Counties; The Center for Applied Drama and Autism; Community Health Center; Empower Sports; Fathers & Sons of Northeast Ohio; Highland Square Neighborhood Association; and PAWSibilities, Humane Society of Greater Akron.
“We feel like we were granted riches that otherwise would have been unobtainable for a young startup like ours,” says Wendy Duke, founder and co-director at The Center for Applied Drama and Autism. “They took our idea and made it into something brilliant and unexpected, yet true to our mission. We love that WhiteSpace gave us instant cred while also room to grow. It inspired us to take big leap and move into our own studios.”
Medical Mutual SHARE Award
Jean C. Bourgeois has created an exceptional culture of giving and a commitment to outreach since she started Excelas LLC in 2005. She wanted to organize her team to give back to the community and since then, outreach activities have become more institutionalized with the creation of employee-led teams with formal charters and outreach goals, as well as the Community Service PTO program.
Bourgeois’s willingness to allow team members to work on outreach activities during work time is a testament to her commitment. Not only are employees utilizing work time, but it is also time that the company cannot bill for.
However, year after year, Bourgeois ensures that these employee-led teams are budgeted for and utilized to strengthen communities. Her support allows Excelas to fully engage in outreach as part of its business strategy, rather than as an afterthought.
Bourgeois also participates in many of the financial and volunteer opportunities offered by Excelas. Yearly, she purchases T-shirts for her team for the Race for the Place event and brings her family to walk at the event. She collects items for Project Night Night, which donate Night Night packages each year to homeless children 12 and under who need childhood essentials such as blankets, stuffed animals and story books.
In August, Bourgeois rolled up her sleeves and helped scrub the library shelves at Richmond Heights Elementary School. After the event, an Excelas staff member was working with the librarian who she discovered had no idea that Bourgeois was the president of Excelas, symbolizing her humble approach to outreach.
Our Lady of the Wayside Nonprofit Board Executive of the Year Award
David Bouffard has taken to heart his role on the board of directors at Akron Children’s Hospital and laid the groundwork for programs that help kids who really need it.
“We are so fortunate to have Mr. Bouffard’s dynamic leadership to help in furthering our mission of treating children as if they were our own, to treat everyone as they would like to be treated and turning no child away based on their ability to pay,” says John A. LaGuardia, executive director and foundation director, corporate alliances, at Akron Children’s Hospital, referring to Bouffard’s philanthropic efforts.
Bouffard, who is vice president of corporate affairs at Signet Jewelers, is serving his second term on the board for the Akron Children’s Hospital Foundation.
Since serving on the board, he was elected to chair the foundation’s marketing committee, leading the efforts to help raise money through national branding efforts. Signet gave the hospital a $10 million donation, the largest gift in the hospital’s history.
“Without Mr. Bouffard, this gift would not have been possible,” says LaGuardia. “Their gift allows our children to receive the best pediatric care available in their own backyard. Mr. Bouffard has been instrumental in getting Signet’s associates involved in creating an employee-organized carnival at the hospital to entertain our patients.”
In addition, Signet supports the Akron Marathon Race Series as the presenting sponsor of the Kids Fun Run and the Corporate Cup Challenge where they challenge companies to get their associates involved in fundraising, volunteerism and participating in the Akron Marathon.
Our Lady of the Wayside Nonprofit Board Executive of the Year Award
Doug Kern stepped into the chairmanship role at Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland at a critical point in 2012. The nonprofit was launching the Save Our Kids campaign to grow the number of clubs and number of kids it serves. Kern made a leadership gift to the campaign and was instrumental in making calls and closing gifts that made the campaign a success.
Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland was able to raise a little over $12 million and increase its number of kids served from 3,000 to 8,000 and to increase the number of sites from five to 15. Kern was a lead champion and prompted the board to give more than $4.5 million. Kern and his wife, Jane, have committed more than $750,000 in lifetime giving.
Kern was the board chair for Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland from 2012 to December 2015. The CEO at Northern Haserot has been a board member for more than 20 years and prior to being chairman, he was resource development chair for more than 10 years.
Kern and his wife have served as chairs for the Shazam! gala for many years. He always made sure he brought people with capacity that were aligned with the cause and would provide ongoing support to Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland.
Kern is generous with his time, talents and resources, and along with his wife, the couple has donated more than $1 million to the cause, including a planned gift.
Nonprofit Executive Director of the Year Award
Yolanda Y. Armstrong assumed her role as president and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Cleveland Oct. 1, 2014. She hit the ground running with her passion for mentoring. Her excellent networking and agency assessment skills ultimately resulted in a reorganization of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Cleveland for the better.
Since the agency’s reorganization, Armstrong has created new programs and received funding for the Warrensville Heights’ Peer-to-Peer Mentoring Program, Bigs in Blue, Community Connectors Richmond Heights Coding and Mentoring Program, and Community Connectors Garfield Heights Business and Communication/Mentoring Program.
She has also hired new staff and brought in new dollars to the organization. She has rebuilt relationships with past stakeholders and established new partners that have driven the organization to regain its status as the No. 1 one-to-one mentoring program in Cuyahoga County.
Armstrong has used her personality and passion for serving youth to re-energize the agency’s board of directors. The impact has been felt through an increase in board commitment as well as new board members working together to make sure that Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Cleveland exists for another 60 years.
Armstrong’s management and leadership techniques consist of setting goals and recognizing achievement of bigs and littles, staff, community partners and board members.
She pitches in wherever she’s needed and has a warm personality that makes others feel comfortable. Her transparency about her own upbringing and how mentoring made a difference in her life makes it easy for others to gravitate to her.
Nonprofit Executive Director of the Year Award
Liz Ferro is the founder and executive director of Girls with Sole. She managed to take her personal experiences of living through foster care and childhood abuse and reach a point where she recognized the impact that running and being active had for her.
She decided to create a curriculum, launched an organization, and has helped save hundreds of at-risk young women in Cleveland. There is no doubt that Ferro has quite literally saved these ladies — she was the support and the outlet, as well as the positive influence that created new opportunity. By lacing up and founding Girls with Sole, Ferro has touched countless souls.
Girls with Sole hosts programs in Cuyahoga, Lorain and Stark counties. In the future, Ferro plans to implement the “train the trainer” model which will help expand to other counties in Ohio. There is a current partnership in the works to begin a program in Columbus.
Ferro has created and maintains a curriculum that includes fitness, wellness and life skills. Workforce training is covered indirectly through learning to be an athlete, building self-esteem, self-awareness and teamwork.
The curriculum focuses on what Ferro calls “The POWER Principles,” which are applicable in all areas of life: perseverance, optimism, wisdom, energy and resilience. These are the tools needed to Lace Up for a Lifetime of Achievement — the official motto of Girls with Sole. Being fit in mind, body and soul allows the young ladies to learn how to set and pursue goals, to be a leader, to work well on a team and to believe in their abilities.
Nonprofit Executive Director of the Year Award
Lee Friedman was hired as CEO at College Now Greater Cleveland in response to a 2009 strategic plan to rebuild the board and staff, fix the financial model and increase community collaboration and awareness.
Friedman helped create an economic model — including the return on investment for every dollar invested in College Now, so the organization would resonate with business and with civic and philanthropic leaders. As a result, the board was rebuilt with C-suite executives who believed in the value proposition for the region.
Friedman brought in an outstanding team of individuals who had proven themselves not only to be expert in their functions, but also entrepreneurial in their practice. That team embraced a financial model that would set up the organization for success, and sought community partnerships to meet the community’s college access needs.
The most innovative approach during Friedman’s tenure at College Now was changing the perception of the mission from a social service agency to that of an important economic engine for the region.
Seeing correlation between educational attainment and economic health, and using research from the Federal Reserve Bank, which concluded that the number of degrees and the number of patents created in a region are the best predictors of a region’s economic health, Friedman garnered board involvement and financial support from some of the region’s largest employers.
This includes the Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals, KeyBank, PNC, Swagelok, Lincoln Electric and Ernst & Young. College Now anticipates a college graduation rate of 80 percent as its first class of mentees progress towards their degrees this year.
Nonprofit Executive Director of the Year Award
Rochelle Sibbio has been president and CEO of Habitat for Humanity of Summit County (HFHSC) over 10 years. When she took the job, the organization had an annual budget of nearly $600,000 with two full-time employees and one part-time employee.
The affiliate was building three to four homes a year and had no substantive fundraising activities. In addition, the affiliate was not highly regarded within the community, especially among city and government officials.
Within the first two years of her arrival, HFHSC opened a ReStore for the purposes of helping to fund the operations of the affiliate.
Since then, it has grown to be in excess of $1 million in sales and ranks in the top 6 percent of all ReStores across the nation. The homes and projects also began to accelerate, and the need for new space was needed.
Sibbio spearheaded a $2 million capital campaign that enabled HFHSC to move into a 67,000 square-foot facility that allowed the ReStore, administrative offices and the construction warehouse to be consolidated into one building.
The construction of new homes now averages between eight to 10 homes a year and two new programs have been added. A Brush with Kindness is an exterior home repair program serving low-income homeowners. Deconstruction is the process of systematically removing a structure by taking it apart with the goal of maximizing reuse and recycling. The affiliate itself now has a staff of 13 full-time and 16 part-time employees.