A comforting hand Featured

7:00pm EDT November 24, 2006

When people walk through the doors of Milano Monuments to purchase a memorial for their loved ones, Jim Milano could refer to them as customers or clients, but he chooses to call them his families.

“A good friend of mine asked me a long time ago, ‘Why do you think your business became successful?’” says Milano, president of the Cleveland-based cemetery memorial company. “We struggled for a long time when I first started in my family’s business in the early ’80s, up til about 1990. When it became about the families, the community and the people we serve — not what we get out of it — everything seemed to change.

“It just feels good to help people. We’ve been blessed with the growth of our business where we can help more.”

These acts of kindness have included countless in-kind corporate donations to hundreds of churches and religious organizations to support their fundraising events.

Milano started a baby marker donation program last summer in which families who have experienced the loss of an infant can receive a free cemetery memorial.

The company donates many memorials and plaques each year, but Milano says he doesn’t do it for the recognition. His company’s donations have included a plaque at the Justice Center honoring Cleveland’s first black police officer and a memorial for a newborn baby found in a Lorain County quarry, as well as a large-scale memorial honoring the Brook Park Marines who were killed in Iraq last year.

Milano serves on the board of trustees for Cornerstone of Hope and the Northern Ohio Italian Association, and says everyone should have a page in history, without regard to their financial situation. This fall, he launched a grant program with Cornerstone of Hope to assist those who can’t afford to buy memorials for themselves or for their family members.

“People live 60 or 70 years, and they have nothing,” he says. “There should be some visible reminder of a life that was lived.”

HOW TO REACH: Milano Monuments, (800) 626-7125 or www.milanomonuments.com