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9:06am EDT December 3, 2001
The saying "Charity begins at home" definitely holds true for Edward Stevens, president of Stevens Baron Communications, a 2001 Pillar Award for Community Service winner.

Stevens won't reveal his age, but he will admit he and his wife are a bit beyond the average age of parents who have children ages 5 and 8. In fact, this is a second wave of sorts for Stevens, who has three grown children out of the house; he and his wife decided to go another round, and a few years ago, they traveled to Moscow to adopt two special needs children.

For many, revisiting the child-rearing years would be plenty to satisfy the need to help others. But Stevens has incorporated his personal belief of service above self, which he learned from the Jesuit priests at St. Ignatius High School, into every aspect of his life. That includes his role as president of Stevens Baron Communications.

Stevens Baron is a relatively small public relations and advertising firm, with 15 full-time and six part-time employees. But under Stevens' leadership, the company has leveraged what it does best -- give back to the industry and the community. In addition to donating money, he and his staff have donated countless hours of expertise to a number of organizations.

"We have not had the revenue to make tremendous financial contributions," says Stevens. "But our level of volunteerism is significant."

Time is money, and Stevens and his staff, which includes two of his children, have contributed more than their fair share to promoting and educating the community. Stevens is like a proud parent when he talks about the effort his staff makes.

"Our people work so hard ... sometimes they work longer hours to get all of it done," he says.

The American Advertising Federation, the Cleveland Advertising Association, the AD COUNCIL, IABC and John Carroll University Communication School have all been benefactors of the tremendous amount of time and effort from the Stevens group.

By working with what they know, they have tirelessly promoted Cleveland and educated people about the city.

"It is a typical thing when people find out that you are in PR, they ask for your help in promoting," says Stevens. "We have a track record of saying 'yes' a lot."

Stevens and his staff go beyond just using their talents to promote -- they also teach those skills to others. Over the past few years, Stevens Baron has had a number of interns, from high school and college students to adults from other countries including Bosnia and Senegal.

Stevens takes an active role in recruiting people who can benefit from working in the field.

"We have supported America's Promise by hiring minority students to work with us during the summer to learn communications," says Stevens. "It takes time, but it is a promise to give them real experience so that they can walk away with a portfolio that can help them later."

The firm's latest challenge is getting more businesses and schools involved with the Palmer Chitester Fund to provide teacher's kits to help children learn about free enterprise, business and the economy. Stevens admits everything he does to help and educate his community in many ways comes back.

"We don't do anything philanthropic to get a return," he says. "But if I can help people reach their potential, having gone through the process in the end, it helps the community, and that helps everyone." How to reach: Stevens Barons Communications, (216) 621-6800 or www.stevensbaron.com

Kim Palmer (kpalmer@sbnnet.com) is managing editor of SBN Magazine.