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Community-minded Featured

6:49am EDT May 30, 2003
Fifty-three-year-old Alex Shumate developed a social conscious early -- this managing partner of Squire, Sanders & Dempsey's Columbus office began helping his community at age 15 in Sandusky when he and some friends participated in a clean-up and beautification project.

"It was a very positive experience," says Shumate. "It felt good -- I saw it was important, giving back to the community and improving the quality of life there."

Shumate says his community involvement was thanks to good mentors -- his parents and a city council member named Thom Darden who later became Sandusky's mayor.

"My parents were involved in the community through church activities and outreach," says Shumate.

And Darden, the father of a friend, took the teens to that first beautification project, sparking Shumate's life-long interest in serving his community.

Today his involvement includes chairing the 2002 United Way campaign and serving as trustee of The Columbus Partnership, the John Glenn Institute and the Wexner Center for the Arts. And the American Red Cross of Greater Columbus this year named him its Humanitarian of the Year.

How does Shumate balance his community involvements, career and family time? He says it's a challenge, and "I never take on anything new unless I stop something else."

How did you get involved in the community?

I was always active in extracurricular activities in high school, college and law school. I also got involved in the community through church. When I came to Columbus, I continued my community involvement. My parents were very active through church activities, so my interest really started at home through my parents and Thom Darden, who was my mentor.

Why do you feel it is important to get involved?

I believe that -- to quote scripture -- "To whom much is given, much is required." It's important to give as well as receive, which is something we talked about at the dinner table and church.

And participating in community projects gave me a positive feeling. I felt that I was making a difference, and I saw that serving the community is helpful to all of us.

Do you think the newest generation entering the work force today is as community-minded as past generations?

In a general sense, it seems that they have not been, but I'm also seeing a rebirth of community interest by youth in different organizations like the Youth Corp and John Glenn Institute. Young people have not been as active, but I have a greater sense that participation is occurring today in more organized ways.

I think my generation was community-minded and the generation behind us wasn't quite as active, but there has been a rebirth and focus on the community. I think people 25 and younger have a similar feeling as my generation.

How can we encourage younger generations to become more involved in their communities?

I think you can encourage young people the same way I was encouraged. It is very important to be a model. Don't just talk about helping people and the benefits, take youth out and show them -- here's what needs to be done and this is why it's important to get involved. I think teaching youth is an obligation; we need to pass this spirit along to subsequent generations.

What do you think are the biggest needs in the Columbus area?

Certainly there's a strong sense of community in Columbus. Look at the United Way campaign, the Columbus Foundation.

The city is fortunate to have civic-minded business leaders that set the tone for all of us, and a strong religious community which also has a strong spirit of giving. Anything we can do to assist with economic development, job training and education especially in the public schools -- education is No. 1 and job training is next -- those are very important areas to support in our community.

How do you balance career, community work and family?

We strive for balance -- it's one of the greatest challenges to maintain a balance. I think it's important to pause at different times in one's life and candidly do a self-analysis, assess how much quality time you are spending with family and friends.

There are a lot of demands with work -- the challenges of the economy and its uncertainty; it's easy to get involved in too many things. I do not take on anything new unless I stop something else. That has worked for me. It's important that once you set a balance that you keep it; it's a continuous process.

The American Red Cross award is a tremendous honor. The Red Cross is an organization that emphasizes and models the spirit of humanitarianism, especially in these times that we live in. How to reach: Squire, Sanders & Dempsey, (614) 365-2700 or www.ssd.com