2020 Pillar Award for Community Service – Northeast Ohio

On behalf of everyone at Medical Mutual and our co-founding partner, Smart Business, we welcome you to the 23rd annual Pillar Award for Community Service.

The Pillar Awards recognize companies whose employees have gone above and beyond to invest their time and resources in supporting our community.

Last year at this time, no one thought a global pandemic would alter the world as it has. Medical Mutual, like you, had to react and adapt quickly. And like this year’s award winners, in the face of unprecedented turmoil and change, we held fast to the belief that we have a responsibility to support our neighbors in need throughout Ohio.

We are proud of the ways our company and our employees have dedicated resources to provide relief through the pandemic, but it is truly an honor to be in the company of such outstanding organizations that exemplified community commitment — organizations that gave back in remarkable ways through charitable giving, volunteering, pro bono support and more. We are pleased to join Smart Business in honoring the exceptional contributions these businesses have made, because we know that a united business community is far greater than the sum of its parts.

Clearly, this year of unexpected change has not dampened our spirit of community. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that there’s no challenge we, as a community, can’t overcome. We are all in this together.

On behalf of Medical Mutual and Smart Business, we congratulate all our 2020 Pillar Award recipients.

Rick Chiricosta
Chairman, president and CEO, Medical Mutual





Pillar Award Honorees


Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority
Jeffery Patterson, Chief Executive Officer

The Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority was established in 1933 as the first chartered public housing authority in the country. CMHA owns and manages property and administers rent subsidy programs to provide eligible low-income individuals and families quality, safe, affordable housing in Cuyahoga County and improve the quality of life for the communities it serves.

Its values govern the actions of all CMHA employees and establish a standard of excellence. Under the leadership of CEO and Chief Safety Officer Jeffery K. Patterson, CMHA embodies the values of commitment, accountability, respect, excellence and safety in its decisions, planning and activities to fulfill its mission and achieve its vision to better Cuyahoga County communities. CMHA has 60 developments providing approximately 10,000 housing units and 15,000 vouchers serving approximately 55,000 people in Cuyahoga County.

With the onset of the pandemic, CMHA pivoted to ensure its housing communities and residents were safe and receiving necessary resources, whether physical protective equipment or factual news, to combat the unknowns. CMHA has always been mission-focused in serving its residents, and employees stepped up to the challenge to serve low-income residents.

They assessed residents’ needs, shifted the organization’s focus, established new, innovative ways of offering services, found ways to provide value through digital and teleconference platforms, provided residents with free services, collaborated with community partners with like-minded missions to continue to serve residents and remained dedicated to serving residents during this crisis to survive and thrive together as a community. ●


Todd Barnhart, President

GARDINER’s intelligent team of professionals is committed to building long-term, mutually beneficial partnerships with the company’s clients. Its associates are not only dedicated to making GARDINER a great company to work with, but also to helping make the cities they live and work in better.

Founder and chairman Bill Gardiner’s philosophy is to “Do the right thing at the right time.” This has grown into a culture where associates giving back to the community is a big part of what GARDINER is. The company’s culture originated with leadership but came to life through the people.

GARDINER hosted a field trip for STEM students from Magnificat High School, in which the girls interacted with engineers and technicians and participated in a career discussion with some of GARDINER’s and its clients’ female professionals to hear advice about the opportunities and challenges for women in the industry. GARDINER associates attended, and the company sponsored the 2020 NEO Regional Science Olympiad Tournament, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the quality of science education and increase interest in science among female, minority and all middle and high school students.

In addition, each year GARDINER fields a team of riders in The Cleveland Clinic’s VeloSano: Bike to Cure event, and associates have committed to helping 25 families a year who leave the Forbes House shelter for victims of domestic abuse.

GARDINER’s culture has always been caring and generous, and the executive leadership team continues to encourage associates to keep finding ways to reach out and make a difference. ●


W. Michael Jarrett, President and CEO

Civic responsibility is a part of the fabric of Jarrett’s culture to serve those around it. Jarrett defines civic responsibility as “giving back to our communities by donating our time, talents, energy and resources to worthwhile causes in our communities and society.” Although it always strives to help its community, it really kicks it up during the holidays.

The company partners with the Make-A-Wish Foundation through the Wayne County Children Services. Each year, Jarrett “adopts” two children who otherwise might not receive Christmas gifts that year. It puts up trees and hangs ornaments containing either a gift or monetary amount to be used toward a gift requested by the child. Employees deliver gifts to Wayne County Children Services for children to unwrap on Christmas morning.

In partnership with the Salvation Army, Jarrett employees collect canned food items, competing to see which department can collect the highest percentage of cans. The company went from 230 cans in 2017 to 4,950 cans in 2018. Also, in partnership with the Salvation Army, it provides Thanksgiving meals to families through “20 Meals for 20 Families.”

According to the company, the world doesn’t turn without generous people. Everyone is better off when we help one another. It doesn’t matter if it’s neighbors, co-workers, family, friends, or community members — the company believes we all need each other, and that our work communities need us to be as devoted to them as our home communities. When you invest in something, it grows. So, if you want your community to grow, you have to invest in it. ●


Kaulig Companies Limited / Kaulig Giving
Matt Kaulig, Executive Chairman and Owner, The Kaulig Companies;
Founder and Board Chairman, The Kaulig Foundation

Under the leadership of Executive Chairman Matt Kaulig and CEO Tim Clepper, Kaulig Cos. Ltd. has cultivated a culture of giving across the spectrum of companies they oversee. Employees are involved in philanthropic and volunteer activities, and Kaulig Cos. operates from the mantra, “The more we make, the more we give.”

Kaulig Cos. has supported more than 60 nonprofits in Northeast Ohio this year, and more than 80 since 2019. It partners with the LeBron James Family Foundation’s I PROMISE School, funding of its one-of-kind media lab and facilitating LeafFilter’s annual school supplies drive, which provides school supplies for every IPS student.

The company played a key role as a presenting sponsor for the second year in a row for the Cleveland Indians Charities Giveathon and partnered with CIC in its fundraising efforts, media creation and promotion of the campaign. Proceeds from this year’s Giveathon addressed the Digital Divide by benefiting organizations affected by and dealing with eliminating the issue in Northeast Ohio.

Kaulig Charitable Giving Programs™ and The Kaulig Foundation are on the cutting edge of philanthropic efforts in the region. The Kaulig Charitable Giving Programs include direct giving, community involvement and significant partnerships, improving Northeast Ohio and beyond. Its paramount objective is to ensure and promote the well-being of children and families in Northeast Ohio through partnerships with nonprofits.

The Kaulig Foundation serves as the grant-making vehicle for the Kaulig family and Kaulig Cos., considering grant requests from public charities in Northeast Ohio that focus on children and families. ●


MAI Capital Management
Rick Buoncore, Managing Partner

As a firm, MAI is actively involved in supporting a multitude of organizations. In 2019, MAI donated $272,000 to more than 90 local and national charities. Additionally, many MAI employees have contributed significantly as volunteers and leaders of charitable organizations. MAI also created a Young Professionals group with the purpose of educating employees on the importance of supporting their community. Each year, this group works with Business Volunteers Unlimited to identify opportunities for employees to join nonprofit boards and to help with community projects.

The MAI team’s positive energy and collective desire to get involved is a product of Managing Partner Rick Buoncore’s enthusiasm and encouragement. He consistently motivates his colleagues to volunteer for and donate to organizations that are meaningful to them and helps support their causes through company sponsorships.

Buoncore is very active in his community on an individual level. In 2016, he completed a two-year term as board chair of the United Way of Greater Cleveland. In the six years before that, he led or served on several committees, including the Strategic Planning Committee. As head of that committee, he led a team of volunteers in developing a road map to guide United Way’s work as a community change agent in Greater Cleveland.

Buoncore is deeply committed to improving the ethos and culture of the company — one that serves to “take care of their clients, each other and community.” This mantra will continue to guide Buoncore and his team as the firm reaches new levels of success. ●


Mapledale Farm
Dave Johnson, President

Mapledale Farm President Dave Johnson’s strong faith and belief that we all should serve others guides his business and volunteerism both professionally and personally.
Johnson is in charge of community service for the Chardon Rotary, which has donated to multiple entities. The Claridon community received financial help and the Rotary donated to help needy women in Geauga County through county assistance. They made a monetary donation to Geauga hospital employees and started a drive for veterans to assist them monetarily and with housing and clothing resources.

Johnson was the first Chardon member of the chamber of commerce to host the “After Hours” networking event after the pandemic lockdown ended. He knew it was important for businesses to stay engaged, be optimistic about the future and have an opportunity to network and discuss with others how to work together, work through new challenges as business owners and find new ways to do business.

He and other Rotary members donated time and monies to the Geauga Faith Rescue, which helped provide resources for the homeless in Geauga County. Johnson and his team also volunteer at Hannah’s Home, a maternity home for single pregnant women 18 and older.

His approach to running a business and working with staff is that they all need to serve the community in which they live and work. Mapledale Farm is more than just a company; it is a place where people work together as a team and a family to serve others professionally and personally. ●


Orlando Baking Co.
John Orlando, President and CEO

The Orlando Baking Co. has been heavily involved with The Hunger Network because of John Orlando. Orlando has championed goals that prioritize improving access to food, addressing food insecurity and fighting hunger.

He has been a valued member of the Hunger Network Board of Trustees for many years. He has been in leadership roles on various subcommittees, sits on the Advancement Committee and was part of the 25th Silver Anniversary Campaign. He helped with the launch of the Hunger Network’s Food Rescue program, which has expanded tremendously in just a couple of years, and has rescued over 1 million pounds of food before it went to waste.

He also commits the company to corporate sponsorships for golf outings, charity runs and other fundraising events. The Hunger Network’s largest fundraiser, the Best Party, started as the Orlando Baking Company holiday party. The event continued for 30 years with ongoing financial support from Orlando Baking Co. and over the years has brought in well over $2 million to the nonprofit.

Orlando leads the company by personally participating in the annual monthly giving campaign and has gotten numerous employees and family members involved. Because of his commitment to fighting hunger, he is responsible for generating just over $220,000 from Orlando Baking Co. through monthly giving. His generosity and leadership in the fight against hunger and food insecurity have resulted in an estimated 10 million meals for those in need. Orlando’s dedication to helping others has helped make the community a better place. ●


reLink Medical
Jeffrey Dalton, CEO

CEO Jeff Dalton started reLink Medical three years ago with his father, Ray Dalton, to reinvent the way hospitals dispose of excess and out-of-service medical equipment. Through this work, tens of thousands of medical devices are processed in its warehouse and repurposed each month.

reLink Medical and its staff focus on hospital support, employee development and giving back to the community in strategic and meaningful ways. Profits from reLink go to The Dalton Foundation, which leads and operates other reLink not-for-profit endeavors.

The insightful and strategic solutions created by Dalton — supported by his staff of more than 50 employees — have grown to support over 1,000 hospital systems throughout the country. The impact they have had on these hospitals’ supply chains has led to a new way for hospitals to safely remove and manage out-of-service medical equipment. Unsold equipment is offered for donation to global nonprofits or recycled using R2 certified and landfill-free processes.

From the profits of reLink Medical, the Dalton Foundation started and funded reLink.org in response to the opioid epidemic in Ohio. Illicit drug use and overdoses were on the rise and finding resources to help a loved one was extremely difficult. reLink.org was launched to solve this problem. To date, there are over 7,200 organizations in the database and 63 unique service lines listed covering all 88 counties in Ohio. The public database helps anyone struggling with addiction, caught in human trafficking, or coming out of incarceration. ●


Sober Grid, Ascent Powered by Sober Grid
Beau Mann, CEO

Based in Cuyahoga County, Sober Grid, and its subsidiary, Sober First LLC d/b/a Ascent Powered by Sober Grid, are behavioral digital health organizations. Their services are used by individuals struggling with addiction, families working to help a loved one, treatment centers, drug courts and other recovery organizations.

In 2015, Founders Beau Mann and Nick Krasucki saw a gap in the continuum of care for individuals who suffer from substance use disorder. Sober Grid provides evidence-based addiction recovery peer coaching services that offer personalized support 24 hours a day to its members. It pairs its telehealth peer recovery coaching with a mobile application, Sober Grid, so members can access the largest recovery network and have the right support at the right time. The Sober Grid app has grown to over 250,000 members in 170 countries, and its mission remains the same: To help communities fight the effects of substance use disorder.

The organization provides non-facility-based telehealth services that begin with a recovery plan customized by the client, in concert with a coach. As the client moves forward in recovery, coaches remain accessible by phone. Clients also have access to an on-call coach directly through the app anywhere and at any time. The app allows members to interface with one another and provides a network of peer support, while giving the coaching team real-time access to clients at risk. ●


Union Home Mortgage Corp.
Bill Cosgrove, President and CEO

The Union Home Mortgage Foundation was established in 2015 as the charitable arm of Union Home Mortgage Corp. The foundation exists to equip families with the tools and resources to achieve economic self-sufficiency, striving to improve their financial health and empower them for responsible homeownership.

UHM partners used 550 hours of volunteer paid time off in 2019. Each full-time nonsales partner receives 16 hours of volunteer paid time off a year, and each part-time partner receives eight hours. With this, they can volunteer in areas where they are most passionate. Many departments host department-specific volunteer events, and individuals can use their hours for virtual volunteerism, which can be even more impactful than in-person events.

The company also holds an Intern Day of Service each summer, offering interns an opportunity to make a difference in their communities. This year, the Intern Day of Service went virtual in order to keep interns and nonprofits safe and healthy.

In 2019, UHM launched its first-ever financial literacy program, pairing with the nonprofit BALANCE. The financial literacy program included a free online resource library containing podcasts, articles, videos, worksheets and more on topics such as student loans, buying a car, buying a home, how to get out of debt, improving credit and others. This year, the company is launching a new program under its career readiness pillar called uLaunch, a program for high school students focusing on professional development. The curriculum touches on interviewing skills, communication, public speaking tips, leadership skills and more. ●


Medical Mutual Share Award


Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority
Jeffery Patterson, Chief Executive Officer

The global coronavirus pandemic led The Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority to pivot its focus to ensuring its housing communities and residents were safe and receiving the necessary resources — whether it be physical protective equipment or factual news — to combat the many unknowns as a result of the pandemic. CMHA has 60 developments providing approximately 10,000 housing units and 15,000 vouchers serving approximately 55,000 people in Cuyahoga County. Its employees stepped up to the challenge during these unprecedented times, assessing residents’ needs and establishing innovative ways of offering services. For example, CMHA provided residents with free services throughout the pandemic and collaborated with community partners with like-minded missions to continue serving residents during the crisis.

CMHA also created a resident hotline and one especially geared for its senior population for any concerns that they had. Residents were encouraged to engage with their property management offices by phone or email, and regularly scheduled “virtual meetings” took place with the CEO or staff by phone. There were many challenges trying to communicate with the residents, however, as many don’t have access to affordable internet. That’s why CMHA’s mission to bridge the digital divide continues more so now than ever so everyone can have internet services either free or at a low cost.

Additionally, with the assistance of CMHA leadership, CMHA residents created the Resident Response Initiative, which is responsible for ensuring that residents have accurate and helpful information, resources and tools to address the immediate needs necessary for combating the COVID-19 pandemic. Through this initiative, members from the CMHA Board of Commissioners, the CMHA leadership team, and the resident leadership council, worked together to create a positive impact on the community.

For example, the Resident COVID-19 Advisory Council was created to work in conjunction with the CMHA Resident Leadership Council and Progressive Action Council to conduct weekly meetings to assess the impact of the COVID-19 virus at CMHA properties and to provide suggestions on activities to serve its residents.

The Resident COVID-19 Action Team worked together to provide residents with tools, resources, and materials to combat the impact of the COVID-19 virus. Activities included seniors making masks for each other. These residents referred to themselves as the “CMHA Maskateers” and they create over 1,000 masks for fellow residents in the community. They also ensured that common areas in its residential properties were sanitized, and they delivered goods, food and services to residents who were unable to do so on their own.

CMHA residents also created the COVID-19 Senior Outreach Team, which focused on the health and safety of seniors by conducting regular wellness checks and ensuring that their needs were properly met.

CMHA residents and staff, together, are building strong communities that stand tall and stand out. They celebrate success, but most important, lend a hand when needed. ●


Nonprofit Board Executive of the Year Award


Jan Gusich
Board Member, North Coast Community Homes

Jan Gusich founded Akhia Communications with a simple mission — to serve clients beyond their expectations in everything the company does. With a career spanning more than 40 years, she has faced gender bias and cultural disparity, and created the agency in 1996 as a workplace based on culture, values and mutual respect.

Nearly a decade ago, Gusich used her guiding principles, values and dedication to help lead North Coast Community Homes, a Northeast Ohio nonprofit working to develop and maintain high-quality, safe and comfortable community housing for individuals with disabilities. She joined the board of trustees in 2011 and currently serves as vice chair of the board and chairperson of the Resource Development and Marketing Committee.

Over the past nine years, she has offered her expertise in public relationship, brand development, crisis communications and cultivating culture to the organization. In 2019, Gusich led communications initiatives for the NCCH Zero Threshold design competition. The initiative focused on elevating the idea of accessibility to be a universal and beautiful design.

She serves the organization as a leader committed to the people served by NCCH, serving as a good neighbor ambassador, visiting and providing social interaction to residents of a North Coast Community Home. In her leadership tenure, she has raised funds, awareness and support for the efforts to ensure housing for individuals with disabilities in neighborhoods throughout Northeast Ohio. Everyone deserves a home and good neighbors, and Gusich is helping make that possible for nearly 650 people. ●


Chris Mapes
Chairman, Northeast Ohio Board, American Red Cross

Chris Mapes, chairman, president and CEO of Lincoln Electric, serves as chairman of the American Red Cross Northeast Ohio Board.

During his two-year tenure, he has championed numerous initiatives, including spearheading fundraising efforts to procure a new Red Cross five-bed Bloodmobile by personally engaging countless business and community leaders to garner their financial support.

As chair, Mapes oversaw two highly successful board campaigns, which resulted in 100 percent board participation and exceeded both “give” and “get” board fundraising goals. And the Northeast Ohio Chapter and the Northern Ohio Region exceeded their annual fundraising goals despite significant revenue target adjustments due to national disasters and achieved more than 118 percent of their increased revenue target in FY20.

Mapes’ passion for the Red Cross mission of preventing and alleviating human suffering in the face of emergencies is evident each year as he leads his Lincoln Electric team in its annual “Sound The Alarm” event in Euclid. During these Red Cross Preparedness and Prevention events, volunteers install thousands of free smoke alarms in partnership with the Red Cross and the local fire department.

His strategic insights and thoughtful approach to managing change provided a calming influence as the Red Cross underwent significant organizational restructuring during a global pandemic and one of the most devastating disaster seasons in the nation’s history. His keen ability to reassure fellow board members has been essential to their continued support and engagement during these challenging times. ●


Cameron Miele
Board of Trustees, Western Reserve Land Conservancy; Member of the Board of Directors for NEOPAT; Member of the Northern Ohio Advisory Board for A Kid Again; President of the Cameron & Katie Miele Foundation. Managing Director, Ellsworth Advisors LLC

Cameron Miele is an investment adviser representative and Certified Plan Fiduciary Advisor and serves as a managing director of Ellsworth Advisors. His nonprofit executive work and impact on the local area and families is extensive.

Since 2019, he has been a member of the Board of Trustees and Executive Committee for the Western Reserve Land Conservancy, one of the nation’s largest private land trusts. He has also been a member of the Northeast Ohio Foundation for Patriotism Board of Directors since 2019. NEOPAT promotes patriotism and service throughout Northeast Ohio, raising money to support local military families and military support organizations, and create awareness of issues affecting service members.

Since 2016, Miele has served as a member of the Northern Ohio Advisory Board for A Kid Again, an Ohio-based organization that provides hope, happiness and healing to families raising children with life-threatening illnesses. It provides fun-filled adventures that allow children with life-threatening conditions to feel like a kid again.

Miele is also president of the Cameron & Katie Miele Foundation, a private family foundation established by Cameron and Katie Miele. It provides support for organizations dedicated to helping families with children suffering from life-threatening illnesses and developmental disorders, those supporting the military and their families, and higher education. The secondary mission is for the Mieles’ three daughters to research and select organizations to support while becoming active volunteers. Since 2015, the foundation has provided more than $750,000 in direct support to worthy organizations. ●


Philanthropist of the Year


Umberto P. Fedeli
President and CEO, The Fedeli Group

Umberto P. Fedeli, president and CEO of The Fedeli Group, a privately held risk management and insurance firm, likes to get philanthropically involved where he can add value and make an impact.

He is an outspoken advocate of the Cleveland Clinic, having served on its board since 2000, and is the chair of its Government and Community Relations Committee. Fedeli has also served on the clinic’s executive committee and for more than a decade has served as event chair for the HeartThrob Ball, the annual gala that benefits Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital. It’s an event for which he has helped raise millions of dollars. His efforts for the clinic were commemorated in 2016 when Fedeli and his wife, Maryellen, were honored as Distinguished Fellows and inducted into the 1921 Society, the clinic’s highest benefactor circle, which honors those who have made extraordinary contributions of services and resources to the Cleveland Clinic.

Fedeli is also an honorary member of the Cleveland Catholic Diocese; is currently chairman of the Northern Ohio Italian American Foundation, a charitable organization that he helped establish in 1995’ and is a member of its Hall of Fame. He is the founder of the Cleveland Chapter of Legatus and was formerly on its International Board of Directors. He is currently a member of the World Presidents’ Organization and The 50 Club.

While these involvements highlight his philanthropic involvement, it’s not an exhaustive list. He and his wife contribute broadly and have hosted many events, both at their home and in the community, to further charitable causes. He says while it’s common to think of philanthropy as fundraising or contributions, there are other ways to give. One way he expresses his charity is by being a catalyst for relationships.

For the past 30 years, he has been hosting luncheons to bring people together. Those luncheons could include community leaders, business leaders and leaders of causes who can use the opportunity to share their work and interests with others. Introductions made at one of these events could kick off a campaign or get people together who can help one another help others.

Fedeli says Northeast Ohio has a wonderful giving community filled with caring people who make a difference in the lives of others. Some of those people work at The Fedeli Group. Associates within his insurance firm also give back to their communities. For example, in March 2019, two groups of employees from The Fedeli Group volunteered at the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank. The first group helped assemble 1,827 meals, and the second group helped assemble 2,067 meals.

He says the best way to encourage charity is to set the example so that other people want to participate where and in ways they think they can make an impact. Ultimately, it’s about making a difference and finding ways to help others. ●


Nonprofit Executive Director of the Year


Julie Chase-Morefield
President and CEO, Second Harvest Food Bank of North Central Ohio

When Julie Chase-Morefield first arrived at the Second Harvest Food Bank of North Central Ohio, there were three part-time employees and five full time employees. The operating budget was $617,000 distributing three million pounds of food valued at $4.7 million. Her leadership style has resulted in the growth of Second Harvest. With a staff of 26 and over 3,000 volunteers, Second Harvest currently operates on a $3.45 million budget and distributed more than 12.3 million pounds of food and grocery products. Because of her guidance, Second Harvest is now the fourth largest nonprofit in Lorain County.

In the face of COVID-19 and economic downturn, Chase-Morefield knew the operational model needed to change and that Second Harvest would have to take the lead on getting food to people. In a six-month period, Second Harvest held 100 drive-through distributions at schools, parks and fairgrounds, doubling the nonprofit’s food distribution in the same period from the previous year from 3.05 million pound in 2019 to 6.63 million pounds in 2020. Second Harvest served 32,716 unique households and 98,308 individuals during that time period. The number of new families seeking help for the first time increased 42 percent.

Chase-Morefield has created new ways to look at old problems in food banking and measures everything against impact. Second Harvest was helping about 88,000 lives per year, but since COVID-19 and the subsequent economic downturn, the nonprofit is helping about 125,000 people per year improve their food security and their overall quality of life. ●


Judy Ghazoul Hilow
Executive Director, Malachi House

Judy Ghazoul Hilow, executive director of Malachi House, is gifted in many ways. The not-for-profit is a residence for people who are diagnosed as having less than six months to live with no means to pay for their care. Hilow leads the entity in strategic, marketing, financial and all operational functions. Given that it is a single-site, stand-alone enterprise housing up to 15 residents at a time, she must be hands on in all aspects of service for this home that never closes. Sometimes people arrive and pass away in those first 24 hours. Other times, people are there for months.

For over 30 years, Malachi House has maintained operations without government support. Hilow takes the lead for sourcing funding from commercial sponsors, foundations and individual and family contributors, ensuring the nonprofit continually meets the budget day after day and year after year. Today, there are plans for expansion — Hilow is pursuing an endowment to best ensure success for years to come. While running a highly efficient operation and preserving funds as best as possible, she doesn’t skimp on resident care, nor on the staff’s requirements to do the job well. She pursues various fundraisers to generate revenue and awareness and leads tours for corporate and civic leaders, as well as people in the community.

Hilow is a light to the community ,showing awareness, empathy and love to those Malachi House serves. With her leadership and vision, she is optimizing its success today and for the future. ●


Mike Matoney
CEO, Crossroads Health and New Directions

Mike Matoney, CEO of the affiliated nonprofit organizations Crossroads Health and New Directions, has worked nearly his entire career to positively impact young lives.

In 1981, he began his career with New Directions as a chemical dependency counselor in the residential treatment and recovery housing center for adolescents and young adults with substance use and mental health challenges. He worked his way through the ranks while continuing his education, earning his MBA from Cleveland State University and assuming his role at CEO of New Directions in 1994.

By 2011, he had positioned the organization for an innovative legal partnership with Crossroads Health in Lake County, a strategic partnership that proved successful for both agencies. The affiliation increased efficiencies with a shared board of directors and senior leadership team and is a model for developing strategic partnerships. In 2017, Matoney, along with the board of directors, negotiated a merger with Beacon Health, the largest adult behavioral health service in Lake County, allowing the organization to provide a comprehensive source of mental health and recovery services to individuals and families of all ages, at all stages of life, across Northeast Ohio.

Matoney is passionate about recovery and sober living. An approachable leader, his infectious enthusiasm and sincere care for others make an indelible impact on clients, parents, caregivers, staff, colleagues, board members, donors and community leaders. He has served as a consultant, presenter and surveyor for the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, setting professional standards for behavioral health care. ●


Sondra Miller
President and CEO, Cleveland Rape Crisis Center

As president and CEO of the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center, Sondra Miller has a laser focus on executing strategic plans. That has allowed the organization to experience unprecedented growth, including in revenue and the number of full-time employees, locations and people impacted by its services. Miller has capitalized on these initiatives and expanded the CRCC footprint within Northeast Ohio. Under her leadership, CRCC has increased its annual revenue by 458 percent, in large part because of Miller’s efforts to secure support from the Ohio Attorney General’s Victims of Crime Act. It’s also increased the number of locations by 900 percent, expanding from one central location to offer services closer to survivors’ homes. Miller has helped Cleveland Rape Crisis Center adapt services to a digital world. In 2016, Miller led the development and launch of the first-ever online hotline and text to chat function, allowing survivors to reach out to an advocate anywhere, anytime, ensuring that CRCC is there to answer every call for services. She’s increased the number of full-time employees by more than 200 percent and increased the number of people impacted by services by 235 percent, through prevention and education programs, individual counseling, advocate programs in hospitals and justice systems.

Along with her staff, Miller is working to create lasting and impactful change, inspiring and driving organizational transformation by engaging stakeholders in a highly collaborative process. Her unique skillset is helping drive change for survivors of rape and sexual abuse, and for the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center. ●


Kent Clapp CEO Leadership Award


Chris Mapes
President and CEO, Lincoln Electric
Chairman, Northeast Ohio Board, American Red Cross

As American Red Cross Northeast Ohio board chair, Chris Mapes has demonstrated selfless and inspirational servant leadership heading up the nonprofit’s more than 45-member board of directors. It’s clear, through both his attitude and deeds, that Mapes has a personal passion for the Red Cross mission of preventing and alleviating human suffering in the face of emergencies.

Under Mapes’ leadership, the Northeast Ohio Chapter and the larger Northern Ohio Region exceeded annual fundraising goals, achieving well above their increased revenue target for fiscal year 2020. The nonprofit was able to accomplish that despite significant revenue target adjustments that were made as the country faced the dual challenges of one of the most devastating disaster seasons in its history and a global pandemic brought on by COVID-19. That success can be attributed in part to Mapes’ positive can-do attitude.

Overseeing the Northern Ohio Region’s busiest and most populous chapter, Mapes played a crucial leadership role this year. The chapter he chairs increased the number of counties served by 33 percent and the entire region expanded by 41 percent. His strategic insights and thoughtful approach to managing change were a calming influence during a difficult period as the Red Cross underwent significant organizational restructuring in the midst of a global pandemic. He was, through the change, able to reassure fellow board members, something that was recognized as essential in maintaining their support and engagement to achieve that goal despite myriad and sometimes unforeseen challenges.

Mapes has been the driving force behind numerous Red Cross initiatives. Recently, he led the fundraising efforts to procure a new five-bed Bloodmobile valued at more than $500,000. He personally engaged business and community leaders to get financial support for the Bloodmobile, which will collect thousands of life-saving blood products during its years of service to the American Red Cross and the community.

Mapes has also overseen two incredibly successful board campaigns that resulted in full board participation and exceeded the board’s fund-raising goals. These successes led directly to increased support from corporations and foundations that use board participation as an organizational litmus test for future funding determinations.

Mapes, who is also chairman, president and CEO of Lincoln Electric, personally led his team from Lincoln Electric in its annual “Sound The Alarm” event in Euclid. The team of Lincoln Electric volunteers installed smoke alarms in partnership with the Red Cross and the local fire department, resulting in thousands of free alarms installed, hundreds of families educated on fire safety and hundreds of homes in Euclid made safer.

Thanks to Mapes’ leadership, Lincoln Electric was the first organization to receive the Red Cross of Northeast Ohio Partnership Award. It was given because of the company’s sponsorship of blood drives, volunteerism, hosting Red Cross training classes and financial donations.

2018 Pillar Awards for Community Service

Celebrating the culture of community service

Medical Mutual, along with co-founding partner, Smart Business, is proud to present the 21st annual Pillar Awards for Community Service.

The Pillar Awards recognize organizations that set the standard for outstanding service to their communities.

These organizations’ service efforts take many forms, including volunteer time, charitable giving and pro bono support. What all our honorees have in common, though, is the culture they have built where service is ingrained in their values and employees are empowered to support their communities.

At Medical Mutual, we strive to embody a culture of service. As a company dedicated to our Ohio customers and employees, we have a responsibility to support the local communities where we live and work. When businesses help those in need, we strengthen our entire community.

One of the Pillar Awards that will be presented is a special honor given to a company whose employees best exemplify the values of Medical Mutual’s own Employee SHARE Program. SHARE stands for serve, help, aid, reach and educate.

Our SHARE Program is the heart and soul of Medical Mutual’s community service effort. Through our employees’ generosity and passion, the program coordinates more than 50 events in support of nonprofit and community agencies. Last year, our employees spent more than 5,800 hours aiding area organizations.

We are proud to be in the company of extraordinary organizations that improve the communities we serve. Together, through our culture of service, we are building stronger communities.

On behalf of Medical Mutual and Smart Business, we congratulate all our 2018 Pillar Award recipients.

Rick Chiricosta
Chairman, president and CEO
Medical Mutual of Ohio

Pillar Award honorees

Fred DiSanto, chairman and CEO

Fred DiSanto has always had a strong competitive spirit that dates all the way back to his time as a three-sport star athlete at Saint Ignatius High School. That drive and determination is still very present in his leadership as chairman and CEO at Ancora, both from a business standpoint and through the company’s philanthropic efforts.

Ancora supported 68 different organizations with monetary contributions through the first eight months of 2018, surpassing the number of organizations the company helped in 2017.

In addition to these corporate financial contributions, there are many more causes individually supported by Ancora employees, including DiSanto, who himself supported 15 different causes through the year’s first eight months.

Ancora encourages its employees to become involved in causes that are personally meaningful. Many employees choose to support organizations by serving on a board, while others walk, run or bike to aid fundraising efforts for events such as Walk MS, Cleveland Clinic’s VeloSano and The Gathering Place’s Race for the Place.

Still others donate time and resources to animal rescue groups, youth programming and more. The company also has a number of employees serving on the boards of not-for-profit organizations. Ancora is proud to make every effort to improve its surrounding communities and make an impact in the lives of others.

Ancora recently entered into a multi-year corporate sponsorship agreement with The Foundry, Cleveland’s community rowing and sailing center that is home to a number of local high school rowing teams. Ancora prefers to partner with organizations that are making a positive difference in the community. ●

Dworken & Bernstein Co. LPA
Patrick J. Perotti, senior partner and head of class action department

About 14 years ago, during a final settlement procedure in one of his cases, Patrick J. Perotti discovered a little-known doctrine called cy-pres. It was during the final stages of this settlement agreement when it was discovered there was money left over from the class action case — not all of the participants filled out their form or cashed the checks they received. Perotti serves as senior partner at Dworken & Bernstein Co. LPA and head of the firm’s class action department.

Both Perotti and defense counsel did some research and discovered that cy-pres, a very ancient doctrine, allows for unclaimed funds to be distributed to charity. It was then determined for that particular case that one-half of the funds would go to charity and the other half back to the defendant.

However, going forward, Perotti made it a point to always require a determination be made where such unclaimed funds would go in any future settlement agreement. By doing so, it allows the court — or the parties by agreement — to put these funds to beneficial use.

During the past 14 years, $37 million dollars in unclaimed funds has been distributed throughout Northeast Ohio to a wide variety of charities and nonprofits. Perotti and his firm founded Ohio Lawyers Give Back to actively teach and encourage the wide use of cy-pres throughout Ohio and across the country. If it were used in every class action case filed solely in Ohio, more than $60 million each year would go to charities and nonprofits. ●

Hard Rock Rocksino/Northfield Park Associates
Mark A. Birtha, president

Mark A. Birtha is a highly regarded gaming and hospitality executive with more than 25 years of experience in the world of casino resort hotels. At the same time, he understands the importance of giving back and has brought his philanthropic spirit to his role as president of Hard Rock Rocksino/Northfield Park Associates.

Since its opening, Rocksino has donated over $3.3 million in gifts and in-kind support to various philanthropic organizations in Northeast Ohio. The company has been a success operationally, as it was named Hard Rock International’s Casino of the Year in 2014 and 2016. As president, Birtha has overseen the Rocksino’s multiple expansions and successes, paving the way for more opportunities to give back.

Birtha not only gives financially, he also makes time for mentoring students, hosting charity events and supporting veterans, as well as participating in various charitable activities in the region. He has been a board member at Susan G. Komen® Northeast Ohio since 2017, was an honoree and speaker for the Human Rights Campaign in Ohio in 2017, and served as honorary chair of the 2017 Urban League of Greater Cleveland’s 100th anniversary gala.

Outside of work, Birtha has a passion for mentoring future leaders. In 2011, he was appointed president of the national executive board of the Cornell Hotel Society, the 90-year-old alumni association that represents 12,500 Hotel School graduates from around the world. Birtha has been a regular lecturer at the Hotel School, which is now part of the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business. ●

Home Instead Senior Care
Therese Zdesar, CEO

Home Instead Senior Care is a health service organization dedicated to providing personalized, quality private-duty home care to seniors in Northeast Ohio who are in need of the support. Under the leadership of CEO Therese Zdesar, Home Instead Senior Care’s philosophy is “we are dedicated to our community through personal volunteer time, sharing of employee talents, community outreach programs and financial contributions.”

In 2018, the Be A Santa to a Senior program collected gifts for over 1,000 seniors in Lake, Geauga and Portage counties. The project requires yearlong planning, coordinating with community partners, local chambers of commerce and major local shopping malls. Those involved work closely with local nonprofits that serve the elderly to identify needy seniors who could benefit from the program. This part of the process involves engagement with local hospitals, nursing homes, attorney guardianship offices, senior centers and local offices on aging.

The program showcases best practices that can occur when the for-profit and nonprofit worlds come together in a spirit of volunteerism to help those in need. As a result of economic uncertainty, many organizations have seen charitable contributions decrease over the past few years.

Conversely, Home Instead Senior Care has seen significant growth in its Be A Santa to a Senior program and is committed to its continued expansion. When the Be A Santa to a Senior program launched in 2004, Home Instead Senior Care collected gifts for 186 seniors. It now brings joy to seniors across Northeast Ohio. ●

LeafFilter Gutter Protection
Matt Kaulig, CEO and owner

The strength of LeafFilter Gutter Protection lies in its local connections, and having a leader in CEO and owner Matt Kaulig who has empowered his employees to get involved in their communities. With 52 offices and over 1,500 employees across the country, this impact has spread on a large scale. LeafFilter establishes projects in the communities it serves either by working with local organizations or developing relationships with the community itself.

In May 2018, Kaulig and his LeafFilter employees organized a walk to benefit the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Team LeafFilter raised $5,375 at the 5K event through the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. Two months later, the team was back at it supporting the LeBron James Family Foundation and the I Promise School in Akron. LeafFilter supplied backpacks filled with school supplies for every student at the school.

Kaulig is a founding member of Santa PICsU, a 501(c)3 organization that brings the “healing power of giving” to children and families in traumatic situations on a year-round basis.

Santa PICsU raises money to fulfill wish lists for those who are in pediatric care. The team works with the pediatric intensive care units to find children and parents who are most in need of this support. All the gift buying, wrapping, delivering and accounting, along with the management of the foundation, is done in-house and on a volunteer basis. All the money that is raised goes to children and families in traumatic situations. LeafFilter has also made donations to Akron Children’s Hospital to support its neonatal intensive care unit. ●

Quicken Loans
John Wargo, Vice president

Quicken Loans and Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland have built a special relationship over the years. It dates back to 2010 with what began as a simple clean-up day and meal preparation. It has grown into a complete embrace of Ronald McDonald House by the local Quicken Loans team, led by Vice President John Wargo. The effort has provided thousands of meals to families who rely on the nonprofit for support during the difficult time of a child receiving medical treatment.

The Quicken Loans team piloted a program to serve families in the Ronald McDonald Family Room locations within UH 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. By providing free, healthy food through the “Fuel For Families Program,” caregivers do not sacrifice their own nutrition and well-being, or incur more expenses during this critical time. They can focus their energy on helping their children get well.

In the first several months of the program, the Quicken Loans team delivered more than 250 meals. Based on participant feedback, the program was a big success. Quicken Loans continues to help and is dedicated to continuing the program’s outreach. The culture of service is evident in every interaction with staff, volunteers and families. ●

State Industrial Products
Seth Uhrman, CEO

State Industrial Products has been a family-owned business for over a century. The leaders of the company have always been heavily involved in community service initiatives and CEO Seth Uhrman is no exception. He takes a hands-on approach and rolls up his sleeves to deliver food baskets, cut lawns or even spend a couple hours in jail for a good cause. The company seeks to convey a message that it isn’t just writing checks to charities. It is striving to take a more active role in interacting with civic leaders and the people they serve.

Over the past five years, State Industrial Products has become a major supporter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation and was honored in May for donating more than $100,000 to help grant wishes to children with critical illnesses. The fundraising endeavors have been creative enough to garner media attention, but more importantly, have brought employees and the local community closer together.

For example, in 2015, employees orchestrated an elaborate raid involving the mayor of Mayfield Heights and local police officers. Eight top executives were arrested and jailed with “bail” set for $5,000. Within the two-hour window they were given to raise the money and secure their release, they had brought in more than $10,000 in donations for Make-A-Wish.

In 2016, the company transformed its offices into a superhero city to support a local child’s wish for a game room. Employees organized and participated in the reveal party, dressing up in costume, delivering surprise gifts and generally going above and beyond to make it a memorable event for everyone involved. ●

The Garland Co. Inc.
David Sokol, president

It all started with a simple Relay for Life event held in the summer of 2010 and has evolved into so much more. In the eight years since, employees at The Garland Co. Inc., led by President David Sokol, have used their Spirit Week initiative to raise more than $400,000 for charities in Northeast Ohio and across the country. Over time, it’s also become a way for employees to support each other during their own moments of need.

The first opportunity came in 2012 when the wife of California-based Garland sales rep Miles Taylor was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer at the age of 28. Not long after that, one of Garland’s own board members was also diagnosed with lung cancer. Feeling helpless, but wanting to show as much support as he could, Garland decided its Spirit Week charity in 2013 would be the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation, an organization that supports lung cancer research and advocacy, and was providing help, support and comfort to the Taylors through their long and difficult journey.

Sadly, just three years later, two more Garland family members received cancer diagnoses. Heather Vogt, a graphic designer and videographer in the company’s marketing department for nearly two decades, was diagnosed with breast cancer, and the wife of Garland’s general manager, Scott Craft, was diagnosed with a rare bile duct cancer that required a liver transplant.

Garland’s employees rallied behind their colleagues and raised the largest Spirit Week donation ever: $80,573 for the Ohio Cancer Research fund, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting aggressive cancer research. ●

Medical Mutual SHARE Award

David Kempton, area president

Gallagher takes great pride in being an ethical and socially responsible company, where philanthropy is an important part of the corporate culture. This spirit of giving enables the insurance and risk management company to make a significant difference in the communities that it serves. The company is led locally by Area President David Kempton.

As Gallagher approached its 90th year in business, there was a desire to do something special to commemorate the historic milestone. Beginning Oct. 2, 2017, and continuing through Sept. 30, 2018, Gallagher employees were challenged to reach a goal of performing 90,000 hours of additional volunteer service. As the end of this yearlong effort drew near, it appeared as though the team would be very close to meeting this ambitious objective.

With so many Gallagher employees taking advantage of the opportunity to be active in organizations that are important to them, it creates an environment where volunteers are often sought to fill more customized needs. Earlier this year, one nonprofit organization that an employee is involved with had a need for social media marketing to promote a large upcoming event. The nonprofit did not have anyone on its staff or board with the requisite experience, so Gallagher’s marketing team volunteered to assist with the marketing plan, training and execution.

In addition to employee and corporate-driven volunteer efforts, Gallagher has a nonprofit specialty practice area in Northeast Ohio. With a team dedicated to servicing these clients, the company works with more than 90 nonprofit organizations across the state. Team members actively participate in events and fundraisers put on by these organizations, and support them through donations and by once again providing additional employee volunteers where possible.

Many Gallagher employees also are active board members on local nonprofit and city council boards. Of its 84 local employees, 24 of them are current board or committee members with a nonprofit organization.
Gallagher has an online portal called Your Cause, which allows employees to make donation matches to eligible charities, and track volunteer hours and environmental sustainability activities in its communities. With the company match, Gallagher can submit any donation over $50 to have it matched by the corporate office.

This allows the company to double its support to organizations that are important to Gallagher. With the willingness of Gallagher team members to go above and beyond, it only makes sense that the company would have its own fund. The Gallagher Ohio Employee Giving Fund was established as a donor-advised fund of the Cleveland Foundation in 2009. The fund’s goal is to provide financial support for nonprofit organizations located in Northern Ohio by direct grant recommendations funded by employee contributions and fundraising activities. ●

Kent Clapp CEO Leadership Award

Akram Boutros, MD, FACHE
President and CEO, The MetroHealth System

The people who work with Akram Boutros, MD, FACHE, call it “Boutros time.” It describes the unbelievably brief amount of time it takes The MetroHealth System’s president and CEO to turn a bold idea into reality. Consider the creation of the nation’s first public high school inside a hospital, an initiative that could have easily taken years. In “Boutros time,” students were attending health and science classes inside MetroHealth less than three months after the idea was unveiled.

Then there is House Bill 111, legislation passed last summer that, among other things, allows MetroHealth — for the first time in its 181-year history — to provide care for patients outside Cuyahoga County. The amendment was crafted, voted on in committee, passed by the House and Senate and signed by the Gov. John Kasich — all in about 45 days.

Since arriving in 2013, Boutros, always in fifth gear, has led what has been described by hospital personnel as a “Metro-morphosis.”

If you listed his accomplishments without knowing where he works, you’d think Boutros leads a thriving private business, not a public hospital. Consider his impact:

Strong financial performance — MetroHealth has operated in the black each of Boutros’ five years as CEO. Revenue has risen 44 percent and patient visits are up 40 percent. Two dozen new care locations are open throughout the county and innovative community programs have been launched. More than 1,400 jobs have been added to the local economy. The portion of the system’s budget covered by county taxpayers has dwindled to only 2.9 percent.

Audacious plans — Last summer, to rave reviews, MetroHealth unveiled the stunning design of its new hospital, the crown jewel of a billion-dollar campus transformation. Boutros’ plans extend beyond concrete, steel and glass, however. He has given MetroHealth an additional goal: transform the West 25th Street neighborhood along with the hospital’s campus. It’s led to the first hospital-created EcoDistrict in the world.

Vision for the future — The importance of House Bill 111 cannot be overstated: It gives MetroHealth not only the ability to broaden the impact of its mission, it has the potential to ensure the system’s viability for decades to come. That’s welcome news for a region that relies on the system to care for the most vulnerable members of the community.

Community involvement — In addition to leading an extraordinary turnaround at MetroHealth, Boutros has somehow found time to give back to his adopted hometown. He serves on roughly a dozen boards and has become a strong voice for reimagining the region’s economic development ecosystem. He is also one of 20 local leaders leading the bold and daring Blockland initiative to create the world’s largest blockchain technology hub.

The community has learned that when encountering Boutros, don’t doubt him. And don’t blink. ●

Our Lady of the Wayside Nonprofit Board Executive of the Year Awards

Frank Fantozzi
Trustee and advancement committee chairman, annual fund co-chair, LifeAct

LifeAct is a nonprofit committed to fighting one of society’s most difficult challenges: suicide.

For the past six years, Frank Fantozzi has served on the board of LifeAct, formerly Ohio’s Suicide Prevention Education Alliance. He has made a direct impact on the organization’s mission to educate young people on suicide prevention through his fundraising efforts as an executive board member, as well as through significant personal donations.

Fantozzi believes giving back is a responsibility shared by everyone. His philosophy is that each of us has an obligation to seize opportunities to use our talents, knowledge, experience and compassion to make a difference in the lives of others.

Through his work at LifeAct, Fantozzi has helped to develop and implement a formal growth strategy that is focused on identifying new donor channels and donor types, as well as leveraging existing donors. LifeAct is not a crisis counseling service. Instead, it provides students in schools throughout Northeast Ohio with the tools and resources to get the professional help they need and seek for themselves and others. The focus is on saving lives through knowledge and empowerment.

Fantozzi believes the ability to reach students at their most vulnerable ages, in middle school and high school, is critical to the success of LifeAct’s mission and doing so requires significant funding.
In 2017, LifeAct commemorated 25 years of depression awareness and suicide prevention, and will have educated more than 200,000 teens across Northeast Ohio. Last year alone, the program reached more than 23,000 students in 160 schools. ●

Christopher Koehler
Board president, West Side Catholic Center

Christopher Koehler has accomplished a lot in his time as board president at the West Side Catholic Center. In addition to overseeing a $2 million capital campaign, which met all goals and funded major renovations to the center, he helped lead and implement the renovations. The work transformed West Side Catholic Center’s ability to provide meals and clothing to people in need, and do it with dignity.

The project also included a new kitchen and dining space, coupled with volunteer space, a donation area, clothing sorting rooms and a clothing showroom that have transformed an 1886 building into a modern social service powerhouse. Additional second floor space was also added to accommodate a growing staff and consolidate staff locations.

“Chris has also continued and grown a board culture of involvement and understanding, increased board diversity and trust in the expertise of those around him,” says John Litten, executive director at West Side Catholic Center. “He is a leader who does not need to have all of the answers himself, nor always be the smartest person in the room. He is humble and always willing to listen to others’ perspectives.”

In addition, Koehler helped lead a strategic planning process to chart out the next five years for West Side Catholic Center.

“The best part about Chris is that once his term is up, I know he won’t be going anywhere,” Litten says. “He’ll maintain a presence both as a confidant and as a volunteer. He cares too much not to do so.” ●

Bonnie H. Marcus
Board chair, Alzheimer’s Association Cleveland Area Chapter

When the Cleveland Area Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association merged with the national organization two years ago, Bonnie H. Marcus was sought by others in the organization to build a new kind of board that could work in concert with staff leadership to advance its mission and meet its goals.

After the merger, Marcus chaired an important chapter board workgroup that would move the board from a fiduciary to a non-fiduciary board. She previously chaired the investment reserves policy work group, established after the recession hit in 2008, a workgroup that successfully instituted a first-time policy to ensure chapter stability in the event of future financial emergencies and created a method to ascertain and prudently use available reserve/excess funds.

In her new role, she spent countless hours learning about effective boards and brought energy and excitement to a process that few other chapters in the country even thought to undertake. One of the byproducts of this work was the identification of a strategic impact board that would work closely with staff leadership to advance the Alzheimer’s Association Cleveland Area Chapter’s annual strategic goals.

In 2017, she took on the role of board chair.

While Marcus has dedicated countless hours to the Alzheimer’s Association, she also has distinguished herself with civic engagement through the Junior League of Cleveland and academia at Hathaway Brown School. She has held every leadership position in the Alzheimer’s Association Cleveland Area Chapter, and is driven to find a cure for this disease and continue to provide care and support services at no cost to those who need it. ●

Thomas M. McDonald
Chairman, board of trustees, The MetroHealth System

There have been weeks, especially during the past two years, when Thomas M. McDonald spent more hours in The MetroHealth System’s boardroom than in his office at McDonald Partners LLC, where he is founder, president and CEO. He gets paid for only one of those jobs.

Since McDonald joined MetroHealth’s board of trustees in 2008, he has used his intelligence, experience and devotion to help turn the health system 180 degrees.

Consider where MetroHealth was a decade ago: The country was plunging into recession, and federal agents were launching an investigation that would entangle many county institutions. McDonald skillfully guided MetroHealth through the tumultuous waters of scandal, economic and political upheaval, sudden leadership changes, layoffs and hospital consolidation.

It’s no exaggeration to say there were moments when the future and very survival of MetroHealth hung in the balance.

To McDonald, the system is essential to the community. Despite calls for MetroHealth to be acquired, absorbed or shut down, he believed such a move would significantly harm the region’s most vulnerable citizens.

The turnaround began in 2009, when the system returned to the black. McDonald ascended to the role of chairman of the board of trustees in 2013 and MetroHealth’s revival accelerated. Since then, the system has remained in the black, investing its earnings back into programming and care for its patients. Revenue has jumped 44 percent, patient volume is up 40 percent and the portion of costs covered by county taxpayers has decreased to 2.9 percent.

“We are a different institution,” McDonald says. ●

Philanthropist of the Year Award

Richard W. Pogue
Senior advisor, Jones Day

Richard W. Pogue has spent a lifetime serving others and making the world a better place through his tireless efforts to make good things happen in his community.

“Not only have Mr. Pogue and his wife, Pat, donated generously to a multitude of charitable organizations in Northeast Ohio over their lifetimes, but there is no one in this area who has devoted more time, energy and thought to advancing the condition and culture of our community for at least the past 35 years than Dick Pogue,” says Kim Bixenstine, chief compliance officer at University Hospitals and a friend of Pogue’s for more than 35 years. “Mr. Pogue’s involvement in nonprofit organizations in this community is broad and deep.”

Pogue estimates he has served on more than 50 nonprofit boards in his lifetime, mostly in leadership positions. The focus of these organizations ranges from health care and social services to economic development, education and the arts. While he served as managing partner of what was then known as the Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue law firm from 1984 to 1992, he spent approximately 20 percent of his time on civic activities, Bixenstine says.

“Since 2004, he has devoted all of his time to such work,” she says. “Long after most people have retired, Mr. Pogue is working 12-hour days, all devoted to improving our community.”

Pogue graduated from Cornell University in 1950 and the University of Michigan Law School in 1953. He then served three years in the U.S. Army, working at the Pentagon in the patents division for the office of the Judge Advocate General.

He joined the law firm now known as Jones Day in 1957 and became a partner in 1961. During his nine years as managing partner, the firm grew from 335 to 1,225 lawyers and from five domestic offices to 20 locations around the world, becoming the second-largest U.S. law firm. His hard work professionally only strengthened his commitment to philanthropy.

Here are just a few highlights of his philanthropic work:

  Co-chairing Cleveland’s 1989 United Way campaign, which achieved an all-time high of $51.9 million.
  Served as co-chair of both a successful $30 million capital campaign for the Gordon Square Arts District and a $40 million capital campaign for Cleveland Institute of Music.
  Co-chaired a $10 million capital campaign for the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland.
  Served as co-chair of the Cleveland Bicentennial Commission.

Through all his efforts, Pogue never sought personal glory or adulation, Bixenstine says.

“He performs his work humbly, without fanfare and with no personal aggrandizement,” she says. “Whatever the charitable goal is for any organization with which he is involved, he always plays a key role in its achievement.” ●

Nonprofit Executive Director of the Year Awards

Jeff Epstein
Executive director, MidTown Cleveland Inc.

It was 2015 and MidTown Cleveland Inc. had reached an inflection point. Lagging financial performance resulted in a series of operational and personnel cuts, and the subsequent resignation of the executive director. A search ensued and the organization’s board ultimately approved the hiring of Jeff Epstein as executive director in February 2016.

As Epstein was beginning his tenure at MTC, the board underwent a process of amending its governance, which had the effect of replacing nearly two-thirds of its directors. So with a new board, little staff and no room for error, Epstein dug in and got to work.

He helped guide the board in crafting a strategic plan, which has four distinct goals: build a connected community, create a complete neighborhood, build the MidTown brand and strengthen the organization’s capacity. Each of these goals has been positively impacted and made possible by Epstein’s hard work and commitment to the organization.

An organization previously known for only working with the businesses in the area, Epstein hosted the first resident block party on East 75th Street and this year has engaged the residents to work on programs such as the successful Leo’s Listening Party to introduce neighbors to each other while rekindling the memories of the famed music venue, Leo’s Casino.

Epstein also engaged a new marketing firm to rework the image of MidTown from being a pass-through to a place where people work in a variety of fields, be it for-profit or not-for-profit, a place where people of all income levels live and a place for recreation. ●

Judy Ghazoul Hilow
Executive director, Malachi House

Malachi House was founded in 1988 through a pioneering effort to preserve human dignity for terminally ill individuals. The inspiration for it came from the ministry of Fr. Paul Hritz and the St. Malachi Church parishioners, who often encountered homeless individuals dying under bridges or in cars, deserted buildings and other unsuitable places within the city.

As executive director, Judy Ghazoul Hilow has continued her growth as a mission-driven, servant leader, building on the experience she has gained leading organizations and communities over the last 32 years. She has crafted a proven process for the mission, its finances and development aspects that are so crucial to the success of a nonprofit. Her empathetic spirit and business sense create success in every role.

Residents continue to be served with loving care at the highest level, and at a capacity of 15 individuals, along with a waiting list. There has been a 25 percent increase in the number of volunteers, bringing the total number of active volunteers to more than 100. Grant awards have doubled yearly from $225,000 to $530,000, and contributions from individuals and corporations overall have increased on a similar scale.

Hilow was recently recruited as a nonprofit leader to receive a scholarship as a student in the Executive MBA program in The Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University. The program began in the fall and will continue for two years with an international trip to two countries to study their economy and business practices, as well as visits to nonprofit organizations. ●

Jeffery K. Patterson
CEO, Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority

Jeffery K. Patterson has taken steps to ensure that Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority offers residents a variety of enrichment programs that span a lifetime. This includes youth services, family programming and senior support. These initiatives create a foundation for residents to gain the knowledge they need to be successful.

CMHA was selected to pilot the White House’s ConnectHome initiative, which works to bridge the digital divide by providing digital literacy training, as well as the necessary technology, to school-aged youth and seniors. It has already given more than 240 adult residents and 410 children an opportunity to go through training in the last 12 months.

As the CEO of CMHA, Patterson is focused on leading and inspiring his team to fulfill the organization’s mission and develop strategies to align the vision into opportunities for the agency. He has created an atmosphere that stimulates confidence and ideas from his team, and he is attentive to providing opportunities for the residents.

From residents, employees, community leaders, elected officials and beyond, Patterson is respected for his solid work ethic and ability to be innovative, focused and passionate about enhancing the quality of life for the residents being served.

Patterson was one of the first in the housing industry to take advantage of effective, innovative financing available through the Rental Assistance Demonstration program. Under this program and his direction, CMHA was awarded financing for a total of eight projects, which will allow CMHA to preserve its stock of affordable rental housing and continue to build strong, stable communities. ●

Rich Trickel
CEO, The City Mission

One of the unique qualities Rich Trickel brings to his role as CEO at The City Mission is his ability to articulate a vision and then make decisions, moving quickly to maximize results. Those who know him well consider Trickel to be a great communicator who is able to boil down an issue, express it in a succinct manner and provide strategic insight and direction to begin solving the problem and eliminating barriers.

Since his arrival at The City Mission 14 years ago, Trickel has been able to bolster needed departments, including the expansion of a former one-person development department into a cutting-edge, fully integrated and diverse department. Trickel acts decisively to eliminate redundant services while working to change the perception of the foundation community, local government officials, donors and the community at large to a more positive image.

Today, The City Mission is fiscally sound and sustainable year after year, due in part to Trickel’s launch of a multi-million dollar direct mail enterprise business, which saves significant funds for The City Mission and missions across the country.

As a visionary leader, Trickel was ahead of his time in utilizing social media messaging as an awareness and fundraising tool while battling and advocating to bring the needs of the homeless up to a national level. His forward thinking on issues such as the current crisis for homeless women and children and Housing First have put The City Mission in a position to be able to respond rather than react when the need arises. ●

Lifetime Achievement Award (posthumous)

Matthew Figgie
Clark-Reliance Corp., Figgie Capital, The Figgie Foundation and Fairmount Center for the Arts

Matthew P. Figgie was an accomplished businessman, a philanthropist, a loving father and a family man, says Rick Solon, his friend and business partner at Clark-Reliance Corp.

“Most of all, he was an incredible, giving soul,” Solon says. “Matthew’s passion was trying to improve the overall quality of life, especially in Northeast Ohio. He was the most generous soul I ever met.”

Figgie died unexpectedly on Aug. 25 at the age of 52. An eighth-generation Clevelander, Figgie was founder, chairman and CEO at Figgie Capital, chairman at Clark-Reliance and chairman of The Figgie Foundation. He was also chairman of Fairmount Center for the Arts, as well as owner and director of a broad portfolio of private operational and financial holdings. But Figgie didn’t make his mark on the community by collecting important job titles.

Rather, his passion was to run productive, impactful organizations. His success in doing so was evident by the people he affected; his position as an industry leader; his ability to share knowledge through his writings; and the growth of his organizations on both a domestic and an international scale.

“Matthew personified the adage, ‘To whom much is given, much is expected.’” Solon says. “It was a value that was instilled in him from a young age, and he adhered to it throughout his life. When Matthew committed to helping anyone, he would not stop until he created the biggest impact that he could on that organization. His favorite saying was, ‘Go big or go home.’”

Figgie worked hard to create a friendly, family-oriented environment at Clark-Reliance where employees could excel and advance. While expanding his company worldwide and continuing to offer new products and services, he also committed to keeping the company in Cleveland.

In addition to his leadership posts, Figgie was an accomplished author. He published a book with Solon and Adam C. Snyder called, “Maximizing Profits Immediately: How to Dramatically Improve Your Company’s Bottom Line,” and had three additional works in the pipeline focused on investments and economics.

He also contributed to “How to Build a Billion Dollar Company from Scratch,” with his father, Harry E. Figgie Jr.
Away from business, he guided The Figgie Foundation in its ongoing effort to support the community. The nonprofit supports the arts, children, education, historical preservation and the medical community. Figgie’s commitment to giving back was always strong, Solon says.

“That’s why Figgie Field has the best turf available and Gilmour Academy is well on its way to becoming an All-Steinway School,” Solon says. “If you were in Matthew’s presence for just 15 minutes, you were a friend. He wanted to know what intrigued you about life and how he could help you. It was my great privilege to know him for more than 40 years.”


Smart Women: How women leaders are setting the pace in business

There is little doubt that today, women are making an impact on the workplace — and in society — more than ever before. More than 5 percent of the Fortune 500 have female leaders, 17 percent of corporate boards include women directors, and women entrepreneurs are leading the way in job growth as the number of female-owned startups outpaces those launched by men.

It is with this upward trend in mind that we once again present our annual Smart Women awards.

On the pages that follow, you’ll read about women entrepreneurs who have founded or co-founded for-profit or nonprofit organizations; women who have risen through the ranks of organizations across their distinguished careers; entities that develop and foster initiatives that support women; and men who advocate for the advancement of women.

We hope after reading these inspirational stories that you’ll join us on April 20 at the Smart Women Conference, where we’ll recognize the 2017 award winners and present a panel discussion with four dynamic women business leaders who are profiled in this edition.
Congratulations to all of this year’s honorees!

MODERATOR Tiffani Tucker, Channel 19

PANELISTS Marcia Ballinger, Lorain County Community College | JJ DiGeronimo, Tech Savvy Women | Linda McHugh, Cleveland Clinic | Dominique Moceanu, Creations by C & C

PROGRESSIVE ENTREPRENEUR Amy Bircher, MMI Textiles | Covesa K. Gragg, Covesa Kelly Events | Anne Hartnett, Harness Cycle and GroundSwell Collective | Ebie Holst, SplashLink | Lee Ann Howard, Howard & O’Brien Executive Search


ORGANIZATIONS THAT EMPOWER Women’s Business Center of Northern Ohio


PROGRESSIVE WOMEN Ann-Marie Ahern, McCarthy, Lebit, Crystal & Liffman Co., LPA | Mindi Curry, Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics | Judy Ghazoul Hilow, Malachi House | Hu Huang, Kichler Lighting | Valarie J. McCall, City of Cleveland | Karen D. Melton, Kaufman Container Co. | SueAnn Naso, Staffing Solutions Enterprises | Cheryl Perez, Benefit Innovations Group | Kim Riley, Hylant Cleveland | Lee Ann Schwope Cochran, Battelle | Alexandra Vidmar, KeyBanc Capital Markets



Behind the anchor desk: Tiffani Tucker peels back the newsroom curtain

Tiffani Tucker, recently promoted to anchor Channel 19’s evening newscasts at 5, 9, 10 and 11, will moderate the Smart Women panel discussion. Tucker says the group effort it takes to put on the news surprises people.

“There could be breaking news and it could change the entire flow of the show, but you just have to be ready to roll with whatever is handed in front of you,” she says. “It keeps it exciting and interesting, and that’s why I’m driven to news — not just for the people I meet, but also the spontaneity of it.”

News is exciting. You get to meet people that you may never meet in a lifetime, from presidents to actresses and actors, to everyday people working hard on the street, trying to provide an income for their families. It’s this latter group that provides the stories Tucker most enjoys telling.

Because you wear makeup and are in front of the camera, people think it’s glamorous. Tucker asks interns why they want to be a reporter. If the first or second thing they list is that they want to be on TV, it’s not the job for them.

Although there are perks, you usually met people on their worst day, and it’s not about you, she says. You also have to sacrifice time with your family. Like any job, you have to love it, because when it gets rough, you have to still love it.

Smart Business caught up with Tucker to talk about what it’s like to work in TV news.

SB: Did anyone you’ve interviewed make you very nervous?

TT: If you don’t have those butterflies in your stomach, then there’s something wrong. I call it a positive energy.
I can’t think of anybody who I was extremely nervous to interview. I’ve met a lot of people — the Bushes, before the presidency when he was running for governor, Madeleine Albright, Martha Stewart, Shakira, Janet Jackson — it runs the gamut. You have to realize that you might only have a short moment with them, so you have to pull it together.

I was nervous when I met Oprah, but it wasn’t during a TV moment. I just remember her squeezing my hand and I thought ‘Ouch, Oprah, that hurt.’ But that’s good, when someone shakes your hand, it should make an impression.

SB: How has the internet changed your job?

TT: A lot of people don’t sit down as a family and watch the news. They get their news on their phones. So you have to be ahead of technology. The story begins right when you get the information. You go right to your phone and start tweeting.

Also, throughout the day, you have to post on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. You want to have interaction with your viewers because they want to feel like they know you.

I can post something that has to do with breaking news, but I get more reaction on something personal.
For instance, the other day, I thought it was a funny moment — there were some scuff marks on our floor. My daughter says, ‘Mommy, I know how to get those out.’ I’m thinking, ‘OK what is she going to do?’ She ran to the laundry room, got the tennis ball, put it on the end of broom and started to take the scuff marks out. I said, ‘How did you learn to do that?’ ‘Oh, I see the janitor do it at school all the time.’ And you wouldn’t you know, people thought it was great. ●
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Find your purpose: Marcia Ballinger helps her people find their purpose

Marcia Ballinger, Ph.D. wants employees at Lorain County Community College to look beyond job titles and functions and take a more holistic view of the roles they perform at the school.

“Why do we exist?” says Ballinger, speaking to the first question she wants employees to ponder. “What is our core meaning and purpose? When you have opportunities to think like that and to do that reflective process, it helps to build, if it’s not already there at the individual level, the ability to ask yourself what contributions am I making to the outcome of the student?”

Ballinger, the college’s former provost/vice president for academic and learner services, became LCCC’s first female president on July 1, 2016, replacing former president Roy Church, Ed.D., who retired the month prior. One of her goals as the college’s leader is to continue the mission that began before she became the college’s president: Create a culture in which everyone is working toward the same outcome.

“We have been turning the institution upside down over the past four years,” Ballinger says. “And the beneficiaries of that are our students, the employers and the community-at-large. We are making strides in some very significant ways of improving graduation rates as well as adults earning certificates and credentials, and students who are transferring to our university partners.

“But that was a heavy lift and it continues to be. We recognize that we have to design a plan with that end in mind and really create the culture or enhance the culture so that people feel safe to experiment, to innovate, to take those risks and then understand that it’s OK to fail along the way.”

By getting everybody to take a deeper look at what they do and find their purpose within the bigger picture, the college’s focus narrows, Ballinger says.

“We went from six strategic priorities and 70 initiatives to three strategic priorities and 30 initiatives,” she says. “That’s not only more doable, but clearer and more compelling.”

Ballinger gives a lot of credit to her predecessor, Church, for his belief in her when she was hired as the college’s director of marketing and media 25 years ago.

“I have a deep commitment to providing mentorship opportunities, be it formal or informal, but more importantly growing our own talent, and seeing and helping others see what their possibilities can be,” Ballinger says.

Church also helped Ballinger keep her priorities in order.

“When I was hired here — I have two daughters — and at that time one was 4 and the other one was not even 1,” Ballinger says. “And knowing that the job was going to be very, very demanding, one of the things that he said to me was, ‘Always remember that being a mother comes first.’” ●
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JJ DiGeronimo gives innovation room to breathe

One of the biggest mistakes you can make as a business leader is to try to force innovation. The success rate tends to be very low when you demand that an employee or group of employees drop everything and quickly come up with a brand new idea, says JJ DiGeronimo, president at Tech Savvy Women.

“It takes time to be innovative,” DiGeronimo says. “You have to give people time to think and time to tinker. You may even need incentive-based activities that encourage them to take a step away from their everyday job that has multiple obligations.

“Give them a chance to work on or discuss ways to streamline, enhance or impact the organization as a whole from an operations standpoint. Innovation can be as simple as transforming a process or as complicated as jumping into a new market with new products. In either case, it needs a chance to breathe in order to work.”

DiGeronimo is a speaker, author and executive strategist who advanced from entry-level technology positions into leadership roles within Silicon Valley-based technology companies. She stays close to emerging technologies through Tech Savvy Women and advises venture capitalists, investment teams and executives. Experience has taught her that another key component to being innovative is building and encouraging diversity in whatever group it is that you lead.

“If you have diverse people at the table — different ages, backgrounds, experiences and ethnic backgrounds — and you allow everyone to participate and it’s not a one-sided discussion, oftentimes you can create new ideas and get out of groupthink,” DiGeronimo says. “I’ve been in many organizations where groupthink happens because most everybody at the table is exactly alike. They can’t be innovative and they can’t foster new agendas because they can’t get out of their own way.”

Leaders need to not just promote diversity, but see the benefits that can come both to individuals and the company from soliciting different perspectives. DiGeronimo wants women get the chance to prove their worth and contribute to driving the economy forward. Those who aren’t given that chance must find other ways to be noticed.

“You can have the capabilities, but if you don’t have the opportunity, it’s difficult to shine,” DiGeronimo says. “So you either have to go off and create it in your own organization or find a way to be on a board for another organization. Women want to be able to flourish. They want to work in an environment that has global impact and they want to feel like they are making equal money for their effort. It’s up to the individual to identify what they want to get out of their work experience and what type of culture would allow them to achieve that.” ●
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Linda McHugh works to put her tools to good use

Linda McHugh is chief human resource officer at Cleveland Clinic, but much of the work she does these days is geared toward non-human approaches to boosting productivity and performance. The world-renowned medical center finalized a strategic relationship last December with IBM and Watson to expand its health information technology capabilities.

“We’re also talking with Google and Microsoft because artificial intelligence, machine thinking and cognitive learning — those types of things — we want to figure out how we can leverage that in the future to really take big data to the next level,” says McHugh. “Humans can only do so much. A computer can analyze much faster and come to conclusions that a human would then interact with. So we’ve created these strategic relationships to understand how we can use these tools.”

McHugh has more than 30 years of experience with the Clinic. After managing two departments at the Lerner Research Institute, she was recruited to manage two clinical departments — vascular surgery and vascular medicine. She eventually helped President and CEO Dr. Delos “Toby” M. Cosgrove set up his cardiac surgery affiliate programs.

“I managed all of the regional surgery practices for the organization as we brought in surgeons in the region to our ambulatory surgery centers,” McHugh says. “And when Toby became CEO, I came with him as kind of his chief administrative officer and worked at an enterprise level on multiple projects. It was an incubator for spinning off new initiatives.”

Whatever the project, the end goal is always to enhance the patient experience, a task that requires a great deal of human interaction. Cleveland Clinic has been a pioneer in making patient experience an organizational strategic goal and has established both an Office of Patient Experience and a chief experience officer to hold the organization accountable to that standard.

In her role as chief human resource officer, McHugh’s job is to develop training mechanisms that enable the Clinic team to maximize the potential of these new resources.

“It’s about creating and providing tools that are usable and relevant at that point in time,” McHugh says. “We also have a feedback loop that says, ‘OK, we’re seeing this. We’re seeing them interact with the system in this way and once we’re up and running, they’re having problems. We either need to create a better training tool or change the system.’”

Implementing change often requires a delicate touch. McHugh has learned to be patient when it comes to doing something different.

“You have to manage change,” McHugh says. “You can’t just expect that you’re going to put a new system in and everyone is automatically going to adopt it. You have to be able to provide the tools and the support.” ●
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Dominique Moceanu sets the gold standard of excellence

Dominique Moceanu doesn’t expect those around her to match her grueling pace when it comes to getting things done.

“I can sense a personality right from the get-go when I meet somebody,” says Moceanu, founder, owner and designer at Creations by C & C. “Just because I keep that fast pace doesn’t always mean that you have to. Of course, if I’m employing you, there are certain expectations that I will have and a certain level of discipline is expected on the job. But if you can find the motivation and get your job done just as well doing it your way, I’m OK with that.”

She takes a similar approach to interactions with her business partner, Wendy Campbell, who is co-founder, designer and creative director.

“I allow my business partner that creativity to work when she feels creative and I don’t pressure that,” Moceanu says. “I don’t try to stifle that because I don’t like when someone stifles my own creativity. But we also have to be on the same page as far as goals, productivity and those kinds of things.”

Moceanu has always been driven. In 1996, after years of training and hard work, she helped lead the U.S. women’s gymnastics team to a gold medal at the Summer Olympics in Atlanta. She’s still involved in the sport today, albeit under difficult circumstances: She counsels and mentors gymnasts who have been abused emotionally, verbally, psychologically or even sexually in the sport.

“It takes an emotional toll, but my heart feels for them so much and I need to give them my time if I can help in any way,” Moceanu says.

She’s also a motivational speaker and a New York Times best-selling author. As for C & C Creations, a custom-design jewelry business that produces the Dominque Moceanu Signature Collection, she is proud of the company she and Campbell have built.

“I’m OK pouring my heart into my job and my work and what I’m passionate about because ultimately, that will provide jobs and opportunity for other people as well,” Moceanu says.

When the day comes that she needs to hire more people and delegate some of the responsibility she now carries, Moceanu says she’ll be ready to modify her approach to the business.

“I think it’s critical in business when you’re first starting out to really be cautious with how much you’re spending because it all affects your bottom dollar,” Moceanu says. “Eventually, you’re at a point where you can hire more people and take those calculated risks, and then you grow.” ●
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2017 Progressive Entrepreneur Honorees

Amy Bircher
President and founder
MMI Textiles

Amy Bircher, president and founder of MMI Textiles, built the company from the ground up. The success MMI has experienced is largely attributed to Bircher’s solutions-oriented outlook. She challenges the status quo in every aspect of her business while her care and concern for others and leadership abilities are said to be the cornerstone of the operation.

Bircher has positioned the company for growth by establishing a solid team and infrastructure. She leads and directs the sales and operations of the company, which has experienced significant growth since its founding in 1997. She has developed products and services unique to the various markets the company serves and is known for having a keen eye for product innovations that have led to proprietary materials and best-in-class product lines.

Her efforts haven’t gone unheralded. She has been recognized with the Weatherhead 100 award four years in a row and has achieved her certificate of entrepreneurship from Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses. She currently sits on the board of directors for both the Industrial Fabrics Association International and the Industrial Fabrics Foundation organizations. As a member of the Visiting Committee at the West Virginia University Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design, she guides peers and students in the field of textiles. ●
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Covesa K. Gragg
Covesa Kelly Events

Ten years ago, Covesa K. Gragg left her job in the banking industry to start her own business, Covesa Kelly Events. Since then it has been voted the No. 1 wedding planning company three years in a row by FOX 8 Hot List.

Gragg has created a mutually supportive environment for her all-women staff, opened her office to interns and served as a mentor to women in the industry. One of the few minorities on the International Live Events Association board, she volunteers her time with the organization to help build relationships between event planners and vendors.

She is praised for her willingness to teach others, female or male, who need guidance.
Known for utilizing her connections, Gragg’s Brides in the City tour helps expose brides-to-be to local vendors, while her Brunch in the City event brings together successful business owners to tell their stories, give tips and answer questions for small business owners.

Gragg cares not just about her own success, but also about the success of her employees, mentees, fellow small business owners and colleagues. Her friendly and inviting disposition and ambition have helped set her apart from others in the event planning field.  ●
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Anne Hartnett
Harness Cycle
GroundSwell Collective

As the founder of both the indoor cycling studio, Harness Cycle, and the event-based fitness company, GroundSwell Collective, Anne Hartnett is an entrepreneur set on more than running a business. Her aim is to connect communities, one movement experience at a time.

The owner and founder was a solutions engineer for a software company until a stop at a spinning class in Manhattan inspired her to bring a boutique fitness studio model to Cleveland.

Her first indoor cycling studio opened in 2013. While it brought in riders seven days a week to the high-energy classes, in the spring, summer and fall her weekly “Run the Bridges” events partner with local running experts to get riders off their bikes to run. The events draw between 40 to 65 runners.

Hartnett launched her second business, GroundSwell Collective, in January 2016. This venture aims to bring people together through unique experiences, events and retreats that feature yoga, paddle boarding and healthy lifestyle workshops.

Hartnett’s mission for her businesses, however, goes beyond fitness. She wants her staff and riders to connect to something bigger: a movement-driven community that inspires and shapes social atmospheres and jumpstarts neighborhood progress citywide. ●
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Ebie Holst
Founder and CEO

Recognizing the increasing stress and fragmentation plaguing the water industry, Ebie Holst built a business to address the problems.

Her research identified more than 200 water-specific companies within the five-county area around Cuyahoga County. Her interviews with experts from those firms helped form the idea for SplashLink, a centralized, web-based marketplace with tools that help water-solution buyers and sellers access critical market data, and find, connect, vet and problem solve with one another in real time.

With a growing roster of subscribers from across the globe, and partnerships with some of the water industry’s most respected organizations, including the U.S. Department of Commerce, which named the company a strategic partner, SplashLink is growing rapidly.

Holst currently advises the Department of Commerce as the representative of the water and wastewater segment of the U.S. environmental technology industry.

She has been tapped as an adviser and speaker on water issues and opportunities, and has provided testimony on Ohio SB 179, which allows recycled water as a private water system for the purposes of regulation by the Department of Health and boards of health. She also serves in an advisory capacity on a range of water issues, trends and technical considerations for organizations. ●
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Lee Ann Howard
Founder and CEO
Howard & O’Brien Executive Search

After several years at one of the largest worldwide executive recruiting firms, Lee Ann Howard founded Howard & O’Brien Executive Search in 2002. Success came quickly as it secured its first search assignment in its second day of existence, and it generated seven-figure revenues in its first full year.

Howard sets the firm apart in the industry by providing both clients and candidates consistent feedback as a search progresses, which the firm believes is the reason 72 percent of its clients reuse its services. Howard also built a board search practice, which has facilitated the development of long-term relationships with a number of leading corporations.

Seeing that female executives are often not adequately prepared to join a for-profit board of directors, Howard created the Conversations with the Board series, which grooms women in senior leadership roles through small group sessions involving CEOs and board chairs to meet and provide insights.

In the philanthropic realm, Howard has lent her expertise to the boards of numerous key community organizations, and is currently on the boards of the American Heart Association, the MetroHealth Foundation and the John Carroll University Entrepreneurs Association. ●
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2017 Progressive Organization Honoree


President Kristin Tull, Ph.D., cultivates a supportive environment at PRADCO, a family and women-owned management consulting firm, and has put programs in place to help develop female leaders.

In 2008, PRADCO conducted research to identify behaviors demonstrated by successful female leaders. From that, the company developed a program called Striving For Excellence: Women in Leadership. Participants attend six group workshops over six months, complete a leadership behavioral assessment and work one-on-one with a coach to focus on individual development goals.

To date, the program has helped more than 300 women from over 100 organizations and industries in and around Northeast Ohio, and led to the creation of a separate program specifically designed for women in law enforcement and the expansion of the program to the Columbus market.

PRADCO also facilitates this program internally with clients, which has served close to another 100 women in the area. The company has implemented female mentoring programs in some of its client organizations and leveraged opportunities to work with male leaders to further facilitate a more inclusive culture.
Between PRADCO’s internal and external programs, it’s reported that close to 25 percent of those who participated have been promoted or received advancement opportunities. ●
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2017 Organizations That Empower Honoree

Women’s Business Center of Northern Ohio

The Women’s Business Center of Northern Ohio aims to increase the number of successful women entrepreneurs by providing resources and tools to facilitate the creation of sustainable women-owned businesses.

The WBC offers high-quality women-centric services, such as training on a specific topic by local subject matter experts, one-on-one business coaching and access to shared workspaces. The goal is to facilitate new business starts, job growth, access to capital and increased profits.

Beyond its tangible benefits, the WBC serves as a catalyst for women to build the confidence and support systems that serve as the foundation for creating better lives for themselves and their families. It also enables them to build assets that lead to financial security.

The Economic and Community Development Institute, founded by Inna Kinney, is the WBC’s host organization. Under Kinney’s guidance, the WBC has assembled a team of women leaders with a proven track record of success in business, entrepreneurship and community engagement. For example, Carrie Rosenfelt, WBC executive director, has worked both for a microlender and a regional financial institution and has relevant experience in the areas of small business development and community engagement. ●
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2017 Advocate for Advancement Honoree

David C. Fulton Jr., CFA
President and CEO

As President and CEO of the Cleveland investment consulting firm Hartland, David C. Fulton Jr., CFA, championed the creation of the firm’s 2016 women’s initiative, HEELS, which stands for Hartland Empowers Exceptional Ladies.

The initiative was established to recruit women staffers, and retain and develop them through the use of education, support, mentoring, leadership training and networking opportunities. The program’s main goal is to help drive the success of Hartland by empowering women at every level of the firm.

The firm reports that HEELS was a success from the start and continues to broaden its reach across Northeast Ohio through its charitable contributions and hosting of women-centric events. For example, HEELS sponsored a number of events in 2016 to raise money for UH Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital, and helped contribute to the empowerment of women in Cleveland by hosting various women’s wellness events.

Fulton’s efforts to advance women through professional development are evidenced through his support and mentoring of women in the investment and finance industry. The firm has six female shareholders, which it says is a credit to Fulton’s tenacity. ●
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2017 Progressive Women Honorees

Ann-Marie Ahern
McCarthy, Lebit, Crystal & Liffman Co., LPA

Ann-Marie Ahern is the first female principal to be named to the management board of McCarthy, Lebit, Crystal & Liffman Co., LPA in its 57-year history. She also co-founded the firm’s Women’s Professional Committee, which seeks to advance the firm’s female attorneys through mentorship and networking opportunities.

As an employment lawyer and advocate, Ahern has worked hard to become one of the leading female lawyers in Cleveland by demonstrating a tremendous commitment to the advancement of women. A primary focus of her practice is the representation of women who have been subject to unlawful discrimination or sexual harassment in the workplace, and she has recovered millions of dollars in settlements and verdicts on their behalves.

She also serves as an executive coach to female leaders who find themselves struggling within male-dominated fields. Ahern works with these women to overcome the challenges presented in the workplace and promote their continued upward career trajectory.

Ahern has been recognized by Best Lawyers and Super Lawyers, which named her a top 25 woman lawyer in Cleveland and top 25 woman lawyer in Ohio for 2017. In 2014, she was honored by the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association as one of the Women in Law Making a Difference. ●
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Mindi Curry
North America Controller and Manager of Financial Analysis
Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics

Mindi Curry’s colleagues describe her as an ambitious member of the Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics family, with a career journey to be admired. Through the course of her 20-year career she’s been promoted numerous times and has risen through the ranks from the mailroom to her current position as North America controller and manager of financial analysis.

Curry was young and in college when she started with the company, a persona that she says was hard to shake as she progressed. She also had to fit into roles that were more commonly filled by men.

As a single mother of two young girls, she says she does her best to strike a work-life balance. That requires taking a nontraditional approach to making her schedule work while also managing teams in Solon, Asia, Europe and in other regions.

Curry attributes her success navigating her way through each position to her strong work ethic and meticulousness. She makes it a priority to deliver on deadlines, be accurate and timely, and provide high-quality work. She says being a woman plays into her effective management style, adopting a get-it-done attitude while juggling multiple responsibilities. ●
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Judy Ghazoul Hilow
Executive Director
Malachi House

When Judy Ghazoul Hilow took on the role of executive director of Malachi House, she hit the ground running. In her first four months she assessed the needs of the organization and worked closely with the co-founder and board of directors to put together a reputable team to help drive operations and fundraising efforts, and prioritize agency programs and activities.

In her first year, the nonprofit increased the number of individuals served by 83 percent, upped volunteer hours by 16 percent, increased grant awards by 35 percent, grew annual fund income by 38 percent and increased income from the agency’s annual benefit by 85 percent.

With her quick success, it may be surprising that Hilow hadn’t set out to be the head of a nonprofit. She began her career with Ernst & Whinney and envisioned making partner one day. After she got married and started a family, she decided to make her children the priority, so she reworked her goals and aspirations. She began to volunteer and became excellent at fundraising, raising over $1 million for Saint Maron Church’s capital campaign.

To her peers, Hilow is not only an executive director, but a leader, a fundraiser and an advocate for her staff and residents. ●
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Hu Huang
Director of International Logistics and Customs Compliance
Kichler Lighting

From being one of 817 million Chinese farmers to becoming one of 14 members on the FedEx International Customer Board of Directors, Hu Huang, director of International Logistics and Customs Compliance at Kichler Lighting, overcame the oppressive conditions of China’s Cultural Revolution to find success.

Born and raised in Shanghai, China, under Mao Tse-tung’s rule, Huang grew up at the time of the Cultural Revolution, during which many people in the country were forced to transform their political views through hard physical labor. Some, like her father, were sent to jails as anti-revolutionaries.

At age 15, Huang was sent to a farm for forced labor, working in the rice paddies for 12 hours a day for five years, earning $15 per year.

When the Cultural Revolution ended, Huang learned English from a radio program, took the National Exam and was accepted into the Shanghai Institute of Foreign Trade. After graduation, she was appointed to an import/export position in the Shanghai Bicycle Corp.

In 1985 she came to the U.S., attended the University of Cincinnati and earned her master’s degree in economics. Huang is now in charge of imports, exports and customs compliance for Kichler, which is in the top 1 percent of importers in the U.S. and exports to over 20 countries. ●
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Valarie J. McCall
Chief of Government and International Affairs and Acting Chief of Communications
City of Cleveland

Valarie J. McCall, chief of Government and International Affairs and acting chief of communications for the City of Cleveland, is a Cleveland-girl-become-woman who loves the city she lives in and proudly serves.

Before her career as a public servant began, McCall worked in fast food. She took public transit to and from work, an experience that would inform her as a member of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Association’s board and when she was the chair of the American Public Transportation Association. In those roles, she helped set policy for transit locally and nationally.

Her work with the city began during Mayor Michael White’s administration, serving as the youngest director of the federally funded Empowerment Zone and was Cleveland City Council’s youngest Clerk of Council.
McCall now serves as the primary liaison to local and state governments, and all federal and international agencies and organizations for Mayor Frank Jackson’s administration.

She oversees and administers the Jackson Administration’s appointments to internal and external boards and commissions and serves as the mayor’s primary representative to several national organizations. She has served as his lead for coordinating several large events in Cleveland, including the 2016 Republican National Convention and the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers Championship Parade and Rally. ●
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Karen D. Melton
CFO and Vice President of Human Resources
Kaufman Container Co.

Karen D. Melton started at Kaufman Container Co. as a bookkeeper’s assistant in 1977 and today serves as the company’s CFO and vice president of Human Resources.

Early on, Melton set her sights on becoming controller. Though she felt she had the knowledge, she didn’t have the academic degree required for the position. So Melton attended evening classes for eight years until she earned her degree. She found a mentor in the person holding the controller position at the time, and he helped pave the way for her to become not only controller, but also eventually vice president of finance.

Today, she is the only female member of the executive management team. She took on the human resources side of the business, in addition to finance, and has adopted a mentoring role, encouraging and promoting other women within the organization. As a result, she has helped one woman become vice president of sales and marketing, the first woman in the history of the company to hold that position.

Melton worked with the Women’s City Club of Cleveland and helped start its scholarship program for young women graduating from Cleveland City schools. After the club folded, she worked to ensure the scholarship program would continue in perpetuity. ●
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SueAnn Naso
Staffing Solutions Enterprises

In the 25 years SueAnn Naso has worked for Staffing Solutions Enterprises, she has championed work-life balance for employees and implemented a flexible and effective strategy for the all-women workplace that she leads.

Naso started her career as a business development manager and progressed through the organization to become its president. Under her leadership, Staffing Solutions received the nationally recognized When Work Works Award, which recognizes flexible workplaces that yield positive business results and help employees succeed at work and at home.

In addition to pioneering work-life balance issues, Naso has also played a role in fostering women’s professional development in the HR industry and Northeast Ohio business community. In 2006, Naso co-founded the Executive HR Women’s Network, which provides a means for leading female HR professionals to come together, network, have fun and to discuss HR and women’s leadership challenges. The network now has over 200 active members.

Naso has made community involvement and charity an important personal initiative. She has served on the board of the ERC Advisory Council and as the president of the Cleveland Society for Human Resource Management. Currently, Naso serves as a board member for Engage! Cleveland and Second Harvest Food Bank of North Central Ohio. ●
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Cheryl Perez
President and Director of Sales
Benefit Innovations Group

Getting things done and driving results through collaboration, partnerships and relationships as an entrepreneur and innovator in the health care industry is what Cheryl Perez, president and director of sales for Benefit Innovations Group, is all about.

After graduating from Ohio University, Perez spent two years living and working across Africa as an organizational capacity building consultant for nonprofit and nongovernmental agencies — before determining that she could make a larger impact in the U.S. if she moved into health care sales and management.

She started in Large Group Sales for UnitedHealth Group where she received recognition five times for being the No. 1 new business sales coordinator companywide. She left to take on the role of president and managing partner of CRP Benefit Services, helping it become the regional sales management agency in Greater Cleveland for Aflac.

Today, Perez’s agency team at Benefit Innovations Group has received top honors in sales and customer service. Her HR consulting and compliance firm is the largest African-American female-owned firm in the Cleveland area.

Outside of her role at the firm, Perez is a member of the National Association of Women Business Owners, among other commitments. ●
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Kim Riley
Hylant Cleveland

On her way to becoming president of Hylant Cleveland, Kim Riley started in an entry-level position, worked for two organizations and moved to three states before becoming president of Hylant Nashville. After building the Nashville office into a leader among the other 13 Hylant offices, she transferred to a Hylant office in Ohio so she could be closer to her aging parents, her children and her grandchildren.

When Riley joined the Hylant Cleveland office in 2015, she quickly built a culture of teamwork and growth. The enthusiasm and spirit she brought to the organization is contagious, and has proven to have an impact: In 2016, Hylant Cleveland had its best new business growth ever.

Riley is a tireless worker, willing to put in the long hours to accomplish her aggressive goals both inside and outside the company.

Since coming to Cleveland, she has joined the 2016-17 Leadership Cleveland Class, the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland’s Business Advisory Council and has built relationships with many of Cleveland’s leaders. Her passion for giving back to the community has led Hylant to get involved with organizations such as The Greater Cleveland Food Bank, Recovery Resources and The First Tee of Cleveland. ●
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Lee Ann Schwope Cochran
Vice President of Business Development and Sales

Becoming vice president of Business Development and Sales at Battelle typically isn’t a position that’s achieved until much later in a person’s career, and it’s in a discipline that has long been dominated by men. Lee Ann Schwope Cochran, however, has defied the odds, confronting and overcoming these and many other challenges to earn the position.

Cochran has been vocal in promoting diversity at all levels of the company. She partnered with Battelle’s Multi-Cultural Employee Resource Group to ensure that it is developing leadership and effectively forwarding the advancement of minority employees, sharing best practices with MERG and inviting its leadership to meetings and events to observe the results.

Cochran is considered a role model for women at Battelle through her leadership in the Battelle Women’s Network ERG and was its 2013 chair. Under her leadership, the group has grown significantly and its impact has increased. She continues to champion several initiatives, including mentoring, networking and work/life balance. She has helped raise corporate awareness of women’s issues and celebrates the achievements of women within Battelle through awards and recognition.

She also has been instrumental in establishing an Executive Mentoring Circle to address the leadership development needs of women and minorities. ●
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Alexandra Vidmar
Vice President, Debt Capital Markets
KeyBanc Capital Markets

Alexandra Vidmar thrives in competitive, high-power, high-stress, high-impact environments and does so while having a positive impact on her team. She has an impressive command of the financial industry’s current trends and depth of knowledge of the debt capital markets.

She also is considered the type of positive role model that young girls and professional women would benefit greatly from having. She embraces her womanhood while making her mark as a businesswoman.

Vidmar is involved with The Zechariah House, a sanctuary for single, pregnant women who lack support. She helps organize donations and events in her neighborhood, and volunteers her time to help the nonprofit get women back on their feet so they can raise their newborns in a caring, clean, positive environment on their way to a more permanent home and job.

Vidmar is praised by colleagues for balancing family responsibilities while continuing to perform at a high level as vice president of Debt Capital Markets for KeyBanc Capital Markets. She has overcome the stigma of being a woman in investment banking as well as a mother in a demanding business environment, embodying what young women in business in Northeast Ohio can accomplish. ●
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Sponsor notes

Cleveland Clinic is Northeast Ohio’s largest employer of women. More than 20,000 women find it a great place to work and grow. At Cleveland Clinic, more than 50 percent of our executives, 35 percent of our physicians and more than 70 percent of our managers are women. The drive, compassion and clinical excellence of women has helped to make Cleveland Clinic one of America’s top five medical centers (U.S. News & World Report).

Cleveland Clinic’s Executive Women’s Health Program has transformed the traditional physical into an integrated, personalized evaluation by some of the top medical staff in the world, including visits with experts in wellness, nutrition, exercise physiology and psychology.

Our program has been a proud sponsor of Smart Women Awards from its inception. We are pleased to have the opportunity to honor Linda McHugh, Chief Human Resource Officer, and all of our women caregivers for their important contribution to patient care and the health of our community. ●


As we mark the third anniversary of our sponsorship of the Smart Women Awards, SSEG defines success in today’s evolving business climate by providing quality service tailored to fit the needs of individual clients through idea innovation, creative implementation and achieving optimum results.

We provide broad and meaningful advice and support to all of our clients. In doing so, we regularly work with women leaders, entrepreneurs and emerging companies. For example, many of our clients are female-owned and operated enterprises. In turn, we understand the unique challenges and opportunities facing women in balancing business and career development, community involvement and family.

We have brought together a team of experienced attorneys from a variety of practice areas including business and transactional, employment, workers’ compensation, real estate, probate and estate planning, health care, business litigation, construction, insurance defense, transportation defense, domestic relations and family law.

We employ a collaborative approach to counseling our business clients from inception and formation, financing, corporate governance, day-to-day operations, resolving disputes, managing risks and mergers and acquisitions. We strive to assist our clients in achieving their immediate objectives and long-term goals as their business grows. ●


At Cleveland-based Planned Financial Services, one of the region’s leading independent wealth management firms, it’s no accident that women comprise two-thirds of the firm’s award-winning team.

“Our business is about relationships,” President and Founder Frank Fantozzi says. “Women excel in developing and nurturing meaningful long-term relationships, and that’s critical for helping our clients plan for the futures they desire at every stage of their lives.”

Diversity also plays a major role in the level of independent advice clients receive. Clients benefit from the team’s broad-based collective experience, knowledge and talents, rather than the perspective of a single adviser.

Ensuring all team members are afforded opportunities for upward career mobility, team members are incented to acquire advanced degrees, designations and certifications. Helping to grow strong, family-focused communities where team members live and work is a critical part of the firm’s mission to improve lives and promote work-life balance. Team members are afforded flexible work schedules to accommodate family priorities and lend their time, talents and financial resources to support charitable and community organizations, including LifeAct, Girls With Sole, the Breast Cancer Research & Support Fund, Boys & Girls Clubs of America and many more. ●


Le Chaperon Rouge started as a small business in the basement of a church more than 30 years ago and has since sprawled across Northeast Ohio to include 12 locations. It has flourished because of one constant: its caring, compassionate teachers.

Stella Moga-Kennedy, founder and owner, is a Romanian immigrant who came to this country in 1979 to work but could not find quality day care for her son. Dissatisfied with the existing centers and armed with a master’s degree in education and a mother’s love, she took a shot at doing it better herself.

“Children do need to play, but at the same time they need to learn and prepare for school,” she says.

The curriculum at Le Chaperon Rouge mixes fun, free-spirited activities with lessons in reading, mathematics, science, social studies, geography, computers, good manners and physical education. In addition, children learn French and Spanish in weekly classes starting at 2 1/2 years old.

“We start preparation for school early,” Moga-Kennedy says. “More than just the basic ABCs, we make it a fun learning experience by spotlighting a different country each month and studying an artist of the month.”

Each of the freestanding school buildings have both indoor and outdoor playgrounds to encourage physical activity year-round.

The school’s nutritional menu follows the same wellness philosophy. The school only serves 100 percent fruit juice and provides fresh fruit and vegetables with all meals. For breakfast, the pancakes are made from scratch, as are the spaghetti, meatloaf and other meals served for lunch.

“Our children are very well prepared for the competitive future in small groups and individual attention,” she says. “They score off the charts on national tests and many are placed in gifted programs or high-level reading or math in school.” ●


BMW of Westlake is proud to be the Official Auto Sponsor of Smart Business Events in 2017. BMW of Westlake has been serving Northeast Ohio since 1986. BMW of Westlake recently celebrated our second anniversary at our new location on Sperry Drive in Westlake in our new state-of-the-art facility and is proud to be an automotive leader in our community. Since opening our doors, BMW of Westlake has maintained a solid commitment to you, our customers, offering the widest selection of new and used BMW vehicles with ease of purchase as well as all your BMW service and parts needs. Find us at any Smart Business event and ask about the BMW Corporate Fleet pricing for savings of up to $3,500 for your organization’s employees and their families.

We are conveniently located just off I-90 on Sperry Drive in Westlake and we take great pride to serve our local community as well as all out-of-state clients. The past five years we have won Ohio’s No. 1 BMW Dealership by DealerRater and we will strive to deliver the ultimate buying experience for years to come. ●


USA Expo helps brands create data-driven experiential event marketing programs that engage attendees and deliver business results. With 26 years of expertise in connecting brands to audiences, USA Expo is a pioneer in modern experiential marketing. ●


Engagement doesn’t happen overnight. It is the result of a long-term commitment by your organization to connect with and invest in the wants and needs of your target audience.

Convero develops content marketing programs that increase engagement and performance. Our five-step process delivers detailed plans — from strategy and planning to execution and measurement — for organizations across a wide range of industries, including banking and finance, health care, higher education, manufacturing and associations. ●


LaCentre Conference & Banquet Facility opened its doors with one goal: to bring event visions to life. We define success through our constant evolution in the latest technological amenities, the finest cuisine and exceptional service. We create success through building long-lasting relationships with clients, hospitality professionals and our local community members. By providing extraordinary experiences for our guests and supporting our staff to achieve their goals, our vision is brought to life.

At LaCentre, our staff is supported by a team of significant leaders in the workplace that influence and support members to success. With 85 percent of our employees being women, they have positioned themselves in leadership roles essential to the success of LaCentre. We proudly support the growth of women in all roles they take on in the world, whether they are business owners, managers or other professionals.

Throughout the course of a year, LaCentre hosts many different events exclusively for women as well as building relationships with companies owned and operated by women. As part of those relationships, we encourage all individuals to find the leader inside and strive for success in our rapidly changing world. By providing our clients with the essentials they need, our visions are fulfilled to bring events to life. ●


Hughie’s Event Production Services has been the choice for live-event design and production resource since 1953. Hughie’s is a full-service event production company specializing in audio, video, lighting, décor, staging and rigging. We are a worldwide supplier of high-definition video projection equipment, concert quality audio systems, intelligent moving lights, staging systems, decor and more to satisfy all your presentation and special event needs. ●
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A pioneer — Unique Malachi House founded as a haven for indigent terminally ill

It was all coming together. The late Rev. Paul Hritz, who led a life of serving the poor as pastor of St. Malachi Church, learned in 1986 that a parishioner would donate a four-unit Clinton Avenue row house to the church.

Hritz lost no time to start achieving his goal. He wanted a site where the terminally ill person without funds could die with dignity and tapped visionary parishioner Catherine “Kaki” O’Neill as his co-founder of Malachi House.

“Father Hritz’s mission in life, and he said it all the time, was to help the poor,” O’Neill says. “He lived in a poor environment and saw a lot of very bad things.”

Hritz and O’Neill both knew there would be challenges. They would have to set up a diverse board of trustees, raise funds and convert the row houses to serve the terminally ill — no one had ever launched a group home/hospice facility. Hritz was confident O’Neill would make it all happen.

With a plan in place based on the example of St. Christopher’s Hospice near London, England, O’Neill proceeded to gather board members and supporters. While financial assistance started coming from sources such as the John P. Murphy Foundation and philanthropist Herbert Strawbridge, the breakthrough came when The Cleveland Foundation under Steven Minter, president and executive director, gave its support.

“That was it,” O’Neill says. “Once Steve liked the program, believed in it and invited me to a seminar of his people — that was the stamp of approval.”

O’Neill also realized Malachi House needed another kind of support.

“I needed tremendous help with being connected to the Cleveland community,” she says. “I didn’t have those connections. I was a work-at-home mother, and my brother, Tom Sullivan, chairman and CEO of RPM, was a huge help to me with developing a network.”

Peaceful place

Judy Ghazoul Hilow, executive director, stresses that Malachi House is not only a peaceful place, but a comfortable home.

“When people come to us, there is a lot of fear. Many times they are here because they can’t go anywhere else. That’s where we come in. We give them a home,” she says.

If a person wants to reside at Malachi House, the process starts when a social worker applies to Malachi House on the person’s behalf. Anyone who is on a respirator or ventilator or has an intravenous port is not eligible, Hilow says.

'Kaki' O'Neill visits resident Amber.

‘Kaki’ O’Neill visits resident Amber.

After being in operation several years, Malachi House separated from the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland, opting to be ruled by its own board of trustees. But it still serves all people.

“It is without regard to race or religion. It is just ‘Love one another.’ We are all humans,” O’Neill says.

Faith in the mission

Receiving no government funding, Malachi House relies on contributions from individuals, foundations and corporations for donations of time and money. Thanks to many volunteers, union laborers and more than 100,000 donated service hours, Malachi House opened on Sept. 28, 1988.

Two years later, a $2 million capital campaign enabled t

Malachi House resident Herbert plays 'Begin the Beguine' on the piano.

Malachi House resident Herbert plays ‘Begin the Beguine’ on the piano.

he facility to increase capacity from 10 to 15 beds. The home also has a full-service kitchen, family dining room, living room, chapel and atrium.

Malachi House has served more than 2,000 residents, and their names are inscribed on a wall in the chapel. More than 500 volunteer hours are logged each month.

There are no medical services in-house, says Joe Granzier, chairperson. Medical attention is outsourced to local hospices.

“I always like to call the employees sand volunteers the Angels of Malachi House because what they are doing on a day-to-day basis is very, very difficult,” Granzier says. “You are dealing with death. People come here to die. Those people who every day work here and volunteer here are special people. These Angels make Malachi House work.”


Ann Ritty

Ann Ritty has been a volunteer for 10 years at Malachi House, having made a promise to a dying friend to do so.

“Frequently I am asked, ‘Isn’t it depressing?’” she says. “And I say, ‘Absolutely not.’ That is mainly due to the atmosphere at Malachi House and the staff and residents. Believe it or not, on some days it can be a lot of fun.”

Malachi House is planning a major fundraising drive and hopes to continue helping the terminally ill not by adding more beds, but by adding land for a garden and perhaps a cookout spot.

“With more than 15 beds, you begin to look like an institution and act like an institution. And that’s not going to happen,” O’Neill says.

How to reach: Malachi House, (216) 621-8831 or www.malachihouse.org