Fundraising Professionals Celebrate Local Philanthropy

NILES, Ohio – Local institutions such as The Butler Institute of American Art and Stambaugh Auditorium wouldn’t exist in the first place or have operated for the past century without philanthropy, Rebecca Davis, The Butler’s development director, said.

Elevating that kind of philanthropy is why the National Philanthropy Day Luncheon is important. Davis and Leah Sakacs, executive director of Sight for All United, co-chaired this year’s event, which is put on annually by the Association of Fundraising Professionals Mahoning-Shenango Chapter. It was held at the Eastwood Event Centre.  

Since 1991, The Mahoning-Shenango AFP chapter has recognized some 200 philanthropists in various categories, said JoAnn Stock, AFP chapter president.  

“Through their support of so many worthy causes, these philanthropists help to improve the quality of life in our community, and we are so grateful. Their gifts of time, talent and treasure make a positive impact for so many,” Stock said. “Thank you all for all that you have done and also for inspiring others to make a difference in our community through their personal giving.”

The AFP chapter presented awards in seven categories:

  • Outstanding Philanthropist: Dr. Chander and Mrs. Karen Kohli.
  • Outstanding Corporate Philanthropist: Rick’s Ranchwear.
  • Outstanding Small Business Philanthropist: Birdfish Brewing Co.
  • Outstanding Volunteer Fundraiser: Dr. Sergul Erzurum.
  • Outstanding Volunteer Fundraising Group: Friends of the Public Library of Youngstown & Mahoning County.
  • Outstanding Youth Philanthropist: Macenzee Gaal.
  • Legacy Award (presented posthumously): Richard A. Shale.

“Philanthropy can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people. I think most of us think that it’s people with a lot of money giving it away, and that’s a part of it,” said Stan Boney, WKBN-TV news anchor and master of ceremonies for the event. “It can be a financial commitment, but it can also be time and talent that is donated for certain things, and you will see that with the honorees that we are going to mention today.”

Chander Kohli, who accepted the Outstanding Philanthropists Award with his wife, Karen, recalled that he had just $615 when he arrived in Elyria in 1966. In the years since, he has been fortunate enough to not only be able to pay his debts but to share what he has with others.

“Each of us, if we find ourselves in a position that we can share what we have, then we should because you can’t take it with you,” Karen Kohli said.

“This is just the beginning of my philanthropy work,” said Gaal, who was recognized for her efforts to support victims of domestic violence. “I hope that in my future I can help and touch as many lives as possible.”

The support that Sight for All United, a relatively new foundation, has received in the community means everything to those involved with the organization, co-founder Erzurum said. She attributed that support to the simplicity and clarity of its mission.

“Our supporters understand what sight means. It’s more than just seeing,” she said. “Sight actually provides children the chance for academic success. It helps them have confidence in their future. It helps our elderly citizens live independently and to have life with dignity.”  

Birdfish co-owner Jon Dunn shared credit with the organizations the brewery partners.

“Our efforts and impact would not be possible without the great organizations that we support,” he said. “This award is a testament to the collective efforts of the many people and organizations that we work with.”

Dunn also used his time at the podium to accept the award to announce a new fundraising initiative the Columbiana-based brewery is undertaking in collaboration with Noble Creature Cask House in Youngstown and Modern Methods Brewing Co. in Warren. Foedor 4 Food will raise money for local food-related charities through the sale of unique beers the three breweries will produce.   

Scott Schulick, senior vice president at Stifel in Canfield, accepted the Legacy Award on behalf of Shale, a longtime English professor at Youngstown State University who left $6 million to various local causes and institutions he supported after his death in 2022.

“He was grounded, decent, independent, accomplished and a man of many interests and talents,” Schulick said. “How he found the time to do all those things he did and do them very well at 150% is what made Rick the remarkable person he was. His enthusiasm and energy were unlimited.”

Pictured at top: From left are Joni Blase, Rick Blase, Scott Schulick, Marlene Braunlich, Karen Kohli, Chander Kohli, Macenzee Gaal, Sergul Erzurum, Jon Dunn and Josh Dunn.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.