Fundraising Professionals Honor Local Philanthropists

By George Nelson 
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The Association of Fundraising Professionals Mahoning-Shenango Chapter is calling attention to the contributions of the local philanthropic community as it marks National Philanthropy Day.

Businesses, individuals and organizations will be recognized in eight categories at an awards luncheon Nov. 15 at the Grand Resort in Howland Township, formerly known as Avalon Inn & Resort.

The Mahoning-Shenango AFP chapter received multiple nominations in each category, says Susan Berny, director of gift planning for the Ohio Living Foundation. Berny is co-chairing the event with Luke Politsky, fund development specialist for the Catholic Diocese of Youngstown. 

Among the honorees are the former Vindicator and its ownership, the Brown family, which will receive the Valley Impact Award. 

“The Vindicator was a locally owned paper that served the needs of the  community for 150 years,” Berny says. “The long-standing relationship with the newspaper and the Mahoning Valley was a tremendous strength deserving of the Valley Impact award.”

Other honorees are:

  • Carolynn and George Mitchell, Outstanding Philanthropist.
  • Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC, Outstanding Corporate Philanthropist.
  • Kravitz Delicatessen and Inspired Catering, Outstanding Small Business Philanthropist.
  • Hospice of the Valley volunteers, Outstanding Volunteer Fundraising Group.
  • Attorney Carl A. Nunziato, Outstanding Volunteer Fundraiser.
  • Hannah and Brooklyn Beighley, Outstanding Young Philanthropists.
  • John M. MacIntosh, Legacy Award.

What follows is a snapshot of the honorees and their generosity.

Legacy Award: John M. MacIntosh

The late John MacIntosh would have loved the exhibit now running in the gallery he endowed in memory of his parents, J. Millard and Elizabeth Geiger MacIntosh, Lou Zona says. 

MacIntosh, who lived in Poland, favored traditional art and realism, as represented by “William McGregor Paxton and Elizabeth Okie Paxton: An Artistic Partnership,” which will be on exhibit in the MacIntosh Gallery through Nov. 10 at The Butler Institute of American Art. “It’s appropriate that the gallery that bears his name is also presenting the wonderful work of the Paxtons,” Zona, The Butler’s executive director, says. 

John MacIntosh

Among the gifts MacIntosh made over the years to the museum he loved was a $1 million unrestricted endowment following his death last year, says its executive director. “He knew better than anyone the needs of a cultural institution and was very generous when he passed,” Zona says.  

“He promoted that kind of giving,” says Becky Davis, the museum’s development director. “He was very open and helped with our planned giving by letting people know that he had set money aside for The Butler.” 

MacIntosh was rendered paraplegic from a car accident following his 1967 return from service in Vietnam. His mother would take him through the museum’s exhibits in his wheelchair, Zona recalls. 

Despite his physical limitations, he was a “wonderful volunteer.” Eventually, he joined the board of directors and ultimately served as president. 

“We would have lunch at least once a month, and the topic always came to money and the needs of the museum,” Zona says. 

Other organizations that benefited from MacIntosh’s philanthropy include Easterseals of Mahoning, Trumbull & Columbiana Counties and the Youngstown Foundation, on whose distribution committee he served until his death, as well as the Hine Memorial Fund, which serves children with disabilities, and Smarts, which received its first legacy gift from him.  

He visited the space in the Ohio One Building where Smarts is now located before it was renovated and donated about $40,000 to the organization. “He saw the potential of the building and what we could do,” says Becky Keck, president of Smarts.

Outstanding Philanthropist: George and Lynn Mitchell

The Mitchells are this year’s Outstanding Philanthropists honorees. 

George Mitchell is the founder of George A. Mitchell Co., a Boardman-based manufacturer of hydraulic push-pointing machines. “Last time we counted, I think we had our equipment in 33 countries around the world,” he says.  

“You get, you give. You’ve got to give back,” Lynn Mitchell says. “You have to give back if you’re fortunate enough. Of course, my husband has worked himself to death but we’re still fortunate that the opportunity’s there. … There’s so much need.” 

Lynn Mitchell became involved with Angels for Animals around 1996. She had just closed a business and decided to adopt a cat. “I liked the way they were doing things, so I asked to be on the board,” she says. 

After joining the board, she volunteered at the shelter for the next 22 years, until health issues curtailed her activities. 

Lynn and George Mitchell donated $1 million to Angels for Animals.

“I will go back as soon as I’m recovered completely,” she says. 

Among the Mitchells’ financial contributions to Angels for Animals was a $1 million donation to fund the Angel Wing expansion.

“The Mitchells have been pillars of Angels for Animals,” states Diane Less, co-founder of the organization, in her letter nominating them for the philanthropy award. “We would never have been able to do [Angels’] amazing work without their help.” 

Other beneficiaries of the Mitchells’ philanthropy include YMCA of Youngstown, YWCA Mahoning Valley, The Butler Institute of American Art, Easterseals of Mahoning, Trumbull & Columbiana Counties and Youngstown State University, where they have provided scholarship funds. They also recently made a substantial contribution for construction of  a makerspace building at Camp Fitch. 

The Mitchells’ philanthropy is funded by a trust they established. Each year in November they discuss distribution of the funds.  

As valuable as their donations are, Lynn Mitchell emphasizes the importance of volunteerism. 

“You can get people like us to give all the money to get things started. But to keep it going, if you don’t have volunteers, you don’t have anything. You have an empty building,” she says. “Somebody has to do the work.”

Outstanding Corporate Philanthropist: Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC

Alexa Sweeney Blackann, vice president of Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC, says the Boardman dealership has a history of giving back to the community that goes back to her great-grandfather and grandfather.

“My mother and father have instilled that in me as well, and hopefully that’s part of our culture every day, to give back,” says Blackann, the fourth generation of her family to work for the dealership. Donations this year, mostly in cash, will likely hit $350,000, she notes.

Causes involving children are a top priority for Blackann, a mother of four. Another focus is health care, a direction influenced by her mother, Patricia, who is the health commissioner for Mahoning County. 

Some of the community institutions that have benefited from the dealership’s generosity include The Butler Institute of American Art children’s gallery, which her great-grandfather and grandfather established and the family still supports, she says. Youngstown State University also has enjoyed “a long relationship” with the Sweeneys.

The dealership’s involvement with United Way of Youngstown & the Mahoning Valley saw Doug Sweeney – the dealership’s president and her father – lead past fundraising campaigns. This year, the dealership is fourth-quarter sponsor of United Way’s centennial campaign. And United Way will be the beneficiary of its Operation Santa campaign, in which the dealership will donate $50 from every Chevrolet, GMC or Buick sold during December.   

Alexa Sweeney Blackann says her great-grandfather valued philanthropy.

Sweeney, a sponsor of the YSU Summer Festival of the Arts, also partnered with Smarts Community Art School and provided a GMC vehicle for children to paint that later was put on display at the dealership. 

Smarts hadn’t been at the festival since 2013, says Becky Keck, Smarts president. Blackann reached out to her to come up with a project that could make that happen. 

Other beneficiaries of the Sweeneys’ philanthropy include Hospice of the Valley, Ballet Western Reserve and Akron Children’s Hospital Mahoning Valley. 

“It’s important to be in the community to support all these organizations and give back because it’s the community that has supported us for almost 100 years,” Blackann says.

Outstanding Small Business Philanthropist: Jack Kravitz

To Jack Kravitz, community philanthropy is good business and the right thing to do. 

Kravitz, owner of Kravitz Delicatessen and Inspired Catering in Liberty Township, is this year’s Outstanding Small Business Philanthropist. One of the reasons he is touched to receive the award is the recognition of the value of what he donates. 

“The restaurant business and food-service business are very low-margin businesses,” he says. “You’re not going to see where Kravitz Deli has a building named after it because we’ve given that much money. But it’s an honor to be recognized because we do things. We give of ourselves.” 

A main focus of Kravitz’s philanthropy is working with institutions that enrich the cultural life of the Mahoning Valley, he says. Examples include sponsorship of the remodeling of the ballroom at Stambaugh Auditorium and participation in Youngstown State University’s Mad About the Arts and Science of Brewing at Oh Wow! The Roger & Gloria Jones Children’s Center for Science & Technology. 

Jack Kravitz says he believes in helping institutions that enrich cultural life.

Kim Urig, program and special events coordinator for Junior Achievement of Mahoning Valley, states in her nomination letter that Kravitz discounted by $15 what would have been the $23.95 per-plate catering price for JA’s Designer Bag Bingo, which drew 400 guests.

The value of his annual donation to the VIP tasting event at Science of Brewing was $1,500, she adds. Other beneficiaries of his generosity include Youngstown Area Goodwill Industries and Polish Youngstown.  

Kravitz also contributes food and services to events such as the Girard-Liberty-McDonald Relay for Life survivors’ dinner and participated in a fundraiser in memory of Justin Leo, a police officer killed two years ago. 

And his philanthropy takes more direct forms. In the wake of Northside Regional Medical Center’s closing, he offered free meals to affected workers  and provided free or discounted food for federal workers during the government shutdown. 

“We wanted to reach out to people in the community and say, ‘We feel your pain. We understand it’s difficult,’ ” Kravitz says.

Outstanding Volunteer Fundraiser: Carl A. Nunziato

Attorney Carl A. Nunziato, this year’s Outstanding Volunteer Fundraiser, attributes the focus of his philanthropic efforts – health care and veterans – to his experiences in Vietnam. 

Nunziato, a graduate of what today is Youngstown State University, participated in ROTC. 

He served two tours of duty in Vietnam, the second of which left him wounded from a mortar round that landed two feet behind him. Both of his legs had to be amputated. 

Nunziato was in the hospital for 23 months and underwent 17 surgeries. After he was released from Walter Reed Army Medical Center, he applied and went straight to law school at Case Western Reserve University, earning his law degree in 1971. 

He then worked for 28 years at what was Dollar Bank, which was subsequently acquired by the former National City Bank.   

Carl A. Nunziato started the barrier-free architecture committee.

“When I came back, I was appalled that every place I went to had steps, curbs and stuff,” Nunziato says. 

In one instance, a friend, Don Baker, a paraplegic, missed a divorce hearing because he could not get up the stairs of the Mahoning County Courthouse because the people he  had arranged to assist him didn’t  show.  

“So I started the barrier-free architecture committee and we put the first curb cuts in Youngstown,” he says. 

“We put it in front of the steel mills on Front Street, and Don Baker and I paid for it out of our own pockets.” 

In the early 1990s, Nunziato was instrumental in lobbying and raising funds for the $4 million U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs clinic on Belmont Avenue in Youngstown. 

He later helped raise $1.4 million for the Veterans Resource Center at YSU, which opened in 2014 and was last year named in his honor. He also has raised funds for scholarships.  

“He has a passion about supporting the Mahoning Valley, to make our community a better place to live and work,” says Paul Homick, president of the Mercy Health Foundation, which nominated Nunziato for the award.

Outstanding Volunteer Fundraising Group: Hospice of the Valley Volunteers

Raising money for Hospice of the Valley represents just a portion of the tasks performed by Hospice of the Valley’s cadre of volunteers, this year’s recipient of the outstanding Volunteer Fundraising Group Award.

Hospice of the Valley – which operates locations in Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties – provides a range of services to individuals  who have received a terminal diagnosis. 

Some volunteers sit at the bedside of clients, whether they live in their own house, a skilled nursing facility, an assisted living center or at Hospice House in North Lima, which opened in 2006 after volunteers raised funds for its construction.

“Our volunteers are multifaceted,” says Paula Durkin, manager of  psychosocial services at Hospice of the Valley.   

The volunteer group serves as the backbone for the fundraising events that Hospice of the Valley stages, assert Durkin and Liz McGarry, director of development. These events include the annual golf outing, the Mardi Gras Party and the recent Sip, Savor & Shop event. 

Liz McGarry and Paula Durkin rely on Hospice volunteers like Marian Palomaki.

Volunteers also wrap gifts for donations at the Southern Park Mall during the holiday season and host the Awesome Aussie luncheon with Outback Steakhouse. 

And the volunteers hold fundraisers such as a pancake breakfast to raise money to help fund the work they do, such as paying for gas cards for volunteers who have to travel to remote places. 

“Some of our volunteers are on a limited income, so if we can help them in any way we can, we try to do that,” McGarry says. 

Among the Hospice volunteers is Marian Palomaki of Struthers, who has been a volunteer for 19 years. 

“You couldn’t find a better place to volunteer. They do so many nice things for everybody,” she says. 

Palomaki knows first hand the value of Hospice of the Valley and its volunteers. They took care of her husband when he came home from the hospital in early 2019. 

“They were so wonderful,” she says. 

Home care volunteers came to sit with him and bathe him when she had to go to the store and their children weren’t available. 

“These selfless, caring and all-giving volunteers are so wiling to help with any project or fundraising event we have going on,” says Tizzy Grischow, volunteer coordinator. “There are times where we will call volunteers at the very last minute to help – and they come.”

Outstanding Youth Philanthropists: Hannah and Brooklyn Beighley

This year’s Outstanding Youth Philanthropists honorees, Hannah and Brooklyn Beighley, have been engaged in philanthropy for most of their lives. 

The sisters – Hannah, 15, and Brooklyn, 12 – live in Hermitage Pa., and began fundraising in 2011 through the Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, which raises money to combat childhood cancer. Since then, they have raised $35,468 that primarily funds research.

“Brooklyn and Hannah are a perfect example of how great things can be accomplished no matter what your age,” says Landis Erwin, development director for the Crossroads Foundation, who nominated the sisters. 

“With a simple lemonade stand, selling a simple beverage in simple paper cups, these two young girls have donated more than $30,000 to help other children with cancer. They are inspiring others in so many ways,” Erwin says.

The siblings have a strong personal connection to the fight against cancer.   

“Our mom had cancer when she was little,” Hannah Beighley says. 

Megan Beighley was diagnosed at age 7 with leukemia. She underwent three years of chemotherapy treatment through the Cleveland Clinic and was subsequently declared in remission.

Brooklyn, left, and Hannah Beighley, right, make their mother, Megan, proud.

“As a 7-year-old, I didn’t realize the gravity of the situation,” Megan Beighley, a second-grade teacher, recalls. “In becoming a mother all those years later, I can understand the effect it had on my parents.” 

She and her daughters read a children’s book about Alex’s Lemonade Stand, which inspired them. Her mother, Barbara Mild, also encouraged her grandchildren.

Their father built their lemonade stand and the family makes about 12 gallons of lemonade for each day of the sale.  

Helped by their parents and grandparents, the siblings set up their stand each June for a day at their grandparents’ house on Morefield Road, which gets more traffic than their house. 

The year after they started, they also began setting up at the two-day Hermitage Arts Festival in July. 

“We’re proud of them for spending all the time that they do,” Megan Beighley says. 

The family also has formed relationships with people they’ve met through the lemonade stand, Megan Beighley says. 

Visitors share stories about how cancer has affected their families. 

“There’s an older couple that comes every year and they write a check to the girls. They donate in the name of their grandson who passed away  from childhood cancer,” Megan  Beighley says. “It’s nice to visit with them.” 

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