Rock Stars in Philanthropy to Be Honored Friday
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — The Mahoning-Shenango Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals recognizes honorees in seven categories at its National Philanthropy Day luncheon Nov. 17 Friday at Mr. Anthony’s in Boardman.
“We have great honorees, those who are newer and ones who have been around for a long time, giving back and reaching out to those around them for as long as anybody can remember,” says Landis Erwin, chairwoman of the event.
The people and organizations nominated have been “such influencers in our community,” she adds. “There are people in this community who are rock stars and we don’t necessarily get to see or recognize them or thank them.”
In this issue of The Business Journal, we do thank them as we report the local AFP chapter’s annual awards for the opportunity.
Reid and Judy Schmutz
The Mahoning Valley has many needs, Reid Schmutz knows. “There always have been and probably always will be. We can’t correct all of them but we try to do our part to take care of the needs of the Valley,” he says.
For their role in addressing those needs, Schmutz and his wife, Judy, are being recognized with this year’s Outstanding Philanthropists Award.
“You give what you can,” Judy Schmutz says, “and don’t ever think your contribution doesn’t matter.”
Scott Schulick’s nomination letter points out that volunteerism and philanthropy have always been Schmutz family values, beginning with Reid’s grandfather, “who left a legacy of giving and philanthropy in the Mahoning Valley.” With his parents, Reid established the Schmutz Family Foundation.
“Much of Reid’s career was spent advancing philanthropy in the community and motivating others to give,” Schulick writes. Taking a buyout in 1989 after 25 years at the Standard Slag Co., Schmutz served as president of the Youngstown State University Foundation.
The couple (pictured above), married more than 50 years, grew up in Youngstown and now reside in Boardman. They focus much of their giving on education and children.
“In the future, that’s the only way you’re going to solve some of these problems,” Reid Schmutz says. “If we can get more people educated, we’re going to be a lot better off.”
Notably, with a $500,000 gift they established the Schmutz Family Endowment Fund for Families with Multiples to support families with multiple births. The cause is of particular importance to them – their daughter, Judy, bore triplets.
“The care was awesome,” Judy Schmutz says.
One reason the Schmutzes established the endowment is the stresses – financial and otherwise – associated with multiple births, Reid Schmutz says.
Schulick notes that YSU is one of the most significant beneficiaries of the couple’s generosity, including the establishment of the Schmutz Family Scholarship Fund and the Schmutz Athletic Facilities Support Fund.
In addition to their financial contributions, both are involved with local organizations. Judy Schmutz is on the board of Public Library of Youngstown & Mahoning County, and her husband’s community service has included Mahoning Valley Sports Charities, Junior Achievement of Mahoning Valley, the Rotary Club of Youngstown, Akron Children’s Hospital-Mahoning Valley’s Community Leadership Council and the Rich Center for Autism at YSU.
They also founded the Boardman High School Swim Team Boosters.
Both grew up watching their parents’ service as volunteers. Helping others was “just a way of life,” Judy Schmutz says. “Sometimes they need your time as well as your money to make a difference.”
Rand and Eleanor Becker
To Lee Ann Fortunato-Hetzel, her late aunt and uncle, Eleanor and Rand Becker of Youngstown, were a second set of parents to her and her brothers.
To Becky Keck, they were the community’s “quintessential philanthropists,” a view many in the Mahoning Valley share.
The Beckers, who died within 11 days of each other in 2016, are this year’s Legacy Award honorees.
Rand Becker, a longtime teacher and administrator primarily in the Youngstown schools, joined two fellow educators to form a company that produced materials to help school districts stay in compliance with federal and state laws.
“On that side of the family, my father was the only one who had children. They treated us like we were their kids,” Fortunato-Hetzel says of her and her siblings. “They were very conscious of the family and then, beyond that, their community.”
Although they had no children of their own, the Beckers loved children, she says. They hosted Rotary exchange students in their home and put at least one student completely through Youngstown State University.
“They became parents to him, even though he had parents. Every Mother’s Day, my aunt would receive flowers from him,” Fortunato-Hetzel says.
“Rand and Eleanor contributed significantly to many community efforts both publicly and quietly. And they taught others the importance of giving,” Keck, executive director of the Smarts Community Art School, wrote in her nomination letter. The Beckers gave both financially and their time and expertise, she adds.
Their financial gifts approached $100,000 each year as well as contributions to several area organizations in their trust.
The couple’s philanthropy focused largely, although not exclusively, on the Youngstown Playhouse, the English Center, Trinity United Methodist Church, Rotary Club of Youngstown, the Rotary International Foundation and education and school programs.
Rand Becker’s role in helping to keep the Youngstown Playhouse afloat was the one Fortunato-Hetzel says she is most aware of. The Playhouse was important to an unidentified woman whose estate he served as executor, and he “took her passion and wanted to carry on that legacy for her,” she says.
In addition to large checks the couple wrote to support the theater, he met regularly with the Internal Revenue Service to help resolve Playhouse tax issues and provided money every month to sustain its activities.
The Beckers’ heirs established, through the YSU Foundation, a scholarship in their honor for individuals from Youngstown inner-city schools to study education. “That was the best thing we could have done to honor them,” Fortunato-Hetzel says.
Roger and Gloria Jones
The best-known example of Roger and Gloria Jones’s philanthropy is the attraction in downtown Youngstown that bears their names. But their generosity is hardly limited to the doors of the Oh Wow! The Roger & Gloria Jones Children’s Center for Science & Technology.
The founders of Fireline Inc. are being honored with the Valley Impact Award at the National Philanthropy Day event.
Philanthropy had long been important to Gloria Jones and her husband, Roger, who died in August. Jones says one of the values she was reared with is that people with more money than they need have an obligation to do as much as they can for those who don’t, “because it’s kind of a crap shoot how you end up. …
“Roger always thought that the main virtue was fairness, and that’s how he always tried to do everything,” Jones continues. “That’s why Fireline is structured the way it is, with profit sharing, with welcoming a union, with the union now owning a third of it.”
Seeing an opportunity to support a more diverse manufacturing economy and the importance of being on the cutting edge of technology, the Joneses provided early support for Oh Wow, beginning with its first incarnation as the Children’s Museum of the Valley. They were particularly interested in instilling in youth an interest in science and technology and ensuring that the center remains in Youngstown, to serve as a resource for inner-city youth.
Among their many contributions are the lead gift of $250,000 in 2009 to support the creation of Oh Wow and, more recently, a $1 million endowment to sustain the center.
“It’s an investment in the future. It’s an investment in a future that’s especially good for Youngstown,” Jones says.
The couple “demonstrated exceptional generosity in providing financial support and leadership for numerous charitable causes from their earliest days in Youngstown,” says Suzanne Barbati, executive director of Oh Wow, who nominated them for the Valley Impact Award.
“We always felt if you’re not working toward the future and how to make the future better, you’re not really living,” Jones says.
In addition to Oh Wow, organizations they have supported include the Butler Institute of American Art (beginning with a gift they made before moving here, based on a visit to the museum), the Public Library of Youngstown & Mahoning County and several theater venues here. Their support for Youngstown State University ranges from science and technology to the fine arts.
“They truly believe in giving to institutions that bring culture and learning to the Valley residents,” Deborah Liptak, library development director, wrote in her letter supporting their nomination.
Boak & Sons Inc.
Boak & Sons in Austintown got its start in 1974 when its president, Sam Boak, was a senior at Canfield High School. A family friend, who had an insulation business in Sandusky, suggested Boak enter the field, he says.
Boak’s father, an engineer at Republic Steel Corp., borrowed money from his credit union to help launch the business and Boak, who had been awarded a track scholarship to attend Ohio State University, chose Youngstown State University instead while doing insulation and sales as his father oversaw the business.
By age 20, Boak had repaid his father for the startup funds. The business has operated more than 40 years and will be honored as Outstanding Corporate Philanthropist.
“Giving back and helping others has always been an important priority,” Boak says. “As Boak & Sons grew, so did the opportunity to help more and more organizations.”
The pattern of Boak’s philanthropy and that of his company “has been maintained throughout his adult life and has increased as his business has expanded and prospered,” Michael Raulin, a psychology professor at Youngstown State University and a member of the Canfield Rotary Club, said in his nominating letter. Boak, too, is a member of the Canfield Rotary.
“We are truly blessed to be able to pay it forward and give back to the community,” Boak says.
Beneficiaries of the philanthropy in addition to Rotary are the YMCA, to which Boak donated land valued at more than $200,000 for the proposed Austintown branch, the War Vets Museum in Canfield, Habitat for Humanity and YSU.
The YMCA is “an incredible organization that promotes family unity,” Boak says. “It is a safe environment for all ages that can provide day care for dual-income families.”
Adds his wife, Donna, “We are very blessed.” As they grew up, neither had much money, she says. “Over the years we have been able to make a very nice living and we want to spread that,” she says.
“We came from humble beginnings and are blessed to give back,” Sam Boak says, and encourages others to do the same. They recently donated to victims of Hurricane Harvey and challenged other companies and individuals to match their donation. “If you give back, you will be empowered,” he says.
Jet Creative: Outstanding Small-Business Philanthropist
The founders and co-owners of Jet Creative, Sarra Mohn and Emily Rusu, became acquainted while employed at other companies.
Both women held jobs where they made good money, Mohn, president of Jet, recalls.
They enjoyed working together and shared similar passions and missions in their lives. Those included being able to donate their services at any time and deciding what clients they would work with based on their passion for what they do, she says.
Emily Rusu and Sarra Mohn
“We came to the realization that we would rather make less money fulfilling our passions in life and helping others to get ahead,” Mohn says.
“We went in together having the same goal of social responsibility,” adds Rusu, chief creative officer. “Going into it not thinking, ‘How can we make a whole bunch of money?’ made a difference because we care about our clients – we really want them to succeed.”
About 40% of the Boardman firm’s clients are nonprofits or “passion projects,” Mohn says. Among the organizations Jet has worked with are Potential Development (which nominated Jet), Smarts Community Art School, Downtown Youngstown Partnership and Youngstown Business Incubator. The company will be honored as Outstanding Small-Business Philanthropist.
In some cases work is performed pro bono, and all nonprofits are offered at minimum a discount from Jet Creative’s standard hourly rate.
Mohn estimates Jet has donated more than $200,000 in services to more than two dozen clients.
Mohn and Rusu will meet with an organization’s leadership to assess its needs, Mohn says. They don’t want lack of funding for marketing to stymie a great organization with good leadership.
The relationship with Potential Development, which provides educational services for autistic youths, is a good example, Mohn continues. The program has “excellent leadership” and funding but spent every penny on the students.
“We love that. We got involved in every angle we could with that, and that included complete and total revamp of marketing – every single thing they could ever want, pro bono,” she says. “We’re at the point now where they’re in maintenance mode.”
All Good Things Thrift Shoppe
All Good Things Thrift Shoppe in Grove City, Pa., got its start in February 2014 when a group of volunteers at the Grove City Food Pantry acted on pursuing their vision.
“We had a vision that we could take these things and make something out of nothing,” founder and owner Debbie Little-Kochems recalls.
Where the food pantry’s Thrifty Threads gives clothing away, All Good Things sells donated secondhand items as well as some purchased items to the public, the profits donated to various local organizations. “Most people would rather have a bargain than a handout,” she says.
Sara and Jerry Mahaffey, Debbi Little-Kochems and Connic Dicola.
Members of the thrift store’s core group brought various skill sets, Little-Kochems says. She had worked for regional newspapers and in marketing. Jerry Mahaffey, a retired minister, is a handyman and his wife, Sue, is a former schoolteacher who brings organizational skills. Connie Dicola, who worked at Liz Claiborne, has retail experience.
The organization, named Oustanding Volunteer Fundraising Group, has 25 volunteers who range in age from mid-teens to 86. “Most of us are retired and it makes us feel like we’re giving back in some way,” Dicola says.
“It’s worked. It’s worked because everybody here really enjoys working together and doing what they do,” Little-Kochems says.
During the past three-plus years, All Good Things has donated more than $245,000 to various organizations, Little-Kochems says. Most grants are made to organizations. Beneficiaries include groups that address the needs of children, animals, veterans, fire departments and scouting. The All Good Things board screens the requests for help.
In the rare cases where money is given to help individuals meet personal needs, the funds are given directly to the service provider, such as a utility to restore service.
In her nomination letter, Fern Torok, community outreach and development director for Community Counseling Center of Mercer County, notes the role All Good Things has played in addressing the opioid epidemic. Mercer County recorded 21 overdose deaths in 2016, including six in Grove City.
The thrift store partnered with Torok’s organization to provide startup funding for two substance abuse clinicians to participate in specialized training. That training allows them to execute interventions for individuals who need treatment but are reluctant to seek it, she says.
In addition, the thrift store provides other items to meet specific needs of recovering addicts.
Samie Winick: Outstanding Volunteer Fundraiser
“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”
The Mahatma Gandhi epigram is one that Samie Winick says resonates with her, is one she has taken to heart.
The retired Youngstown City Schools teacher is being recognized as this year’s Outstanding Volunteer Fundraiser.
“To me, it’s as essential as breathing. I feel like it’s such an integral part of who I am that I just can’t not do it. I enjoy helping people,” says Winick, who lives in Salem.
Winick’s efforts focus on initiatives that involve children, education, the environment and women’s issues. They span more than three decades and began when her supervisor encouraged her to get involved with the United Way. She later became involved with the former Family Service Agency, now known as Compass Family and Community Services, on whose board she has served 16 years. Major fundraisers she has been involved with during her term as chairwoman have raised more than $160,000.
Over the past 24 years, Winick has volunteered for the Mill Creek MetroParks Fellows Riverside Gardens, and secured $50,000 in private donations for the capital campaign to build the D.D. and Velma Davis Education and Visitor Center. As a teacher at Paul C. Bunn Elementary School, she instituted a children’s garden, for which she secured more than $24,000 in private foundation grants and continues to recruit volunteers.
Additionally, her support for education includes providing $2,100 for enrichment activities for students at Bunn and Harding Elementary School, including a visit to the new National Museum of African-American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.
“Samie has been exemplary with regard to her development capabilities and accomplishments within the Mahoning and Shenango valleys over three decades,” writes Suzyn Schwebel Epstein in her letter nominating Winick for the award.
Winick also is part of 100 Women Who Care Mahoning Valley, which supports local charities and has raised more than $9,000 to date for the Bummer Fund that covers catastrophic medical expenses for animals. She also raised $5,000 for Sojourner House through the Peace Chair Project.
“It’s such an important part of who I am,” Winick says. “I enjoy being able to enrich the community, make it a stronger place, and help people not only with their basic needs but also the things that make them feel the most human and special – the arts and things like that.”
Pictured, top: Judy and Reid Schmutz were honored with the Outstanding Philanthropist Award from the Mahoning-Shenango Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals.
Copyright 2023 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.