The 2015 Greater Rochester Awards will honor 14 individuals and six organizations for their contributions to the area’s non-profits.
The event is presented by the Rochester Business Journal and the United Way of Greater Rochester Inc. and sponsored by Bank of America Corp.
Nominations were received in seven categories. Honorees have been selected in six of those categories.
Board Leadership: presented to non-profit board chairmen and chairwomen who have enhanced the mission and reputation of their agencies through effective leadership, fundraising, strategic planning, community collaboration and problem solving. This year’s recipients are Donna DePeters, past board president of the Children’s Institute; Matthew Ray, chairman of Foodlink Inc.; and Stephen Schwarz, chairman of Starbridge Services Inc.
Career Achievement: presented to staff members not in senior management who exhibit innovation, leadership and creativity to help deliver positive, measurable results. The award will be given to Jennifer DeVault, vice president of associate services/wellness for UR Medicine’s Thompson Health; Gladys Jordan-Holloman, director of emergency and family assistance at Baden Street Settlement; and Minerva Padilla, Medicaid service coordinator at People Inc. Finger Lakes.
Community Champion: given to individuals, volunteers or staffers whose efforts with local human service non-profits have made a significant positive impact on the community. The recipients are Gerald Archibald, partner at the Bonadio Group; Len Franklin and Lynne MacConnell, volunteers at CDS Monarch Inc.; and Randy Henderson, president of Henderson Ford.
Outstanding Corporate Volunteer Group: presented to a group of co-workers or affinity group members who have come together in the last year to make a difference in Greater Rochester through their collective volunteerism. The award will be given to volunteer groups at Sutherland Global Services Inc., Wegmans Food Markets Inc.’s Lyell Avenue store and Xerox Corp.
Rising Star: given to staff members who have demonstrated a fast-track record of accomplishment and growth of responsibilities in delivering agency services. The honorees are Jillian Carter, director of advancement at Heritage Christian Services Inc.; Erika Green, personal outcomes measure trainer at the Arc of Monroe County; and Felix Ortiz, district executive for the Seneca Waterways Council of the Boy Scouts of America.
Executive of the Year: given to an executive with a record of innovative leadership in delivering services with a measurable positive impact. The award will be given to Marlene Bessette, president and CEO of Catholic Family Center of the Diocese of Rochester.
Three finalists have been announced for the Bank of America Impact Award, presented to a program that has demonstrated measurable, positive results. The finalists are the summer social skills program of AutismUp, Foodlink’s curbside market program and Willow Domestic Violence Center.
The winner of the Impact Award—slated to receive $10,000—will be announced at a ceremony recognizing the finalists and honorees, to be held Oct. 27 from noon to 1:30 p.m. at the Joseph A. Floreano Rochester Riverside Convention Center.
Profiles of the honorees and finalists:
Donna DePeters’ passion and life’s work has been to educate and make a difference in children’s lives. She spent 30 years in the classroom teaching elementary schoolchildren in Greece, but her work was not done when she retired in 2007.
Close friends encouraged DePeters to join Rochester Mayor Robert Duffy’s literacy policy committee. The work has led to a rewarding post-classroom adventure.
“Through this group, I learned about the Children’s Institute, which is devoted to the social and emotional health of children,” DePeters says. “My passion lies here because I firmly believe, more than ever, that children’s social and emotional health is crucial to their success in school.”
DePeters joined the Children’s Institute board in 2009 and in time became chairwoman. She ended her term in June with a lengthy list of accomplishments, including leading efforts to revamp the organization’s five-year strategic plan and playing a key role in managing the financial health of the institute. They were financially challenging years, with fluctuating levels of grants available for research and programs. The organization’s net assets increased 17 percent during her tenure as board chair.
DePeters also has volunteered with Rochester ChildFirst Network and assisted with literacy projects at the Buffalo Bills training camp at St. John Fisher College. She still works as a substitute teacher. “My husband, Jack, and my daughters, Sarah and Laura, were very supportive of my volunteering decisions when I retired,” DePeters says. “I should give my family much credit.”
Bank executive Matthew Ray became board chairman of Foodlink at a difficult time two years ago. Thomas Ferraro, Foodlink founder and executive director, had been diagnosed with a terminal illness and died just months later in February 2014.
“It was extremely difficult for so many people, including myself,” Ray recalls. “There was the need to balance the emotion of the situation with the need to continue serving Foodlink’s mission. The community had lost the person who was synonymous with Foodlink, but Tom had created something special, something that was bigger than just him.”
Ray spearheaded the planning for Foodlink executives Jeanette Batiste and Julia Tedesco to take over as co-executive directors. He helped the non-profit become fiscally healthy again and the board to continue to grow in strength and diversity. Foodlink has evolved in 37 years from a local food bank to a major player in the local food system. Today, it is a regional food hub that redistributes approximately 18 million pounds of food annually to 450 agencies in 10 counties.
Ray, who has been on the Foodlink board for seven years, also has been a literacy volunteer at two city schools, a member of the executive committee of the Rochester region of the American Diabetes Association and CEO/chair of the United Way campaign for M&T Bank’s Rochester Region.
“I want my kids to know and to see that even a small bit of effort can go a long way in helping others,” says Ray, a father of four. “It’s extremely gratifying to know and to see that my involvement can make a positive impact on someone else’s life.”
Stephen Schwarz is an accomplished lawyer who also is making his mark as an advocate for disabled people. Schwarz, managing partner at Faraci Lange for 20 years, played a big part in a two-year process to merge two advocacy groups for people with disabilities, the Advocacy Center and LDA Life & Learning Services, into one of the 30 largest non-profits in the region.
He was president of the Advocacy Center when merger talks began. When the merger took effect in June, he became president of the new human services agency, Starbridge. The result is a new, larger agency with a $10 million annual operation and almost 250 employees.
“Although time consuming and sometimes emotionally draining, the merger has been a surprisingly uplifting and energizing experience for me,” Schwarz says. “I think the merger gave both organizations an opportunity to think deeply about the future and how together we can better serve people with disabilities and their families.”
Schwarz’s advocacy for people with disabilities began after he became friends with a disabled man he once represented in a legal matter. This spurred Schwarz to join the Advocacy Center Board in 2006.
“Each time we are together I am reminded of how much of a struggle simple things are for him, things we all take for granted,” Schwarz says. “Whatever time and energy I have given, I believe I have gotten as much back or more because I am inspired every day by what people can accomplish when given an opportunity.”
For Jennifer DeVault, work is never a chore.
“Every day, we get to create solutions and strategies that improve our work environment,” says the vice president for associate services and wellness at the University of Rochester Medical Center’s Thompson Health. Her enthusiasm has made its mark at URMC’s Canandaigua affiliate. DeVault was instrumental in moving Thompson Health’s workforce to a self-insured health care plan. The shift saved its employees, or associates, about $1 million in premium hikes in 2015 alone. Policy changes that DeVault pursued led the educational arm of the Human Rights Campaign to name it a leader in LGBT health care equality. HRC is the leading lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization in the U.S.
“We have a greater ability to embrace any type of family, a greater appreciation … for the variety of family units that are in our environment every day,” DeVault explains.
In addition to her other duties, DeVault spearheads Thompson Health’s associate wellness program, which emphasizes self-care and healthy nutrition. The program earned a Wealth of Health Award from the Rochester Business Journal in 2014, the third for the health care institution.
DeVault doesn’t appear ready to slow down. “I am so fortunate in the position that I have at Thompson Health,” she says.
Gladys Jordan-Holloman is on a mission.
“I want to ensure that everyone has an opportunity to advance from whatever life situation they’re in,” says the director of the Baden Street Settlement’s Emergency and Family Assistance department.
She has been on that mission since she joined the community non-profit as a case aide in 1975. Baden Street serves northeast Rochester, a part of the city that suffers from multiple social and financial ills.
“We have one of the highest poverty rates in the city of Rochester,” explains Jordan-Holloman, a lifelong resident of the area.
She and her staff see the effects of such conditions every day. The loss of a job, being cut from public assistance and other financial problems bring families into the emergency and family assistance department. Most have simply run out of money.
“The money that they receive does not cover them for the month,” Jordan-Holloman explains.
Her department provides food, clothing and other assistance to help people get through an economic crisis. She and her staff also help people apply for assistance from the Monroe County Department of Human Services or for other government aid when appropriate, and encourage them to work toward improving their circumstances.
“We encourage them to also seek employment or go back to school,” Jordan-Holloman says.
Minerva Padilla has long been drawn to helping those around her.
“At a very young age, it was instilled in me to always give back to the community,” says the lifelong Rochester resident.
Acting upon that desire, Padilla has spent over 25 years advocating for and serving Rochester’s disenfranchised people. As marketing outreach coordinator for Excellus Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Padilla provided information to local communities stressing the importance of health insurance. She also encouraged residents to take control of their health and wellness through better nutrition and physical activity.
Padilla then went on to the Finger Lakes Health Systems Agency, where her command of Spanish allowed her to reach out to underserved populations in Spanish-speaking communities. While with that agency, Padilla also helped create safe play areas for children in city neighborhoods.
As a Medicaid service coordinator for People Inc. Finger Lakes, Padilla helps developmentally disabled adults obtain the benefits and community services they need. She also works closely with colleagues to create programs that better serve the non-profit’s clients. It’s the kind of role for which she seems well-suited.
“I’ve tried to really focus on helping folks get the quality of care they deserve,” Padilla says.
For Gerald Archibald, helping those who are less fortunate has its own rewards.
“I give of my time and money because I get the most satisfaction from it,” he says.
Archibald’s generosity has touched a host of local non-profits through the decades. The CPA and partner at the Bonadio Group has long been a major donor to the Al Sigl Community of Agencies—he and his firm sponsored the most recent Al Sigl Community WalkAbout fundraiser at the highest level. The United Way of Greater Rochester has gained from Archibald’s generosity as well—his donations have earned him membership in the Alexis de Tocqueville Society, an honor reserved for those who give at least $10,000 a year to the non-profit. Archibald has even found a way to combine philanthropy and his love of antique cars—he once donated a 1998 Corvette to his alma mater, Bishop Kearney High School.
In addition to donating dollars to local non-profits, Archibald has made a gift of his knowledge and expertise. He once chaired the boards of Holy Childhood, which serves the needs of intellectually and developmentally disabled children and adults, and Mary Cariola Children’s Center. He has helped guide many other local organizations as well.
Archibald continues to be very busy in philanthropic efforts. He is co-chairing Bishop Kearney’s multimillion-dollar capital campaign and volunteering for the United Way.
Len Franklin and Lynne MacConnell
The married team of Len Franklin and Lynne MacConnell began raising money for CDS Monarch about three years ago.
“We started fundraising with the charity golf tournament,” MacConnell says.CDS Monarch helps people who have intellectual and developmental disabilities as well as veterans and senior citizens. Through giving their time and energy to the annual golf fundraiser, the couple have helped bring in close to $300,000 for the non-profit.
You might say that Franklin and MacConnell came to volunteering for CDS Monarch via different routes. MacConnell’s stepson, Bruce, has lived in one of the non-profit’s group homes since the early 1980s. Her late husband, the Rev. Eugene MacConnell, was vice president of CDS Monarch’s board of directors. MacConnell, a retired psychiatric nurse, was drawn to volunteering for the non-profit by a desire to help its clients.
“I’ve always had a bent toward service toward people who are vulnerable,” she says.
Franklin, a retired real estate appraiser, says he began volunteering for CDS Monarch in part because his wife was involved. Their enthusiasm is evident in the variety of ways they stay involved. They have flipped pancakes at the annual CDS Monarch Shortstack Saturday pancake breakfast fundraiser and helped raise money for Warrior Salute, a program for veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and other conditions. Though they have slowed down a bit as they’ve gotten older, they are not ready to stop working for worthy causes anytime soon.
“If it’s something we are passionate about, we go out and work on it,” Franklin says.
Faith has led Randy Henderson to give of himself to others.
“I grew up in the inner city myself, and had a lot of angels that helped me,” says the president of Henderson Ford/MV-1 of Rochester. “One of the things that I felt was a very clear calling was how I may be able to assist and impact the lives of some other young people.”
That calling has prompted Henderson, who also is an ordained minister, to give his time and energy to a variety of good causes, many of which benefit disadvantaged youth. Partnering with other businesses, his Webster dealership has helped collect more than 4,000 books for the Rochester City School District’s Frank Fowler Dow School No. 52. As a mentor for Rochester Institute of Technology’s Men of Color, Honor and Ambition program, Henderson helps undergraduate students of color progress in their lives and academics. He also visits incarcerated youth as head of the jail ministry of his church, the Church of Love Faith Center.
Henderson co-founded A New Day Now, a local non-profit that supports local youth programs. He and his wife, Marion, created the Henderson Family Fund, which helps meet the needs of the area’s elderly.
“I really feel like we’re directed to give back and to help support our community, and support those in need,” Henderson says.
Executive of the year
Marlene Bessette was in the midst of a long, successful career at Xerox Corp. when she turned 50 and began to wonder if there was something more meaningful she should be doing with her life.
The planets started lining up a few years ago when Bessette and her husband, Eric, met with Catholic Family Center president and CEO Carolyn Portanova just before she retired to discuss the couple’s passion—homelessness and affordable housing in the city. Portanova was receptive to sponsoring a series of projects, so Bessette decided to take a nine-month social service leave from Xerox three years ago to work at the Catholic Family Center on issues that homeless people must navigate. Bessette was so passionate about her new calling that, after 28 years at Xerox, she left her job as a vice president to stay at the human services agency.
Bessette rose quickly at Catholic Family Center, starting as chief operating officer in January 2013 and becoming president and CEO 12 months later when Portanova’s successor left the agency. Bessette’s focus on addressing poverty caught the attention of the Rochester-Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative, and she now serves as co-chair of its systems design team as well.
“I never intended to leave Xerox after the social service leave, but I literally fell in love with the ability to have real purpose in my work,” Bessette says.
Outstanding Corporate Volunteer Group
Sutherland Global Services Inc.
Sutherland Global Services has raised nearly $185,000 since 2012 for the Boys & Girls Club of Rochester through employee donations and a corporate match program.
People who work at Sutherland provide IT support and volunteer for events such as the youth organization’s annual bowling event, kickball tournament and Halloween costume contest. They also donate toys for the club’s annual Breakfast with Santa, and during the holidays they provide two families with Christmas meals, toys, cleaning supplies and Wegmans gift cards.
Sutherland also has offered support with the day-to-day challenges of families affected by the recent shooting deaths of three young men and injuries to four others in a drive-by shooting outside the club on the city’s southwest side.
Employee efforts receive full support from top management. Sutherland Chairman and CEO Dilip Vellodi has long been a supporter of the Boys & Girls Club and recently received the organization’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
“We can truly say we do not know where we would be without the support of Sutherland Global Services,” says Dwayne Mahoney, executive director of Boys & Girls Club.
Wegmans Food Markets Inc.’s Lyell Avenue store
Employees at the Lyell Avenue location of Wegmans Food Markets Inc. and Hope Hall, a private school for at-risk students considered educationally stranded, have a long, mutually rewarding relationship.
For years, employees at the Gates store have been volunteering at the nearby school on the United Way Day of Caring, doing yard work and other tasks and assisting with the school’s annual Walk for Hope, which raised more than $28,000 this year.
Wegmans employees also are involved with Hope Hall throughout the year. They help keep the food pantry stocked, donate items for events, teach cooking lessons and buy Christmas gifts for the children.
Wegmans Lyell Avenue store manager Larry Garner calls Sister Diana Dolce, executive director of the school, “an amazing woman.”
“At Wegmans we are empowered to make a difference in our community, so what better place to help but Hope Hall,” Garner says. “I love the work Sister Diana does to help these young kids get ready for life, and the least we can do is help her with some of the school’s needs.”
Xerox Corp. systems engineer Russ Roberts has made Lollypop Farm his pet project for more than 15 years, volunteering more than 1,000 hours a year on projects from animal adoption and admissions to event logistics and lawn mowing.
More than 10 years ago the light bulb flashed over Roberts’ head and he persuaded coworkers to join him at Lollypop Farm for at least one day a year, the United Way Day of Caring. That first year, he recruited more than a dozen fellow Xerox employees for a spring garden cleanup project.
Every year, the Xerox contingent has grown by 15 to 20 volunteers to become one of the largest Day of Caring efforts in the community. This year, 119 Xerox employees contributed 654 cumulative hours, an average of five-and-a-half hours each, to work on a dozen projects on the Day of Caring at Lollypop Farm.
The relationship between Xerox and Lollypop Farm also has led to some love matches. Some Xerox Day of Caring volunteers have met animals ready for adoption and later returned with their families to get better acquainted, Roberts says.
“Many of the team have to stay out of the adoption area because they want to bring all the animals home,” says Roberts, whose four cats were adopted from Lollypop.
After six years as an account manager at a marketing firm, Jillian Carter was looking for a change. A friend introduced her to Heritage Christian Services, which has turned out to be a match made in heaven.
“The past nine years have been an honor and privilege for me to work for such an amazing organization,” says Carter, who started at Heritage as an event coordinator and has moved up to director of advancement.
Carter oversees a dozen campaigns and special events that raise close to $400,000 a year for the agency, which assists developmentally disabled children and adults. She led the move to merge two golf tournaments into one larger event, resulting in a 65 percent boost in funds raised.
She also is in charge of Heritage’s volunteer program, which involves more than 1,050 people who contribute nearly 19,000 hours a year, an estimated labor savings of more than $200,000.
Carter recently launched the Heritage Christian Young Professionals group and is on the board of the local chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals.
“Rochester is fortunate to have professionals like Jillian who serve more than just their companies, who make a lasting difference in their communities,” says Marisa Geitner, Heritage president and CEO.
Erika Green’s plan to become a lawyer began to shift when she started working for East House, a human services agency, as a mental health counselor five years ago. Green, then a new graduate from St. John Fisher College, became passionate about working with people who need support to become independent and set her sights on becoming a mental health law advocate.
She headed to Ohio to study law, but soon realized the legal world was not for her. Green moved back home to Rochester, got her job back at East House and set off on a path that has led her to a career in human services.
She went to work at the Arc of Monroe County three years ago as a group home manager and has advanced rapidly to her current position as personal outcomes measure trainer. In this job she ensures that the agency’s supports and services are designed to meet each Arc client’s needs.
“I challenge people to ask everything they can to ensure that we are doing everything we can for people to have the best quality of life possible,” Green says. “I love what I do because I get to help people every day. There is no better feeling than seeing something positive change in a person’s life and knowing that you helped them get there, even if it was in the smallest way.”
Felix Ortiz got his start helping others on summer vacation from Jefferson High School when he was 14. He volunteered as a lunch assistant at the Lewis Street Child Care Center. Three years later, Ortiz landed a job at the center as a senior camp counselor before going on to earn his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business management at Roberts Wesleyan College.
Ortiz has continued to follow a passion for helping others as a social worker at the Salvation Army, a city youth program volunteer at the YMCA and now as the Boy Scouts of America’s district executive for the city of Rochester.
Ortiz is off to a fast start since joining the Scouts’ Seneca Waterways Council 15 months ago. During his first six months on the job, scout membership in the city increased 5 percent. He has doubled the number of volunteers on the committee that oversees scout operations in the city, and he has developed a coalition of dozens of supporters to help promote city scouting.
Ortiz also led a fund drive that raised more than $11,000, 500 percent more than the $2,300 raised the previous year.
“I love my community and I truly believe we can make change when we invest in our future,” Ortiz says.
Bank of America Impact Award
AutismUp’s summer social skills program
AutismUp’s summer social skills education program has grown in eight years from a vision to a flagship program for the autism support organization.
Starting with nine campers in 2007, the AutismUp summer program has provided recreation and social opportunities for more than 500 children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, including more than 100 campers this year at the YMCA’s Camp Arrowhead in Pittsford and Camp Bay View in Webster.
The summer program is designed to help children with autism learn to socialize with typical peers while receiving guidance from social coaches disguised as camp counselors, according to AutismUp executive director Sarah Milko.
“From the outside, it all looks very typical,” Milko says. “But from the inside, these kids are working hard to learn to socialize, which gets at the core deficit of any individual with autism.”
This year, AutismUp provided nearly $28,000 in camp scholarships, raised from grants and donations, and has provided more than $145,000 in aid since 2010.
“Like all kids, the best place to learn to socialize is in a typical setting,” Milko says. “What better way for children with major social and communication impairments to learn than in a fun camp setting with typical peers? For many children with autism, this is their only chance all year long to be integrated with typical peers that include neighbors and even siblings.”
Foodlink Curbside Market program
Foodlink Inc.’s Curbside Market brings fresh produce to people in the Rochester region who are otherwise unable to enjoy the earth’s bounty.
“The Curbside Market is a mobile farmers market,” says Mitch Gruber, Foodlink’s director of programs and innovation. “We bring this product over into some of the more low-income, underserved communities and offer it up at a wholesale price.”
Foodlink, a regional food bank that serves Monroe and the five surround-ing counties, created Curbside Market in 2013 to help maximize people’s food budgets and give them access to fresh produce and nutritious food. The program’s two vehicles are on the road five days a week from July to December and January to June, traveling to nearly 50 sites in Monroe, Wayne, Ontario, Genesee, Orleans and Livingston counties.
Foodlink supports local farms and businesses by purchasing the produce from local growers and wholesalers. As important as that might be, Curbside Market is primarily designed to attack a broader problem.
“Diet-related health disparities … plague low-income and underserved communities,” Gruber explains. “The mobility of the program really allows us to attack this big public health issue.”
Willow Domestic Violence Center
Each year, thousands of domestic violence survivors turn to the Willow Domestic Violence Center for a safe place to stay, counseling and other assistance.
“Everyone has the right to be safe, and for one in three women and one in four men, that is simply not the case,” says Jaime Saunders, the Willow Center’s president and CEO. “We meet the most basic of human needs for safety … and then work toward what happens on the next day.”
Founded in 1978 as the Association for Battered Women Inc., the Willow Center is Monroe County’s only certified domestic violence service provider. The non-profit offers a 40-bed emergency shelter, short-term one-on-one counseling for domestic violence survivors and their children, court advocates who help people seeking orders of protection navigate the courts and a 24/7 crisis hot-line. Willow Center staff members also visit schools, colleges and businesses, where they teach about safe and healthy relationships in a bid to prevent domestic violence from happening at all.
The Willow Center faces many challenges, but its greatest is capacity. The non-profit’s shelter is generally full, and there is a great need for its services.
“There’s more than 50,000 calls to 911 a year in Monroe County for domestic disputes,” Saunders says.
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