Wednesday, Jul 27, 2016
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3 groups get $5,000 each to do good

Beach House, ABLE and Legal Aid, Bittersweet lauded

non-profit-awards

From left, rear: Joe Tafelski, executive director of Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, Inc.; Kevin Mulder, executive director of Legal Aid of Western Ohio, Inc, and David Coyle, president of the Board of Trustees of the two non-profit law firms. ABLE/LAWO received the Large Agency Excellence award. From left, front: Tammy Holder, executive director of Beach House Family Shelter, and Vicki Obee-Hilty, executive director of Bittersweet Farms. Beach House received the Small Agency excellence award, and Bittersweet Farms received the Innovation award. The second Northwest Ohio Nonprofit Innovation & Excellence Awards

The Blade/Jetta Fraser
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Three organizations that were recognized Thursday during the second annual Northwest Ohio Nonprofit Innovation & Excellence Awards breakfast all had much the same message: They need help to do what they do.

“We cannot fulfill our mission by ourselves,” said John Zajac, president of the board of Beach House Family Shelter, which received the small agency excellence award. “To steal a line from Hillary Clinton, it takes a village.”

Advocates for Basic Legal Equality Inc. and Legal Aid of Western Ohio Inc. received the large agency excellence award for their work providing legal services to the poor in 32 northwest and west central Ohio counties.

Bittersweet Farms, which provides services to individuals with autism, received the innovation award for its community-supported agriculture program that was created to generate income and provide meaningful work and training for adults with autism.

During a gathering at the Toledo Club, each of the organizations received $5,000 from the Toledo Community Foundation to use as they see fit and a glass creation by artist Shawn Messenger.

Vicky Obee-Hilty, Bittersweet’s executive director, said the $5,000 would go into the organization’s horticulture programs, which includes raising produce and herbs purchased by community members who buy shares in the operation and pick up boxes of produce each week.

Bittersweet also has begun making and marketing its own pesto, which is for sale at Walt Churchill’s Markets and Thrush’s Pastry Shoppe.

“Over the years I have said to people, ‘I have a crazy idea.’ Now I’m going to say I have an innovative idea,” Ms. Hilty said after receiving the innovation award.

The awards were started last year by the Community Foundation and The Blade in partnership with the Center for Nonprofit Resources to recognize area nonprofits for their contributions.

Beach House, which provides shelter and services to homeless women and children, was founded in Toledo in 1921. It operates on an annual budget of about $373,000 — much of that from the generosity of donors.

“We can’t do what we do without you,” said Tammy Holder, executive director. “Ninety-one years this community has been serving people in need.”

Joe Tafelski, executive director for ABLE said that while having enough money to run the organization is always a challenge, he sees an even bigger challenge in what he called “the growing indifference to our sense of justice and fairness not just in Toledo but nationally.”

“We tell people that our system of justice will be fair and just, that it will enable them to right wrongs, and protect them from injustices being imposed on them by their government or private individuals or companies,” he said. “We also tell people that they are equal under the law. Unfortunately, like so many things in life, our good intentions do not meet with the reality.”

While the criminal justice system provides every American legal representation if they cannot afford to hire their own, that is not true for people who need help with civil matters — many of whom are poor, he said.

That’s where ABLE and Legal Aid step in to help, although the demand far exceeds their ability to respond.

That’s where ABLE and Legal Aid step in to help, although the demand far exceeds their ability to respond.

“Today as resources have been reduced and the need increases, we are facing a justice gap,” Mr. Tafelski said.

In addition to the three award winners, Harbor House, which serves homeless and chemically dependent women in Toledo, was the winner of a drawing among nonprofits that attended the event. Harbor House was given a $1,000 grant and $2,000 in free advertising in The Blade.

Keith Burwell, president of the Toledo Community Foundation, said the foundation and The Blade plan to present the awards to worthy nonprofits again next year.

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