The Safeco Insurance® Community Hero Award recognizes individuals who make a positive difference in their local community. The award honors the community commitment of these hometown heroes with a $5,000 donation to the nonprofit organizations they support.
Awardees are selected from nominations submitted from around the country by independent insurance agents who sell Safeco Insurance.
This fall, sixteen Safeco® Community Heroes and the independent insurance agents who nominated them were featured in the “Vote for your favorite Safeco Community Hero” contest. The top three individuals with the most votes in the contest each won an additional donation from Safeco Insurance for his or her nonprofit organization.
Community Hero: Renae Clements
Charity: Girls Place, Gainesville, Fla.
Nominated by: Kacey Anderson, personal insurance advisor,
McGriff-Williams Insurance, Gainesville, Fla.
You know you’re doing something right when the First Lady decides to visit your nonprofit organization.
Long before Michelle Obama visited in September 2012, Renae Clements, executive director of Girls Place in Gainesville, Fla., has been doing plenty of things right. For example, she’s celebrating 30 years with the organization, turning 70 years old and marking 50 years of marriage. The latter two are wonderful personal milestones, of course, but her work with Girls Place is something the entire community can celebrate.
Girls Place is a safe “home away from home” for girls that provides after-school programs, summer camp and various sports. Girls make friends, gain mentors and learn to grow into successful, respectable and confident women. It’s a stable environment with positive role models for young women who might not otherwise have these influences in their lives. Speaking of positive role models, Renae has been deeply involved with Girls Place since coming aboard in 1984.
Over the years, she has made it her mission to maintain a safe, healthy, productive environment for the young women of Gainesville. Since Renae’s hiring as the sole employee of Girls Place, the organization has expanded greatly, with 8,100 hours of community service performed in 2012 by more than 200 volunteers. Renae is retiring in 2013, but she’ll leave a lasting legacy. “With positive influences like Renae,” says Kacey Anderson, who nominated Renae for a Community Hero Award, “the girls of the Gainesville community are learning how to play a prominent role in society. They are given excellent examples of living and developing in an ever-changing world.”
Community Hero: Edna Woods
Charity: New England Parkinson’s Ride, Merrimack, N.H.
Nominated by: Chris J. Woods, president,
Advantage Insurance, Merrimack, N.H.
Edna Woods hasn’t been on a bike for more than 60 years. But when one of her sons, an avid cyclist, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, she realized that she could make a difference without riding at all.
After searching unsuccessfully for a charity cycling event for Parkinson’s Disease in New England, Edna, now 79, decided to take matters into her own hands by creating the New England Parkinson’s Ride in 2008. The event gives cyclists a choice of scenic rides of varying lengths, from 10 miles up to 100 miles, all starting and ending at Old Orchard Beach in Maine.
The ride attracted 35 cyclists the first year and raised $27,000 for the Michael J. Fox Foundation. And it has continued to grow. This year’s ride, which took place on Sept. 7, involved 526 cyclists and nearly 100 volunteers, and so far the event brought in more than $230,000 with donations still coming in.
Donated funds are used to raise awareness about Parkinson’s Disease, help advance research and pursue a cure. Every dollar raised by the ride goes to the foundation. Edna, still the executive director of the New England Parkinson’s Ride, coordinates every aspect of the event, including route mapping, registration, volunteer assignments and more. She even organizes the annual pasta supper for cyclists the night before the ride.
Thanks to her drive and determination, the ride has grown into the second-biggest charity event for the Michael J. Fox Foundation in the country. And Edna continues to prove that you can move people even with your feet firmly on the ground.
Community Hero: John McDonagh
Charity: Share, Vancouver, Wash.
Nominated by: Tony Johnson and Bryce Davidson
of Davidson and Associates Insurance Agency, Vancouver, Wash.
John McDonagh’s impact on his community just keeps getting bigger and bigger. Of course, you might expect that from someone who’s been working to support nonprofits and local causes in Vancouver, Wash., for almost 40 years.
Over those decades of service, John has been deeply involved with youth sports coaching, the City of Vancouver Civil Service Commission, the Chamber of Commerce and Washington State University Vancouver. Boards he has served on include LaSalle Catholic College Prep, Columbia River Economic Development Committee and the WSU Edward R. Murrow College of Communications Professional Advisory Board.
Awards? He’s got those, too. John received the Chairman of the Board Caring Heart Award in 2011 for his work with Innovative Services NW, and in 2013 was named Rotarian of the Year for the Vancouver Rotary Club. But perhaps his greatest community impact has been through his work with Share, which serves the hungry and homeless in Clark County. Far from providing just shelter and food, the organization’s mission is to lead individuals to self-sufficiency. John became president of Share’s board in 1998 at a time when the organization was struggling with tremendous growth. The agency rapidly went from a single shelter to four facilities, with additional supportive programs being implemented and transitional and permanent housing added.
Share was in desperate need of solid guidance, and John provided focus, developing cohesive bylaws, instituting fiscal responsibility, and creating operational policies and a guiding framework for the board. Term limits eventually forced him to resign after nine years on the board, but John continued to stay involved with Share through its Capital Campaign Committee. His service to Share was recently recognized at the March 2013 grand opening of the Share Fromhold Service Center, where the volunteer center was named in John’s honor.
Share’s clients are among the extremely poor. Nearly all of those the organization serves are at 30% or less of the county’s median income. In addition to its three shelters, which provide assistance to nearly 1,500 people annually, Share provides case management services and help with job searches, education and medical needs. It also serves meals for low-income residents and children, and offers a holiday adopt-a-family program. It seems that Share provides a little bit of everything for those in need. You could say the same about John McDonagh.
Community Hero: Hal Hargrave, Jr
Charity: Be Perfect Foundation, Pomona, Calif.
Nominated by: Brad Kessler, president,
Kessler Alair Insurance Services, Upland, Calif.
Community Hero: Yvonne Nair
Charity: Saffron Strand, Point Richmond, Calif.
Nominated by: Justine Smith, account manager,
Crist Fritschi Paterson, Oakland, Calif.
Community Hero: Mikala Rahn
Charity: Learning Works, Pasadena, Calif.
Nominated by: Mark Abernathy, chief operating officer, and Brian Abernathy, vice president,
Abernathy Insurance Agency, Arcadia, Calif.
Community Hero: Debra Newell
Charity: American Cancer Society, Atlanta, Ga.
Nominated by: Marsha Shaw, president,
Tim Shaw Insurance, Fort Myers, Fla.
Community Hero: Steve Thompson
Charity: Boys & Girls Club of Kentuckiana, Louisville, Ky.
Nominated by: William J. Rybak, principal,
Thoroughbred Associates, Louisville, Ky.
Community Heroes: Bob and Judy Ricketts
Charity: Meridian Firefighters Association, Meridian, Idaho
Nominated by: Dave Anderson and Jonna Paugh
of Ricketts and Associates, Boise, Idaho.
Community Hero: Terri Mlotek
Charity: Midwest Palliative & Hospice CareCenter, Glenview, Ill.
Nominated by: Heil & Heil Insurance Agency,
Community Hero: Ron Sterrett
Charity: Mexico Area Family YMCA, Mexico, Mo.
Nominated by: Carol Gallaher, principal,,
Gallaher Insurance Group, Mexico, Mo.
Community Hero: Bob Lavoie
Charity: Marguerite’s Place, Nashua, N.H.
Nominated by: Philip J. Bouchard, president,
Corriveau Insurance Agency, Nashua, N.H.
Community Hero: Melissa Thompson
Charity: Carrie Tingley Hospital Foundation, Albuquerque, N.M.
Nominated by: Tom Cress, chairman,
Cress Insurance Consultants, Albuquerque, N.M.
Community Hero: Becky Yates
Charity: Caring Services, High Point, N.C
Nominated by: Paul Kremer, agency coordinator,
GreenPoint Insurance Group, High Point, N.C.
Community Hero: Renae Nelson
Charity: My Brother’s Keeper Outreach Center, Houston, Texas
Nominated by: Bob Ruzicka, owner,
Bob Ruzicka Insurance Agency, Sugar Land, Texas.
Community Hero: Peter Metzelaar
Charity: Washington State Holocaust Education Resource Center, Seattle, Wash.
Nominated by: Tom Brody, agent,
Eastside Insurance Services, Bellevue, Wash.