The Emerald Leader Award
The Emerald Leader award looks to recognize individuals and/or organizations who have had a significant positive impact on the community. Outside of responsibilities required for work, please share how this nominee has given of their time and talents to better Geauga County and/or create a stronger community by providing information in the following categories.
Nominations for the 2024 Emerald Leader will open in October 2023.
Recognition is given to individuals and organizations whose leadership has significantly enhanced the quality of life in Geauga County.
Nominations should demonstrate any one or combination of the following:
- Participated voluntarily in community/professional/service organizations
- Contributed resources (time, talents, material) to community/professional/service organizations
- Engaged in a single special act of service that impacts the community
- Created or supported an innovative program, system, or facility that benefits and enhances the community
- Served the community in a capacity beyond job requirements
- Fostered positive community relationships
- Enhanced or supported community improvements
- Introduced or implemented innovations in the community
Nominations will be accepted through October 1st, 2022-November 11, 2022 and they will be celebrated at the Emerald Ball on March 4, 2023.
Past Emerald Leaders
2023- Mary Beth O'Neill
Leadership Geauga runs deep in Mary Beth O’Neill’s life. She, a 2008 signature program graduate, and her husband, Jim, a signature and heritage program graduate, have lived in Geauga County since 1991. Mary Beth worked in retail management for 25 years and received her real estate license in 2001. Her service to Geauga County includes serving nine years as a trustee with the Geauga Park District Foundation and now volunteers with the Foundation for Geauga Parks, where she is the Secretary, Chair of the Advancement Committee, and Chair of the annual Twilight Soiree.
She and her husband also support the 4-H livestock auction each year. They appreciate the mission of 4H – to help young people grow personally, grow responsibly, and get to know their peers.
Mary Beth also volunteers with Leadership Geauga on the Advancement Committee and supports the Emerald Ball. She claims, “Leadership Geauga was an opportunity to get to know so much more about Geauga County, as well as many wonderful businesspeople that I may have never met otherwise.”
Mary Beth has served on the Ravenwood Mental Health Board since 2013. She shares, “I am constantly amazed at the heart the people at Ravenwood have for their clients and how the organization has grown and developed over the years to serve more people.” She has a sister who struggles with mental illness, and her mother serves as President of the Buffalo (New York) chapter of NAMI.
2022- Andrea pollock
Andrea Pollock has been active in Geauga County life for over forty years, including service as a
Township Trustee, over 15 years as a teacher in the Cardinal School District, and 15 years in
local non-profit social services organizations serving teens and young adults. She is currently
the Director of Next Step, a program that provides community-based stable housing and
individualized services and support for young adults, ages 18 through 24. Focus is placed on
young adults aging out of foster care and/or finding themselves homeless. She tirelessly seeks
funding, creates assistance programs and provides needed emotional support to these at-risk
youth. Andrea also serves as the Program Director at Chagrin Falls Park Community Center.
Andrea was instrumental in creating, with Sara Shinegar, 100 Women of East Geauga, an
organization that brings together 100 women every quarter to collectively support a designated
charity. Through that collaboration, over $65,000 has been shared with 26 non-profit
organizations in a most effective and efficient way. Finally, Andrea has been a volunteer
coordinator for efforts that provide food and clothing to homeless and low-income people in
downtown Cleveland and on its Near West Side for over 25 years.
2021- Barbara Titus
In recognition of her many years of outstanding leadership and volunteer service for our local community and U.S. veterans, Leadership Geauga is honored to present its prestigious Emerald Leader Award to Barbara Titus.Barbara is the Vice President of Operations/International Sales and Director of Sheoga Hardwood Flooring headquartered in Middlefield. She is a respected national business leader and non-profit organization volunteer. She currently serves as the President/Chairwoman of the Geauga Credit Union and serves on the University Hospitals Leadership Council. Barbara brings her business acumen and deep commitment to public service to charitable organizations focused on the needs of our military veterans. Barbara is currently Vice President of the new Valor Retreat in Hocking Hills and also serves on the board of the Gary Sinise Foundation, whose
mission is the welfare of our most critically injured military veterans. Barbara exemplifies the highest leadership values though her servant’s heart focused on others.
2020- John EpprEcht
We are pleased to honor John Epprecht as the 2020 Emerald Leader.
Richard Frenchie, member of the Leadership Geauga Board of Trustees and the 2008 Emerald Leader, was one of those who nominated Mr. Epprecht for this prestigious award. He said, “There is no one more committed to advancing and promoting Geauga County than John Epprecht. I consider John to be an impact leader with a strong focus on community development. Some of his notable commitments and accomplishments embrace the following: mentorship of student interns in the workplace; supporter of the United Way Bridges at Work Program, an advocate for job creation initiatives; participant in career readiness and development with middle and high school students; and leader of efforts to make education a priority in the community.”
About John Epprecht
John Epprecht started as a 17-year-old hourly employee in what was then his father’s regional cheese business. Over the years, John has held positions of increasing responsibility as the business has grown to be a national industry leader. He currently serves as Vice President of Strategic Projects and as a member of the company’s Board of Directors. He is the current Chairman of the Board of Directors Governance Committee. As Vice President of Strategic Projects, John is responsible for overseeing critical initiatives such as plant and office construction, expansions, and enhancements. John is fiercely dedicated to doing what is right for all Great Lakes Cheese employees.
John is passionate about the Geauga County community and has served for many years as a member and Chairman of the Geauga Growth Partnership Board of Directors. He is most proud of his work with United Way of Geauga County to bring the Bridges@Work program to Great Lakes Cheese. The program provides emotional and financial support to employees so they can address urgent needs without sacrificing their future well-being.
Ed Babcock of the Junction Auto Family and the 2006 Emerald Leader said, “John is supportive of many local non-profits. I am personally aware of his long-term support for the Boy Scouts and I know he and his wife, Debra, support other groups like WomenSafe. John is one of the founding fathers, long term president and driving force behind Geauga Growth Partnership.”
John graduated from Berkshire High School and participated in an Executive Development Program at Cornell University. He was awarded the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association’s Life Member Award in 2019. He currently serves on the Western Reserve Trust Company Board, the Business Advisory Council-Geauga County Educational Service Center, and is Chairman of the Wisconsin Cheesemaker Association’s Recognition Committee. John was also the President of the United States Cheese Makers Association and on the Huntington Regional Advisory Board.
John is a family businessman with a strong emphasis on family. He lives in Geauga County with his beloved wife, Deb, and is happy to have his three children, Vicky, Lauren, and Steven, close by. Steven has followed in his father’s footsteps and is a Regional Sales Manager at Great Lakes Cheese. Vicky and Lauren are following their passion for education by teaching the future leaders of our community in local public schools. John hopes that his three young granddaughters will also consider joining the family business one day.
2019- Susan Juhasz & The Geauga Hunger Task force
We are pleased to honor Susan Juhasz as the 2019 Emerald Leader. Matt Emrick, Leadership Geauga Board VP and Emerald Ball co-chair, said, “I’m very excited for Sue and delighted we are honoring her and the vital work of the Hunger Task Force. She is a person who wakes up every day and decides to be a force for good.”
“Amazing” is one word used by many people to describe Susan Juhasz and her focused determination to relieve hunger in Geauga County. Her husband, Rick, offered a story on how it all started. “Thirty-two years ago, Sue and I contacted the Geauga Job & Family Services at Christmas and were given the names of three families. We, like others, brought bags of groceries and toys to each family, but seeing in person the children’s response made it obvious to us that this effort simply was not enough. So Sue gathered other like-minded people and, together, they began their search for a way to bring people and partners together to raise money for the Hunger Task Force.”
The idea of a concert of Handel’s Messiah was orchestrated by Dr. Arturo Dimaculangan, Sister Mary Roman Ress, SND, and Sue. Sue explained, “I had sung in a Messiah Choir in college and thought that might be a good piece to work with. So many people already knew parts of the music.”
Over the years, 29 concerts by the all-volunteer Good Tidings Benefit Choir have directly benefited the Hunger Task Force. In 2017, its seven food pantries provided over 480,000 meals to residents of all ages in our community. Rick estimates that 900 people have been involved since the first concert. Some singers have participated for 30 years, some for 25, but very few have less than 5 years of experience with the event. The Sisters of Notre Dame have generously hosted the choir and its concerts.
Sue has served as a volunteer member of the Board of Directors at the Geauga County Hunger Task Force for a number of years and currently serves as its Board President. Paulette Kadis-Gaia, Treasurer of the Board, remarked, “Sue never loses sight of the organization’s goal, which is hunger in Geauga County. She rolls up her sleeves, works hard, and makes the trains run.”
Sue is a Registered Nurse at the University Hospital Geauga Medical Center and has been on the nursing staff for 39 years. She is currently a member of the Surgical Nursing staff. Susan holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing from Ohio University, magna cum laude.
Susan has been married to her husband, Richard Juhasz, for 42 years. They are the proud parents of two adult children: Geoff, a chef at a local restaurant and Colleen, studying for her Ph.D. in Physical Therapy at Youngstown State University.
2018- Geauga County 4-H
The Geauga County 4-H Program has over 750 youth enrolled and utilizes over 125 adult volunteers to organize and lead 37 county based 4-H clubs. Geauga County 4-H offers a wide range of youth leadership opportunities including camper and camp counselors, public speaking, financial literacy, educational livestock clinics, project skills judging, field trips, and community outreach events. Participants increase their self-confidence and develop life skills while learning about specific subjects – anything from animals to robotics, cooking, art, gardening and environmental sciences, just to name a few project topics.
Here in our local community Geauga County 4-H has taken on hunger and has partnered with the Kellis Eye Center to host their third annual food drive to benefit the Geauga Hunger Task Force. Dr. Augustine Kellis had this to say about their collaboration, “Our combined efforts have helped raise over sixty-five thousand dollars to help feed the hungry in the county. I have seen these 4-H children and young adults join efforts to truly live their pledge to use their hands for greater service. From door to door visits to local businesses, to dropping off collection boxes and standing outside local grocery stores, I have witnessed their enthusiasm and dedication. They are goal oriented, accept a challenge and rise to the occasion. It is their hard work and leadership that has made these drives successful. Knowing these 4-H children has renewed my faith in the youth of our world.”
“We couldn’t be more proud to present the Emerald Leader award to an organization that uses their talents and time to better our community. Their investment in youth leadership development and service to the community is unmatched. And to give back so much without looking for recognition, that is what truly makes this organization remarkable.” Leadership Geauga Executive Director, Melanie Scanlon
4-H is a non-formal educational, youth development program offered to individuals age 5 and in kindergarten to age 19. Ohio 4-H youth development reaches more than 240,000 youth each year – helping kids “learn by doing” through hands-on activities. 4-H members learn valuable lessons in leadership, communication and collaboration while increasing their knowledge in math, science, technology and a variety of other topics.
2017- Scott Hildenbrand
Scott’s commitment and service to Geauga County, specifically through his work creating collaborations among safety service professionals, has resulted in innovative practices that keep our community safe. Under his leadership, the county has implemented a single computer records management system that is utilized by all Police and Fire Departments.In his 30 plus years protecting Geauga County, Scott has held many public service positions but his longest tenures have been with both the Sheriff’s Office and Hambden Fire Department.
Born May 18, 1962, Scott has been around the community most of his life and is a Chardon High school graduate. His career didn’t start in the safety services but after a business slow down, Hildenbrand left his job at Cleveland Crane and began his long history with law enforcement and fire prevention.
In 1981, Hildenbrand joined Hambden Fire Department, working his way through the ranks as firefighter, emergency medical technician, FD engineer, chief engineer, lieutenant, captain, assistant chief and in 1995, fire chief. Currently, Scott serves as Hambden Fire Chief. During his time with the department, Scott has worked to increase communication and collaboration between police and fire and is highly respected by both entities.
Scott’s career in law enforcement started with the Chardon Police Department where he worked as a dispatcher, patrolman and sergeant between 1986-2003. In 2003 when Sheriff McClelland asked Scott to serve as Chief Deputy, he accepted and served in that role for over 13 years. Hildenbrand was recently elected and began serving as the Geauga County Sheriff in January of 2017.
Scott says this about his work as Geauga County Sheriff, “I look forward to continuing the progress we have achieved together, particularly in forging steadfast and productive relationships with local law enforcement. We have made significant strides in fighting crime and drug and narcotics issues in our county. It is critical that our safety forces continue to work well together.
While not working, Scott volunteers countless hours with many local and national organizations. Hildenbrand continues to serve as the President of the Geauga County Fire Chiefs Assoc., is actively involved in the Chardon Rotary, the Geauga County Police Chiefs Association, Ohio Fire Chiefs, Northeast Ohio Fire Chiefs, National Sheriffs Association, and the Geauga County Trustees Association. For leisure, Hildenbrand enjoys his family, golfing at Pleasant Hills Golf Course and fishing. Scott has three adult children: Scott, John and Madeline.
2016 - D. Kevin O’Reilly
Born May 5th 1942 in Cleveland, Kevin met his wife Nancy on a bus trip to the NY world’s fair in 1965 they were married on October 15, 1966, after Graduation from Cleveland Marshall Law School he moved to Hambden in 1968, established his law practice above Richard’s bakery on the Chardon square, and was located there until 1978 when he moved to a renovated house on court street. Worked as assistant prosecutor under Gene Henry from 1970 to 1971. His service to his community began early on when he served on the board of Birthright in Chardon, Hambden Twp. trustee from 1978 to 1982, Geauga County Fairboard, Geauga County Historical Society board, Geauga County Farm Bureau board, St Mary’s parish council, Leadership Geauga board, OSU Extension advisory board, Ohio FB policy development board, Geauga County Mapleleaf Square Dance team, Burton Chamber of Commerce. Kevin always volunteered for the tough jobs, preferred to be the worker bee and not look for the spotlight. Those of you who have been around Geauga awhile might remember how he would walk his cows with a rope to Jack Arnold’s farm for their honeymoons. Or the time he drove his tractor to Chardon and tried to barter a pig for artwork at Struna’s art gallery.
Kevin has been a servant leader in Geauga County for 47 years. He has always been giving of his time and talents and never expected anything in return. From his early days as assistant county prosecutor or his tenure as Hambden Township Trustee he has always had the best interests of the people of Geauga County at heart. Over the years Kevin has volunteered in many capacities too numerous to mention. Most recently he has served on the board of Leadership Geauga, the Geauga County Historical Society, and Burton Chamber of Commerce and is a member of the Life Teen Youth Ministry program at St Helen in Newbury. If I had to choose one word to describe Kevin it would be Integrity. Kevin is honest and sincere and always serves others with a humble heart.
What began as Kevin and Nancy O’Reilly in 1968 has now grown into 24 children and grandchildren residing in Geauga county and 5 more in Fayette county.
2015- The Geauga Humane Society
It started with a vision of a more humane world and a down-to-earth devotion to saving animals from homelessness and harm.
The Geauga Humane Society has a proud history of being a leading animal welfare agency in northeast Ohio. We began our life-saving work in 1974 when its founder, Arlene MacDonald, and a small group of committed animal advocates embarked on a labor of love.
At the beginning the animals were sheltered in private homes. In 1980, The Society moved into the tiny 800 sq. ft. leased space on Merritt Road in Chardon, Ohio. What their original shelter lacked in size was made up for by a driving passion and enormous energy to better the lives of animals and to help educate people to have respect for all living things.
Their dreams were large. With leadership, and the generosity of thousands of people, including major donors and visionary foundations, the Geauga Humane Society took a giant step. In 2001 they opened a new state-of-the-art 10,500 square foot facility on a 14 acre parcel of land on Chillicothe Road in Russell Township, Ohio. They named it Rescue Village.
Today Rescue Village is a vital center for animal welfare. One can learn about the hallmark programs and services established throughout their website – www.geaugahumane.org. Building on the courageous and innovative spirit that brought the Geauga Human Society this far, and they continue to embrace the vision of a world where the relationship between human beings and animals center on empathy and kindness.
Animals at Rescue Village are cared for until they find a new home, including those that are abused, sick or injured, those that may need behavior training, or those that simply need the gift of time. Animals are never euthanized due to age, special needs, or lack of space.
Their passion for combining professionalism with innovation, collaboration, and a great big heart runs through everything they do. All who come through their doors, be they four-legged or two-legged (or the occasional turtle or snake), are treated with respect.
Geauga Humane Society’s Rescue Village goes above and beyond for the animals and for the people of northeast Ohio. It started with a vision that continues to capture our imagination and fuel their efforts!
The Geauga Human Society’s mission is:
- to shelter and find homes for sick, injured, abused, and abandoned domestic animals that have no other alternatives
- to foster compassion for all living things through education
- to reduce pet overpopulation through spay/neuter programs
- to prevent cruelty by enforcing animal protection laws
2014- Sheriff Daniel C. McClelland
Sheriff Daniel C. McClelland, 2014 award winner, has been a pillar in Geauga County, and has been giving to Geauga County his whole life.
Dan McClelland was appointed as Geauga County Sheriff in 2003 and has been elected three times since his appointment.
His sixty years of leadership and contributing to the County has included service as a deputy, a sergeant, a lieutenant and as chief deputy. Just a few of his professional membership include: Buckeye State Sheriffs Association, National Sheriffs Association, Geauga County Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC), Geauga County Safety and Security Council (CSSC), Geauga County Terrorism Task Force, Geauga County Fire Chiefs Association, Geauga County Automated Data Processing Board, Geauga County Township Trustee’s Association, FBI National Academy Associates and the Geauga County Farm Bureau.
He is a graduate of Chardon High School, the University of Akron, FBI National Academy Quantico Virginia, Lakeland Community College, the Peace Office Basic Training Program and Leadership Geauga County.
He is a member of Chardon Alumni Hall of Fame, Burton-Middlefield Rotary, Burton Chamber of Commerce, Gold Wing Road Riders Association, Fraternal Order of Eagles, the Blue Knights Motorcycle Club, and is a 32 Degree Mason and Shiner.
Dan has received many awards during his career and a few include: Official Departmental Commendation for clearing a major burglary ring involving 20 residences and 18 suspects, Official Departmental Commendation for safely disarming a suspect armed with a shotgun who was threatening to kill another deputy , Official Commendation from Middlefield Police Department for apprehending a barricaded armed suspect (August 28, 1989), Official Commendation from Middlefield Police Department for apprehending several suspects in the act of breaking into the Cardinal High School, Official Commendation from the Middlefield Police Department for apprehending two armed individuals who had committed an Aggravated Robbery at a bank branch, Chardon Alumni Hall of Fame Recipient for lifetime and career accomplishments, Buckeye State Sheriffs Association Commendation as a Certified Law Enforcement Manager, and 2011 Recipient of the DARE Law Enforcement Executive of the Year Award for the State of Ohio.
When asked about his career and life Dan says, “It’s always been about family and bringing people together.” About his work ethic, “If I don’t do something right, Mom’s gonna yell at me.” And about his legacy, “Mom always told me to “Leave a place better than I found it.”
Dan and his wife Bev have been happily married for 41 years. He is the father of Daniel R. McClelland, Kelly McClelland Slattery and Andrew McClelland, and grandfather to six little ones.
And of course, his “sidekick” Midge.
Leadership Geauga County is honored to announce that Sheriff Daniel C. McClelland has been named a 2014 Leadership Geauga County Emerald Leader Award Winner.
2013- Kathy Leavenworth
The 2013 award winner, a successful community servant, seems to have been everywhere.
She has excelled in leadership and volunteerism in our county and state for many years. Her commitment to community and generosity with her time has been outstanding.
Kathy Leavenworth is a retired consultant in interpersonal training, communications, group dynamics, strategic planning and outdoor team building. She attended Wells College in Aurora, New York and graduated with a BS in Interpersonal Communications from Cleveland State University.
Ms. Leavenworth was elected to the West Geauga Local School Board in 1979 and held that seat for 30 years. During her tenure on the West Geauga Board she was president 22 years, and served as chair of the policy, finance, operations, personnel, and advocacy committees. She headed strategic planning for the district, initiated the Citizens Advisory Committee and led the Construction Committee for a $20 million addition and renovation project for the entire district. She chaired numerous levy and bond issue campaigns, was a founder of the West Geauga Educational Foundation in 1986 and the West Geauga Performing Arts Foundation in 2000. The West Geauga Educational Foundation funds innovative and creative programs for students in the district that are not funded as part of the district’s core curriculum.
In addition to her local board work, Ms. Leavenworth was President of the Northeast Region of the Ohio School Boards Association (OSBA), served on the OSBA Board of Trustees and Executive Committee, and was President of OSBA in 1999. She led and served on many OSBA committees including the Federal Relations Network legislative committee working on public education issues at the national level.
Kathy was an at-large member of the State Board of Education, she was appointed by Governor Ted Strickland in 2009 where she chaired the early childhood subcommittee. Her subcommittee was charged with formulating several recommendations in preparation for an early childhood center within the Ohio Department of Education. The early childhood center is concerned with children from prenatal to kindergarten.
Ms. Leavenworth is also a very active member of her community. She was President of the Chagrin River Land Conservancy (CRLC) and led the merger of the CRLC and seven other land trusts to become the Western Reserve Land Conservancy (WRLC). She currently serves on the board of WRLC as well as the boards of the Geauga Humane Society Rescue Village, the Geauga Park District Foundation, the Ohio League Conservation Voters and the National Council for the Land Trust Alliance.
2012 - Tracy Jemison & Jim Patterson
As one of his six proposers has said he, shared and is working to achieve his vision for a viable and sustainable community. Along with several other members of the community, he played a significant role in the founding of the Geauga Growth Partnership, a private – public partnership committed to growing the economy and community of Geauga County.
While Mr. Jemison holds many executive leadership roles in the community, one which is most significant is his dedicated involvement with United Way Services of Geauga County. Mr. Jemison has served as Board Chair for United Way since 2009. He believes strongly in building community by serving others through “hand-ups” rather than “handouts.”
In addition to his United Way leadership, Tracy Jemison is the past president and member of the Burton Middlefield Rotary club, where he has served as an activist for local safety personnel, as well as veteran’s issues. He is a graduate of Leadership Geauga (2005), former Leadership Geauga Board member, former Middlefield Village Council member (which he started at the age of 19 years old), previous Geauga County Auditor which resulted in numerous awards for the County’s fiscal management, past Berkshire School Board member, and the list goes on. Mr. Jemison’s commitment to our community and the people who live here is quite remarkable. As he stated in a recent interview, “We are all here to leave the earth a better place than we found it. My involvement gives me the opportunity to do just that.”
Another nominator, said, I have the privilege of serving with Tracy Jemison on numerous community boards. He serves with distinction and action and commits with his time, talent and treasures. As a thought leader, his engaging leadership style builds trust and confidence with the people he leads. He creates excitement and a “can do” culture.
Enthusiastic and highly passionate, Tracy Jemison is morally and ethically sound. He displays a keen desire to strive for and attain excellence in personal and professional endeavors. His general approach to situation planning and problem solving is punctuated by the use of common sense techniques balanced with rationality and sensitivity.
A third proposer wrote, “I have known Tracy Jemison since he was a child living with his parents on Johnson Street just a couple of doors from my house. My daughter, Patti and Tracy and another neighbor boy would play together out in our back yards. Had I a son, I would have wanted him to grow up to be the kind of man Tracy is, a responsible and dedicated public servant, a kind and giving friend and a man of great integrity.
A fifth-generation family farmer from Geauga County is the newest honoree to be named an Emerald Leader. Jim Patterson has deep roots in Geauga County. Jim, a 1964 graduate of the Ohio State University, own Patterson Fruit Farm in Chesterland.
As most of you know the 116-acre farm includes 45 acres of apple orchards and 18 acres of strawberry fields. In addition to producing 8,000 bushels of apples for pick-your-own customers as well as retail sale at the farm market, the Pattersons make freshly pressed apple cider, which is sold at their farm market and to a large number of Geauga and Cleveland stores. Pick-your-own strawberries are available in June, and the farm offers a seven-week autumn Family Fun Fest of hayrides, pumpkin painting and other activities.
Jim has long been active in civic, agricultural and alumni affairs. From 1969 to 1982, he was a Geauga County commissioner. He was elected to the board of trustees of the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation in 1979 and served as the organization’s president from 1985 to 1989. He is a past president of the Ohio Fruit Growers Society and a former member and chairman of the Farm Credit Bank of Louisville’s board of trustees. In addition, Jim has served as vice chair of the Ohio Board of Regents
Mr. Patterson is a member of both the Nationwide Insurance Enterprise and the Nationwide Financial Services boards of directors. He served on both the Geauga Regional Hospital board of trustees and the University Hospital Health System of Cleveland board of trustees.
He served on the OSU board of trustees from 1994-2003, and was chairman of the board 2002-03. He has served as chair of the OSU Alumni Advisory Committee and on the councils of the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center and OSU Extension support councils.
He and his wife, Nancy, are members of Mayfield United Methodist Church in Chesterland and have three children, Susan, David, and Bill.
2011- Thomas Benda & Fieldstone Farm Therapeutic Riding Center
Thomas W. Benda
Thomas W. Benda has had an impact on many lives in both Lake and Geauga counties.
Tom served for many years with The Lubrizol Corporation in Corporate Environmental, Health, & Safety and has been recognized for his achievements there. But this award goes above and beyond what Tom did at work.
He has served his neighbors by his volunteer efforts on the Lakeland Foundation and as a lifetime Eagle Scout has served Greater Western Reserve Council of the Boy Scouts of America. Both of his sons (Rich and Mike) are Eagle Scouts.
Tom has spent many years “Paying it forward” as a board member of the Lake County United Way Services.
Since retirement from Lubrizol, Tom has served on the Chardon St. Mary’s Parish Council with special emphasis on evangelization, men’s renewal and the parish’s 100th year Jubilee Anniversary.
If that’s not enough, Tom serves on University Hospitals Board of Directors, and is Chairman of the Board of Directors of University Hospitals Extended Care Campus at Heather Hill.
With all of his commitment to others, “Pa” Benda still finds time to enjoy family, friends, golf and especially his grandchildren.
This is just a capsule of the accomplishments of Thomas W. Benda, Leadership Geauga County 2011 Emerald Leader.
Fieldstone Farm Therapeutic Riding Center
Fieldstone Farm is a 32-year old, Geauga County, non-profit, which provides therapeutic opportunities to children and adults whose special needs are aided through equestrian programs that promote physical / emotional wellness and individual achievement.
At Fieldstone Farm, horses help more than 800 clients annually. They have served clients with disabilities, ages 2 to 90 years old, attend from nine counties. Riders with cognitive impairments, physical disabilities and psychosocial disorders learn riding skills while they improve their balance, strengthen muscles, work on educational goals and learn life skills.
In November of 1997, the program moved into its own brand new, state-of-the-art facility, which was named Fieldstone Farm Therapeutic Riding Center. This expanded facility is one of the largest facilities of its kind in North America and it includes a therapy room, classroom, indoor and outdoor arenas and ample workspace for an array of programming.
By 1992, the Therapeutic Riding Center had dramatically expanded its staff and volunteers and increased its programming to six days per week, year-round. There are currently 34 staff members (twelve full-time) and over 500 volunteers.
Fieldstone Farm coordinates the services of 250 volunteers per week; 700 volunteers in 2010 who donated 22,222 hours of service! Their 25 member board of directors is engaged and committed to their partnership with the 37 member staff. These unique equine programs partner with approximately 40 schools and groups including The Gathering Place, Chagrin Falls Park Community Center, New Horizons and Open Doors Academy.
In more recent years, Fieldstone expanded into a partnership with Geauga Educational Service Center to house Gaitway High School, a public high school classroom for at-risk students from Geauga County schools. These students, who have emotional disabilities, thrive in an alternative educational environment focused on experiential education, vocation and life-skill training, a partnership with therapy horses and counseling.
2010- Kimm Leininger & The Interact Club of Chardon High School
Kimm Leininger easily meets and exceeds the eligibility criteria of Leadership Geauga County’s Emerald Leader Award 2010 as an individual who has significantly enhanced the quality of life in Geauga County. In addition, she could be nominated in any of the three categories: Leadership in Social and Civic Development; Volunteer/Community Service; and Special Achievement. She is a strong and well-respected leader who strives to lead by example. She is incredibly generous with her time, philanthropy and strives to increase the quality of life for everyone in Geauga County.
Kimm Leininger is the Executive Director of United Way Services of Geauga County. She has served our community in this position since 2003. Prior to this, she served as the Executive Director of WomenSafe for five years. Kimm has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Miami University and a Master of Social Work degree from The Ohio State University. She is also an alumnus of Leadership Geauga County, 2002 (aka – the Best Class!).
Upon her arrival at United Way, Kimm quickly developed a partnership with The Lake-Geauga Fund of the Cleveland Foundation and was provided a grant for an Organizational Transformation Project. This project has resulted in the engagement of key community leaders and professionals in the development of a Community Impact Agenda for Geauga County, as well as solution focused task force groups that are making an impact in the areas of Affordable Housing and Services to Homebound Seniors. As Tom Curtin (a member of the Community Investment Committee) states, “Kimm is a visionary. She was able to see that United Way resources and its affiliate agencies could direct their energies in a focused approached to specific community challenges to maximize impact upon Geauga County. Kimm accomplished this by organizing a county-wide discussion and study that lead to the development of the Geauga County Community Impact working group. She does this with a friendly professionalism that draws people together in a common effort that creates positive outcomes.”
In addition, Kimm has refocused the work of United Way Services of Geauga County in the areas of Health and Wellness, Strengthening Families and Attaining Independence. Chuck Fowler (Fairmount Minerals) states that “Kimm’s greatest strength is her ability to collaboratively bring people, organizations and agencies together for the benefit of Geauga County – and makes things work!”
Kimm gives freely of her time, energy and organizational skills. Recently, Kimm volunteered to serve as chair of a benefit committee she pulled together to assist a local family in need. As Sherry Bosworth (a committee member) states, “I had the opportunity to work with Kimm for the Pennell Family Benefit in September of this year. Our goal was to put together a spaghetti dinner, Chinese auction, and silent auction in five weeks. I so enjoyed working with Kimm, she is outstanding in her organizational skills. After every meeting, the committee received an e-mail with all details outlined; she made massive contacts to folks to gather items for the auction. Kimm worked with the family to assure them there was help available, with such things as gas cards and food and school tuition assistance, before the benefit even kicked in. Kimm is personable, a doer, not a talker – what a pleasure to work with Kimm.”
Kimm currently serves on the board for the Western Reserve Community Development Corporation. She is the past president of the CASA advisory board, a founding board member for Tri-County CARE and Parish Council President at St. Mary Catholic Church in Chardon. Kimm is also an active member of the Chardon Rotary Club, where she has served on the Board and has received three prestigious Paul Harris Fellows. Kimm is also a member of the Geauga Family First Council, Starting Point Regional Advisory Committee, and the Northeast Ohio Development Exchange.
Kimm lives in Geauga County with her family. She and her husband Neil have three children.
Interact Club of Chardon High School
There’s a special organization that, over the last nine years has exemplified leadership, and coincidentally, service above self. This group of youth people, the Interact Club of Chardon High School have organized and operated:
A Chili Cook-Off that helped support, through past nine years:
NY firefighters, Sparrow Village, Leprechaun Society, Women’s Safe, Hattie Larlham, Habitat for Humanity, Jeremy’s Kids, Needy families in Geauga County, And has raised over $40,000.
The members have read to Maple Elementary first graders every week for the past four years.
In addition, other Activities, past and present include:
- Trail Gating at Big Creek Park
- Helping Harvest Auction
- River clean up on Cuyahoga River
- Valentines for the Elderly at Heather Hill
2009 - Paul Newman
Paul Newman satisfies all of the criteria for the candidate exemplifying outstanding leadership by positive contributions through volunteerism, philanthropy, or innovation that impact the quality of life in Geauga County.
Paul Newman is a true Renaissance man. He is an attorney, an award winning artist, an author, a decorated veteran, a gentleman farmer, a world traveler, and a concerned and active citizen. His formal degrees range from an undergrad degree in biology to a Masters in English and finally a doctorate in Jurisprudence. He is married to Merrilou, his wife of 35 years, and has two daughters, Jane and Nicole.
He and his partner, Ed Brice, have been practicing law on Chardon Square and in Middlefield for 22 of his 30 years in the profession. He has shared his wealth of knowledge and expertise by teaching law in seminars and at Lakeland Community College. He has served as a trustee of the Geauga County Law Library and has edited Ipso Jure, the newsletter of the Geauga County Bar Association, for over 25 years.
Paul has been active in local government serving on the County School Board, the County Board of Elections, and the Hambden Township Zoning Commission. He also has or does serve on the boards of the Democratic Party, the Maple Festival and Geauga Park District.
Paul has been the spearhead for the Memorial for Geauga County Veterans, which is heading into its final stages of realization. It will be centrally located by the Geauga County Hospital, Safety Center, and other county government buildings by Merritt Drive.
He has been the kitchen chief for the Pancake Breakfast at the Berkshire cafeteria for the Middlefield-Burton Rotary Club for years. The funds received by Rotary from the pancake participants are used in multiple local and non-local charitable and educational programs.
Paul has served as Chairman and on the Board of the Maple Festival Committee for years, again donating countless hours for that activity and for the benefit of Chardon and the greater Geauga community.
Paul is an accomplished photographer and has won many awards both locally and nationally. He was one of the founding members of the Geauga Council for Arts & Culture and has served on its board ever since.
He has published 10 photography booklets highlighting and honoring Geauga County churches, people, barns, waters, gardens, education, vistas, and heritage.
He is a past recipient of the Chapman Award from the Geauga County Library Association for his many contributions.
He has served for years as the Editor of Ipso Jure, the newsletter for the Geauga County Bar Association, which keeps its members up to date on legal and other matters for its Geauga County Bar Association members.
Recently, Paul advocated journals to be kept by seniors at various Geauga County High Schools for them to look back in subsequent years.
He has also promoted time capsules in Lake and Geauga County for future generations.
He has also served on the committee interviewing and recommending Geauga County students wishing to enter our military academies.
Besides being a lawyer, Paul is a photographer, world traveler, part-time farmer, family man, holder of a Master’s Degree in English, Bachelor’s Degree in Biology, and a combat-decorated, Purple Heart recipient, Veteran of the Vietnam War.
Paul was a decorated Viet Nam veteran receiving both the Bronze Star and a Purple Heart. He was a ranger in the Army where he attained the rank of Staff Sergeant. He and several of his war buddies captured the essence of that experience in several autobiographical vignettes published as Nine from the Ninth. Paul is spearheading the effort to create a Veteran’s Memorial for Geauga County.
Paul is our Geauga County ‘Renaissance Man,’ and ‘Man for all Seasons,’ who is very deserving of Leadership Geauga County’s Emerald Leader Award!
There is no question that Geauga County is better off for him living here. He exemplifies in every way the ideals upon which Leadership Geauga was founded and as such deserves to receive the Emerald Award for 2009.
2008- Deborah O’Connor & Richard Frenchie
Debbie O’Connor came to the Geauga County Public Library in August of 1985. Under her administration, her vision and leadership brought the Geauga County Public Library to the enviable position of one of the leading libraries of its size in all of Ohio. Geauga County has boasted the highest per capita borrowing rate in the state for many years being more than twice the state average and far greater than the national average. She has spearheaded the passage of two levies that have helped to put the library system on a more even financial keel. She has overseen the renovation of the Chardon library, the building of the Middlefield Library and the Administrative Center and the major overhaul of the Bainbridge Library. She has begun limited service in Newbury and Thompson by instituting the library stations located in the respective high schools. The Bookmobile service was added to serve the entire community, but most especially the Amish community. She oversaw the launching of the Amish Book Delivery Program that grew from two Amish schools to 36.
Debbie was a member of the study group which explored the feasibility of beginning a community leadership program in Geauga County. She became a founding board member of Leadership Geauga County in 1995, bringing her organizational skills and her extensive connections to the group. Although she did not go through the class until 2000, she used her influence and expertise to ensure that the development of the embryonic organization would be beneficial to Geauga County, as well as effective in helping individuals grow in their professional and civic lives. Her persuasive and energetic leadership style attracted the right mix of people and resources to the new enterprise. On the board she served as a standard bearer for organizational consistency and program quality. During the time she served as board president, she instituted a board retreat and a strategic plan which is still bearing fruit today. It is not an exaggeration to say that without her there would be no Leadership Geauga.”
Debbie became a member of the United Way board in 2001. She initially became active with several committees within the organization. In 2003, Debbie agreed to serve as the campaign chair, which resulted in a record setting year. In 2004, Debbie continued her role in the campaign as a lo-chair and also took on the role as the United Way Board Chair.
From 1996 through 1999, Debbie chaired the Catholic Schools Futuring Committee. Her expertise in planning and constructing many Chardon library facilities was put to good use in the areas of demographics, facilities and finances.
Debbie has also served on the Grievance Committee for the Geauga Bar Association, the purpose of which is prosecuting a disciplinary action against a lawyer before the Board of Commissioners of Grievances & Discipline for the State of Ohio.
Richard Frenchie’s hard work and dedication has led a team of nearly 1,000 employees, physicians and volunteers in the transformation of UHHS Geauga Regional Hospital into University Hospitals Geauga Medical Center.
Involving much more than a simple name change and new logo, the conversion was a result of a yearlong strategic assessment – referred to as Vision 2010 – of demographic trends and consumer healthcare needs in the greater Geauga County region. He has spearheaded an aggressive expansion program, involving major investments totaling more than $40 million, to demonstrate the hospital’s commitment to providing sophisticated services close to home.
Recent enhancements for residents in and around Geauga County include new cardiac catheterization and Vascular Laboratories, The Orthopaedic Center, an expanded Emergency Center and, by mid-2008, a $4.5 million surgery center expansion. By the way, it’s no accident that this center is – and will continue to be – known as the Richard J. Frenchie Surgical Pavilion because of his unwavering devotion to the hospital’s mission: to heal, to teach, to discover.
Richard Frenchie earned Fellow status in the American College of Healthcare Executives, an international professional society, and the hospital received a bronze level award from the Ohio Partnership for Excellence to recognize the organization’s progress toward continuous quality performance excellence.
Consistent with his participatory management style, Richard Frenchie has created and maintained a positive atmosphere that continues to attract the finest physicians, nurses, support staff and volunteers to share their talents as UH Geauga Medical Center takes care of an ever-growing number of patients.
For the past two years he has eagerly accepted, and aggressively participated in, the role of Honorary Chair for the Geauga Arthritis Walk. This annual event raises funds to support arthritis research and Arthritis Foundation activities in Geauga County.
As an individual who cares deeply about the future success of Geauga County and its inhabitants, Richard J. Frenchie currently serves as Chairman of the Board at Kent State University Geauga and Twinsburg Campus.
He has dedicated his time and energy to establish, in conjunction with the Medical Staff at UH Geauga Medical Center, the Terry M. Weaver Endowed Nursing Scholarship. As a tribute to the hospital’s recently-retired Chief Nursing Officer, $10,000 endowed scholarship will be used to support students who wish to succeed in the nursing profession by enrolling in the BSN program at KSU Geauga Campus. This innovative funding mechanism serves to establish links between the hospital, the university, and the surrounding community as they work collectively to meet long-term healthcare needs of a growing and aging population.
In addition, Mr. Frenchie is an active volunteer leader in numerous other organizations, including serving as a life trustee of the American Heart Association, and as a board member at the Center for Health Affairs, Geauga Park District, Chardon Chamber of Commerce and University Hospitals Extended Care Campus.
2007- Howard Bates & Burton-Middlefield Rotary Club
Howard Bates is a successful businessman owning and operating a large trucking firm in Burton Ohio.
He has given, yes given as in “free” so much to his community and our citizens. On many occasions Howard has been called upon him for the use of a truck whether to haul government surplus property back to Geauga County or to haul large quantities of evidence seized on a raid. He has donated materials and trucking to the Geauga County Fair, the schools, and others. In fact he even serves on the Fair Board as a Director. He has donated trucks and drivers to haul homes and materials to Katrina victims through his involvement in Rotary. He has even donated trucks to haul relief items and equipment to southern Ohio during the spring floods of 1997.
Howard’s most recent donation occurred after he bought the old Claridon Elementary. He offered the use of the gymnasium, four classrooms and the office area free of charge to the Geauga County Police Athletic League. As a result of this generosity area youngsters will enjoy recreational, social and educational opportunities at the new PAL Center. In fact the school is now the home for a program named “Parent Project” that is designed to help parents deal with the complex issues of raising difficult or rebellious children. Howard has given financial support and has participated in numerous community and county service and support organizations. Through his local business and personal support he continues to make his community and Geauga County a better place for all. He has continued to be an active and supportive member of the Burton-Middlefield Rotary Club.
Regarding his involvement with the Geauga County Historical Society, the 2007 Emerald Leader is a Heritage Partner for the newest addition to Century Village, the Carriage House. When he has seen that the gravel drives have needed dressing, he has volunteered to provide gravel at no cost to us. He provided free trucking services when we built our gravel parking lot a few years ago. He will always help when asked. He regularly supports schools activities and has provided financial support for a number of projects at the Geauga County Fairgrounds where he is Vice President of the Fair Board. He is a very generous individual, both with his time and money and has contributed in a significant way to the quality of life we enjoy in Geauga County.
Burton-Middlefield Rotary Club
The Burton-Middlefield Rotary Club has conducted many fundraising events for the benefit of the Geauga County. Most recently a motorcycle run and a car show for the Veterans memorial, Inc., The club’s membership of over 50 members and families has dedicated untold time and money for these and many projects in support of the residents of Geauga County. In addition this group made sure that all of police and sheriff vehicles in the County are equipped with AED’s.
The Club has supported the eradication of Polio across the world, is currently working on a project to provide a crate of 550 Free Wheelchairs to the needy in Ghana, Africa and has for many years supported projects in countries worldwide, including a small clinic and pharmacy in the African country of Ghana.
This group has supported among other things: a County Home Christmas Party, a Heather Hill Picnic, a re-roofing project on the Newbury Park Pavilion, Ambassadorial Scholarships, John Gander “Service Above Self” Scholarships, local Boy Scouts, a “Four-Way Speech Contest”, Girls Softball Tournament, Interact, Rotaract, RYLA, World Affairs Seminar, and international Youth Exchange.
Internationally they have supported: Gift of Life program, Group Study Exchange, Paul Harris Fellowships, the Pearl S. Buck Foundation, PolioPlus, and the Rotary Foundation Sustaining Membership.
2006- Junction Auto Family & Richard Moss
Junction Auto Family
The Junction Auto Family, under the leadership of Ed Babcock, represents the ideal corporate entity for an area like Geauga County.
In their business they provide a valuable commodity supported by award winning service. Junction Auto maintains a business ethic to be admired. The company provides meaningful employment opportunities, at fair wages with attractive benefits that allow people who live in the county to work in the county.
Junction Auto also has an enormous impact on the welfare of the county by their consistent support of worthwhile events and organizations. Financially they support the Geauga Lyric Theater Guild, Chagrin Valley Little Theater, the annual Community Fireworks, Boy Scouts, WomenSafe; the Great Geauga County Fair… the list is nearly endless.
Mr. Babcock has his home, his business, and his heart grounded in Geauga County. His investment in our community deserves the recognition of Leadership Geauga County’s Emerald Leader Award.
Help us congratulate the Junction Auto Family on their 75th Anniversary!
Richard A. Moss of Middlefield epitomizes the word “leader.” Dick has made a lifelong commitment to Geauga County and even though he celebrated his 80th birthday in 1997, he continues to serve his community well. Dick has been an elected member of the Cardinal Local School District Board of Education for over 48 years and was recently elected to another four-year term. He has served as president of that body since 1958.
Dick has been a fixture at the Great Geauga County Fair for almost fifty years, most often serving as Director. In 1997, Dick was recognized by the Greater Ohio Showmanship Association as “Outstanding Director of the Year” for District 9 encompassing Geauga, Lake, Portage, Cuyahoga, Ashtabula, Stark, Summit, Trumbull, Mahoning, and Columbiana counties. Dick was instrumental in the development of the Great Geauga Fair Band-O-Rama, and the Great Geauga County Fair Heritage Village
Dick has also been recognized by the Ohio School Boards Association, the Ohio Fair Managers Association, and the Great Geauga County Fair.
Dick is a highly respected member of the community serving as a Kiwanis member and president, a Trustee of the Middlefield Methodist Church, and an Ohio Fair Managers Association Director.
2005 - Alice Sems
Alice, who served as executive director for Leadership Geauga County, recently retired after serving the organization for 10 years. Under Sems’ direction, 240 graduates completed the Leadership Geauga County, program, and the Emerald Ball successfully became Leadership Geauga County’s premier fundraising event. Sems is also credited with advancing all aspects of training for Leadership Geauga County.
After 10 years of exceptional service to Leadership Geauga Alice Sems announced her retirement. Her contributions to our organization have been directly responsible for the growth and success of Leadership Geauga. We are extremely grateful to Alice and it is fitting that she receives this honor,” said Kristina Fenselon, President of Leadership Geauga County. The Emerald Leader award is presented annually to an individual who exemplifies outstanding leadership by positive contributions through volunteerism, philanthropy, or innovation that impact the quality of life in Geauga County.
Prior to joining Leadership Geauga County, Sems served with the United Way of Cleveland for two years and with the United Way of Geauga for eight years. A 30-year resident of Geauga County, Sems resides in Chardon Township with her husband, Ewald. The couple has three children.
2004 - Sr. Sandy Nativio, SND
Sister Sandy grew up in the lively Italian neighborhood of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. She entered the Sisters of Notre Dame while still in high school. She says she really wanted to own a horse farm! She completed her undergraduate work at St. John College in Cleveland. She then received an MAED from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University and an MAIA from Ursuline College.
She is a graduate of Leadership Geauga County, class of 1999. After many years of teaching in various elementary schools/ she became the Assistant Principal at Metro Catholic in Cleveland. In 1991 she came to Chardon to become the Principal at St. Mary. She serves many organizations including the National Catholic Education Association, Notre Dame Education Association, Catholic School Futuring Strategic Planning Committee, the American Red Cross, and the Board of Trustees of Leadership Geauga County. Amazingly, she still has hobbies like walking, swimming, crossword puzzles, babysitting great nieces and nephews, and cheering on the Browns, Cavs, and Indians.
2003- Gordon Safran
When Gordon Safran sold E.B. Brown in 1998, one could say that in setting aside his glasses his vision became clear: find one of the most picturesque locations in (Geauga County and build a AAA four diamond inn. The result was The Red Maple Inn in Burton.
It is our great fortune that Mr. Safran brought his dedication and commitment to community to (Geauga County. He was deeply involved with the Das Deutsch Center and has worked tirelessly to realize its goal of opening a clinic in Middlefield. Mr. Safran spends much of his time and talent educating the public on the special needs of the children to whom the center is devoted.
Mr. Safran has also contributed to the betterment of our community as a member of both the Kent State University Geauga Advisory Board and Geauga Tourism Council.
2002- Bill Prior
2001- Jeff Keener
Mr. Keener has been a dedicated employer and a generous contributor in Geauga County since 1978 when he acquired The Chardon Rubber Company. Employees and various organizations within Geauga County have benefited from this dedication through educational opportunities and financial support for organizations such as the United Way, American Cancer Society, The Geauga Library Foundation and Leadership Geauga County. Chardon Rubber recently helped the Chardon Fire Department purchase a new heat imaging camera and made a significant contribution to the new YMCA to be built at Heather Hill. Mr. Keener’s endless time and energy have helped to change the face of Geauga County.