For the 28th year, the Association of Fundraising Professionals’ Greater Detroit chapter will hold its National Philanthropy Day dinner. On Nov. 6, located at The Henry in Dearborn, the event will honor some of southeastern Michigan’s most dedicated volunteers, philanthropists, and fundraising professionals. We sat down with this year’s Association of Fundraising Professionals awardees and asked about their philanthropic endeavors and the organizations that nominated them. Now, meet the charity champs.
Association of Fundraising Professionals’ Greater Detroit Chapter 2019 Awardees
Outstanding Foundation Award Sponsored by Plante Moran
Lew LaPaugh for the Ted Lindsay Foundation – Nominated by Oakland University
Give: Can you talk a little bit about the Ted Lindsay Foundation?
Lew LaPaugh: Ted Lindsay had a close friend whose son was autistic, so he wanted to help that community. Nineteen years later, we have raised $5 million. One in  children are diagnosed with autism, so we have given a lot to research programs to find the cause [of the disorder]. We also work with families, helping with education.
What kind of work do you do with Oakland University?
We started a relationship about six years ago, working with OU Cares. They help over [1,200] families in the area with children on the autism spectrum.
Why do you think the AFP chose the Ted Lindsay Foundation for this award?
Only 12% of money raised goes toward our costs — the rest goes toward our causes. We made a million-dollar gift to Beaumont Health three years ago and to Oakland University last year. And we’ve spent probably more than $2 million on research alone.
What exactly does the Ted Lindsay Foundation do to help local families in need?
When we started out, we were more research-focused, but lately, we’ve been focusing on educational programs. It’s a very expensive endeavor for these families. That’s why we have the Ted Lindsay Foundation Hope Center, where parents can take their children to get diagnosed properly, so they can seek treatment. And Oakland University is helping these kids find jobs in the community and lead productive lives.
Are there other organizations you work with?
Yes. We work with a group called Healing Haven, which helps kids ages [8 to 16], after they age out of the Hope Center. We’ve also done work with Dutton Farms, which employs these kids on the farm so they can support themselves.
Outstanding Corporation Award
Jim Nicholson for PVS Chemicals Inc. – Nominated by Detroit Public Television
Give: Why do you think DPTV nominated PVS Chemicals?
Jim Nicholson: We have been involved with them for many years. We help with pledge drives, and we match the pledges dollar-per-dollar.
Why do you think PVS Chemicals was named Outstanding Corporation?
We’ve been very active in the community in a number of areas — with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, the Michigan Science Center, Alternatives for Girls, and more — for nearly 75 years now.
Which organizations do you work with most?
We’ve been involved with the DSO for at least 20 years. I was the chairman of the board there, and we have consistently contributed dollars to support them.
Why is community involvement important to PVS Chemicals?
We live here, so we want this to be an attractive community.
What inspires you to give back?
Part of the resurgence of Detroit is due to the fact that our cultural institutions have continued to thrive. It’s made this a place people want to live.
Neal Shine Award for Media Commitment
Rhonda Walker – Nominated by Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit
Give: Let’s talk about your charitable work.
Rhonda Walker: I’ve had the Rhonda Walker Foundation for 16 years, but I’ve always been very involved in the nonprofit sector, doing speaking engagements and hosting events.
What is the foundation’s ethos?
Our core program, Girls Into Women, is a five-year program for kids grades 8-12. We work with teen girls to help with development, empowerment, leadership skills, and building confidence. Our mission is to empower inner-city girls to become successful future leaders.
Why did you start the RWF?
I went to a lot of schools to speak to teen girls. And I saw so many lower-income families that were single-parent homes or just didn’t have the advantages that suburban kids might. So, I created an organization to provide those resources, as well as love, encouragement, and sisterhood.
Why is philanthropy important?
My parents taught me that helping people in need is what we’re on this planet to do. I feel everything I’ve received in life, I’ve received so I could use it to help others.
George W. Romney Award for Lifetime Achievement in Volunteerism
Steve and Sheila Hamp – Nominated by The Empowerment Plan and The Purple Rose Theatre Company
Give: What efforts won you this award?
Steve Hamp: Sheila and I co-chair the Purple Rose Theatre, where we’ve been raising funds for a number of years. And I chair the board of the Empowerment Plan. Sheila’s also the vice chair of the Detroit Lions. We spend much of our lives doing this kind of work, because we believe in the adage, “From those to whom much is given, much is expected.”
Why is the Empowerment Plan’s mission important to you?
We work with some of the most disadvantaged people in our society — generally women, many of whom have three or four children, living in shelters or unstable environments. We hire and train them to provide a path to success. They make coats that turn into sleeping bags, which are donated to homeless populations across the country. And I’m happy to say that 100% of the women that have left our program have gone on to better jobs and stable housing.
Is there a stand-out moment that reminds you why you’re involved with this organization?
Two of the women we employed spoke at a fundraiser we held. One talked about how she left the program and started her own clothing business, going from a very disadvantaged place to being an entrepreneur. The other woman was homeless with a family, and she announced that she had just purchased her own home. Everyone in the room realized that this is an organization that changes people’s lives in very positive ways.
What does the mission of The Purple Rose Theatre mean to you?
Actor Jeff Daniels started it to ensure that all people in theater have an opportunity to practice their craft without moving to New York or Los Angeles. He’s been very successful in that. And we have a lot of fans because people find the experience so meaningful. It’s very unique.
What is your favorite part about working with them?
The surprise and satisfaction we experience at the consistently high levels of creativity and performance in every aspect of the productions. And it’s right here in Chelsea.
Dr. John S. Lore Award for Outstanding Fundraising Executive
Paul Miller – Nominated by Presbyterian Villages of Michigan
Give: What do you think won you the award?
Paul Miller: Before PVM, I was at Special Olympics. I think my imprint on both those organizations is the reason I was given this lofty honor.
How did you get into fundraising?
I worked in for-profit until I found Special Olympics, which offered to cover the cost of my master’s degree. At the time, that was a big factor, but I saw the positive impact I could have and enjoyed it.
When did you fall in love with your career?
Eight months into it, we were sending the athletes to the World Winter Games and found out many didn’t have tennis shoes to wear in the opening ceremonies. So, I wrote a letter to a bunch of shoe companies, and Vans provided 50-60 pairs. Seeing the joy of the athletes when we handed out those shoes — I thought, “This is giving me so much more.”
Why is PVM’s mission important to you?
Older adults are an underappreciated population, and I like the fact that I get to support them through my work.
Max M. Fisher Award for Outstanding Philanthropist
Shery and David Cotton – Nominated by Detroit Zoological Society
Give: What was your first local philanthropic effort?
Shery Cotton: We’re originally from California, but when we moved here, we really fell in love with the area. So, when we gained the ability to give back through our company, Meridian Health Plan, we were happy to do that.
Why do you think the Detroit Zoological Society nominated you and your husband for this award?
We’ve been pretty involved with the Detroit Zoo for more than 10 years, and I’m on the board. We’re also big animal lovers. Ron Kagan is a really special person for all he’s done for the zoo.
Why do you enjoy being involved with the Detroit Zoological Society?
Zoos get a bad rap, but the Detroit Zoo is very involved with sustaining animals and their living habitats. For example, the amphibian population is declining because of climate change, and the Detroit Zoo has been doing work to help combat that, which people don’t know about. They’ve also been involved in educating people on taking care of the Earth, and they’re very committed to that. The zoo continues to grow, and it’s been incredible to be a part of that.
What other organizations are you involved with?
We have several entities we support. We’ve been involved with and done some giving to the Grosse Pointe Park area. We’re also very involved with The Cure — whose mission is to find a cure for epilepsy — because our granddaughter died of epilepsy. Then there’s the Grosse Pointe Housing Foundation, which provides housing for college students in the Detroit area and pays half the rent every month. My husband also started the Detroit Crime Commission. And of course, with David being in academic medicine, we’ve also been fairly generous to a lot of the medical institutions in the area — we’ve done some things with Bon Secours Health System and St. John’s Hospital.
What changes do you hope to see as a result of your efforts?
Well, I think you’re seeing it. Since we moved here in 1991, the cities and the communities have been growing stronger all the time, and it’s been really great to be a part of that. I don’t feel like we’ve had as much to do with that as others, but it’s nice to play a part. It’s nice to see your community become a better, stronger place that you want your children and grandchildren to grow up in.
Edmund T. Ahee Jewel Award for Outstanding Volunteer Fundraiser
Mike and Adele Acheson – Nominated by Cranbrook Educational Community
Give: How did you connect with Cranbrook Educational Community?
Mike Acheson: I went to school there, and so did both our boys. So we got involved with the school years ago. Adele started doing fundraisers and I got on the board of governors. Over time, I migrated onto the trustees board, and Adele replaced me on the school’s board, which she actually rose to chair. And we both did a lot of fundraising for the school.
What do you think won you the award?
Adele Acheson: For the last 15 years, I served as chair of the school’s development committee and their board of governors. Then as a trustee, I chaired the development committee for the board of trustees at Cranbrook. The more you’re involved as a parent, the better you get to know the people and the needs of the school. We were very committed to the staff and the mission of the organization, because we had a personal connection. And as we spent time there, we became integrated into other program areas outside of the school — science, the academy, the museum, house and gardens, the center for collections and research.
MA: We’ve been really involved in all three areas of Cranbrook — the school, the art academy and museum, and the science institute — for more than 20 years. And we don’t just fundraise. We’ve been leaders in philanthropy as well, which helps in fundraising. It’s a put-your-money-where-your-mouth-is kind of thing. We’ve also been involved in the community in many other ways.
Can you speak to the organization’s core mission?
AA: Across the campus, the program’s missions are about excellence, outreach, making sure that a wide community has access to the programs.
What were your largest contributions to Cranbrook?
AA: Providing committee leadership was an important part of my role. We also developed Women Rock Science, a new fundraiser for the Institute of Science.
MA: A lot has been using my network to bring people of influence to the table.
What kind of work have you done outside of Cranbrook?
MA: I spent 15 years on the board at Gleaners Food Bank, where we were also donors. I’m also chairman of the Math Corps, a program for Detroit kids. And Adele has spent many years on the board of the Josephine Ford Cancer Center at Henry Ford Hospital.
Sparky Anderson Award for Youth in Philanthropy
Richard King for AAYI Kappa League – Nominated by AAYI Alumni Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc.
Give: Tell us a little bit about the Kappa League.
Richard King: It’s a national program operated by the Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity. We recruit high schoolers and engage them in leadership development and community service.
Why do you think the Kappa League won the award for youth in philanthropy?
Each year, the league chooses a nonprofit to benefit with a car wash fundraiser. This year, we raised over $500 for Corner Health Center of Ypsilanti, which is one of the only free health clinics for youths. They offer pregnancy prevention, mental health care, and many other things.
What does this award mean to the Kappa League?
We do this work on a volunteer basis, because we want to make a difference. This reinforces the value of that effort.
What do you enjoy most about your involvement in the Kappa League?
Seeing how fast youths grow when they have opportunities to take responsibility. That’s why we do it.