Humanitarians recognized with National Philanthropy Day Awards

VERO BEACH — The 2010 National Philanthropy Day Awards Celebration, presented by the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Indian River Chapter, honored the outstanding philanthropic achievements of individuals and businesses at its annual awards ceremony Thursday afternoon at the Vero Beach Museum of Art.

Humanitarians, volunteers and philanthropists are nominated each year by local non-profit organizations, and are chosen by a selection panel which included the Suncoast Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals.

Becky Allen presided as mistress of ceremonies and said in her introduction, “We celebrate all of these wonderful people and the contributions they make to our community.”

Michael Schwartz was honored as the Outstanding Volunteer Fundraiser for his work with Indian River Habitat for Humanity, as someone who does what is needed to get the job done and who is not afraid to get his hands dirty.

Although he only spends four months of the year as an Orchid Island resident, Schwartz is responsible for creating and continually motivating the Orchid Habitat Committee, rallying his friends and neighbors for their support.

Schwartz has been quoted as saying, “I have no hesitation asking people for money because it is certainly not for me.  I’m asking them for something I believe in.”

His fundraising efforts have certainly paid off; Orchid residents have raised more than $550,000 for Habitat for Humanity, and the group is in the process now of building their 14th and 15th Habitat homes.

In accepting the award Schwartz said, “I feel a little bit like a ball player selected for an all-star game.”

He credited Habitat’s staff for its being named three times as Affiliate of the Year, and thanked his neighbors saying,  “I work with a phenomenal committee at Orchid Island Golf and Beach Club, who get right in and work.”

Indian River Habitat for Humanity also successfully nominated Todd Heckman, who was honored as this year’s Unsung Hero.  Heckman is now in his second term on the Habitat board of directors; just under a year at the helm as its chairman.

According to Habitat President Andy Bowler, “He’s been fabulous and is taking us in a new direction with his initiatives.”

Heckman also serves as treasurer for the Indian River Housing Authority and is working to improve communication to help provide affordable housing in Indian River County.

Heckman smiled when he accepted the award and said, “I have just two words – feisty redhead.”

He went on to say, “The people at Habitat are a real special group; we’re building homeowners, not just homes.  The people in this room have a passion for the causes we care about; we take care of the things that are important to the community.”

PNC Wealth Management and its President Kevin Grady were honored with the Outstanding Corporate Philanthropist Award.  He was nominated by the Vero Beach Museum of Art for his time as a board member and generous financial support over the past 25 years.

But his involvement in the community extends much further, having also served on the boards of the Atlantic Classical Orchestra, Riverside Theatre, Hibiscus Children’s Center, Indian River Medical Center Foundation, Humane Society of Vero Beach and Indian River County, and the Habitat for Humanity Advisory Board.  Staff at PNC has taken leadership roles in numerous other local organizations, generously donating time and financial contributions.

Promising to keep his speech short, Grady got a laugh when he quipped, “As my friend likes to say, “We’re going to go through this quicker than a redneck at the Louvre.””

Noting that the Museum is often thought of as being only for people on the barrier island, Grady said, “I can assure you – that is definitely not true.”  He also stressed the importance of stimulating future generations to become philanthropic.

Barbara Becker Hurley, nominated by the Mental Health Association, Vero Heritage, Inc. and the Gifford Youth Activity Center, received a standing ovation from the crowd, as the Outstanding Individual Philanthropist.  Her benevolence and compassion have extended to countless non-profits; providing gifts of more than $2 million to 25 local organizations.

Donations are primarily gifted through the Richard and Lillian Becker Foundation, to honor the legacy of her late parents. Other recipient organizations include the Vero Beach Museum of Art, the Indian River Land Trust, Habitat for Humanity and the Boys and Girls Clubs, but the list is endless.

Accepting the award, Hurley said, “I don’t give to be thanked, but it’s really nice to be thanked in such a nice way.  “I think of this town as having a crown, with the jewels as charities. Some jewels are bigger and brighter, but all have value.”

The other honorees were each given a descriptive title which evoked the motivation behind their nominations.

The Outstanding Volunteer honoree was Joanna Meyers, “The Thinker,” nominated by Big Brothers Big Sisters of Indian River County.

Unsung Hero honorees were Susan (Suzy) Bromwell, “The Advocate,” nominated by Planned Parenthood of Indian River County; Rev. Jack Diehl, “The Enthusiast” nominated by Big Brothers Big Sisters of Indian River County; and Mary Beth Vallar, “Community Pillar,” nominated by The Sun Up Center.

Corporate Philanthropist honorees were Conrado Enterprises of Indian River County, “The Role Model,” nominated by Indian River State College Foundation; Marine Bank & Trust Company, “The Investors,” nominated by VNA & Hospice Foundation; and Panera Bread owners Al and Jo Covelli, “The Partners,” nominated by Hibiscus Children’s Center.

Individual Philanthropist honorees were Glenn Ireland, “The Visionary,” nominated by The Sun Up Center; and Mr. and Mrs. Warren Schwerin, “Graceful Givers,” nominated by the Humane Society of Vero Beach and Indian River County.

The AFPIR Chapter, formed in 2006, consists of non-profit fund development professionals, advisors and volunteers. The National Philanthropy Day Award celebration was presented by sponsor George E. Warren Corporation and co-chaired by Jennifer Jones and Kelley Williams. {igallery 304}

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