Five businesses, including three from Oregon, were honored with awards at the 19th Annual Prism Awards, held Wednesday night at Sunrise Park and Banquet Center in Millbury.
The Oregon businesses were East Point Physical Therapy, which won the General Excellence Award; Jeffers Crane Service won the Pioneer Award; and Simply Green Lawn Service won the Horizon Award.
The Black Swamp Bird Observatory, Oak Harbor, won the Community Improvement Award and the East Toledo Family Center-hosted Financial Stability Collaborative Program won the Best Practice Award.
|At the Prism Awards are Chrys Peterson, WTOL: Sarah BEavers and Larry Shaffer, Eastern Maumee Bay Chamber of Commerce with Prism finalists Kimberly Kaufman, Black Swamp Bird Observatory; Paul Kimball, Kimball Well Drilling, Erek Hansen, Judge's Award; Curtis Kimball, Kimball Well Drilling; Don Walendzak, East Point Physical Therapy; Kim Partin, Financial Stability Collaborative Program; Rick Jaques, Simply Green Lawn Service; Brad Fisher, Jeffers Crane; John Eisenhart, Person of the Year; Jessica Derkis;, Otterbein Portage Valley. (Press photo by Ken Grosjean)
Don “Red” Walendzak of East Point Physical Therapy invested in the community where he was raised. In 2003 he and a partner opened their first office on Navarre. Three years later, he purchased the practice and moved it to Dustin Road. At that time he had one employee. Today, he employs seven.
Walendzak attributes the growth to treating employees and patients like family. He takes pride in creating a fun and uplifting environment for patients who typically attend sessions two to three times a week. He has expanded to offer athletic enhancement programs and a super-pulsed infrared laser for light therapy.
Walendzak thanked his wife for letting him put in long hours, saying, “Everybody here with small businesses, you put in long hours and you get pulled away without any warning.”
East Point participates in the Quest Program and has relationships with Owens Community College and the University of Toledo to introduce physical therapy to young people.
Jeffers Crane, founded in 1948, was briefly owned by the Fondessy Family before being sold to All Erection and Crane Rental in 1995. All Crane is the largest privately held crane rental company in North America.
Jeffers rents cranes both with and without an operator. The company was the only crane supplier to the Veterans Glass City Skyway Bridge project. The four-year project employed hundreds of construction workers. Jeffers also supplied the cranes for the Hollywood Casino.
Jeffers sent cranes to aid in the relief and clean-up effort after the June 5 tornado hit Lake Township and parts of Ottawa County. It also is assisting BP-Husky Refining with its newest construction project and provides cranes for the wind turbine industry.
Brad Fisher, the safety director who has been with the company three-and-a-half years and accepted the award, said, “It’s been a great experience. I’ve been in safety about 18 years and it’s the best place I’ve ever worked.”
In three years, Simply Green Lawn Service has grown from zero customers to more than 900. The reasons are the company returns all customer calls within 24 hours, stresses customer service and uses only phosphorous-free fertilizer.
Phosphorous is believed to be the main contributor to the algae problem in Lake Erie.
Two years ago, Simply Green teamed up with Warnke Enterprises. Warnke refers its landscaping clients to Simply Green for lawn and weed feeding and Simply Green refers its weed and feed customers to Warnke.
Owner Rick Jaques also finds time to stay involved in the Oregon community. He has been president of The Oregonian Club, board member of the Eastern Maumee Bay Chamber of Commerce and on the board of zoning appeals for the City of Oregon.
Jaques said he was “shocked” when his business was announced a winner.
“As anybody knows anytime you form a business, there is always a driving force behind everything you do, and that driving force is my wife,” Jaques said, explaining that he was always criticizing his previous employers until she suggested he start his own business.
The mission of the Black Swamp Bird Observatory is to inspire the appreciation and conservation of birds and their habitats through research, education and outreach.
That outreach includes hosting the Biggest Week in American Birding, an 11-day Spring festival entering its third year. The festival last year attracted some 64,000 visitors to the Lake Erie marshes. These visitors, who come from as far as Kenya, Australia and Japan, spent an estimated $29 million.
Director Kim Kaufman, whose operation involves over 100 volunteers, said, “I thought no one ever would have felt that when you were talking about birding, you’d be talking about economic development. It’s something we’ve found to connect birds and people, and it helps that the quality of services and people in this area is so phenomenal.”
The observatory has banded more than 500,000 birds in order to study migration habits. This is the largest banding operation in North America and one such foray on West Sister Island was featured on the popular television show Dirty Jobs.
The Financial Stability Collaborative Program, a joint program between the family center and Lutheran Social Services provides financial coaching to hundreds of individuals who have fallen on hard times during the Big Recession.
ETFC director Kim Partin said said the program is funded through the United Way. The ETFC was one of the longest running organizations funded in part by the United Way, but now the United Way chooses to fund programs, not institutions, Partin added.
Financial coaches undergo a five-day intensive training session to help clients reach financial literacy, set realistic, financial goals and enhance accountability.
The coaches partner with banks, employment agencies, utilities and social service agencies to help clients restructure debt, manage expenses, access money-saving social services and tap into educational and job opportunities.
One on one coaching is used as well as educational workshops. Clients are also introduced to programs for rent assistance, housing referrals and healthy diets.
“We refer, as coach, to provide education for families who are struggling,” Partin said. “I’m just lucky I get to lead great people to do their best.”
Chrys Peterson, a local news broadcaster in her 18th year as emcee of the award ceremony, said, “What a tremendous service you are providing, Kim and crew. Finances is something that most people are not taught.”