Annual luncheon honors philanthropists and volunteers

Richard Rosenthal

Richard Rosenthal

Tuesday, Nov. 15, 11 a.m.,  Duke Energy Convention Center

The annual National Philanthropy Day luncheon hosted by the Association of Fundraising Professionals will honor four local philanthropists.

Richard Rosenthal will be honored as Philanthropist of the Year.

Other honorees (scroll down for profiles) include John I. Silverman, Outstanding Volunteer; and Katie McElveen, Outstanding Youth in Philanthropy. Wesley Holm will receive a special Ambassador of Philanthropy award for his commitment to help disabled veterans.

Dean Gregory, vice president of Montgomery Inn, is honorary chair. He was selected for his support of the USO and the Wounded Warriors Project.

Keynote speaker will be J.R. Martinez, best-selling author, motivational speaker and actor. A U.S. Army veteran who was severely burned in a bombing in Iraq, Martinez inspired audiences when he won ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars” competition. Martinez has spread a message learned from his own hardships: Our paths in life are decided by our own ability to adapt and overcome.

Tickets are $60; sales will end Oct. 30.

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John Silverman

John Silverman

John I. Silverman, Outstanding Volunteer

John I. Silverman was new in town, just hanging out at an event, when he realized that he wanted more in his life than his satisfying career as a real estate developer. “By definition, if you’ve gotten good at what you are doing, you can do it in less time,” he said. “I wanted to do something of significance.”

He found that significance in his volunteer work, which Silverman describes as his “parallel career.”

That work led to the Indian Hill resident being named Outstanding Volunteer of the Year by the Association of Fundraising Professionals.

Nominated by a list of those he impacted – including Talbert House, Cincinnati State Technical and Community College, Seven Hills School, Dream House Homes and the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati – Silverman said “there is not one that I don’t get a lot out of.”

The Kansas City native has found opportunities to blend his “day job with the soft human side” when he has worked on the Seven Hills facilities committee and the Cincinnati Museum Center task force.

“I am good at figuring out how to get from Point A to Point B,” Silverman said, adding “but don’t put me on a strategic planning committee. That’s not how my brain works.”

However, he has broadened his scope by being involved more personally in Camp Possible for children with behavioral issues and in the Fatherhood Project, both Talbert House programs.

“When I’ve taken part in the classes or spoken at graduation, it’s meant a lot to me,” he said of the program which helps men embrace their role as father to their children. “People just hug me afterward.”


Katie McElveen

Katie McElveen

Katie McElveen, Outstanding Youth Volunteer

Katie McElveen is happiest “when I’m doing community service.”

The 17-year-old began to figure that out when she was in preschool and collected Halloween candy to send to those serving in the military.

“Service is a lifestyle,” McElveen said. “I approach everything with a service mindset. I was in middle school when I understood that every day I could make the world a little different.”

The Loveland High School senior was named Outstanding Youth in Philanthropy this year by the Association of Fundraising Professionals. She was nominated by Cincinnati’s Ronald McDonald House, where she began to volunteer six years ago.

McElveen has added to her volunteer efforts over the years, including organizing this year’s Senior Service Day for about 400 Loveland seniors and faculty members who do everything from river clean-up to serving meals at church soup kitchens.

“There’s a lot of spreadsheets,” McElveen said. “But what I really like is the reflection piece, helping others find their moment to make a difference one moment at a time.”

In serving with her peers, McElveen said she is often touched by how students will return to volunteer again and again because they find it so meaningful.

“At first they don’t know what to do,” she said. Then they realize what they can do and that it’s not just talk.”

For McElveen, who hopes to begin an international business degree program next year at The Ohio State University, serving others will always be a part of her life.

“I’ve learned how to use my talents, like organizing, and how to use my passion to encourage others,” she said. “It’s just the way I live my life.”


Wesley Holm

Wesley Holm

Wesley Holm, Ambassador of Philanthropy

As a Boy Scout growing up in Kokomo, Indiana, Wesley Holm found out what volunteering meant by doing roadside cleanup and painting rundown houses. But he learned the definition of service from his father, and later his father-in-law, who both were World War II veterans.

Holm has tied both volunteering and service together at HELP Heating and Plumbing, his company which donates funds to veterans causes and supports employee volunteer efforts for veterans and others in the community.

He was named this year’s Ambassador of Philanthropy by the Association of Fundraising Professionals.

“Writing a check is the easy part,” Holm said. “But creating a memorable moment serving others, that’s what’s amazing.”

He describes a company culture that not only encourages employees to find ways to give to others day-to-day, but also pays full wages when an employee volunteers for a charity of their choice.

One example of how Holm and his firm find opportunities to help others is in the story of local veteran Sam Shockley. A staff sergeant, Shockley came home to the Cincinnati area after losing both of his legs and three fingers in Afghanistan.

HELP, which has raised more than $500,000 for veterans and veterans groups, assisted Shockley and then worked at the home he shares with his mother to not only create a fully accessible home, but also to decorate part of it with the scarlet and gray of Ohio State, a passion of Shockley’s.

“Philanthropy is all those things you do, not measured in dollars,” he said. “It’s about caring about your fellow human beings. Just giving someone a hand.”


– Profiles by Julie Kemble Borths
– Rosenthal, Silverman and McElveen photos by Tina Gutierrez

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