Each year, the Association of Fundraising Professionals presents awards to several individuals or organizations at its National Philanthropy Day Luncheon: Philanthropist, Volunteer and Emerging Leader of the Year, Outstanding Youth in Philanthropy, plus a new award for 2018, Innovator of the Year.
Getting involved, giving back – a life philosophy
In 2005, good friends of John Mongelluzzo invited him to a new fundraiser they were hosting at their home, an event they called Bloom. The gala – which celebrated its 14th successful year and raised more than $244,000 in 2018 alone – was a benefit for Stepping Stones. Through immersive classes, camps and programs, the nonprofit promotes a greater quality of life for individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities and for their families.
“I saw how much these friends cared enough to open up their home and that they were trying to start something new to help such a great organization,” Mongelluzzo said. “And I looked at Stepping Stones’ mission and learned about the dedication of their staff – and you know what, I was hooked.”
As Mongelluzzo attended Stepping Stones events over the next seven years, his admiration for its work grew.
“It was an amazing thing to watch the people and volunteers and staff bring so much joy and comfort to the people that need it,” he said. “When I think of Stepping Stones, I think of a bright sunny day with all of the staff and clients and volunteers laughing around the pool or doing crafts outside. It brought me such a feeling of joy to see everybody working together and having a good time.”
In 2011, Mongelluzzo was asked to join the Stepping Stones board. He served stints as chair of the development committee and board vice president. In 2016 he was named president of the board, the role he holds today.
His work for Stepping Stones and his passion for its mission made Mongelluzzo an obvious choice when executive director Chris Adams was ready to nominate a Volunteer of the Year, an award bestowed by the Greater Cincinnati Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. For Adams, Mongelluzzo’s involvement with other organizations made it more apparent how much he deserved the honor. He also serves on the boards of the Dan Beard Council of Boy Scouts of America and the American Heart Association’s Great Rivers Affiliate (for which he co-chaired the 2016 Heart Ball with his wife, Kerry), in addition to time on the boards of the Flying Pig Marathon and StarShine Hospice and Palliative Care.
“I nominated John for this award because I think he exemplifies all the qualities of good citizenship,” Adams said. “I’ve been around him for five to six years, and his willingness to leverage his relationships for the lives and good of others is very evident in the way he conducts himself.”
Stepping Stones serves more than 1,000 individuals at campuses around Cincinnati, including two new ones acquired during Mongelluzzo’s board tenure – the merging of Stepping Stones with BeauVita in Monfort Heights, and with United Cerebral Palsy of Greater Cincinnati in Norwood. The organization caters to entire families, encouraging participation with unimpaired siblings or parents to promote inclusivity and unity. The organization also cultivates “pathways to independence” for those with mild to severe disabilities to encourage more active community involvement. This speaks greatly to Mongelluzzo who, along with his wife, believes it’s incredibly important to give back and be involved in your community.
Being an advocate is not new for Mongelluzzo, an attorney and Cincinnati partner-in-charge at corporate law firm Calfee, Halter & Griswold. He earned recognition as a Cincy Leading Lawyer earlier this year.
“Helping others is just the right thing to do,” Mongelluzzo said. “When my wife and I look at organizations like Stepping Stones that have such dedicated and compassionate people working there, it’s truly a privilege to support those giving so much of themselves to help others.
“They’re certainly not doing it for the money. They’re doing it because they care. It’s a privilege to be part of that. I love the satisfaction of knowing we are helping people who could use help.”
He recognizes his efforts aren’t done in a vacuum. “I’d certainly like to acknowledge all of my fellow board members. I like to look on an award like this as something that reflects on all of us – it’s not just about me,” he said. “It’s about a great organization, and about my fellow board members, and also Chris Adams. His dedication and leadership are so important.”
“John has a way of getting other people to be passionate about what they’re doing, and [understanding] what the impact is going to be on the community and also on you as a person,” Adams added. “He demonstrates to people that giving back is not only good for the organization, but will help you as an individual realize your place in the community and what you need to do to make the community a better place.”
– By Baihley Gentry
This year’s National Philanthropy Day luncheon, Nov. 8 at Music Hall Ballroom, has sold out. Meet the other 2018 honorees (and nominating organizations):
Philanthropists of the Year: Dr. Neal H. Mayerson and Dr. Donna Mayerson (Manuel D. and Rhoda Mayerson Foundation)
Innovator of the Year: bi3 (Ignite Philanthropy)
Outstanding Youth in Philanthropy: Finnegan McCarthy (Cancer Support Community)
Emerging Leader: Rosa Nemec (Girl Scouts of Western Ohio)