help us find our 2023 difference makers honorees

Leadership Lorain County is seeking nominations of distinguished leaders for the 2023 Difference Makers Gala on Friday, February 17, 2023. The annual Gala honors individuals and an organization that have demonstrated remarkable leadership, while making a significant impact on the community.

The criteria for the Eric Nord Award for Excellence in Community Leadership, Awards for Excellence in Leadership, and the Emerald Award can be found below, as well as a list of all previous honorees.

Nominations will be accepted until September 2nd, 2022.  A selection committee will be meeting after the deadline to select the award recipients.

Every year a superb group of individuals and an organization receive awards. Please help us find those who will be added to this prestigious list as honorees for the 2023 Difference Makers Gala.

The Eric Nord Award for Excellence in Leadership

Recognized as the top award given by Leadership Lorain County, The Eric Nord Award for Excellence in Community Leadership recognizes a distinguished citizen and community leader who has given extraordinary amounts of time and talent to the community and exemplifies service and civic support.

Award Criteria:

  • Community leader as trustee – acting with integrity, faith, and confidence on behalf of the community.
  • Catalyst for creation of positive County leadership; demonstrates dedication to strengthening and transforming community leadership.
  • Commitment to and involvement in Lorain County
  • Exemplifies strong service and civic leadership.
  • Generous in giving of time and support.

The Emerald Award for Inspirational Leadership

In honor of Leadership Lorain County’s 30th Anniversary in 2015, an award for a young professional was established.  The inaugural recipient was Juliana Chase-Morefield, Second Harvest Food Bank of North Central Ohio. Geared towards individuals aged forty-five and younger, this recipient must have demonstrated integrity, honor, service, and transformative leadership in Lorain County.

The ideal characteristics of the recipient include: creativity, ingenuity and models “best practices” within their respective areas of expertise; dedication to strengthening communities in an effort to create a positive leadership environment; and a commitment to civic service in addition to dedication to their fields; achieved within the age guideline and indicating that they will continue to strive to make a difference in the community as they continue their career.

Excellence in Leadership Award

These individuals or organizations also exhibit creativity, ingenuity, and model “best practices” within their respective areas of expertise.  These individuals or organizations have demonstrated dedication to strengthening communities to create a positive leadership environment and have been committed to civic service in addition to dedication to their fields.

Award Criteria:

  • Demonstrated significant accomplishments within their field.
  • Exhibited outstanding creativity, trusteeship, ethics, mentoring and dedication to continuing positive change in Lorain County.
  • Has gone above and beyond to create new standards of excellence.
  • Committed to serve the community in addition to the dedication to their field.

The ideal characteristics of the recipient and/or organization include: creativity, ingenuity and models “best practices” within their respective areas of expertise; dedication to strengthening communities in an effort to create a positive leadership environment; and a commitment to civic service in addition to dedication to their fields.

Winner of Pulse Magazine’s Best Charitable Event 2018

Leadership Lorain County works alongside brilliant leaders every day. These leaders make a meaningful impact in this community. Year after year, Leadership Lorain County honors individuals and an organization who have touched lives, spurred economic growth and/or made a meaningful impact in Lorain County. Our celebration culminates in our annual Difference Makers Gala!

Recognized as the top award given by Leadership Lorain County, The Eric Nord Award for Excellence in Community Leadership recognizes a distinguished citizen and community leader who has given extraordinary amounts of time and talent to the community and exemplifies service and civic support.

Nominees for this award are individuals who have acted with integrity, faith and confidence on behalf of the community, as well as being a Catalyst for creation of positive County leadership.  The nominees for this award are those who have exemplified outstanding service and civic leadership, and have been significantly generous in giving of time and support.

Former Recipients:
1996 Eric T. Nord
1998 Dr. Roy Church
2000 Beth K. Stocker
2002 Scrib Fauver
2004 Billy Rowland
2005 John S. Corogin
2006 Stanley G. Pijor
2007 Jane Nord
2008 James Kidd
2009 Lee C. Howley
2010 Dr. Denis Radefeld
2011 Betty Blair
2012 J. Daniel Martin
2013 Gail Stumphauzer
2014 Brian Frederick
2015 Cecilia H. Render
2016 William Harper
2017 Edwin Oley
2018 Matthew W. Nakon, Esq.
2019 Thomas D. stuber
2022 Jon Veard

In honor of Leadership Lorain County’s 30th Anniversary, a new award for a young professional was established for the 2015 Difference Makers.  Geared towards individuals aged forty-five and younger, this recipient must have demonstrated integrity, honor, service, and transformative leadership in Lorain County.

Former Recipients:
2015 Juliana Chase-Morefield
2016 Farnaz Ansari Berna
2017 Gregory Willey
2018 Catherine Woskobnick
2019 Danielle M. Locke
2020 Stacie starr
2022 Parris Smith
Kass Crooker
Jack Lavriha
Betsy Manderen
Sister Annamae Murphy
Denis A. Radefeld, M.D.
Judge Joseph Girigiano
Maureen Ross Cromling
Ted Jacobs
Alice Weston
Community Foundtion Of
Lorain County
Paul Balcolm
Michael & Lisa Bramhall
Evelyn France
Dr. Alex & Maria Zolli
Lorain County Metro Parks
John D. Beckett
Benjamin G. & Jane Norton
Dr. Florencio & Lily Yuzon
Lorain County
Community College
Leonard Deluca
William T. Locke
Joan Lowry
Elyria Rotary Club
Joel P. Arredondo
David L. Herzer
Bishop A. James Quinn
Easter Seals Northern Ohio
Kathryn C. Boylan
Terry D. Goode
Gerald E. Skully
Douglas B. Wilber
Big Brothers Big Sisters Of
Lorain County
Larry A. Bettcher
Frank P. Detillio
El Centro
De Servicios Sociales
Donald Knechtges
Marvin Krislov
Neighborhood Alliance
Donald Sheldon, M.D.
Michael & Dina Ferrer
The Lcada Way
Claudia Jones
100 Women Who Care About Lorain County Founding
Members: Susan Bowers,
Marcia Miller, Nancy Sullivan
& Libby Thuning
Polyone Corporation
Rex Engle
Charles & Alyce Horton
Lorain County JVS
Rick Grahovac
Kevin J. Flanigan
Marilyn Zeidner
Chicks Against Hunger
Patricia O’brien
Sheriff Phil Stammitti
Stephanie Wiersma
Blessing House
Anthony Gallo
Jeanine Donaldson
The Ross Group of companies
Barbara Thomas
Victor Leandry
Nordson Corporation Foundation
clare cygan young
david & noelia nodal
the nord center
Wendy Caldwell
Ann schloss
lorain county urban league

Wendy Caldwell

Wendy Caldwell is a long-time resident of Lorain County. She retired from a 30-year career with the State of Ohio in 2018. Wendy has also been an entrepreneur for over 20 years, operating as an independent contractor and co-owner of another business. Wendy has a Master’s in Criminal Justice Administration, a BS in Corrections and is a Licensed Chemical Dependency Professional, not to mention a Clearview High School Graduate.

Wendy is the Founder and Executive Director of P2R Training and Resource Center, Inc. and the Owner of Place to Recover, LLC. After retirement, Wendy opened Place to Recover, LLC. with a mission to help individuals in prisoner reentry and substance use recovery overcome barriers and become productive citizens. After working out of her car, in libraries, and coffee houses it became apparent that she needed a brick-and-mortar building. Wendy leased office space on North Ridge Road and held a grand opening February 17, 2020. Before she could get started, the COVID-19 pandemic ravaged through the community and shut everything down. Wendy refocused her mission and started applying for grants to assist marginalized populations who were struggling to access resources in the pandemic. Along with two contract employees, she was able to assist hundreds of residents with resources and held (2) Vendor Market Days that gave small businesses the opportunity to sell products and recoup some of the monies lost due to the pandemic.

Through her many experiences and exposure to underserved populations in need, Wendy felt inspired to start a nonprofit. In October 2020, Wendy contacted a group of stake holders who believed in her vision and founded P2R Training and Resource Center, Inc. (P2R). In its infancy, this multipurpose community center has been able to assist over 200 Lorain County residents with a variety of resources, such as: transportation, services through ODJFS, employment, food, clothing, and a host of basic needs. P2R assists all marginalized populations but specializes in prisoner reentry and peer recovery support. P2R has become a beacon of hope for many second chance people and is founded on the biblical principle, “…whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters, you did for me.” Matthew 25:40

Wendy is very grateful for her accomplishments and knows that God has called her for such a time as this. She leans on her favorite scripture, Galatians 6;9, “Let us not grow weary in well-doing, for in due time we will reap a harvest if we faint not.” Wendy is supported by her family, an amazing Board of Directors, staff, a group of stakeholders, and host of friends. Wendy and her businesses have been featured in the Morning Journal, the Chronicle Telegram, Hometown Heroes, 89.1 WNZN, and Channel 5 Better Land. Most recently, she received an entrepreneurship Award from Lorain County Section of NCNW. Wendy is the 1st VP of the Lorain NBPW and a member of Living Word Church of Lorain.

Ann Schloss

Generally, teachers are given one year to make a difference in each student’s life—through academics, personal growth and social and emotional development. It’s a tremendous task and a noble undertaking, and it’s achieved largely through the academic tools that each teacher carries in their proverbial toolkit.

Ann Schloss knows this quite well—she spent a number of years as a teacher in Elyria Schools before entering the world of academic administration. And that’s where her true achievements have shown through. Ann has been instrumental in shaping the bevy of valuable tools that the teachers in Elyria Schools use in the development of thousands of young minds.

Before becoming Superintendent in 2019, Schloss invested more than a decade in the Academic Services Department of Elyria Schools as a Director and in the role of Assistant Superintendent during that time. As Superintendent she’s been at the helm of some of the district’s most history-making moments, including the building of all new elementary and middle schools in the district.

Most notably Ann continues to lead the district through the extraordinary circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic. At the height of the pandemic, she worked with the district’s leadership team and partners—Aramark Foodservice, First Student Transportation and Second Harvest Food Bank—to meet the critical needs of Elyria’s students and their families.

Under her leadership, the district and its partners prepared and delivered more than 2 million meals to families in need. Ann now serves on the board of Second Harvest Food Bank and continues to lead the charge in addressing food insecurity in Lorain County. Elyria City School District leads by example by hosting monthly mobile food pantries, staffed entirely each month by school employees.

When away from school, Ann is a self-proclaimed news enthusiast and foodie. She enjoys cooking at home and trying out new restaurants, and she can tell you the best place to dine on your budget in nearly every city in the nation. She loves traveling with family and friends, especially to her family’s birthplace of Door County, Wis., where she plans to retire. Ann’s most treasured moments are spent at home with wife, Katie, and their much-loved canine, Sophie, who’s more human than dog and flaunts the longest eyelashes known to man.

Parris Smith

From an early age, Parris M. Smith promised herself that she would always strive to support the community which helped raise her. In 2020, she established herself as the president and chief executive officer of the Lorain County Urban League. With a goal to implement the social justice missions and initiatives of the organization, Ms. Smith works hard to provide direct service collaboration and advocacy services to empower African American and disadvantaged individuals within the local communities.

Ms. Smith currently maintains one of the 91 affiliates within the Urban League Movement across more than 36 states and Washington D.C. From her humble beginning as a student within the Lorain County Urban League, she is proud to provide a unique viewpoint that former presidents could not bring. Raised in Lorain County, she remains dedicated to her community as a founding member of Connections Lorain County and a board member of Leadership Lorain County. Additionally, she serves in ministry at her local church.

Ms. Smith initially obtained an associate degree from Lorain County Community College and a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Cleveland State University in 2013. Soon thereafter, she earned a Master of Science in psychology with a focus in public administration and social change from Walden University in 2016. Ms. Smith was inducted into the Best Class of 2017 through Leadership Lorain County. Ms. Smith subsequently received a certification in advocacy from the National Urban League in 2020 and became a certified housing counselor by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in 2021.

From 2009 to 2018, Ms. Smith found notable success as a Rising Star medical internship coordinator for Mercy Health. Over the course of her career, she has excelled as a counselor for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Ms. Smith was additionally active as a program manager and operations manager for the Lorain County Urban League before her promotion to president and chief executive officer.

For her contributions in the field, Ms. Smith is honored to have been presented with the Rising Star Award from the National Urban League in 2019. Additionally, she was recognized as an Outstanding Educator in 2021 from the Lorain County Urban League and receive the Distinguished Leadership Award from the Elyria Unit of the NAACP. Most recently, Ms. Smith has been inducted into the Prestigious Marquis Who’s Who Biographical Registry. She attributes her success to her faith in God, the guidance of her mentors and her ability to put together the puzzle pieces of a multitude of workplace challenges.  Ms. Smith is an innovative, energetic, and committed leader dedicated to passionately serving the underrepresented populations and making a positive impact in our local community.

Lorain County Urban League

The Urban League is a historic civil rights organization dedicated to economic empowerment in order to elevate the standard of living in historically underserved urban communities. Their mission is to empower African Americans and underserved people to thrive through direct service, collaboration, and advocacy. Their vision is to create a pathway for clients to increase their income, secure housing, and become financially stable using a holistic coaching approach to deliver housing, employment, financial, and educational services.

For 42 years the Lorain County Urban League has worked in a variety of ways to strengthen and support the local African American community. Founded in 1978, the Lorain County Urban League is devoted to empowering African Americans and other disadvantaged groups to enter the economic and social mainstream. From its earliest days in the civil rights movement, through years of partnership with government and public agencies, the Lorain County Urban League has been a beacon of hope and a catalyst for change in Lorain County.

The Lorain County Urban League is designed to remove equality gaps. There are 6 strategic pillars that lead the work of the LCUL:  Education and Youth Development; Housing and Financial Empowerment; Workforce development; Entrepreneurship; Civic Engagement and Advocacy; and Health.

We watched 2020 become a catastrophic year for the health of the black community which confronted the triple pandemic – a deadly virus, a crushing recession, and an eruption of racial tension. The Urban League rose to meet the unprecedented challenges of 2020 and stood on the front lines mobilizing the communities hardest hit by the coronavirus, keeping students on a path to academic success, preparing the unemployed for new employment opportunities, and helping families keep their homes. The LCUL also fought back against the surge of racism in our country and looked to bring unity and understanding to Lorain County communities.

As a front-line community service provider, the Urban League never closed their doors. They worked diligently to “Empower Communities and Change Lives!” In 2020, the Urban League impacted over 6,900 community residents through programs focusing on education, economic empowerment, and civic engagement.

It has been the innovative leadership of the current President and CEO, Parris Smith that has brought this into fruition. She has led her team to create community access points that strategically connected all entities. Through their business collaborations such as Nord Family Foundation and Community Foundation of Lorain County and the Lorain County Library to name a few, she has built relationships to last a lifetime.

Lorain County Urban League works to connect everyone with content that matters the most by collaborating with organizations to impact lives through community access points. These points can be seen it their array of services and programing available to the community. Youth Programing includes Road to Success College Tour, Rising Star Medical Internship Program Partnered with Bon Secours Mercy Health, Youth Development Workshops, and Project Ready Mentors.

Adult Programing includes Financial Empowerment, Emergency Assistance Programs, Workforce Development, Entrepreneurship, Project Wellness, Voter & Civic Engagement, Equity & Excellence Project, Advocacy, On the Same Page Lorain County, Home Ownership Program, and Fighting Back Against COVID-19.

In 2019, LCUL’s programs, touched 2,612 lives. In 2020, despite the pandemic, the LCUL was stronger than ever and touched 5,111 through November of 2020 with the year-end total being nearly 6,000. This is an increase of 48% of individuals served.

A pandemic made tragically visible and indisputable the disparity of health care access for communities of color, the Lorain County Urban League chose “Bridging the Health Gap” to educate the community on exactly this issue, along with how systemic racism can worsen health outcomes. Lorain County Urban League has provided leadership on improving access to care and reducing stigma in Black and Latinx communities for mental health and addiction. Their activities in partnership with your local MHARS Board this year include a focus on suicide prevention and more. In recognition of all of their work and collaborative spirit, OACBHA was honored to recognize the Lorain County Urban League as the 2020 Advocate of the Year award.

Thank you to all of our 2022 Difference Makers Gala Virtual Event Sponsors