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Laura Kessel is managing editor of The News-Herald in Willoughby. She writes a weekly column and shares her thoughts here.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

There's joy in watching MC Sign's act of giving

The suspense is the best part.

They know they are getting something, they just don’t know what.

That’s what makes it kind of fun.

Every year for the past four years, MC Sign in Mentor has awarded scholarships to graduates of Lake Catholic and Mentor High Schools.

It sounds like they’re handing out only a few bucks when I say it like that.

That’s hardly the case. But I’ll get to that later.

This story starts and ends with the kids. I call them that because they’re so much younger than me.

I know that they’re adults now, and about to head out for their own adventures and to start their own lives.
Some will be going far away, such as Liberty University in Virginia. Others will be much closer, such as one moving into a dorm 45 minutes from home in Berea.

They share big goals: Business. Political science. Nursing. Engineering.

They also share an amazing poise, standing up in front of the room to list their name, high school, college choice and the major they’ll pursue.

There’s a comfort level that, even after nearly 45 years of life, I’ve never quite had.

But that’s probably why they’re winning these scholarships from MC Sign.

This national company is all about Mentor. Just ask President Tim Eippert.

“We have a long-standing history of a tradition of philanthropy and giving back to the community,” Eippert said Monday to the award winners.

“We really are a national company. We only do about 3 or 4 percent of our business within about 100 miles of Cleveland. And so it really is important. We employ a lot of local people. We like to give back.

“Our philanthropy continues throughout the year. We’ll raise money every Friday for “jeans day.” We allow employees to submit through a selection process for a charity. And so with about 100 to 125 people, we’ll raise four, five or $600 a month and that will go to a different charity each month.”

Eippert, who celebrates his 17th anniversary with the company on Sunday, said the message to his employees is clear: Think about others.

“It’s important to us,” Eippert said. “It’s important to me personally. The culture of our company is to give back, and we like to show them, the employee, that it’s important. And I think a lot of them, as they continue on and move through life, will see how important it is.”

Their method of giving back is rather fascinating to see unfold. The invitation to their golf outing, called Drive for Knowledge, arrives in early spring. It’s a glossy book, with all the information you need to take part.

There are prices for individuals to golf, and to buy foursomes. There are sponsorship opportunities and other ways to take part.

Make no mistake — the outing is pricey. Golfers pay $250 for a round, and sponsorships start at $1,000.
But, when you head to the company headquarters on Tyler Boulevard the night the scholarships are handed out, you see what it all means.

“Through a traditional golf outing, we have the ability to harness vendors and great customers, we have a lot of support from friends and family to get a really diverse group to help us, which allows us to raise the most money we’ve ever raised in the history of the event,” Eippert said before he revealed the scholarship amounts.

$2,700 per student.

Parents in the audience gasped.

It’s a great sound.

And, that sound is the prize for Eippert’s hard work at the outing, which took place this year on June 21 at StoneWater Golf Club in Highland Heights.

There are the traditional golf outing games — hole in one, beat the pro, skins and closest to the pin. But there also are auctions in which Eippert works magic as he separates golfers from lots of cash.

“He’s got some guys who throw around a lot of money at that outing,” said Tom Tuttle, president of the Mentor School Board, who looked on from the audience as six Mentor High graduates received their awards. Four Lake Catholic students also were honored.

I said this story starts and ends with the students.

Now it’s their turn.

If Carli Dugan is any indication, we have a lot to look forward to.

The Mentor High grad is about to embark on a major in physical therapy.

“I’ve actually been in sports all my life,” she said Monday after receiving the news of her scholarship. “I’m a swimmer, and I’ll be swimming at Baldwin-Wallace. My mom is very into the fitness side of things, so I’ve just kind of grown up around it. I just love the body and healing and helping people as well, so I thought it would be a great place for me to be.”

MC Sign also was a great place for her to be, on Monday night with all those other winners.

Dugan’s mother is Laura Dugan, who writes about stretching for exercise as part of The News-Herald’s Community Media Lab. Her blog can be found at Laura Dugan also teaches class around Lake County, including at Lakeland Community College.

Twitter: @Lauranh


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