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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.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

MC Sign's president makes a lot of youngsters happy, once again

When Tim Eippert walks in a room, he makes people very happy.

This is especially true when he enters the cafeteria at MC Sign Co. in Mentor on a particular night in August.

The company’s president has had it happen over the past five years and shows no signs of stopping now?

And, really, why should he when he’s on this much of a roll

Eippert walks to the front of the room, sidesteps the lectern standing by and addresses the amassed crowd.

Then, he hands out a ton of money.

Why wouldn’t they be happy, right?

But Eippert is quick to tell you he’s just the mouthpiece for the group involved in MC Sign’s annual scholarship program.

To date, the company has awarded $125,000 in scholarships to graduates of Lake Catholic and Mentor high schools.

“Out of all of the things I have to do in my daily workplace, this is the best one of the year,” Eippert said Wednesday during the 2012 scholarship event. “It’s one of the really fun things I get to do. I get to stand up here and take all the credit, but I have very little to do with what has happened over the years with our scholarships.”

Eippert said a committee gathers to read through the submitted applications, taking care to ensure they’re anonymous during the judging process.

The scholarships are 100 percent funded by the company’s Drive for Knowledge golf outing at Stone Water Golf Club in Highland Heights.

“All the money that we generate at the Drive for Knowledge event goes to this cause, so the money that we raise goes exclusively to scholarships going to freshmen going to college,” Eippert said. “It’s not the only money we raise. We have a very strong philanthropic culture here, so we do a lot of other things throughout the year. We raise money every month for a different charity, so we do a lot throughout the year.”

Among other company fundraisers is a periodic “jeans day,” in which staff pays money to be permitted to wear jeans to work. The money then goes to charity.

But the company saves its biggest fundraiser for its own back yard: scholarships to students of the two high schools in Mentor.

“The reason we limit it to Mentor and Lake Catholic, and the reason we’ve done that the last five years, really goes back to being a Mentor-based company,” he said. “We only do about 3 or 4 percent of our total business within about 100 miles of Cleveland, so we don’t have a lot of customers in the community, but we have a lot of employees, and friends and a lot of people that support us. So for a nationally based company to be able to get the kind of support that you see here from the community is really, really wonderful.”

And it keeps growing.

“It’s an exciting year for us, because it’s our fifth year,” Eippert said Wednesday night. “We had a goal this year to try to surpass the $100,000 mark total in those five years. In 2008, we gave away $20,000, in 2009, we gave away $15,000, in 2010 it was $25,000, and in 2011 it was $27,000. We wanted to give away more this year, so our goal was to give away more scholarships.

“This year, we had a great outing. I’m proud to say that we did surpass and had our biggest year ever. So we went over the $100,000 mark and raised a total of $37,800 this year. In 2011, we were able to give away 10 scholarships in the amount of $2,700. And, since we wanted to give away more this year, we’re able to give away four more. So, tonight, we’ll be giving away 14 scholarships in the same amount, of $2,700 this year.”

Over the years, MC Sign has awarded 48 scholarships to graduating seniors — 22 from Lake Catholic and 26 from Mentor.

The youngsters who win the awards tend to be at least a bit stunned by the size of the scholarships. Missing this year were the audible gasps I’ve heard the previous two years when I attended the event. But, you couldn’t miss the wide eyes from their parents as they turned to each other with big smiles.

They have a lot to smile about, too.

These youngsters who are heading off to their freshman years are full of promise and big dreams. They get up, introduce themselves and share their intended major and college with the crowd.

Wednesday was a first for me, as it marked the first time I saw a young man get up and announce his intention to become a priest by attending Borromeo Seminary and John Carroll University.

The 13 other majors ran the gamut of specialties, from medicine to education to engineering to high tech IT careers. There was even a pharmacy major.

The smiles keep coming during MC Sign’s annual event. Employees are thrilled to discuss how they worked through the 25 applications and deeply involved discussions about common picks and how they narrowed when down.

And parents are just as happy to engage with each other about the fears they face in the next few weeks and pride they feel in send off such successful kids.

I wish these youngsters the best as they embark on their college lives. And, to MC Sign, keep up the good work and thanks for letting me be a part each year.
Twitter: @Lauranh


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