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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.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Giving back runs deeply through evening with Lake County leaders

I’d met Peter Carfagna a few times before I sat down with him in the owners’ suite last spring at Classic Park.

We were with Carfagna, his wife, Rita, her brother, Ray Murphy, and Ray’s wife, Katie. This foursome makes up the Lake County Captains’ owners group.

Our talk centered on the fact that the season just beginning was the Captains’ 10th in Eastlake.
We went over the events of the past, and discussed their hopes for the future.

At one point, Carfagna was asked about the family’s goal for ownership of a baseball team.
“We just don’t want to lose a lot of money. To this day, that’s our mantra.”

Those words have stayed in my head, even more than a year later.

They struck me as Carfagna admitting that the goal was to provide entertainment to the community, and if it cost them little money to do it, that was OK.

It wasn’t until Wednesday night that I got to see just how committed to the community Carfagna and his wife are.

At a dinner marking the graduation of the Leadership Lake County Class of 2013, the couple were named the organization’s Leaders of the Year.

During about a 10-minute talk, LLC alumna Ellen Foley Kessler spoke at length about the couple’s charitable activities.

Those in the audience were left wondering, “Where do they find the time?”

Kessler said the Carfagnas and Murphys created Captains Charities soon after the team began play in Lake County, and target funds for the children, the disabled, the elderly and the retired in Lake County.
The Carfagnas have worked extensively with the United Way of Lake County, serving as campaign chairs and also working to hold food drives that have helped to stock UWLC’s pantries.

The couple has been known to visit homeless shelters, Lake County Veterans Services, the Salvation Army, St. James Episcopal Church food line and the Society for Rehabilitation, she went on to say.

“There is a Greek proverb that states, ‘The measure of a man is what he does with power,’ ” Kessler said. “Our leaders of the year, Rita and Peter Carfagna, have far exceeded what one can do with God’s gifts to us. They contribute — they act because they care.”

When it was his turn to speak, Peter Carfagna said the urge to help goes back a generation.

“I guess it would start with what Rita’s dad taught us all, generosity,” Carfagna said. “And the St. Ignatius prayer for generosity that I learned in high school. The Jesuits taught us then to give “magis,” which is the name of our company, give more and more and more.”

Carfagna said the commitment goes very deep, into their work as well as their lives.

“Both Rita’s family and ours, with the Captains, anything we’ve been able to generate here, our whole theme here is, with Ray Murphy and his wife, and Rita, is to give back and give back and give back, more and more and more,” he said. “So we want to thank everybody, our staff, everybody who’s made this possible, all the great public officials who made this possible, all you 3 million-plus fans who’ve come out to see us. You’ve made our field of dreams a reality, for which we can’t thank you enough, and we just want to keep giving more and more and more, until, as the Jesuits say, until we have no more to give.

“Our entertainment and our experience at the park, we hope to bring families together and bring the community together in a way that nothing like baseball can do it.”

It was fitting that the Carfagnas were honored by an organization such as Leadership Lake County, which encourages its graduates to take their lessons and use them to better the world around them.

The Class of 2013 performed several acts of charity during their year-long program. Included among them were building a marketing plan for the county’s 211 information phone line and a building project at the Lake County History Center.

The marketing plan will help the residents of the county who aren’t familiar with this service that provides assistance to those in need of such services as emergency food supplies or shelter.

As part of LLC, participants also learn about many of the companies and programs in the county, exposing more people to the good work and special efforts taken on behalf of area residents.

Many of the program’s graduates spoke about the confidence they gained from their participation.
They said they’ll carry back to their jobs a willingness to be a good example while walking shoulder to shoulder with those on the front lines every day.

The Carfagnas were in good company Wednesday night at St. Noel’s Banquet Center in Willoughby Hills, where they shared a room with those working to ensure the future of Lake County is filled with good ideas and strong leaders.
Twitter: @Lauranh


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