You know who they are:

The co-worker with a great work ethic, who doesn't complain and just gets the job done.

The Unsung Hero Award & Scholarship is intent on recognizing those employees and, along the way, raising money for scholarships for those turning to Cincinnati State Technical and Community College for training and job skills.

"It's a dream come true," says Dennis Ulrich, Executive Director of the Workforce Development Center at Cincinnati State, of the inaugural event to recognize those valuable employees who rarely are noticed for their outstanding contributions, raise scholarship money and draw attention to the workforce training program.

Cincy Magazine partnered with Cincinnati State to create the program. More than 50 workers were nominated for the award, and the winners were chosen by a panel of business leaders from across the Tristate.





Linda Baas
Director, Nursing Research, The Christ Hospital

Doing medical research can be difficult and tedious, but Linda Baas makes it fun.

As the director of nursing research at The Christ Hospital, Baas works with her staff of nurses to do meaningful research and get it published in journals by preparing well-attended workshops on getting started on research and writing for publications.

In 2008, Baas worked with 21 people who had research posters or podium abstracts accepted at regional and national conferences. That number increased to 25 people in 2009 and 29 in 2010, two of whom received first-place honors.

"I think that nurses are a very creative bunch "” they're looking at ways to make patient care better, and with a little bit of encouragement and a little bit of support, they can really change practice to make patient care so much better," Baas says.

Aside from her regular job, Baas also lectures at the University of Cincinnati College of Nursing and Health Sciences, is preparing questions for the Heart Failure Certification Examination, and is active in the American Association for Heart Failure Nurses.

Even with her busy schedule, one of her nurses commented that, "Linda makes me feel like my project is the only thing she is working on."

 
Stan Carter
Direct Support Professional,
Resident Home Corporation


Some might call Stan Carter's approach to his job caring for people with disabilities compassionate, but Carter says he's just trying to do it well.

He has been on the night shift for Resident Home Corporation since 2009, when he began working with a 17-year-old whose parents could no longer care for him. Carter was instrumental in easing the transition, helping with homesickness, finding independence, and working as a mentor.

"The work that I do is rewarding; I enjoy it, so I don't see any of it as a challenge," he says. "If I can do my job correctly, then the lives of the individuals that I'm working with are hopefully improved."

The difference between Carter and others in his line of work may be in his attention to details. He has been known to study consumer and product reports to find the best products for the individuals he works with, even researching the best hand sanitizer for the two homes where he works.

Colleagues say Carter's cheerful disposition helps make the communities in which he works more positive environments.

For the residents, that makes them feel at home.


Scott Bagley
Director of Human Resources,
The Matrix Companies


Scott Bagley's coworkers marvel that he must have more than 24 hours in a day and seven days in a week.

Working as the director of human resources for risk management group The Matrix Companies, he is always around to assist employees with any problem.

Even though the whole country is facing fallout from the bad economy, Bagley has been able to improve company morale with events including potlucks, monthly massages, holiday celebrations, charity fundraisers and community service events.

"I think when you're around people that are willing to take that extra step, it makes your job easier," Bagley says.

Owner Brent Messmer is impressed that Bagley has gotten all employees engaged. "We spend 40 hours a week together; we might as well have a good time doing it. Scott makes this happen," Messmer says.

The Matrix Companies' employees aren't the only ones benefiting from Bagley's outstanding service, though. Through his leadership, the Down Syndrome Association of Greater Cincinnati, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the Drop Inn Center and many other local nonprofits have also seen that kindness.

 
Connie Hampton
Kitchen & Bath Designer,
Neal's Design Remodel


Picking out designs for kitchens and baths can be challenging. Luckily for Connie Hampton's clients, she seems to have a sixth sense for it.

As a designer at Neal's Design Remodel, Hampton impresses customers with her excellent service. She constantly has her cell phone on if they need her "” even when she's on vacation. For the more indecisive customers, Hampton will spend hours with them, no matter if that means weekend or evening hours.

"I like what I do. I've done it for a long time," she says. "I do drawings by hand, and seeing them completed, in color, it's just fun. And I like people. I like to make sure they're happy when I'm done."

Though her job is to sell, Hampton is happy to work with individual budgets, giving honest information on the products and tailoring designs to budgets.

Outside of the office, Hampton is a member of The Patriot Guard, a group that attends funerals of fallen soldiers. She and the other members pay their respects, place flags around the area, and follow the motto "standing for those who have stood for us."

Susan Kroner
Human Resource Specialist, Ascendum Solutions LLC

Susan Kroner is constantly reminding her coworkers at Ascendum Solutions LLC to be their "better selves."

Working as a human resource specialist, she leads by example, putting employees at ease with a smile and demonstrated work ethic. Kroner is the first point of contact for new employees, and she is always the first person in the office in the morning.

"Anytime they have a problem, for anything, they come to me first," she says. "It's always nice to be able to respond to them quickly."

Making everyone feel welcome is important, so Kroner makes an effort to remember birthdays, anniversaries and other events, and makes sure that they're recognized.

Kroner doesn't recognize employees only, though. She reminded everyone to show support for troops in Iraq and Afghanistan by setting up a drive to send care packages every month.

She also organized a fundraiser in memory of Ssgt. Mark Anthony "Tony" Wojciechowski, who was killed in Iraq in 2009. The Tony Wojo motorcycle ride raises college scholarship funds for the children or relatives of active duty Marines or veterans.

Kroner is taking classes to receive her Human Resource Certification, which is just one of many ways she continues to improve herself and her company.


Carolyn Hill
Production Supervisor,
Franks Adult Center


Carolyn Hill has been serving people with disabilities in Hamilton County for more than 20 years.

Hill works at Franks Adult Center, which provides programs for work, recreation and leisure to those with disabilities through Hamilton County Developmental Disabilities Services. As a production supervisor, Hill oversees production on work lines, which involves light assembly and packaging products.

"Going in every day, it's never the same day twice "” it's always different," she says. "It's good
to see the individuals come off the bus, and they're just so happy to see you. They want to work and earn a paycheck."

Communication is key, so Hill is flexible and available to her coworkers. She established weekly group meetings to discuss workloads and expectations, as well as to get feedback. But Hill doesn't just run the work lines "” she has been known to get her hands dirty, working alongside the rest of the team.

Colleagues call her cooperative, insightful and a natural leader. Even when situations get stressful, Hill is there to remind people why they're there "” to focus on helping individuals with disabilities.


Lisa Slutsky
Coordinator, Return to Work Resource Center,
Great Oaks Career Campuses


In March of 2009, the Southwest Ohio Region Workforce Investment Board's office closed "” and for unemployed and underemployed jobseekers, it couldn't have come at a worse time.

Enter Lisa Slutsky, who helped to build the Return to Work Resource Center at Scarlet Oaks in Sharonville. Serving as its first and only coordinator, she helps people find the tools for employment.

Those include access to computers and copy/fax machines, resume advice, and lectures on interviewing skills and job search strategies.

"With the numbers of displaced workers that we have in this metropolitan area, it's become a real passion for me to help everyone, no matter what situation they're finding themselves in," Slutsky says.

"With unemployment, it takes a great effort, and I'm pleased to be able to help folks."

The center has already helped 700 people whose lives have been disrupted by employment challenges. Slutsky has been there with compassion, service and enthusiasm.

Amy Leuchauer
Clinical Manager, Cincinnati Eye Institute

Amy Leuchauer's colleagues say that sometimes she is so busy thinking of others that they have to remind her to think of herself as well.

That's just what happens to someone who strives to give her time to others.

After working for the Cincinnati Eye Institute for more than 26 years, she continues to work closely with doctors, educate patients about glaucoma, and keep high expectations of her staff.

Leuchauer was one of the first people to get involved with the Cincinnati Eye Institute Foundation, a nonprofit that was founded in 2006.

She was instrumental in opening the organization's Roselawn Eye Clinic, the first and only free eye care clinic in the area. Doctors at the clinic, which operates inside Roselawn Lutheran Church, care for thousands of patients each year who are low-income, uninsured or underinsured.

"It was my way of taking my talent and being able to help out in the community," Leuchauer says.

Her greatest reward? "The people that come though the clinic, their appreciation. They're just so overwhelmed by the care they get, the compassion."

 
Vetta Miller
Supervisor of Operations, Human
Resources Department, UC Health


One of the core values of UC Health is integrity. According to her coworkers, Vetta Miller is a shining example of it.

In charge of more than a million-dollar human resources budget, Miller is conscientious about budgeting and ensuring all expenditures are documented and accurate.

And when it comes to big projects, she is always there, working on weekends and doing whatever is needed until the job is finished. Even with all her duties, Miller likes to make sure her coworkers are happy, so she hosts a fun event every month.

"I think it's just something ingrained in me to make sure that things get done and get done right, so that everybody's happy," she says.

Since 1996, Miller has been a member of Executive Women International, previously serving as president and various chair positions.

She volunteers with reading and mentoring programs and has been on the board of the CHCA Federal Credit Union for 20 years.


Edward Sunderhaus
Physics Instructor, Cincinnati State
Technical & Community College


Cincinnati State physics instructor Edward Sunderhaus' science classes are anything but by the book.

Over his 25-year career at the college, he has worked to adapt his classes to best fit the students he teaches. He also spends extra time with them so they can meet his expectations.

It's not unheard of for Sunderhaus to come in early and stay at work until 11 p.m. He also teaches twice the required amount of classes.

To best connect with students, he shows them real-world ways to learn science. And yes, sometimes Sunderhaus' demonstrations involve him spinning in his chair or jumping off tables.

Outside of the classroom, Sunderhaus has given his time to the high school science program Science Olympiad, the American Association of Physics Teachers and the Tri-State Physics Teachers Alliance. He has organized Lego robotics competitions and Science Bowl competitions.

Little by little, science has become less intimidating for those Sunderhaus teaches.

"Education is not an easy thing," he says, "but with a lot of practice, time, energy and effort, especially in my subject matter of physics, they'll learn how to succeed."


Roger Zellars
Associate Director, Prospect House Inc.

As a Vietnam War veteran, recovering alcoholic (sober for more than 25 years) and formerly homeless, Roger Zellars can truly connect to those who come to Prospect House.

"My motto is to never give up; no matter how hard it appears to be, go back to the drawing board and take a different approach," he says.

At the chemical dependency treatment center in Price Hill, Zellars shows that if he can live sober, so can anyone else there. He has been the clinical director for 22 years and is dedicated to providing a holistic, therapeutic experience for clients.

Early on, Zellars noticed that African-American clients had higher rates of relapse, so he created the Black Support Group to focus on their recovery. Their recovery rate rose from 3 to 67 percent in a year, and it is now the longest continually operating recovery group for African-Americans in the country. Zellars subsequently started a similar program for veterans.

"I'm just somebody who's dedicated to what we do right now," he explains. "I kind of have a passion for helping people."

Tamara Thrasher
Receptionist, Society of St. Vincent de Paul

As the receptionist at St. Vincent de Paul, Tamara Thrasher is often the first face seen by those in need.

Luckily for them, Thrasher is great at making people feel at home, whether they come there for assistance, to volunteer or donate. Her colleagues are impressed with her ability to balance all aspects of the job, including budgeting, staff capacity and working with clients.

She is known to speak up and advocate for clients to make sure they get what is needed.

"Maybe they've been from agency to agency for help, and maybe St. Vincent de Paul is their last hope "” it makes me want to go above and beyond," Thrasher says. She realizes that processing and doing intake fast and efficiently can make a great deal of difference to a client.

As a single mother of two children, Thrasher recognizes that she could have been on the other side of the receptionist's desk. Her work ethic and dedication make her a role model not just to her children, but also to her coworkers.


Fruits of Labor
Chiquita CEO recognizes hard work in his company, as well as Tristate

By Gretchen Keen

For Fernando Aguirre, president/CEO of Chiquita Brands International, recognizing unsung heroes isn't just a one-time event "” it's a company policy.

Aguirre has worked hard to be in such a position, now heading a company of 20,000 employees on six continents and 80-plus countries. He grew up in Mexico City and came to the U.S. as a foreign exchange student, staying on for a baseball scholarship at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville. He worked at Procter & Gamble for many years before taking over as CEO of Chiquita in 2004.

"I formed an opinion over time that if you really are passionate about what you do, it really helps tremendously with results and focusing on your own priorities," Aguirre says.

At Chiquita, the Chairman's Award recognizes people who go above and beyond normal responsibilities, set objectives for themselves and exemplify the company's core values. The award closely parallels the mission of the Unsung Hero Awards.

"To do the Unsung Heroes is a tremendous opportunity," Aguirre says. "I'm looking forward to being there. I'm looking forward to meeting the people (Cincy and Cincinnati State) have decided to recognize."

Aguirre recently got a closer look at Chiquita's workforce, starring in the CBS reality program Undercover Boss. After a transformation through hair dye, thick glasses and work clothes, Aguirre acted as a Mexican immigrant named Manuel Gonzalez. He tried his hand at driving a forklift, bagging lettuce in a California factory, harvesting lettuce on a farm, scheduling banana shipments and more.

"I thought that this was a unique opportunity to go really, really deep in the trenches and find out whether "¢ the communication we make about our values and principles really gets all the way down to the frontline employees," Aguirre says. "It was tremendous to see how the employees were so passionate about their jobs, so passionate about the company."

He has met with the workers featured on the show since then. He is currently helping an immigrant get citizenship, and he is assisting another with a college education in food safety. Aguirre is also more likely now to show up at meetings unannounced to get a handle on all aspects of the company.

Aguirre makes time outside of work to give back to the community. He is on the board of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (one of his sons was diagnosed almost 10 years ago). They hold a gala to raise money for diabetes, with more than $1 million contributed annually. He is also on the board of The Fuqua/Coach K Center on Leadership & Ethics at Duke University.

As Chiquita continues to diversify its business, Aguirre keeps an eye out for excellence in his team, as well as Cincinnati workers, at events such as the Unsung Hero Awards.

"I think this is a tremendous way to show that you can in fact succeed, that you can in fact get many opportunities," he says, "and it's just a matter of whether you grab those opportunities." -

Aguirre hands out the Chairman's Award at Chiquita, which closely parallels the mission of the Unsung Hero Awards.

Fernando Aguirre
Keynote Speaker


"I formed an opinion over time that if you really are passionate about what you do, it really helps tremendously with results and focusing on your own priorities."

"” Fernando Aguirre




Committee Members Include
Hildy Bonhaus, Macy's Inc.; Charlie Borton, Cincy Magazine; Kristi Clement-Williams, Cintas Corporation; Linda Foss, Ashland, Inc.; Shelley Hahn, Anthem Blue Cross & Blue Shield Insurance; Eric Harmon, Cincy Magazine; Deborah Hayes, The Christ Hospital; Doug Heesten, Cincinnati State Technical and Community College; Steve Jemison, Procter & Gamble Company; Alan Jones, UC Health; Bonnie Jones, Cincinnati State Technical and Community College; Dryden Jones, Cincinnati State Technical and Community College; Laurie Leonard, Comey & Shepherd Realtors; Sue Maggard, Cincinnati Bell; Alison H. Muth, Messer Construction Company; Lisa Rexroat-Steele, Fifth Third Bankcorp; Phill Rosenzweig, Impact Learning Systems; Tracy Ruberg, T6 Group; Elliott Ruther, Cincinnati State Technical and Community College; Tim Schmalz, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield; Sharon Timon, Cincinnati State Technical and Community College; Dennis Ulrich, Cincinnati State Technical and Community College; Bernadette Toebbe, Duke Energy; John Wagner, Cincinnati State Technical and Community College and Ross Wright, General Electric Aviation

To attend:
When: Feb. 18, 5:30 p.m.
Where: Cincinnati State Technical and Community College main campus, 3520 Central Parkway
Cost: $50
Keynote speaker: Fernando Aguirre, Chiquita Brands International
Tickets: www.cincymagazine.com