By C.J. Mittica

Bess Cohn Humanitarian Award Nomine:
Linda McCabe, Incentive Gallery

Linda McCabe was under no obligation to come back. The former social worker had put in her time at Sojourner Truth House, a shelter in Milwaukee for victims of domestic abuse. But now she was starting her own business, Incentive Gallery (asi/230734). Had she chosen, social work could have been a thing of the past, where the stories of abuse were so heartbreaking that “it just changes you as a person,” she says. “You get to the point that nothing shocks you anymore. And certainly hearing those stories was very shocking.”

McCabe never abandoned her charitable aims. She embraced them even further. “She has stayed so true and steady to Sojourner Truth House for so many years,” says Angela Mancuso, executive director of the shelter. “Her commitment for 15-20 years to this agency is remarkable, and it really speaks to her character and her compassion for our mission and our clients.”

The 47-year-old can be called more than a mere volunteer. McCabe runs the auctions (and much, much more) for two of Sojourner’s biggest fundraisers. She and her company have also worked with non-profit organizations like the AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin, the Milwaukee Women’s Center and a variety of others. All told, her assistance has helped these groups raise more than $2 million.

“People can realize that one person can make a difference,” she says about her contributions. “And if you have a chance to be charitable – especially in our industry where there’s so much merchandise, and you can buy things at cost or donate perfect samples – there’s definitely a way to give back and do it fairly easily.”
Her efforts certainly do not go unrecognized. Incentive Gallery recently won the CG Schmidt Ovation Award for Corporate Support, a Wisconsin-based award that honors small- to medium-size businesses that give back; the award comes with a $5,000 donation that went to Sojourner. “It goes beyond volunteerism,” Mancuso says about McCabe. “She’s been an advocate to people in violent relationships. She helps raise awareness not only for the agency but also the issue.”

The ring leader of Incentive Gallery (the title, which is official, is a humorous touch) has been vigilant about volunteering since she started at age 13, when her parents impressed on her the importance of improving the community. McCabe is active in bringing in friends and new volunteers, and makes a point of letting her compassion permeate her company and employees. “If they want to go do volunteer work that’s important to them,” says McCabe, who started Incentive Gallery 12 years ago, “I’m happy to afford them the time and the flexibility so that they can do that.”

In particular, sales coordinator/ “juggler” LeeAnn Knippel (who’s been with Incentive Gallery for a decade) has assisted McCabe at events, volunteered her free time at her church and children’s school, as well as made personal donations.

McCabe’s been at it so long that she’s reconnected with former Sojourner residents who have turned their lives around and now volunteer. “I’ve seen former residents who I potty-trained their children, whose kids are now in college,” she says. For the woman who never quits raising money for charity, she can’t put a price on that. – CJM

Election Loss Just a Blip For Civic Leader

The role may seem insignificant – Supervisor of Elections of Hernando County, FL – but Gus Guadagnino believes it strikes right at the heart of the problems plaguing America. “I want to instill passion and pride back into the electoral process,” said the founder of Joni Industries (asi/237290) before the election. “There’s a lot of people out there who believe their votes don’t count and don’t make a difference. There’s a bunch of people out there that don’t qualify issues or candidates the right way, as you and I would have to go through if we applied for a job. I think the better the voter, the better the politician.”

After all the votes were cast on an historic election day, Guadagnino didn’t win. He had run before in 2000 (and garnered the endorsement of the St. Petersburg Times on his first try) and was running without party affiliation, a necessary move he says because the role is “like an umpire in a baseball game. It’s gotta be neutral.”

And clearly one failure isn’t going to dog a civic zealot who has his hands in 24 different organizations, ranging from president of the Chamber of Commerce to president of the local chapter of St Jude’s Children’s Research hospital to even serving on the transition team of the Girl Scouts board.

“If I pull out my drawer I’ll find a whole list of other things,” says the Springhill, FL, resident about the organizations he’s involved with. “But these are all things that I’m very passionate about. I just have one simple philosophy that I was brought up with, and that’s just make it a little better than you found it in.”

The 54-year-old moved to Florida nearly two decades ago with a pencil imprinting business he had in New York. But when Chinese competition undercut the market with prices 60% lower, Guadagnino started Joni and began silk-screening. Now he’s the ex-CEO of the company, having handed the reins to daughter Nicole, 25, and son Joseph, 21, but still remaining at the company as the senior voice of leadership and wisdom.

That leaves plenty of free time for civic involvement. “To me, it’s my way of life. I love every minute of it,” he says.

Guadagnino tries hard to live up to the moral lessons his parents taught him – be sparse with self-praise, don’t bad-mouth others – but sometimes it was hard during the criticizing and mud-slinging of an election race. “Every so often I have to look up at the heavens to my mother and apologize for doing what I have to do,” he says. It’s a rare occurrence; most of the time he can raise his head with pride in making a difference. – CJM

Non-Profit Changes Lives And Supports Industry

A New York non-profit is proving the Big Apple has a big heart. And its workers hope to take an even bigger role in the ad specialty industry. “We help individuals with barriers to employment get the evaluation, training and opportunities they need,” says Susan Fonfa, executive director of Fedcap. “We feel good because we can help our workers help themselves.”

There’s no doubt that Fedcap is a “feel good” story. It was founded in 1935 and consistently places 2,000 workers every year. Some are outsourced into community or government jobs, while others are supervised under Fedcap’s own roof. But what makes Fedcap stand out is how it hires and welcomes those who are so often passed over for work. “Being able to give people a chance. That’s what we do,” Fonfa says.

What Fedcap does best is champion causes for the disabled. Besides its support staff, all of Fedcap’s workers have disabilities. Some are blind or deaf. Others suffer from mental illnesses. All of them become successful when they are empowered to overcome their everyday challenges. John Hopkins, 66, is an example of Fedcap’s triumphs. He has endured mental illness his entire life, but Fedcap gave him a chance to work 14 years ago. He now works five days a week, creatively repackaging items for customers. “It makes me feel good to go to work everyday,” says Hopkins. “I feel proud of myself and the work that I do.”

People like Hopkins work through Fedcap to serve many of the organization’s clients – companies like suppliers and distributors of promotional products. Companies send items to Fedcap and its workers do the rest. They wrap, box, tag, ship and do just about anything else a company needs. It’s a full-service fulfillment operation, from packaging to mailing. Sunglasses, caps, glasses, Frisbees. You name it. Fedcap accepts the project and finishes it on deadline.

“We stress our truly top-quality work and the pricing is tremendously reasonable,” says Fedcap Work Center manager Karl Leeds. “We can do it cheaper than you can have it done in China.”

Fedcap’s Work Center is where the most severely disabled are employed. But it’s also the heart of the non-profit’s identity. “Workers do earn money, but they gain self-esteem, which is just as important,” says Fonfa.

Some distributors have already been working with Fedcap for years. Manhattan-based Encore Sales Corp. (asi/188280) has frequently used Fedcap’s services, and its staff raves about the work. “I can’t say enough good things about Fedcap,” says Ian Murtaugh of Encore. “We’ve trusted them for years and you feel good about what they do and the people that they’re helping.”

Fedcap is hopeful more companies will enlist the non-profit’s services in the future. “There’s a tremendous opportunity there for Fedcap and the promotional products industry to work together,” says Leeds. – DV

Appointments & Promotions

A Plus Wine Designs (asi/30223) has added sales manager Christine Li to its sales team.

Fame Fabrics (asi/51204) announced the addition of Dean Jones as regional sales manager for the southeast, covering AL, FL, GA, NC, SC and TN.

Hartwell Classic Apparel (asi/60135) has hired Charlotte-based Doggett Advertising. Doggett will help Hartwell with marketing initiatives and brand development.

Hub Pen Company (asi/61966) announced the hiring of Flanagan and Associates as its representatives in the southeast. Tom Flanagan, CAS, will cover FL and Puerto Rico, Rich Conroy will cover NC and TN and Matt Carter will cover GA.

InnoPack USA (asi/62656) has hired Adam Whitworth, master of customer service. 

iPROMOTEu (asi/232119) announced that 103 promotional products distributors affiliated with the company during the first three quarters of 2008, representing an annual sales volume in excess of $22 million.

JP Promotional Products (asi/232668) has hired Chris Fuentes as a sales and marketing associate.

JR Resources (asi/232638) has hired Wendy Williams as vice president of sales.

Marla Kaye and You Name It Promotions (asi/365124) were honored by the San Francisco Business Times with its Top 100 Women-Owned Businesses Award.

Mercury Promotions & Fulfillment (asi/26770) announced that Paul Kiewiet, the former chairman of the Promotional Products Association International and president of BrandKiwi, LLC has affiliated with the company. BrandKiwi Vice President Caroline Walsh has also joined.

Proforma (asi/300094) announced the company placed three finalists in the 5th Annual Stevie Awards for Women in Business.
Suzette Albrecht, president of Proforma Albrecht & Co. (asi/116308), Holly Ambrose, owner of Proforma Global Printing & Design, and Lillian DeAngelo, owner of Proforma Custom Business Services were all recognized in their respective categories.

R.S. Owens (asi/75530) announced that president Scott Siegel presented a seminar on “Employee Recognition Programs That Motivate and Inspire” at the 2008 September Motivation Show in Chicago.

The Book Company (asi/41010) has added Tony Hoblit to its art department and Jasmine Panchal to its sales department.

The Penn Emblem Company (asi/62485) has added Phil Pogue, Michelle Burgess, Norma Whitford and Linda Knauss. They will work as part of the company’s newly created Direct Sales Service Team.

The Sunshine Group (asi/339525) has announced the addition of Barbie Hawkins as account manager.

The Vernon Company (asi/351700) has hired Stephanie Critchfield as western region manager. Critchfield will be responsible for all recruiting, hiring and sales activities in the western United States. 

USA Connect (asi/92429) has announced the hiring of Tom Streich for the position of national sales manager.

WoodCo (asi/98138) has hired several marketing representatives. Keith Schroepfer will be representing WoodCo in the upper midwest region. Cory Schroepfer will handle all key accounts. John Bugele will handle IL, WI and eastern MO. Richard Schmidt will handle MN, IA, IA, KS and western MO. Mark Jenkins will handle OH, MI and IN. Mike Valentini will be representing WoodCo in PA, DE, MD and the DC area. Jean Carboni will travel in MA, CT, RI and NY. John Ragozzine will travel in ME, VT, MA, CT, NH, NJ and NY. Both John and Jean will combine their efforts in calling on accounts in the states of MA, CT and the NY area. Brad Schroepfer will represent WoodCo in the southwest region. Brad will cover TX, OK, CO, LA, AR and NM. Jennifer Wood will work the states of CA, AZ, NV, UT and OR.

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