Writer / Janelle Morrison
As we go into the final quarter of 2015, one of the topics of discussion among educators, political leaders and business leaders is on the status of our state’s education and what kind of role local businesses might play during these discussions.
Leading the discussion is OneZone Commerce which recently hosted a luncheon with the Carmel Clay Schools and Hamilton Southeastern Superintendents, speaking to the audience about the state’s school funding formula and the effects that the current formula will have beyond the temporary patchwork of impending referenda.
This month, OneZone will host Purdue University President Mitch Daniels who will speak about changing the blueprint for making higher education affordable and what he is doing to craft the future of funding college education.
One of OneZone’s platinum members, NextGear Capital, has taken the proverbial bull by its horns and is working to build up the Nancy Blondin Scholarship, a fund established in 2000 and is named after the remarkable Mrs. Nancy Blondin who passed away earlier this year. OneZone continues to honor Blondin’s legacy by awarding this educational scholarship to an outstanding high school, college-bound student each year.
In order for students to qualify for the scholarship, they must meet specific criteria when applying but do not have to go to Carmel or Fishers High Schools. Students must also be active in both in-school and outside school activities in their community and must submit a written portion to a committee made up of OneZone Commerce members.
Patty Turner, Director of Events and Community Relations for NextGear Capital, sits on the scholarship committee and has challenged other members to get involved in the efforts to help fund the scholarship campaign and raise awareness of its impact.
“At NextGear Capital, we understand the importance of building relationships with different organizations in our community, and that volunteering can have a positive impact on an employee’s everyday life,” Turner said. “Joining the Chamber was a no-brainer for us. We are always looking for ways to get more involved in the community as all of us here feel very strongly about giving back.
“One of the things that OneZone has done for us is they have the OneZone Young Professionals group, and we have a lot of up-and-comers in our company. We have a strong mentoring program at NextGear, and we do a lot of job mentoring. What I particularly like about OneZone is all of these different things that our people can get involved in, and it doesn’t matter if they live in Carmel or Greenwood or any other areas; they can get involved.
“Our management encourages our employees to attend the Lunch and Learns and OneZone events during the day and on company time. We want to produce the next president of OneZone Young Professionals. It benefits our employees, our company and the cities of Carmel and Fishers.”
When Turner first met Mo Merhoff, president of OneZone Commerce and the OneZone team, she was impressed by their knowledge and their philosophy. Turner wanted to get involved with the things that they are involved in and include NextGear’s employees at every opportunity.
“We are involved with community events like CarmelFest and OneZone’s business expos such as Taste of the Chamber,” Turner explained. “Mo had asked us if we were interested in sponsoring the expo, and my thought was that this was an opportunity for us to pay it forward. Due to the nature of our business, our two tables would be better served if given to local not-for-profits to help advocate for their needs. It is the perfect platform for organizations such as Chaucie’s Place and The Children’s TherAplay Foundation, Inc.”
After a conversation with Merhoff about the Nancy Blondin Scholarship and how it benefits Chamber members’ employees and their families, Turner joined the scholarship committee, committed to an annual donation and proceeded to raise the bar and challenge other local businesses.
“It blew me away that a minimum of $1,000 was being donated,” Turner said. “What we decided to do was donate $1,000 and then challenge businesses to match it. We have spoken and will continue to speak at lunches and other gatherings to promote the scholarship fund campaign. The first year that we made the challenge, we raised $8,000.
“I feel very passionate about this scholarship. We need to advocate more as I don’t think people look at it for the opportunity and investment that it is. It recognizes no borders. What we get back as employers and members has significant value. It is an opportunity to help our respective businesses and our employees to succeed. We are helping their children, our future leaders and next generation of professionals succeed.”
Once again, Turner is calling out to OneZone members to match their efforts and partner with NextGear Capital to build the scholarship fund and take it to the next level.
“We are challenging our members to match us and join us this year with our efforts to grow this scholarship,” Turner emphasized. “We would like to find companies to help us and partner with us, so that we can continue to grow this fund and spread the word.
“I ask our members how can we help people who are as passionate and knowledgeable and want to make something succeed like the OneZone team does? How can we help them make it the best?”