The Finalists for the 2019 MGM Impact Makers are Here
For the second year, MBJ asked Montgomery to speak up and share the names of people, groups and companies who are “making an impact.” The city answered, and scores of nominations ﬂooded in, highlighting the businesses, organizations and individuals who are having multiple powerful and positive effects on the capital city and the River Region beyond.
So, meet the ﬁnalists. And make plans to attend the Chamber’s Annual Meeting on December 10 to ﬁnd out the winners.
Heather Parrish, Southern Art & Makers Collective
Heather S. Parrish has lived in Montgomery since 1996. In this time, she has served as a teacher, mentor and devoted arts advocate in the areas of theater, music and the visual arts. Currently, she is an active visual artist and co-owner of Southern Art and Makers Collective. SAMC, located at 1228 Madison Avenue downtown, focuses on supporting regional artists and makers as well as nonprofits by providing opportunities to sell their work and offer classes to the River Region. Known for her colorful works, quick wit, encouraging spirit and larger-than-life personality, Parrish is impacting the community one relationship at a time.
Chef Eric Rivera, Vintage Hospitality Group
Executive Chef Eric Rivera creates simple dishes that feature twists on common uses of distinctive ingredients and flavors to showcase seasonality and quality. In addition to being a James Beard Foundation Smart Catch Leader, under his leadership, Vintage Cafe´ and Vintage Year have both received mentions in The New York Times, USA Today, Forbes, U.S. News & World Report and Newsweek. Vintage Year was also named by Wine Spectator and OpenTable for Restaurant Awards of Excellence. Rivera is also a “Feast of Flavours” two-time winner, and he’s dedicated to giving back to the community by donating to many nonprofits and by donating his time to serve as a judge for Pro Start, a high school hospitality program.
Donna Cooper, BBVA Compass
Montgomery native Donna Cooper has been a leader in banking for close to 39 years and exemplifies a servant’s heart. For nearly four decades, she has invested in her community by chairing, serving and volunteering on local boards and committees. She believes that giving from your heart is your greatest opportunity to change the world.
Jonathan Strange, XiRepair
Jonathan Strange is a serial entrepreneur who started his first company at 14 years old and is the active CEO of two companies here in Montgomery, XiRepair, his tech repair giant, and Strange Media, his media agency. Strange is the youngest member of the Chamber of Commerce, the Alabama Business Council and the Montgomery Rotary Club.
Margaret Cornwell, Abrakadoodle Montgomery
Cornwell and her Abrakadoodle Art Education team have reached more than 12,000 children over 10-plus years. As an advocate of art for all, Cornwell develops educational opportunities and access to cultural experiences, often obtaining the needed funding. Abrakadoodle connects the community to creativity by partnering with local organizations and nonprofits, such as Brantwood, Common Ground, Child Protect, MADSOG and United Way.
Mia Mothershed, Jackson Hospital
Since coming to the capital city in 1999, Mia Mothershed has moved through the ranks to experience all Montgomery has to offer. From consulting with the Small Business Incubator before becoming an entrepreneur in Montgomery, to becoming a Class VI graduate of the city’s Torchbearer Leadership program, she has done it all. A marketing and public relations executive, Mothershed has found a home at Jackson Hospital where she lives out her motto to “engage, enlighten and empower others.” Leading the Jackson Hospital sponsorship of more than 500 community events a year, Mothershed finds it a blessing to work in an environment that values serving our community.
Charles Lee, That’s My Child
Charles Lee is a local business owner, community activist and family man. Growing up in the rough, gang-riddled streets of Chicago inspired him to donate his time and put his efforts into being a family-like support system and a “way out” for less fortunate youth facing the hardships of today. This inspiration led to the creation of That’s My Child, a nonprofit whose mission is to mentor youth through arts, education and entrepreneurship, while also giving them a safe place to develop the talents and skills needed to become tomorrow’s productive citizens. Lee is also the founder of That’s My Dog Jr., the first-ever restaurant operated by teenagers only.
HCS Group has completed projects in more than 50 countries and 40 U.S. states. The firm has received numerous accreditations from the Department of Defense and has been nominated several times for Small Business of the Year by the National Society of Military Engineers. But the company’s greatest reward is being part of the Humanitarian Assistance Program and Power Africa and through these programs, helping elevate third-world countries. The company brings that same spirit and work home to Montgomery and gives back to its local community by sponsoring Military Appreciation Day at the Biscuits Stadium, marathons and runs for various charities and supporting the Sunshine Center and Brantwood Children’s Home.
The Montgomery Zoo
The Montgomery Zoo and Mann Wildlife Learning Museum is a 42-acre accredited zoological facility located minutes from historic, downtown Montgomery. The Zoo houses more than 500 animal species from Africa, Asia, Australia, North America and South America. Guests can also enjoy the Mann Wildlife Learning Museum, which houses one of the Southeast’s largest collections of preserved North American wildlife, fossils and artifacts. Stingray Bay, the Zoo’s newest aquatic exhibit, allows guests to touch, pet and feed its collection of stingrays. If you are looking for adventure on the wild side, the Montgomery Zoo is perfect for you and your family.
2211 Ultimate Play Zone
2211 Ultimate Play Zone (UPZ) is the new skating rink in Montgomery. Roller skating is heart healthy and burns more calories than riding a bike. 2211 UPZ has partnered with local daycares, community centers, youth organizations, churches and schools to bring affordable fun to the city and has donated more than $9,000 to schools and nonprofit businesses that encourage young people to be positive, caring, non-violent and loving. The name 2211 comes from the statehood number of Alabama (22) and New York (11). The owners represent the love of entertainment, family and fun that Alabama and New York are known for.
MGMWERX augments ongoing Air University programs through events like Pitch Nights, Ideation Workshops, Technology Showcases and Challenges to enhance production of high-quality, innovative research and ideas that span issues of importance to the Air Force. The organization’s dedicated focus on innovation and collaboration allows it to serve its military partners and provide unique opportunities to the city of Montgomery and beyond through community-focused events like technology training sessions, military collaboration opportunities and access to its high-tech workspace. MGMWERX also provides unique occasions for innovators and entrepreneurs, near and far, to engage its military partners and provide relevant technology solutions for current Air University-related needs.
Civil Axe Throwing Montgomery
The Civil Axe Throwing mission is to offer the most fun, safe and value-added entertainment experience for every customer who walks through its doors. The business’ vision is to be the recognized standard of indoor axe throwing. That means it is hyper-focused on the positive impact its business has on the Montgomery community. The establishment of its community outreach program, “Axe of Kindness,” is a prime example and is founded on the business’ desire to raise funds with all local and national nonprofit charitable foundations. This initiative recently kicked off with a fundraising tournament for the Alzheimer’s Association Alabama Chapter.
Homewood Suites by Hilton LBA Hospitality
Homewood Suites by Hilton™ offers a unique approach to longer stays by allowing guests to stay in their routine while traveling for business or leisure. With the support of its management company, LBA Hospitality, Homewood Suites Montgomery empowers every associate to explore new and better ways to serve guests, its owners and the community. The property serves by donating to organizations like the Joy to Life Foundation, Jelani Girls, Inc, the American Cancer Society and the Bright Beginning chapter #803, serving meals at the Salvation Army, serving on the Human Trafficking Task Force, donating supplies to nursing homes and partnering with the local Wounded Warriors Project to read to local Headstart classes.
Guardian Credit Union
Guardian Credit Union believes it’s vital to serve the communities in which its employees live. For more than 60 years, the company has actively worked to make an impact by helping its members achieve their financial goals while supporting local community activities, schools, charities and businesses. Over the years, Guardian has seen tremendous growth. However, the connections Guardian team members make with families, friends, co-workers, neighbors and members of the community are most important. The company believes, “If we can continue to build connections through serving others, we can make our community an even better place for all of us.”
Four Star Freightliner
Four Star Freightliner is the Southeast’s leading medium and heavy duty truck dealer. The company mission reflects its dedication to assisting and supporting organizations that are engaged in like-minded activities. The company has awarded eight scholarships in memory of a co-worker and partnered with Elmore County Career & Technical Center to award scholarships to their “Student of the Year.” The company also donated equipment to J. F. Ingram State Technical College’s diesel mechanics class, whose students are primarily incarcerated adults. Four Star supports countless high school and community sports teams through sponsorships and has also provided support for programs for veterans, cancer survivors and even provided a sick Montgomery boy with a shopping spree with help from the Magic Moments organization.
Ascent Hospitality (Hampton Inn Downtown; Hampton Inn Airport; DoubleTree)
Ascent Hospitality is a vertically integrated hotel development and management company formed in early 2000. The company’s foundation is built on partnership and the spirit of teamwork, as evident from the single vision that has been nurtured and executed for more than 15 years by the two principals. From inception, Ascent Hospitality has adhered to one simple principle: “Always deliver what is promised, and always execute what is committed.” From the seed that was planted, the company’s heart grows here in the Montgomery area with its core hotels: by Hilton: Doubletree, Hampton Inn Downtown, Hampton Inn Airport; by Marriott: Fairfield Inn Airport.
Alabama State University
Alabama State University has a rich legacy of making a tremendous impact on
the Montgomery area. The university is a vital part of the local economy as an employer of nearly 1,000 area residents, as well as through the influx of nearly 4,000 students who live on campus and in local neighborhoods. ASU carries the banner of Montgomery, Alabama, nationally and globally through the celebrity of the Mighty Marching Hornets band and through the work of its dedicated graduates who make their mark around the world. ASU attracts major events to the city through the campus stadium and the Dunn-Oliver Acadome. University students, faculty, staff and alumni generate thousands of volunteer hours annually for local charitable organizations, churches and schools as part of its president’s CommUniversity initiatives.
RePower South Montgomery, LLC
RePower South Montgomery (RPSM) has introduced new technology that is changing the disposal of waste and the generation of clean energy forever. The company re-opened Montgomery’s Recycling Facility, formerly known as IREP, in late 2018 and started providing recycling for city residents in late January 2019. Its mission is to positively impact communities and protect the earth by disrupting the traditional approach to recycling, landfilling and producing clean fuel while creating sustainable, green jobs. Its system sorts out recycled commodities while producing a re-engineered fuel from paper and plastics.
MAX has been an integral part of the local community since 1955. With more than 300employees, and 18 locations throughout Central and East Alabama, MAX has provided its customers with quality financial products and services. Everyone at MAX believes in giving back to the communities they serve. The people served are not just customers; they are family members, friends and neighbors. By investing in the local community through donations, sponsorships, financial education and volunteer service, MAX is committed to making Montgomery a better place to live, work and play.
Wind Creek Montgomery
Wind Creek Montgomery (WCM) has been a member of the local business community for more than 25 years. The unique AAA Four Diamond property offers the best in entertainment, dining, luxury and guest service. WCM doesn’t just strive to do business, it strives to do good. Its recent numbers (since January 2018) show this: It paid more than $30.5 million in payroll and benefits to our 522+ employees working in myriad career roles; it attracted visitors to help make Montgomery a vibrant tourist destination; it has given back to the community by awarding more than $1,000,970 to local organizations through sponsorships, community relations and Make a Change donations.
River Region United Way
River Region United Way is a local nonprofit organization dedicated to strengthening lives, helping people and improving community conditions in Autauga, Elmore, Lowndes, Macon and Montgomery counties. The organization supports community programs and initiatives that help nearly one in every three persons living in the River Region. The organization believes that everyone should have the opportunities for a good life, knowing the building blocks for that life are an excellent education, financial stability, good health and having basic needs met. Its goals and work in the community are centered on these key impact areas.
Hope Inspired Ministries
Hope Inspired Ministries serves low-skilled, poorly educated and chronically unemployed men and women by preparing them to obtain and maintain employment. The organization does so in a manner that develops individual worth, encourages personal responsibility and promotes the value and honor of work. Hope Inspired Ministries introduces a way of life that promotes the development of the emotional, physical and spiritual maturity in each student. Since 2012, the organization has placed 264 men and women into internships with local businesses, which, for many, have resulted in full-time employment and a life of self-sufficiency.
Valiant Cross Academy
Valiant Cross Academy is the first all-male school in Montgomery that transcends the challenges facing young African-American males. It was founded in 2014 by brothers Anthony and Frederick Brock who were frustrated by the alarming number of African-American males who were not considered college ready. Valiant Cross provides rigorous academics and leadership training with a distinct culture of structure and discipline. The students, called scholars, have longer school days, smaller class sizes, double the math and triple the literacy time in the classroom, and this is all designed to improve the attendance rate, literacy rate and ultimately, the graduation rate.
Health Services, Inc.
Dedicated to providing quality health care to the area’s medically underserved population, Health Services, Incorporated (HSI) began in April of 1968 as a free health clinic in the basement of Montgomery City Hall. For more than 50 years, HSI has followed its mission of providing access to affordable comprehensive health and wellness services in Montgomery and surrounding areas. Through HSI, patients have access to adult medicine, pediatric medicine, OB/GYN and family planning, dentistry, optometry, behavioral health, social services, laboratory, radiology, pharmacy and wellness centers. Health Services operates 11 health centers and has partnered with Montgomery Public Schools to operate four HSI school-based health centers.
Girl Scouts of Southern Alabama
GSSA provides the Girl Scout Leadership Experience to more than 1,400 girls in the River Region. Of these girls, 49 percent are underserved, and their Girl Scout experience is fully subsidized by GSSA because of generous community support. GSSA provides the Girl Scout Leadership Program for girls in Montgomery Public Housing Communities (Camp Sunshine girls) and to at-risk girls in area schools. Program elements for the Girl Scout Leadership Experience include anti-bullying, self-esteem, financial literacy, healthy living and character-building.
Poarch Band of Creek Indians
The Poarch Band of Creek Indians is the only federally recognized Indian Tribe in the state of Alabama, operating as a sovereign nation with its own system of government. The Tribe is a partner in the state of Alabama, contributing to economic, educational, social and cultural projects, and its Planned Giving Campaign includes significant donations to local schools, senior centers, youth athletics and charitable organizations.
Montgomery Area Council on Aging (MACOA)
MACOA is Montgomery’s only non-profit agency solely serving seniors. Its flagship program is Meals On Wheels, which is a vital source of much-needed nutrition and safety checks serving homebound seniors at risk of losing their independence. Now in its 47th year, Meals On Wheels delivers 404 hot meals each weekday to seniors facing food insecurity. The program’s impact is immediate; in 2018, MACOA provided 122,487 meals via 34 delivery routes utilizing 1,271 active volunteers, all focused on combating hunger and isolation among seniors ages 60 to 101, with 26 percent being 85 years old and older and 23 percent being distinguished American veterans.