Skip to main content

Congratulations to the 2023 Philanthropy Award winners

We are delighted to honor Britt Lovett, Ohio Access to Justice Foundation, Isabelle Ridgway Foundation, John Corlett and Melissa A. Kleptz.

jessica headshot


The five Philanthropy Awards celebrate outstanding Ohio philanthropists who have made significant contributions to the sector. Philanthropy Ohio celebrated the 2023 winners at the Philanthropy Forward ’23 conference on October 11 – 12 in Columbus.

This year’s Emerging Philanthropist Award winner is Brittany “Britt” Lovett, marketing and communications officer for the Community Foundation of Lorain County. With expertise in youth development, marketing, communication and program administration, Britt has a proven track record of implementing successful strategies, securing grants and funding and building community partnerships.


Britt created and led the Toni Morrison essay contest for young adults before, during and after the pandemic, building coalitions with Lorain County School districts to recognize youth creativity and writing while celebrating hometown hero Toni Morrison.

“Britt demonstrates exemplary leadership, and we are so pleased to honor her as the 2023 Emerging Leader in Philanthropy,” said Philanthropy Ohio President & CEO Deborah Aubert Thomas. “Britt’s demonstrated ability to foster community collaborations, coupled with her strategic thinking, exceptional communication skills and dedication to equity, exemplify her as a dynamic leader. With her extensive experience in the nonprofit sector, she is a valuable asset to the community foundation and the broader philanthropic sector in Ohio.”

Ohio Access to Justice Foundation received the Philanthropy Innovation Award for its work creating the Neighborhood Stabilization Grant Program. Funded by a $12.8 million Bank of America settlement in 2014, the program revolutionized grant funding for low-income Ohio communities. Through open dialogue with grantees and a matching grant initiative, the foundation ensured sustained support for the program.


Notable outcomes include the creation of Gem City Market in West Dayton, a local solar energy project in Cleveland, and Parable Coffee in Columbus, all addressing community economic development and racial justice. The foundation will have disbursed all the settlement funds by the end of this year. However, the program has been so successful that the foundation plans to invest an additional $2 million to sustain these impactful initiatives.

“We are delighted to recognize the Ohio Access to Justice Foundation for their innovative work developing and sustaining the Neighborhood Stabilization Grant Program,” said Philanthropy Ohio President & CEO Deborah Aubert Thomas. “The Ohio Access to Justice Foundation, under Angie Lloyd’s leadership, has embraced innovative strategies in creating this program, including sustainability through matching grants, shifting its funding focus to community-wide projects, engaging community partners in extensive dialogue and boldly committing to long-term support, with incredible success in communities across Ohio from Dayton to Cleveland to Columbus.”

The Michael G. Shinn Award for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging in Philanthropy winner is the Isabelle Ridgway Foundation, which was established in 2017 to honor the legacy of Isabelle Ridgway, who quietly fought to bring dignity and comfort to elderly, impoverished, and disenfranchised African Americans in her community.

In 1912, she founded the Old Folks Home of Franklin County – which eventually became the Isabelle Ridgway Care Center that aided countless seniors and their families in central Ohio for over 100 years. In 2015, it was sold, and its board members chose to carry Isabelle’s legacy into the future by using the proceeds to create the Isabelle Ridgway Foundation. It is one of very few African American philanthropic foundations focusing on improving the quality of life for an aging African American population. Since its inception, the foundation has awarded over $620,000 in grants to help aging African Americans in central Ohio thrive, and its efforts are helping the region become a more accepting, just, and inclusive community.

“We are so very pleased to present this year’s award to the Isabelle Ridgway Foundation, recognizing the organization’s leadership and commitment to promoting dignity, stability, safety, respect and a sense of belonging – in Central Ohio and beyond,” said Philanthropy Ohio President & CEO Deborah Aubert Thomas. “Since its establishment, the foundation has generously supported the well-being of aging African Americans in central Ohio, contributing to a more inclusive and equitable community.”

The inaugural Public Policy Award recognizes a champion in public policy or advocacy work in philanthropy in Ohio who uses their voice with courage to advocate for equity, building stronger communities, and building stronger philanthropy. The 2023 awardee is John Corlett, president and executive director of the Center for Community Solutions.

John is a key thought leader, relied upon by legislators, policymakers, nonprofit leaders and health care institutions to provide strategic insight and advice. He uses a bipartisan approach and has played critical roles in advancing a positive health and human service agenda through four Ohio General Assemblies and two governors. Throughout his advocacy career, John has worked to improve the human condition of low-income and vulnerable children, families, individuals and seniors in Cuyahoga County and throughout Ohio.

“We are delighted to celebrate John Corlett and present him with our inaugural Public Policy award, recognizing his longstanding advocacy work to improve the health and wellbeing of our community,” said Philanthropy Ohio President & CEO Deborah Aubert Thomas. “In his role leading the Center for Community Solutions, John is a significant partner to philanthropy in the advocacy space, serving as a thought leader, problem-solver, strategist, convener and connector.”

The Ohio Philanthropy Award celebrates an individual who demonstrates long-standing leadership in advancing philanthropy, creativity in responding to problems and significant positive impact on philanthropy. This year’s winner is Melissa A. Kleptz, president and CEO of the Troy Foundation.

Under Melissa’s leadership, The Troy Foundation has become and continues to be, an essential and vital player in the Troy region and one of the great strengths of the Troy community. During Melissa’s 27-year tenure, she has grown The Troy Foundation from a $19.5 million community foundation to its current value of approximately $140 million with more than 425 individual funds. Melissa is a quiet leader who can convene individuals, businesses, leaders and nonprofit organizations to discuss issues of common interest in the community to ensure that all voices are represented as decisions are made.

Melissa has been deeply involved in numerous philanthropic initiatives, boards and committees, displaying exceptional leadership in advancing philanthropy. She serves on various committees of Philanthropy Ohio, contributing significantly to the field through public policy, housing stability and community foundation leadership, and as past board chair, helping guide the organization’s strategic direction process. Her long-standing leadership has left a significant positive impact on her community, the philanthropic sector in Ohio and beyond.

“We are thrilled to present this year’s award to Melissa A. Kleptz, recognizing her longstanding leadership and commitment to advancing the Troy community and philanthropic sector in Ohio,” said Philanthropy Ohio President & CEO Deborah Aubert Thomas. “Over her 27-year tenure, Melissa's leadership has propelled The Troy Foundation's growth from a $19.5 million community foundation to its current value of approximately $140 million, housing over 425 individual funds. Additionally, Melissa’s ability to bring together individuals, partners, community leaders and nonprofit organizations to collaborate on matters of shared interest ensures that all voices inform decision-making in the community."

Congratulations to this year’s philanthropy awardees! To learn more, visit

Jessica Howard
Senior Director, Communications & Marketing
Philanthropy Ohio



News Type
Latest NewsMore News
Upcoming EventsMore Events