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St. Louis' Unsung Heroes In Business

Above the Call of Duty
For most of us, all that is really required to achieve some level of professional success is to show up. There is no requirement to make the world a better place or to help your fellow human being. That is the sort of thing that is usually inconvenient to our time and goals. However, thankfully, there are some who take on that role.
Because, to truly make a lasting impact on a community takes more than just punching the clock. It takes more than showing up. It means that you devote your creativity, energy and professional acumen to solving a problem or helping to elevate others’ interests and goals.
The heroes you see featured here are people that not only have achieved excellence in their chosen fields, but they also are devoted tirelessly to helping to make St. Louis a better region.

Deep-Rooted Beliefs In Giving
Diane Compardo | Moneta Group

Diane Compardo grew up on a family farm outside Springfield, Illinois, and her upbringing was a wholesome, family-oriented one that provided her with a deep-rooted belief in service. In high school and college, she was active with charitable organizations. So it was only natural for Compardo to bring this belief into her professional life.

After earning undergraduate and graduate degrees in accounting, she began her professional career in the St. Louis office of PricewaterhouseCoopers. While Compardo was honing her skills in the company’s Executive Services Group, advising clients on a wide range of tax, investment, estate planning and other financial matters, the company reinforced to her the importance of volunteering. “At PricewaterhouseCoopers, they did a great job of getting everyone involved in organizations that better our community, such as Junior Achievement,” says Compardo, who is now a principal with Moneta Group. “When I joined Moneta, it was just natural to get even more involved.”

Compardo serves as treasurer and finance chair for Covenant House Missouri, a nonprofit organization that empowers homeless, runaway, and at-risk youths to live independently and become contributing members of the community. She is also on the board of the Southern Illinois University Foundation and serves on the investment committee that manages the endowment. “I also actively support the Moneta Group Charitable Foundation, which has been very active and generous to a number of local St. Louis charitable organizations,” she says.

For Compardo, helping others is a source of energy and a way to share her own good fortune. “Throughout my life I’ve been fortunate to have a number of generous people who went out of their way to help me, and now I am in a position to do the same for others in need,” she says.

Just as she is involved in a range of organizations, Compardo hopes others keep an open mind and never set limits when it comes to giving back. “People can accomplish wonderful things when they are determined and willing to compromise,” she says. “Also, expanding out of your normal ‘network’ and opening new doors makes St. Louis better connected, which ultimately helps everyone.”

Making Every Encounter Matter
Carol Bolm | BSR Services

Despite being an entrepreneur three times over, Carl Bolm makes time to not only lead his companies but also give back to his community. As president of Investa Management, the parent company of BSR Services, a snow and ice removal company; Cedar Lake Cellars, a winery and event venue; and The Battlegrounds, a mud run obstacle course, Bolm assembled leaders for all three businesses to best use his own time and talents.

“I now mainly focus on strategic planning and mentoring these individuals to steer them in the right direction,” he says. “While I still play a large role in my companies’ growth, I have complete trust in my team and their decision-making processes pertaining to overall operations.”
While it was always in Bolm’s nature to give back, as he recognized his own good fortune in his career, he began to concentrate his efforts on giving back in the area. “I’ve been so very fortunate throughout my career, and it just feels right to help others,” he says.
Although Bolm tries to keep the time and money he donates under the radar, the causes he supports are many, including being on the boards of Old Newsboys since 2009 and Youth With A Mission (YWAM), where he participates in building homes for the less fortunate in underprivileged countries. Bolm also donates to charities through his own businesses. For example, organizations like TREE House of Greater St. Louis and Young Leaders Board-USO hold fundraisers at Cedar Lake Cellars, and proceeds from The Battlegrounds’ mud runs are donated to BackStoppers and Operation Food Search.

For the past four years, Bolm and his wife have distributed food and clothing to the homeless on Christmas Eve.  “This year I really reached out to others – family, friends and colleagues – to help with our Christmas Eve giving,” he says. “We had our biggest collection ever. I can’t even describe the feelings my wife and I have when we hand children and their parents the food and clothing and toys we bring. It is a priceless experience that I look forward to every year.”

Bolm believes that each one of these encounters matters. “My goal is to always try and leave a positive impression with each person I meet,” he says. “I have that mind-set when I walk into a room. I’m not just a businessperson. I’m not just a volunteer. I am the sum of all things I believe and do. It’s my belief, and I try to convey that with everyone I meet.”

Providing Necessities And Improving Lives
Joe Koenig | Brecht’s Database Solutions Inc.

While still in high school, Joe Koenig began writing code and developing websites for local businesses. He had found his calling, so he continued to grow his skills in multiple programming languages, server administration, cloud technologies, and project management.

Over the past 15 years Koenig has held positions ranging from programmer to CIO of a government agency, and today he has found his place as the vice president of technology for Brecht’s Database Solutions Inc., which provides web-based software to school districts throughout Illinois, Missouri and Utah.

He has remained dedicated to his career as an IT professional, but a trip to Uganda in January of 2010 brought an additional focus to Koenig’s life, leading him down a path of giving back. “While in Uganda, I saw a level of poverty that I had never seen and that I didn’t even really know existed,” he says. “I truly believe that all people deserve access to basic human necessities, such as water, food, shelter and education.”

Feeling that he had been extremely blessed, Koenig believed there must be a way for him to use his skills and resources to give back. “My motivation is in finding a way to provide all people opportunities to better their lives,” he says.

Acting on this motivation, Koenig founded a nonprofit organization called Three Avocados. “At Three Avocados, we sell coffee from Uganda and Nicaragua and use the proceeds to provide clean drinking water in Uganda and help provide education in Nicaragua,” he says.

Just as Koenig embraced his desire to better the lives of the poverty-stricken in Uganda, he believes others should find something they are passionate about and devote time to that. “When people are truly passionate about something, you get their absolute best work and people are happy doing the work,” he says. “They become eager to work together as a team to solve problems and accomplish the goals.”

Today Koenig’s primary hope is that lives are improved. “Each life that we can impact – with clean water, with access to an education, with improved health – is a win.”

Working The Plan
Jim Wagner| Parkside Financial Bank & Trust

Having spent his entire career in banking, Jim Wagner, co-founder and CEO of Parkside Financial Bank & Trust, has long been influenced by an industry dedication to improving the community. “Many people in banking are on nonprofit boards to show their support to the community,” he says.

So when Wagner was introduced to Saint Louis Crisis Nursery 10 years ago and felt an immediate attraction to the cause and organization, he decided to follow his industry’s standard and jump on board. “A friend of mine was doing consulting for the nursery and called me,” says Wagner. “She said: ‘You ought to meet these folks. You’ll like them.’ I sat down and had lunch with Dianne Mueller and my friend Wendy Dyer and never looked back.”

Over the past 10 years, Wagner has contributed to the nursery’s cause by sharing his network, through strategic thinking and by contributing financially as the president of the nursery’s board of directors. “If you’re fortunate enough, you should give back,” he says. “Find an organization you’re excited about.”

Wagner believes in the Crisis Nursery not only because it’s a good cause – preventing child abuse and neglect and providing emergency intervention, respite care and support to families – but also because he says it’s a phenomenally run organization. “It saves babies’ lives and builds stronger families,” he says. “And it’s run like a business and thinks like a business. It’s around to serve people. Because it’s run like a business, it thinks organizationally. The board helps run the business while raising money.”

Wagner is also able to contribute his expertise by acting as a sounding board to Mueller, the nursery’s CEO, and focusing on strategic planning. “A former boss of mine told me, ‘Plan the work, and work the plan,’” he says. “Nonprofits often live hand to mouth and don’t survive. I believe in planning and thinking long term. That’s part of my attraction to the nursery because it operates like it will be here in 20 to 30 years from now, saving babies. They realize to do this, though, isn’t free. You need money, infrastructure, leaders, managers and more to save the 7,000 children a year they now do. You have to think that way. Look how to improve yourselves with resources and structure. I bring that perspective.”

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