Bonded by caring

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Henry Eaton fondly recalls working with John Dix in the early 1950s.

Both had entrepreneurial dreams and were mentored by the president of the Cleveland-based publishing company where they worked.

They left that company in 1952 to form Dix & Eaton, but took with them the sound advice they received from their mentor.

“If a community is good to you, it’s your duty to put back into it …whether it’s time, money, expertise or some combination,” says Eaton.

Dix & Eaton is the largest employee-owned public relations and investor relations company in the United Sates, with global clients including TRW, PolyOne and Avery Dennison.

Dix retired in 1982 and Eaton in 1999 after seeing the company grow from two to 75 employees. Although the firm doesn’t make hiring decisions based on the community activity of potential employees, Eaton says, it is full of caring people. Their activities are the reason the company was honored with a 2001 Pillar Award for Community Service.

Cynthia Schulz, managing director of public relations, says, “Giving is something that’s integrated in everyone’s role around here.”

Schulz is especially pleased with the company’s spirit in providing Christmas gifts for more than 50 children who are in foster homes or waiting to be placed in foster homes. Dix & Eaton employees work with the Malley Foundation to get the children’s names, ages and wish lists to be sure each one gets something for Christmas.

Schulz says there is a contagious, companywide excitement in caring for children in need. And while many people are generous at the holidays, Sandra Ripepi Stafford says it’s more than just a seasonal tradition.

“After working for Dix & Eaton for five years, I’ve seen how they have quietly given to the community,” says Stafford, senior account executive. “Philanthropy is part of the culture.”

Dix & Eaton employees sit on more than 30 nonprofit boards throughout the Greater Cleveland area. And that sense of caring reaches into surrounding communities, with staff members working with charities in their hometowns from Lorain County to Lake County.

Companywide support has exceeded $100,000 in non-billable community service, which includes United Way Services of Greater Cleveland. Dix & Eaton also participated in the Greater Cleveland Growth Association and President Council’s Boardroom to Boardroom program to link minority entrepreneurs with area business leaders for business strategy counseling.

Other programs include donations to those affected by the Sept. 11th tragedy, the American Red Cross blood drive, Billy Bass Run and the Salvation Army’s Adopt a Family program.

Employees of Dix & Eaton serve as counselors or as committee members for groups including Cleveland Heatlhcare for the Homeless, the City Club of Cleveland, Habitat for Humanity, Cleveland Today, Bellflower Center for Abused Children, Rainbow Children’s Museum, the TRW Early Learning Center, Notre Dame College of Ohio and the Great Lakes Theater Festival.

Eaton says it has always been company policy to financially support the causes its employees work for. And because the spirit of giving is contagious, it continues to grow within the people that join the company.

Scott Chaikin, chairman and CEO, leads by example through his participation on boards and the support of his staff for individual causes.

“It just feels good to work here,” Chaikin says.

Heading into Dix & Eaton’s 50th anniversary next year, Eaton is proud of the new leadership in place to carry on the philosophy of care.

“It is an extraordinary source of satisfaction knowing that you’re contributing what you have to an organization that can use it,” says Eaton. “The award is something they (employees) will treasure, and in my own way, I will, too.” How to reach: Dix & Eaton Inc., (216) 241-0405 or www.dix-eaton.com

Deborah Garofalo ([email protected]) is associate editor of SBN Magazine.