By Deanna C. White
For many CPAs, the act of giving back is much more than a passing gesture of goodwill that grips them once or twice a year. Rather, it is a true spirit of generosity and compassion that is integral to the way they conduct themselves - in both their business and their personal lives.
That spirit of unwavering altruism certainly embodies the three recipients of the 2011 American Institute of CPA (AICPA) Public Service Awards:
- Individuals category - Johnny K. Hudson, CPA, of Little Rock, Arkansas
- Firms category - Bell & Company, P.A., North Little Rock, Arkansas; and Reznick Group, Bethesda, Maryland
The annual awards, which were presented October 22 at the fall meeting of the AICPA's governing council in Amelia Island, Florida, honor members and firms of the AICPA who have made significant contributions to their communities.
"The many strong candidates for these awards make it difficult to select individuals and firms. So many make significant contributions to their communities", said Kathy Eddy, chair of the AICPA awards committee. "It is our belief that all of the compassionate and tireless volunteers should be recognized. But this year's winners, Johnny K. Hudson, Bell & Company, and the Reznick Group, clearly stand out."
Johnny K. Hudson
One of the distinguishing features of Hudson's career as a public servant is his emphasis on activities that lead to his community's betterment.
Hudson grew up on his family's farm Grapevine, Arkansas, with his sister and brother. In 2006, he and his siblings cofounded the Aspirnaut Initative in Arkansas, which is a set of educational enhancements targeting rural students to elevate their science, technology, engineering, and math achievement skills. Aspirnaut puts these students on equal footing with those going to schools in larger metropolitan areas.
Four years after its founding, Aspirnaut became the first organization in the United States to outfit a prototype school bus with LCD/PC computer screens and educational programming geared toward children in different age groups and grade levels. Students in rural areas were able to watch and listen to lessons during long commutes, enabling them to gain as many as two extra hours per day of math and science learning.
Today, Aspirnaut, which stands for aspire, seek, and achieve, has grown to serve students in rural communities in more than four states, including Maine, Montana, and Tennessee.
"We wanted to address this because growing up in a rural area, we knew how hard it was to compete with students from larger, more affluent schools. People recognized our potential. They pushed us to succeed, and we wanted to do the same for the students in rural areas today", Hudson said. "In general, people are not really thinking about rural education in this country today, and this is what Aspirnaut is all about . . . improving rural education."
Hudson serves as Aspirnaut's finance and accounting advisor and legislative liaison. He also serves on the board at Henderson State University and is a member of its Hall of Fame and Business Advisory Council. Hudson is a senior partner at Hudson, Cisne & Co., LLP in Little Rock and holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration (BSBA) in Accounting from Henderson State University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas.
Bell & Company
Bell & Company's partners and employees have served in pivotal roles in organizations throughout their local communities and in Haiti.
Following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, the firm raised much-needed funds for school supplies for children residing in a remote village. The firm gathered, sorted, and packed the supplies into 400 containers, one per child. In the same village, Bell & Company supported a medical clinic by providing Internet service and funding a full-time nurse. The firm sent two employees to the village, who personally distributed the school supplies and helped set up the clinic.
Bell & Company supports the Arkansas State Hospital, a psychiatric inpatient facility, through volunteerism and donations; staff members serve meals to the homeless at the Salvation Army; and the firm is actively involved in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure and Hearts & Hooves, a therapeutic horse riding and teaching center for those with disabilities.
Since Reznick Group's founding more than thirty years ago, it has consistently grown its community footprint nationwide. Through its Pay It Forward initiative, each December, employees are given an extra financial incentive in their paychecks in hopes they will donate it to a charity of their choice.
Employees have turned this incentive into hundreds of dollars via fundraisers and creative sales, enabling them to fund cancer research and help children a continent away. Many employees have matched or exceeded what they received from the firm, with contributions of their own money to extend the firm's commitment to charity.
In 2011, Reznick Group sponsored Office Jeans Day, where employees donated $5 to wear jeans to work on a designated day. The firm matched each donation, raising over $40,000 to send to the Japanese Red Cross following the earthquake.
Reznick Group offices also held a variety of fundraisers following the tornadoes that hit Alabama and other states. Their Atlanta office raised more than $20,000 during a bake sale to send to the Red Cross. Employees also drove out to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, to assist two warehouses in organizing supplies donated by the firm. The firm's Austin office developed the Capital Area Food Bank of Texas program, which provides food and grocery products to Texans in twenty-one counties.
To learn more about the AICPA Public Service Awards or to nominate and individual or firm for an award, visit the AICPA website.