Wheeling Park’s White Palace Ballroom was packed Friday night for the annual Youth Service System (YSS) Good Samaritan Tribute. The event honored Lisa and Barry Allen, leaders of the Ziegenfelder Company — a company known for its frozen treats.
A Wheeling family business for over 150 years, the company welcomes people into their “Zieggy Tribe” who are in recovery from substance abuse or have been incarcerated.
“We’re getting credit tonight for our involvement in the community and because of the hiring policies that include second-chance hiring,” said Barry Allen. “I want to stress that our hiring practices are based on the foundation of a willingness to bring most anyone into our tribe who wants to work hard and challenge themselves to keep getting better each day.”
For many people with criminal records or a history of substance abuse, finding employment opportunities can be a challenge, often perpetuating the cycle of incarceration and drug use. Under the leadership of the Allens, the Ziegenfelder company offers these people a second chance and provides community and support for their employees who are trying to turn their lives around.
“Helping someone change their life with a job and corresponding income builds trust and allows our belief in the human spirit to endure,” said Lisa Allen. “We offer opportunity for belonging in a safe environment, bringing hope, optimism and courage where it might not otherwise exist.”
YSS board member Robert Gaudio served as the master of ceremonies. The Allens were introduced by two of their children: Brad Allen introduced his dad, while Mia Porter introduced her mom. Reflecting on her own upbringing, Porter likened the Allens’ treatment of their employees with how they taught their own children to treat others.
“We were taught to focus on people, every person has enormous value and deserves to be treated with kindness and love,” said Porter.
As a token of their appreciation, YSS CEO John Moses presented the Allens and the Ziegenfelder Company with a metal sculpture by Wheeling artist Jeff Forster. The circle-shaped piece incorporates a heart, the word “Tribe,” the letter Z and a Twin Pop into its design. Moses said that they only gave one instruction to Forster, to “create a piece of art that’s in the shape of the heart of God.”
“I think that what Lisa and Barry and the tribe does is a gesture of inclusion, it speaks to how people in the circle of compassion are people who thrive,” said Moses. “And that it’s our duty and obligation to make sure no one lives on the margins. That no one is an outcast, that they’re all brought together in the family.”
Though honored by the recognition, throughout the ceremony the Allens repeatedly directed credit at the rest of their team, their Zieggy Tribe.
“Thank you to the most amazing, diverse, united tribe in the world,” Lisa Allen said. With Barry adding, “At the end of the day, it takes all our tribe to make us successful.”
• Nick Musgrave is a self-described history geek living in Wheeling, W.Va. He is a graduate of Hastings College in Hastings, Neb., where he earned his bachelor’s degrees in history and political science. When not writing for Weelunk or uncovering cool stories about the past, he can often be found reading in his hammock or trying to brew the perfect cup of coffee.