It was a pretty cool day for the Ziegenfelder Co. and its tribe — as cool as the sweet treats the company produces, as cool as their practice of compassionate hiring, for which they were honored in Washington, D.C., today.
In a ceremony this morning in the J. Edgar Hoover Building, FBI Director Christopher A. Wray presented the Ziegenfelder Co., along with 56 others, with the Director’s Community Leadership Award, a special award to honor individuals and organizations for their efforts in combating crime, terrorism, drugs and violence in America.
Wray welcomed the citizens from across the country who “have worked tirelessly to help their friends and neighbors and to strengthen their communities. This year’s honorees have changed the lives of countless people. They’re on the front lines of improving relations between law enforcement and the communities they serve. … If we in the FBI have learned anything in recent years, it’s that partnerships are critical to our success.”
He thanked the honorees for working together with the FBI, for their service, dedication and commitment.
Accepting the award on behalf of the Wheeling-based company was Lisa Allen, president and CEO of Ziegenfelder. Joining her in Washington were fellow tribe members Barry Allen, Holly Fillipovich, Erica Wilcox, Leslie Waechter, Kris Waechter and Jenny Zhang.
“We are honored to receive this prestigious recognition from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Our law enforcement community is committed to ensuring our safety in every sense. To be recognized as supporting their commitment to our safety by being open-hearted with our hiring practices is amazing,” said Lisa Allen. “The safety of our communities begins with providing hope and opportunity to those who are or feel unwanted or marginalized. We know that a job can provide the sense of hope, contribution and opportunity to begin again. We are confident in the folks joining our tribe, and we can see first-hand the continuing success that comes from the commitment and connections we provide.”
Allen began the company’s Compassionate Hiring Initiative five years ago by hiring employees from an area halfway house. She realized the impact of the company’s efforts when she was praised by the U.S. Attorney’s office in the Northern District of West Virginia. Since then, Allen has turned the initiative into a purposeful “labor of love,” and expanded the compassionate hiring practice companywide.
“This is an opportunity for us to work with the FBI,” she said following the ceremony, noting that today’s recognition and working with law enforcement will give credibility to their hiring practices. “We want to partner with the FBI to highlight the value of the potential of the untapped resource of re-entering citizens from incarceration and drug treatment.”
“The FBI can only conduct investigations and protect the American people from crime and acts of extremism if it has the support and understanding of the American people,” according to the FBI website. “That’s why the special agents in charge of each of our 56 field offices work so closely with their communities and community organizations. What happens when these special agents in charge get such tremendous support from people in their communities that they want to specially recognize them? They nominate them for a Director’s Community Leadership Award (DCLA).”
“The 57 recipients were varied, from people who help with addiction, teens, domestic violence, human trafficking and cybercrime. It was really neat to have such a wide variety.” Leslie Waechter, director of human resources at Ziegenfelder, said.
The FBI prepared a video highlighting each of the recipients, she noted. Watch the Ziegenfelder clip here.
Allen did a video interview today about the company’s hiring practices that will be posted on FBI.gov. She also was interviewed by USA Today following the ceremony.
Last week, the Ziegenfelder Co. was honored with the 2017 Director’s Community Leadership Award by the Pittsburgh Division.
The company received the award “for their endless dedication and commitment to making the community a safer place by giving individuals an opportunity to overcome their past actions and, in the process, reduce recidivism. Ziegenfelder feels there are many inherently good people out there who previously made bad decisions, are incredibly bright, and if given the chance, will contribute positively to our community. As a result, Ziegenfelder strives to hire the best employees possible, and include in their new hires those who may have previous convictions, incarcerations or who are recovering from the challenges of addiction,” according to the FBI.
Allen has been outspoken about the positive experience Ziegenfelder has had working with the offender re-entry program. Earlier this year, she testified in front of a congressional subcommittee in Washington, D.C., on the opioid epidemic and the implications for America’s workforce.
She encourages other companies to hire with a similar compassionate philosophy. Allen would like to expand the company’s hiring program to include displaced refugees who are looking to start the next chapter in their lives.
“We hope we were chosen for this honor today because we are making a difference in our communities. We are humbled by this award, and we truly appreciate the recognition. We want to thank the Pittsburgh Division, specifically Special Agent Michele Pritle for recognizing our practices. We hope this opportunity helps increase awareness in our business community that returning citizens and others who truly want to change their lives are not be feared or turned away, but rather have much to offer,” Allen said.
Ziegenfelder, a private, family-owned frozen novelty manufacturer based in Wheeling, W.Va., also has production facilities in Chino, Calif., and Denver, Colo.