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Innovation Excellence Award

Innovation Excellence Award

Wipfli's $20,000 Innovation Excellence award

Wipfli is invested in recognizing and supporting innovation in the federally funded nonprofit and social services world. Wipfli's Innovation Excellence Award, in honor of the late Evelyn Wright Moore, recognizes nonprofit leaders who use technology and forward thinking to make a difference in their organization and their community. One leader who demonstrates innovation and passion for their organization and community will earn a $20,000 award for their agency.

Evelyn was the president and CEO at Brazoria County (Texas) Head Start Early Learning Schools, Inc. A lifelong champion of innovation, learning and community service, she attended every Wipfli National Training Conference over 16 years until her passing in 2017.

We have pledged to continue Evelyn’s legacy and carry on her spirit of innovation by recognizing other impactful nonprofit leaders with an annual award. We invite you to help to honor her legacy by nominating a committed, passionate and innovative leader who makes a difference in their organization and their community.

Nominations for the 2023 award are now closed. Conference attendees may nominate themselves or another leader from their organization. The winner will be announced at the Stronger to Serve conference in July and must be present to receive the award.

Wipfli Innovation Excellence Award

2023 Innovation Excellence award winner LaSharnda Beckwith

We are thrilled to announce that LaSharnda Beckwith, president and CEO of Lutheran Social Services of Southern California (LSSSC), has won Wipfli’s 2023 Innovation Excellence award in recognition of the organization’s vision to create a holistic, long-term housing solution for homeless men San Bernardino, California.

The planned $38 million project will double their capacity to provide a range of services supporting independent living skills, workforce training, and medical and behavioral health.

The community wellness campus spearheaded by the six-county agency will be able to serve 150 clients in need of wraparound services. The transitional and longer-term supportive housing in the new project will consist of pet-friendly individual units referred to as “pods.” The plan will also include an apartment complex for those ready for permanent supportive housing after up to 12 months of transitional services, from which residents will be able to continue accessing LSSSC’s programs.

The San Bernardino project is the first of several wellness campuses envisioned for the region incorporating the sustainability model. “We want folks to reach a level of sustainability in their quality of life,” Beckwith said. “To elevate people, you have to provide the space for them to feel they have dignity.” The award was established in 2018 to honor the late Evelyn Wright Moore, a Head Start leader from Angleton, Texas, who attended 16 Wipfli national training conferences until her passing in 2017.

“We’re so appreciative of this award. It validates what we’ve been trying to do, and we couldn’t be more thrilled,” Beckwith added.

Previous recipients:

  • Liz Kuoppala (2022), executive director of the MAHUBE-OTWA Community Action Partnership in western Minnesota. Kuoppala transformed the agency’s service delivery model by employing a whole-family approach, with a focus on equity to create multigenerational, upward mobility for low-income and elderly residents in five Minnesota counties.
  • Eileen Sperl (2021), director of Child and Family Services at Meta House in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Eileen piloted Meta House’s Filial Therapy Program, an innovative mode of play therapy focused on the developmental needs of children and the parent‐child relationship. The family‐centered, evidence‐based curriculum is now used widely and considered a best practice.
  • Claire Rice (2020), executive director of the Arts Alliance Illinois, who helped unite the city of Chicago, the state of Illinois and private philanthropists to provide immediate financial relief to individual artists and arts organizations at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Belva Dorsey (2019), CEO of Enrichment Services Program, who broke down silos at the Columbus, Georgia community action agency to create operational efficiencies that greatly enhanced their anti-poverty programs.
  • Michael Patterson (2018), chief information officer and co-founder of Arkansas Early Learning, who installed Google Minis in classrooms and used voice-assisted technology to reduce the paperwork burden on caregivers with the Head Start grantee.

Submissions will be reviewed and scored by a committee of Wipfli associates, with the winning submission receiving the highest aggregate score.

The innovator selected will be contacted by email. Wipfli may request additional information from the winner, including photos and video, for use in promotional marketing. The winner must attend the Stronger to Serve National Training Conference in July to accept the award.