The annual BBB Torch Awards for Ethics celebrates businesses, organizations and individuals who serve with integrity. This year, 28 winners from the BBB Midwest Plains will be recognized, serving Nebraska, South Dakota, the Kansas Plains, and southwest Iowa, will be recognized at a luncheon taking place September 19.
“Oftentimes, when people think of the BBB, they think of an organization that spends most of its time denouncing substandard business practices, investigating problematic companies, schemes and scams; or the place where you can get information on the background of a company whether or not they have a trustworthy track record in the marketplace,” said Jim Hegarty, president & CEO of BBB Midwest Plains. “But we have always, at least for the last 25 years, taken a sharp focus annually on celebrating outstanding marketplace role models … We believe that businesses that have made decisions to sort of step out of the box and do extraordinary things when it comes to ethical business practices deserve to be recognized and highlighted.”
The annual BBB Torch Awards for Ethics (formerly the BBB Integrity Awards) recognize outstanding businesses, nonprofits, emerging organizational leaders and students. This year’s celebration luncheon will be at A View West Shores in Waterloo, a new venue. Former astronaut Clayton Anderson will be speaking. Another first for this year’s event is the recognition of entrepreneurs and talented new leaders.
“The addition of The Spark Awards to this year’s class is something that we’re very excited about … It’s really important that new, emerging leaders are understanding the value proposition of being certain that their practices are ethical, and that their businesses stand for the right thing,” Hegarty said. “We’ve discovered that there is no shortage of creative energy in Nebraska’s business community and we are super excited to showcase that.”
Thrasher Foundation Repair is a 2023 Torch Award winner and past winner in 2018, 2013, 2008 and 2000. It is the first company in the history of the awards to win in three different geographic regions. Dan Thrasher is the second-generation leader of the family business headquartered in Papillion and serving customers in a five-state area.
“I would say that our values, which all kind of revolve around integrity, were really born out of my parents’ (Greg and Nancy Thrasher) character,” Thrasher said. “My parents really always focused more on doing things the right way, rather than trying to do more of it. We’re blessed to be serving lots of customers in several markets, but it all was founded on this idea that you do the right thing for the customer, and you do the right thing for the employee. And if you do those things — well, everything else will take care of itself.”
He added that integrity also supports business success.
“From a business standpoint, if you want to think about what makes good business sense, think really long-term. If you want to be around for a really long time, you’ve got to care about people, because otherwise, they won’t want to work with you anymore, whether that be an employee or a customer,” he explained. “If you don’t have integrity, or if you don’t operate with people in mind, eventually there will be no people left to serve or to employ.”
As the leader of a Torch Award winner in the charities category, Cause Collective Director Jason Varga said operating with integrity is equally important for nonprofits.
“A nonprofit is ‘owned’ by the community. So, the community is putting their trust into this small group of people to provide a good service that supports the community. With that trust comes a higher level of responsibility and transparency to do the best they can,” he said. “It’s always important to consider trust and ethics when you’re running the nonprofit, because it’s not your business; that money often is from grants or individual donors or corporations, and you’re using their money to strengthen the community.”
Cause Collective, which helps support more than 140 nonprofits, has a mission to strengthen nonprofits to better serve the Lincoln/Lancaster County community through collaboration, education and advocacy.
“The better we know each other, the better we work together,” Varga said.
Spark Award winner Rebecca Deterding was named the president and CEO of YMCA of Greater Omaha in March 2022, the first woman to hold the position. She’s also been recognized as a Midlands Business Journal 40 Under 40 winner (2022) and, among other things, is credited for leading recent improvements in YMCA programs, services and facilities. Deterding emphasized that everything is a team effort.
“Receiving this award is really special to me, because it doesn’t signify a one-time accomplishment or achievement, it kind of recognizes the work that we have done,” she said. “And that will always be ongoing towards creating an environment where integrity and ethics are valued above all else. It’s my responsibility to create a culture built on trust, and one where there can be healthy conflict and dialogue and where transparency and authenticity is valued. I have to strive to model those behaviors in everything that I do. This award reflects that it’s a huge priority for me to continue to do that and to strive for that environment.”
She added, “I truly believe now more than ever, people want to support organizations or do business with organizations — whether that’s through purchasing goods and services, or through philanthropic dollars and volunteer time or working — that are honest and transparent. I think people really are looking for not as much transactional but more transformational opportunities. To me, when we prioritize culture, a culture where ethics and integrity are at the forefront, it leads to the best decisions and the best direction for the organization, because we’re always considering different perspectives, we’re acknowledging weaknesses or blind spots that we have. We’re asking for feedback so we can continue to do better.”
Anthony Nguyen represents the next generation of ethical leaders. The Student of Integrity Scholarship recipient graduated from Lincoln Pius X Catholic High School last May and has begun studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Nguyen is the son of Vietnamese immigrants Chin Nguyen and Huyen Pham and is a first-generation college student. He aspires to become a family physician.
“That’s how I can help the most people and spread the access to health care,” he said. “Especially in western Nebraska, I know there are a lot of rural areas that don’t have access to health care right away. I can just drive five minutes and there’s a hospital.”
Nguyen said he was with his parents when he received the email message notifying him that he’d been selected for a BBB scholarship, an emotional moment for all three of them.
“My parents always emphasized going to school, studying, learning. But my parents never even finished middle school because they didn’t have money back in Vietnam,” Nguyen said, adding that he sees his parents as important role models. “They raised me to be humble, and they raised me with character.”
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2023 BBB Torch Awards for Ethics,