By Sue Botos
As the father of a child with autism, Nick Alexander knew he wanted to assist other parents as well as his son in facing the challenges this brings. So, when he was invited to join the board of trustees for the Rocky River-based Welcome House, he jumped at the chance. Now his philanthropic work has brought him the honor of being named one of Northeast Ohio’s Top 25 Under 35 Movers and Shakers.
“I didn’t know what to expect. I knew I was nominated by a good friend who put my name into submission,” said Alexander in a recent interview. The award is presented by the Cleveland Professional 2030 Club and recognizes Northeast Ohio’s 25 best young leaders under the age of 35 for their work with local nonprofit organizations as volunteers or board members.
Alexander, president of the Welcome House board of trustees, said he was introduced to the organization, which assists individuals with developmental disabilities, through a friend, Tony George. George, also the father of a special needs child, invited Alexander to a downtown Cleveland fundraiser in 2004.
Welcome House executive director Tony Thomas recalled, “The reason I remember Nick is that he introduced me to his girlfriend, now his wife. I think it was their first or second date. He came up to me afterwards and said he had heard a lot about Welcome House and asked to be considered as a trustee because he wanted to be involved.” Thomas added that he was aware Alexander had a son with special needs.
Thomas did not waste much time getting Alexander involved. “They threw me right into the fire. It was a real learning experience,” Alexander said, adding, “So much goes into the support and care of individuals with developmental disabilities. It was a learning curve.”
Alexander said that he could relate to the issues faced by other parents. “It’s really challenging and really hard to realize that your child won’t be a productive member of society. But when I see the care Tony and his staff give the clients it gives hope,” said Alexander. He said that a new day program has been added in recent months, which is important now because the economy does not provide many job opportunities for adults with disabilities.
“They do group activities throughout the day. It’s really exciting. The staff is unique because they know the individuals and can provide them with the support and care they need,” he stated.
As a Vice President Wealth Advisor for UBS Financial Services, Alexander develops and manages financial strategies for his clients. He brings this knowledge and experience to Welcome House. “Much of our funding comes from the state government,” Alexander said, adding that due to budget cuts, “We’ll need to increase out income stream with fund raisers. Over the last year we have been working to minimize unnecessary expenditures and try to function like a for-profit business.”
Thomas said that if anyone deserves the Top Mover and Shaker Award, it’s Alexander. “He is clearly distinctive as a volunteer. He does not just sit on the board; he gets involved, giving speeches and programs. He really wanted to get on the board, and it meant a lot to have a trustee honored in such a way,” said Thomas.
In addition to his commitment to Welcome House, Alexander is active in the Greater Cleveland walk for Autism Speaks, and serves on the membership committee of the Northern Ohio Italian American Foundation. Above all, he is dedicated to advancing the cause of the developmentally disabled. “I’ll do anything I can to raise awareness,” he stated.