Some of the most compassionate, caring and generous members of our community tend to stay out of the spotlight. They help their neighbors not because they want the applause, but because they are following their hearts.
This year, Liza and Albert Smitherman – who truly embrace the spirit of volunteerism - will be recognized at JDRF’s 36th Annual Cincinnatians of the Year Gala.
“We’ve been blessed by the generosity of others. This community has given so much to us our business and to us personally,” says Liza. “We want to pay it forward as others have done for us.”
The Smithermans own and operate their first-generation business, Jostin Construction in Walnut Hills. Albert founded the company in 1998 after gaining 12 years of experience in the field of concrete construction. Liza serves as Jostin’s Vice President of Corporate Development and took on a primary role in creating Brewster Pumping, LLC 15 years ago, which provides services to Jostin Construction, as well as other regional clients.
“We have a responsibility to support our community where we do business,” says Albert. “By supporting groups who better our community, we are effectively supporting our employees and customers.
“Everyone benefits from a healthy and stable community; from the individual to small businesses to large corporations.”
While it’s true the Smithermans donate generously to causes and organizations, they also share their leadership and time with many organizations in the community. Albert is a board member for the Cincinnati Regional Business Council, Episcopal Retirement Services, The Bethany House and The Christ Hospital Foundation. He and Liza recently co-chaired the 2019 Over-the-Rhine Film festival, which they continue to support. Liza is a member of the Board of Trustees for Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, the YWCA of Greater Cincinnati, and the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber.
They caught the volunteering bug shortly after Jostin Construction opened its doors. “A business friend invited us to a dinner event that was supporting a local organization,” explains Liza. “We were both so inspired by their work and the impact it had on so many lives that we had to jump on board. I think when you see a need and connect to that need at a gut level, it’s only natural to want become a part of the work to support that mission.”
Even though no one in their personal lives is living with Type 1 diabetes, the Smithermans were drawn to JDRF.
“We support organizations that have a very clear purpose and have the capability to make a large and positive impact on the community they serve,” says Albert. “And that’s exactly how I would describe JDRF.
“We also look for organizations that touch a diverse group of people. Type 1 diabetes does not discriminate. All of these reasons made it an easy decision for us to get involved.”
In addition to their donations and hours of community service, the Smithermans mentor small-business entrepreneurs. “We are both very passionate about mentorship,” says Liza. “Our success is due in great part to the incredible mentors we’ve had along the way. We make ourselves available and accessible with any individual or business who takes the initiative to reach out. We are honest and direct, and we share our experience of what has worked and what has not worked.
“Independent businesses are critical to the growth of our community, which makes the mentorship of smaller businesses even more of a priority for us.”
Jostin Construction focuses on having a diverse workforce, Albert emphasizes.
“We aim to create and provide a diversity of opportunities for all,” he says. “This means we have people in our company who have never worked in construction. We also have several women on our leadership team, which is not typical for our industry. We are very deliberate about the variety of projects we work on so that we continue to build our experience and capability that we can offer to offer clients.
“Diversity and inclusion are who we are, and our businesses are all stronger because of it.”
“We are humbled and honored to be acknowledged by JDRF for doing what we believe we are all called to do — give of ourselves to others,” says Liza. “We hope you will ask yourself, ‘What is keeping me from volunteering tomorrow?’ There truly is no shortage of need for your time, treasure and talent to support great organizations like JDRF.
“Find an organization that connects to your passion and your values. Then make the call or raise your hand and get involved. Be prepared to receive more than you can imagine in return.”
The JDRF Cincinnatians of the Year Gala is typically held in May, but this year it will be postponed to the fall due to the impact of COVID-19.