Saturday, April 27, 2002

Hometown Hero: Retiree still tireless


Finance expert, 74, helps churches, other groups

By Janet C. Wetzel
Enquirer contributor

        LEBANON — Marion Fitch grew up in a financially strapped family. But the guidance, generosity and determination of friends and acquaintances helped him make it to college, where he earned a bachelor's degree in accounting and a master's in finance.

[photo] Marion Fitch (right) jokes with Linda Helm before a December board meeting of the Mental Health Recovery Services of Warren County in Lebanon.
(Michael Snyder photo)
| ZOOM |
        In 1981, after a successful career in the financial world, Mr. Fitch decided it was payback time. He took early retirement from Abbott Laboratories of Chicago, where he was head of the finance department, and took on a new, full-time job — helping others.

        Today, Mr. Fitch, 74, is still laboring at a steady pace.

        The Lebanon resident volunteered on occasion while employed. But for the past 20 years, that's been his life.

        He spends about 30 hours a week traveling across Ohio serving as a financial consultant for United Methodist Churches' fund-raising campaigns, saving the churches thousands of dollars in consulting fees. He helps 50 to 100 churches each year raise funds for a new building, or appeal to congregations for budget funds for the next year. One week he's in Hamilton, the next, in Johnstown.

        “This is a full-time ministry,” he said.

        He still makes time for 10 to 15 hours of weekly volunteering for other causes. He's on the board of directors for the United Methodist Children's Home in Columbus, where children, most of whom wards of the court, are sent for education and training to help them get back into society. Mr. Fitch is chairman of the development committee which raises funds for the organization.

        He is also chairman of the board of Mental Health Recovery Services of Warren and Clinton counties. And since his wife, Lillian, volunteers at Otterbein Homes, Mr. Fitch spends time there, too, particularly for fund raising. Don Gilmore, president and CEO of Otterbein, said the Fitches provide double duty.

        “When you get Marion, you also get Lillian. They're fantastic people who just go out of their way to provide support in so many ways. They have a sensitivity to the needs of the people in the organization.”

        And neighbors say when Mr. Fitch takes his morning walk, he picks up their newspapers and carries them up long driveways to deposit them on their doorsteps.

        Why?

        “I was a very poor kid, with very few advantages. And so many people helped me. Through that, I made it up that ladder,” he said. “Things went so well so long, I decided I needed to be helping others the way they all helped me.”

        Do you know a Hometown Hero — someone in your community dedicated to making it a better place to live and helping others? E-mail Janet Wetzel at jjwetzel@siscom.net or fax to (513)755-4150.
       



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