SALEM - Bob and Linda Sebo both credited their upbringing as the motivating force behind their philanthropic ways, their drive to help others through their good fortunes.
"Never forget where you came from," Bob said. "So many of us can draw on life experiences that really should be a motivation to do good, whether to give of your time or your financial resources."
"Some people forget that there's always someone worse off than them," Linda said. "Even little things help someone who has nothing."
Salem residents Bob and Linda Sebo pose with the family dog while holding the Outstanding Philanthropist Award they recently received from the Association of Fundraising Professionals at the National Philanthropy Day Awards in Youngstown last month for their support of civic, educational and charitable causes. (Salem News photo by Mary Ann Greier)
The Salem residents whose home offers a light display like no other at Christmas time recently received the Outstanding Philanthropist Award from the Association of Fundraising Professionals for support of civic, educational and charitable causes. They received the award last month at the National Philanthropy Day Awards in Youngstown.
"We were both honored. We just enjoy being able to help others," Linda said, noting that she and Bob come from similar backgrounds.
She grew up in the United Local school system where her two children, 16-year-old Courtney and 11-year-old Parker, both attend school. She recalled buying a television for her parents when she got her first paycheck at age 16. Her parents are still living and she said her mother is the most giving person in the world, giving her time and talents and everything she has to her church in Kensington.
Bob grew up in Salem and called his parents "two kind souls" who worked very hard and dedicated their lives to him and his brother.
"We had such a good home life when I was growing up as a kid. I didn't realize until I got out of college and the Army that I grew up poor," he said, adding he remembers wishing for things, but it wasn't the end of the world when he didn't get them.
Bob graduated from Salem High School and Bowling Green State University and served in the U.S. Army. He worked for General Motors before getting involved in Paychex where he served as the vice president. He retired from the company in December 1994 and retired from the Paychex Board of Directors in 2006. He also just finished his service on the BGSU Board of Trustees.
His daughter, Christina, lives in Denver, Colo. and has two children, while his daughter Julie lives in Naples, Fla. and has three children, giving the Sebos five grandchildren.
The act of giving first began when he moved back to Salem in 2000, with gifts to his church, Emmanuel Lutheran, and the Salem Alumni Association, establishing scholarships. He said he wanted the J. Robert Sebo Achievement Scholarship to go to students who had good grades, not necessarily the top grades, and who were involved in school activities.
Since then the list has grown, with about 90 percent of their charitable giving in Salem, some to Linda's alma mater, United, and to her church, Kensington First Christian Church, some to Bob's college alma mater, BGSU, and some to outside interests.
"We will try to do whatever helps and covers the most amount of people," he said.
They help support both athletics and academics at Salem schools and help support a wide number of organizations and events in Salem.
"There is so much need for help for people. We are motivated by the more people we can help by helping a specific organization, the more we like it," he said.
Bob explained that they also have some outside organizations they like to help, such as a fund for Alzheimer's set up by former Salem and Ohio State football coach Earle Bruce, the Lou Holtz Upper Ohio Valley Hall of Fame in East Liverpool and Team Focus, an organization founded by Mike and Mickey Gottfried to help young men growing up without fathers to learn about team sports and leadership.
He said both he and Linda know what it's like to work hard and have to work for things. As the former manager of Consumers National Bank in Salem, she saw people having a hard time. He said they've had a chance to see all sides of life and this is their way to give back and help out.
During the recent closure of the Kolby's clothing store in downtown Salem, he said they got a wonderful opportunity. Rather than selling the clothes left over for next to nothing, they decided to donate them to needy organizations. The fixtures and furniture they donated to the Salem Historical Society.
"Philosophically, for us, if you have money, it's really easy to give it away. We have a very high respect for those people who give of their time. In my opinion, people who give time are more valuable than money," Bob said.
The Sebos were nominated for the Outstanding Philanthropist Award by LuAnn Haddad, Vice President of Institutional Administration at Salem Community Hospital.