A program to recognize small-business owners who contribute to the community through volunteerism expanded to Columbus last week, selecting the area's first "community hero."

A program to recognize small-business owners who contribute to the community through volunteerism expanded to Columbus last week, selecting the area's first "community hero."

Steve Girard of Direct Energy Business presented Doris and Anand Saha, owners of Mozart's Bakery and Piano Cafe in Clintonville, with the first Columbus Small Business Community Heroes Award during a July 9 ceremony at the cafe.

ThisWeek Community News served as the media sponsor for the award from the Houston-based supplier of energy-related services.

This is the second year for the Small Business Community Heroes honor, Girard said last week.

The first one was presented in Pittsburgh, but this year the program includes awards handed out in that city as well as Columbus, Philadelphia and Baltimore.

Anand and Doris Saha, who came to Columbus from Austria in 1995 to open a European bakery, were recognized for their support of local schools, music and neighborhood programs.

"They've just done a really special job for the community," Girard said.

"The impact of their help has spread throughout this community and throughout the county," said Bill Owens, executive director of the Clintonville-Beechwold Community Resources Center, who nominated the couple for the award. "They're just such a special pair to hold up as an example to the community."

Owens said the Sahas held their first fundraiser for the resources center in 1997, shortly after they launched their enterprise.

"They were able to help us even when they were in their infancy," Owens said.

Since that time, fundraising efforts by the couple in behalf of the CRC have totaled $286,000 to help with the food pantry, programs for senior citizens, after-school activities for children and people caring for the children of relatives, Owens said.

"The Sahas exemplify what we think of as community," ThisWeek Community News Publisher Roy Biondi said in a statement.

"Their business sense, their commitment and their compassion make them a wonderful choice for this award from Direct Energy," Biondi said.

"We congratulate them and their business as well as the great people at Direct Energy for bringing the Small Business Community Heroes program to Columbus."

"The Sahas' dedication to Clintonville, as well as the greater Columbus community at large, epitomized what we were seeking in the first-ever Columbus Small Business Community Hero," said Girard, head of small business for Direct Energy Business.

"Their strong ties to local nonprofits and their willingness to open the doors of their businesses for many causes is something to be admired," Girard said.

The announcement of the award included a list of the Sahas' efforts, including hosting student music recitals as well as concerts to raise money and awareness for the Columbus Symphony Orchestra.

Anand Saha also is the founder of Experience Clintonville, a nonprofit organization that promotes the neighborhood, and Million Lego for Kids, which collects the popular building blocks for distribution to local schools and youth organizations.

Direct Energy and ThisWeek Community News received 25 nominations for the inaugural Columbus Small Business Community Heroes Award, Girard said, but the one for the owners of Mozart's "really rose to the top."

During the awards presentation, Girard presented Doris and Anand Saha with a gigantic $500 check made out to them, along with similarly sized checks for $1,000 in their name to the resources center and to Million Lego for Kids.

State Rep. Stephanie Kunze (R-Hilliard) also was on hand July 9 to present the couple with a commendation.

"Thank you for donating your time, your energy, your passions to make this a better community," Kunze said.

"Thank you," Anand Saha said at the end of the ceremony. "Thank you very much."

The judging committee for the award also selected two honorable mentions: Mary McCarthy, owner of Westerville-based Your Management Team Inc. and co-founder of the Women's Small Business Accelerator; and Jim Butz, co-owner of Dublin-based SPGB Architects, for his involvement with Lower Lights Ministries in Columbus.

Direct Energy will donate $250 each to the charity of the honorable mentions' choice.