Adopt-A-Class connects kids with professionals

Whoever said that one person can’t make a difference has clearly never met Bill Burwinkel. A self-made man, devoted community member and successful entrepreneur, Burwinkel began his career as a high school dropout and worked his way into a successful career in sales and marketing before starting his own business. Today, Burwinkel has transformed his passion for helping others into a well-orchestrated (and highly regarded) community movement.

Burwinkel began a career in sales in 1970 after serving with the U.S. Army in Vietnam. From 1970 until 1979, he worked his way from sales representative for General Mills, to zone sales manager for Kroger, to vice president of marketing for the Shur-Good Biscuit Company. With more than a decade of experience in the consumer products industry, Burwinkel founded National Marketshare Group, Inc. in 1983.

“I started the company in my basement,” says Burwinkel. “My wife and I ran the business on our credit cards, and it took us five years to become debt free.” That was 24 years ago. Today, Burwinkel has gone from a two-person basement operation to a successful company operating in Cincinnati and Portland, Oregon, and serving clients like Kroger, Fred Meyer, City Markets and many more.

After leading NMSG for 20 years, Burwinkel decided it was time to embark on a new venture – this time focused entirely on giving back to the community. In 2003 Burwinkel founded Adopt-A-Class, a mentoring program connecting professionals with kids in Title I schools, or those where at least 40 percent of the students come from low-income families.

Hailed as a “superhero of the Cincinnati Public School system,” Burwinkel has become a champion for mentoring, with nearly 200 business and community groups servicing around 6,000 kids in Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. “These kids made a real impact on us from the beginning."

Since its inception, the program has earned the United Way 2011 Clement L. Buenger Award and the 2011 2nd Act Award. In 2008, AAC was selected as finalist for the Jefferson Award for Public Service.

Adopt-A-Class provides activities and topics that mentors can share with students, including classroom parties, career exploration, drug-free education, and much more. “This program facilitates important relationships between the mentors and kids. It gives both groups something to look forward to and feel good about,” says Burwinkel. “It only requires around 7 to 10 hours per school year from its adopters, but in reality, volunteers actually commit around 14 hours each year. People love this program.”

Some major organizations in the area agree. Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, the Cincinnati Police Department, US Bank, and more have teamed up with AAC to become mentors. Even companies that do not provide mentors can pitch in, including the Cincinnati Reds, who donated some 1,500 tickets last year to children in AAC classrooms.

While Burwinkel remains CEO of NMSG, these days his heart really belongs to Adopt-A-Class. “Getting the word out to the business and non-profit community about Adopt-A-Class is part of each day," he says. "It’s a program made by business people, for business people."

Do Good:

Become an adopter. Learn how.

Donate. As a 501(c) 3 non-profit, Adopt-A-Class needs assistance to cover costs.

Spread the word if you know a business or organization that would make a good adopter.

By Deidra Wiley Necco

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