In Memory of Donna V. Combra

ImageOnce again here at Hodges we have had the privilege of making a special plaque that has a very extraordinary story behind it. This time, however, the plaque is being dedicated to a woman’s life that was sadly taken too soon.

Donna V. Combra was married to Russ Combra and had two sons, Andrew and Brian. She was an elementary school teacher for 30 years of her life.  She began her teaching career at the Cluny School in Newport RI, then taught at the Hathaway School, Elmhurst School, and ended her career teaching the second grade at Melville Elementary School, all located in Portsmouth RI.

Donna was one of a kind.  She devoted her life to educating children and was a great role model to them.  But Donna also had many other passions and an incredibly active lifestyle.  She loved to read books of all kinds and write stories and poetry.  She was a fantastic cook and baker, her claim to fame being her “Hershey’s Chocolate Cake” and “Pistachio Cake”.  When the seasons changed and it was warm enough outside you could find Donna riding her bike along Middle Road in Portsmouth heading to Newport to visit her mom.  Donna also had professional knitting and sewing skills that she learned from her aunt when she was younger.  She mainly knit children’s sweaters, but could make anything. She loved the ocean and spent countless hours at McCorrie Point Beach in Portsmouth RI and Second Beach in Middletown RI where a lot of her knitting was done. She also enjoyed swimming, kayaking, walking and traveling with her family.

After speaking about all of Donna’s hobbies, we still have not mentioned her biggest passion in life, her family and friends.  Donna’s husband Russ and one of her best friends Eileen were kind enough to share all this information about Donna with us.  Eileen also shared a few words that she believed described Donna, “kind, creative, daring, funny, positive, loving, loyal, honest, genuine, generous, brave, grateful, patient, happy and optimistic. All these qualities made her an amazing teacher and a wonderful friend”.  Eileen’s words made it clear how much she cherished the time she had with Donna.

Russ spoke of how good of a mother Donna was.  Her priority was always her family and she raised both her sons to have the loving personality that she did.  Russ also shared how kind she was to the elderly, even taking time to frequently pack lunches and visit her older aunts and uncles to have lunch with them. One of the most heart warming parts of Donna’s life that Russ shared was that she used to volunteer at the Soup Kitchen in Bristol RI without telling anyone because she never looked for recognition for her good deeds.  Donna’s humbleness is just a portion of her gracious character. Russ spoke with all of his heart when he said she was “an outstanding wife, a great mom, and my best friend”. It is evident that those who knew Donna were all given a special gift that can never be replaced.

Tears came to both Russ and Eileen’s eyes as they saw the plaque for the first time and felt that it was a beautiful representation of Donna and her spirit.  Watching their reactions to seeing the plaque was nothing short of amazing.   But, watching the way Russ and Eileen lit up as they spoke about Donna was miraculous.  The love that Donna’s family and friends emanate for her is something so special and rare in this world.

The plaque is 18” x 24” in size, UV processed in full color on aluminum and also includes a photo of Donna.  It is going to be hung over the entrance of the Melville School Library, soon to be known as the Donna V. Combra Library.  To Donna’s Family and Friends, we could not be more honored to have made this plaque for a woman that was so humble about her accomplishments and influenced children for 30 years.  She truly deserves to be recognized for all that she was.

Hodges Badge Company Continues its Environmentally Conscious Endeavors

In 2012 Hodges Badge Company went live with a wind turbine at our RI location.  Our project for 2013 is to take on solar power!


If you didn’t already know, Hodges Badge Company has long been firmly committed to conservation and to renewable energy.  Maybe it began with our CEO’s college time in Burlington, VT, or perhaps during his many years of volunteer work with the Aquidneck Land Trust, but it began (as it always does) with a series of small steps.  In the beginning we focused on reducing our energy consumption as we tried to make the entire plant more energy efficient.  Here’s a summary of Hodges’ Go Green History:

  • We installed a thick insulation on the roof in order to run the heat and air conditioning units less. 
  • We switched to on demand hot water heaters and removed our six 20 gallon hot water tank heaters scattered around the building. 
  • We used to have two trash dumpsters and a recycling dumpster that we filled every week.  Then we started a recycling program and now what we send away is 2/3 recycling  and 1/3 trash.  We aren’t aiming for zero trash, but we’d sure like to get close to that goal. 
  • We tied all of our heating and air conditioning units to a master computer to control their energy usage
  • We also bought a high efficiency vacuum pump and high efficiency air compressor because we previously used a 40 horse power motor to run these all of the time.

Having done all of this, we were still using 450,000 kW of energy a year – about a $50,000 electricity bill.  We realized very quickly that there were certain factors that we couldn’t eliminate.  Obviously we have to turn the lights on and provide workers with a heated or air conditioned work place.  Another example is the fact that we also constantly run hot stamping presses that have to be heated.  These hot stamping presses often heat the room too much and then we have to cool it.  We found that we were facing a few vicious cycles that were inevitable if we were going to run our business properly. We then began to brainstorm what the next step would be. 

We thought briefly about putting solar panels on the roof at our Rhode Island facility, but realized that the building was built in the mid 1970s and had no way of figuring out if the building would hold up the solar panels.  We turned to wind.  As devout readers of this blog know, we installed a 250kw wind turbine in Portsmouth two years ago.  To date, it has generated more than 225,000kw of power!

The wind is strong at our RI facility because we are located near the ocean, but our plant in Washington, MO doesn’t get much wind.  It just so happened that in Missouri we came across a company called Microgrid Solar from St. Louis who had already done other commercial projects.  We also had access to engineering drawings of the Missouri building and were able to determine that the grade of steel it was made of could support solar panels.  After several discussions with Microgrid Solar we determined to put solar panels on the roof of our Missouri facility.

We are going to install 68kw of solar capacity, which should generate 89,000kW hours of energy a year – about 25% of our total usage.  The cost of the project is $204,000 and thanks to rebates and incentives from our power company, the payback is just over a year.   Installation should start in November, and be complete by the end of 2013!


Rick Hodges’ hope is for Hodges Badge to be the best environmental steward that it can possibly be with the goals of minimizing the companies impact on the environment, preserving the earth for future generations – oh, and saving money to keep costs down whenever possible.  Rick says that he doesn’t know what Hodges next environmental project is going to be, but he’s sure to announce it here on this blog when the time comes.

The Story Behind The Plaque


It seems that no matter where you go there is a plaque hanging on the wall to honor someone’s accomplishments.  But where did that plaque come from and what did the person do to receive it?

Here at Hodges, we make thousands of plaques a year, and sometimes we have the privilege of knowing the story behind the award.  Recently, we were asked to make a very unique plaque that sparked our interest.  We designed this custom award plaque that is significant in size, printed in full color with a lovely Celtic knot border and includes 4 photos. This plaque was nothing short of amazing and come to find out so are the woman and the horse it was made for!

We had the pleasure of sitting down and talking to, Lee Gregory, the owner of the horse that the plaque was made for. Lee grew up in Boston, MA and started riding horses around the age of 4.  She took to riding instinctively, just like her Grandfather, J.W O’Connor, who was a Irish horseman. Lee spent 38 years of her life as a first grade teacher in Cambridge, MA.  A career that she was passionate about, but certainly not her only passion in life!

Lee loves to travel and while on a trip to Ireland she purchased her first Connemara from Willie Leahy, the largest breeder of Connemara ponies in the world.  This particular Connemara was named “Martin” and was a very special part of Lee’s life for 19 years.  Lee felt one with Martin and when he passed it was a terrible loss for her. She knew that getting a new horse would be difficult, but when the day came that she was ready, she would go back to Ireland to purchase from Willie Leahy once again.

Lee headed back to Ireland to see Willie sooner than she thought.  Before she knew it she was riding another Connemara.  At first she was uncertain if he was the horse for her. However, as she continued to ride him down the trail, her right stirrup snapped.  As she was trying to keep her balance while waiting for help, she realized that the horse “didn’t take advantage of the situation and continued on”. This was the perfect selling point for Lee and she was confident in her purchase.

The horses name is “Allie Coretca”, or “Crysty” as Lee nick named him.  Crysty is a 14.2 hand Gray Connemara gelding.  After taking Crysty back to the United States with her, Lee made certain that Crysty received the proper training.  With the help of his trainer, Alyce McNeil, Crysty became the horse that Lee always knew he could be.  The plaque was being made in honor of Crysty’s accomplishments, which are as follows:

    • 1st place in Novice Division at Fitch’s Corner in Millbrook, NY-2007 and 2008
    • 1st place in Beginner Division in the Millbrook, NY event in 2009
    • At the United States Eventing Championship Finals in Wayne, IL – highest scoring pony in a class of 63 mixed horses and ponies, placing him 3rd overall in 2009
    • Winner of the Captain Mark Phillips Award
    • Exhibition Pony at the World Equestrian Games in Lexington, Kentucky in 2010
    • 2nd in the Purebred Gelding Division at the New England Connemara Society Annual Show in Woodstock, Vermont

    The plaque will be going to the Dartfield Horse Museum in Galway, Ireland, where Crysty and other horses bred by Willie Leahy are honored for their accomplishments.  Lee Gregory, at 80 years old, still loves to dance, swim, garden, travel and ride her beloved Crysty.  We are proud to have been able to make an award for both Crysty and Lee’s accomplishments and we wish them both all the best!


    My Personal Favorite New Dog Show Awards

    Each catalog we strive to find new solutions for your awards. We just published our Dog Show Award Catalog (in March) with over 90 NEW products.

    I wanted to tell you today about my personal favorite new dog show awards in the catalog.

    My first favorite is our new vintage dog plaques. We actually have two versions: The “Best Dog” Vintage Award Plaque and the “Dog Life” Vintage Award Plaque.  Both plaques feature dog themed quotes, attractive backgrounds and are customizable with one of our AKC breed stock designs (200+ new full color designs). These make great awards and gifts for your volunteers!

    dog-show-award-plaque-pf8110                       dog-show-award-plaque-pf8112

    My second favorite product is the new Windsor Rosette. It offers something a little different from what is currently in our line of dog show rosettes. The Windsor Rosette features a ¾ rosette top made of hand sewn petals and three 12” streamers. Just like our other rosettes, you can still choose a button, gold rim, or satin center rosette center with your logo or a stock design, any ribbon color or combination of ribbon colors including exclusive multicolor side streamers and 10 lines of custom print. The Windsor Rosette can also be customized with up to 24” streamers to accommodate if you are looking for a larger rosette.


    My third favorite product is actually not a product but a new option for our dog show trophies. We had our art department create a custom printed column that can go on any trophy with columns. It features a paw print design on a light green background and your choice of any AKC Dog Breed stock design. This is great for those shows exhibiting less common breeds not usually available in trophy tops. It allows you to customize the trophy specifically for your breed with a more generic trophy top.

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    So I’ve listed my personal favorites here but we have so many more new great products in this catalog. Go on-line, find your and let us know. We would love to get your feedback. Happy browsing!

    Resin Trophies at Great Prices

    Every once in a while we discontinue a line of trophies, whether it is because our supplier discontinued the line or our supplier raised the prices too much to pass on to you our customers. Unfortunately this time it is our resin trophies that are being discontinued. We know you loved them and we did too but we have to say good-bye.

    Now before that happens we are offering you the chance to buy these trophies at significant savings – up to 40% off some styles.

    We have resin trophies in 3 styles: the Signature Resin Trophy Line, the Star Resin Trophy Line, and the Athletic Resin Trophy Line.

    The Signature Resin Trophy Line

    This trophy line features a resin figurine sitting atop a plastic marble finished base with FREE text engraving. It is available in 13 different sports: Baseball, Basketball, Golf, Gymnastics, Hockey Lacrosse, Skating Soccer, Swimming, Tennis, Track, Volleyball and Wrestling. We also offer male and female versions in most sports. Original Price: $10.50 Sale Price: $6.75

    Female Hockey Signature Resin Trophy Female Basketball Signature Resin Trophy Cheerleading Signature Resin Trophy Female Soccer Signature Resin Trophy

    The Star Resin Trophy Line

    This trophy line features a gold and silver finished sculpted resin trophy with FREE text engraving. It is available with an “Achievement” theme and 7 different sports: Baseball, Basketball, Football, Hockey, Soccer, Softball and Volleyball. Original Price: $9.50 Sale Price: $6.00

    Soccer Star Resin Trophy Volleyball Star Resin Trophy Basketball Star Resin Trophy Achievement Star Resin Trophy

    The Athletic Resin Trophy Line

    This trophy line features a smaller silver finished sculpted resin trophy that is hand painted with FREE text engraving.  This was a popular choice so we only have three sports left: Baseball, Volleyball and Soccer. Original Price: $7.85 Sale Price: $4.00

    Baseball Resin Sports Trophy Volleyball Sports Resin Trophy Soccer Resin Sports Trophy

    3W Rosettes ON SALE!

    Our  3W Rosette sale starts today and goes on until Monday March 18th.


    This is a fantastic deal. It offers saving on three of our popular rosettes: the Empire Rosette, the Ideal Rosette and the Beauty Rosette.


    What is so special about this sale?

    • This sale offers customized rosettes at up to 24% off regular prices
    • Each rosette is available in a variety of satin ribbon colors with a white center streamer and a white gold rim center.
    • Each rosette can be customized with your design or logo (there is a die charge if we haven’t printed your design or logo before) or a stock design at no extra charge in the center of the white gold rim center.
    • Each rosette can be customized with 10 lines of print (14 characters each). The place will not be printed on these Sale rosettes. We ask that you signify your place by the color. (This is what allows us to give you these great prices)

    Dog Tags aren’t just for dogs anymore!

    Dog tags have been showing up everywhere these days. Yes, they are a great way to identify you beloved Fido but now they are so much more. Dog tags can be used to show support for a cause, given out as event souvenirs or memorabilia, given out as participant awards and affordable alternatives to custom award medals or just given out for fun. Recipients love to hang them from book bags, in their school or gym lockers, on their key chains, from their mirrors and just about anywhere they can show them off.

    With all of the possibilities in mind our talented art department has been hard at work over the past year or so creating designs for dog tags that everyone is sure to love not matter what your need.

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    Each design is available three ways:

    1. A full color stock design of your choice on the front of the dog tag
    2. A full color stock design on the front of the dog tag and an engraved gold finished plate attached to the back of the dog tag
    3. A full color stock design on the front of the dog tag and custom printed text on the back

    The engraved or printed text can be whatever message or information you want to give out but is limited to 4 lines of 15 characters including spaces to provide the best look and size of letters.

    Don’t see the design you want on our dog tag stock design page  (100 + designs)? Design your own! Simply work with a customer service representative and send us your artwork, whether it is a logo, a student’s designs or a club/team mascot and we will apply it to the dog tag. The sky is the limit.

    Click here to see all the designs, options and pricing>> Dog Tags