It only took Tom Callinan
a few months to realize how much he missed the community and connections he had built in Cincinnati.
Callinan—who served as editor of the Cincinnati Enquirer
for eight years and then as the McMicken Professor of Journalism at the University of Cincinnati’s journalism program
—tried to retire, but the lifestyle just didn’t work out. He traveled to his home in Arizona with the intention of finally taking a break from his long-time career as a communicator. He took up golfing to occupy his time, but he says it simply wasn’t rewarding.
“I just woke up one morning and thought, ‘I love Cincinnati,’” says Callinan. “One of the gifts of being the editor of the paper is you get to know a lot of people. So connections are currency, and I know people, so what can I do to put that to good use?”
So Callinan returned to Cincinnati and founded Charitable Words
, an organization that functions as an intern-placement program, which helps students gain real-world job experience as they put their skills to use at small nonprofits in the community. Then they, too, can better fulfill their missions and strengthen their messages.
“What I see in the nonprofit world is there’s such a need, but the audience is so fragmented—you can’t just get a story in the paper, and Twitter and Facebook have become noise, so communication’s really essential,” Callinan says.
One of Charitable Words’ most recent matchups, and the one that Callinan is most proud of, is the pairing of Charitable Words Scholar Tia Garcia, a UC student who works as the multimedia editor at The News Record
, with Melodic Connections
, a local nonprofit that provides music therapy to students with special needs.
“They have this wonderful program—not a lot of people know about it—and what a wonderful story to tell," Callinan says. “It’s just an amazing matchup to me because it’s small enough that she will make a huge difference, and I just love it. I’m not sure there is another internship program that thinks that way.”
Callinan’s aim is to turn Charitable Words Scholars into a community—a family—that will function as a microcosm of what he, and others from outside the Cincinnati area, view as the makeup of this city.
“I moved here from Phoenix, and the term I use is, ‘That was a crowd, not a community,’” says Callinan. “A lot of people doesn’t make a community, and here, it’s amazing. Every place I go, I tend to know someone. It’s like a small town, but it’s not. It’s a metropolitan area.”
At workshops and presentations across the country, Callinan says Cincinnati is recognized as a “really special place,” with a model that other cities look to replicate, for the purpose of achieving social change through collective action.
“It really strikes me as I travel around," Callinan says. "There’s the old cliché that people in Cincinnati don’t appreciate how good they have it; they’ve got inferiority complexes and whatnot, but people who move here are astonished at how wonderful the city is and that anyone would think it’s not a world-class city."
There are currently six Charitable Words Scholars
, but the vision is that there will be hundreds. In the coming months, Callinan will form an advisory board with professionals from a variety of industries who can serve as mentors to interns so they can better achieve nonprofits’ missions; and Charitable Words will become much more than an internship-placement program that serves community organizations.
“What I’d like to do is become a family,” Callinan says. “We’d have an annual service day; maybe we’d have a party. These Charitable Words Scholars would stay together over the course of time, network as friends and continue to make a difference. That’s my wish for it.”
• Connect with Charitable Words by liking and sharing its Facebook
Charitable Words if you're seeking an internship and have a passion for humanitarian efforts.
• Reach out
to the organization if you would like to support an intern in his or her placement.
By Brittany York
Brittany York is a professor of English composition at the University of Cincinnati and a teacher at the Regional Institute of Torah and Secular Studies. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia.