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MU holiday performance to benefit Walnut Hills marching band


Twenty-four Miami University vocalists and a 16-member big band will join together onstage at Walnut Hills High School's newly renovated auditorium this weekend to perform “A Swingin’ Holiday: Big Band Choral Spectacular.” A portion of the proceeds from the performance will benefit Walnut Hills’ music department, which has “an astounding reputation,” according to MU’s Ben Smolder.
 
“Walnut Hills High School is full of brilliant and diverse children that have the pleasure of studying in the finest high school in the state of Ohio,” says Smolder, who will director and conduct the show. 
 
Smolder serves as Director of Miami Opera Theater, which launched a fundraiser in support of Walnut Hills’ marching band, selected by Youth Music of the World to participate in the 2016 Paris New Year's Day Parade.
 
“Being from rural Appalachia, I was deeply shaped by a similar experience in early life that led to a lifetime of travel and a deep desire to understand other cultures,” Smolder says.
 
This weekend's performance is a way to help others but also to add joy to audience members’ holiday season.
 
“Our goal was to recreate the musical specials that would appear on TV and radio during the Christmas season from the 1940s to the 1960s,” Smolder says. “One cannot hear this music without being transported back to a time when we were surrounded by our loved ones and gazing at the evening sky in hopes of seeing Santa.”
 
Do Good:

•    “A Swingin’ Holiday: Big Band Choral Spectacular” will be performed at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday at Walnut Hills High School. Enter promo code “Santa” at the ticketing box office to receive a discount. 

•    Support the WHHS music program. 

•    Support WHHS students by volunteering.
 

Constella goes digital, aims to draw national audience to spring festival


As the Constella Festival of Music and Fine Arts gets ready to release the lineup for this April’s performances, the goal is to “target audiences nationally to come to Cincinnati,” according to Tatiana Berman, internationally renowned violinist and festival founder.

The name “Constella,” which is derived from “constellation,” is significant to festival organizers because performers and audience members get the chance to connect with one another through music in an intimate setting.
 
“The international concept for Constella was always connecting people and ideas,” Berman says.
 
To do that even more effectively than past years, Constella has made the move of going digital.
 
Berman collaborated with Julie Spangler to compose, perform and record a video performance piece, “Vitali Variations,” and the second digital short, which will be released in March as a precursor to the festival, will feature Roomful of Teeth.
 
“We would like to think this kind of a beautifully produced video can connect a whole new audience in an informal way with music, which we are passionate about,” Berman says.
 
Through these visual musical collaborations that include Grammy award winners and emerging artists, Constella will be able to further its mission of challenging “misconceptions of classical music and the performing arts” by extending its reach to a worldwide audience.
 
“Through production of music videos, recordings and other digital content, we can expand our performance presentations,” Berman says. “It allows for people around the world to experience the power of music and the arts.”

Do Good:

•    Check the Constella Festival website Jan. 15 to view the festival lineup and purchase your tickets for April’s performances.

•    For sponsorship and volunteer opportunities, contact Rachael Moore.

•    Support Constella by donating. 
 

Local organist featured in Price Hill celebration of community, giving


Community members will join together at the Bloc Center Saturday evening in Price Hill to share musical talents, engage in fellowship and collect donations for neighbors in need.
 
A Night With Scott and Friends, the west side’s second annual community Christmas concert featuring Scott Elick — member of both the Cincinnati Organist Guild and Starfire Council's Out & About program — enables individuals to celebrate one another during a time of joy and thanksgiving.
 
Beneficiaries from the night’s donations include Manna Outreach in Price Hill and West Fork Christian Faith Fellowship’s Food Pantry.
 
“Now that I'm retired from full-time work, I really enjoy lending my musical talents to causes that benefit our local communities on the west side,” says Sheryl Pockrose, Covedale resident and folk singer.
 
For Elick, who has played organ since age 8, it’s one of the highlights of his season.
 
“Scott can play anything he hears,” says Danyetta Najoli, Starfire’s community coordinator. “It's truly an amazing gift.”
 
Elick says it's also important to him to give back to the west side — Price Hill in particular — because of his close ties to the neighborhood. Not only is it the location for the concert, but it’s also where his brother lives, and family is something for which he’s grateful.
 
“I feel connected to the community,” Elick says. “The people and their culture is something I have always been interested in. I want the people of Price Hill to enjoy the Christmas season, the music, the lights as much as I do.” 

Do Good: 

•    Attend "A Night With Scott & Friends" 6-8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 13 at the Bloc Center, 931 McPherson Ave. in Price Hill.

•    Support your local food pantries. 

•    Connect with others year-round at events you're passionate or curious about by attending Local Learning Labs.
 

Giveunity provides easy, meaningful way to donate on #GivingTuesday

The Huffington Post ranked Cincinnati as the No. 4 Most Charitable U.S. City in 2013, but for Mikki Graff, co-founder and designer of the Giveunity app, this year's #GivingTuesday presents the “unique opportunity to put Cincinnati on the map as the most charitable city in the U.S.”
 
Giveunity is a free smartphone application that connects donors with local nonprofits through just a few simple clicks.
 
“Our local nonprofit organizations are doing important work,” Graff says. “They are helping to build better neighborhoods for all of us. We need to show them some love.”
 
Since the app’s development, more than 500 individuals have downloaded it, gaining exposure and giving generously to the more than 100 local nonprofits that have signed up.
 
“To date, our average donation is $39.50, and our largest donation is $1,000,” Graff says. “This #GivingTuesday, donations made to local nonprofits through the Giveunity app will be matched thanks to the Big Idea Challenge of the Greater Cincinnati Foundation.”
 
The $2,500 match grant means each donation received Dec. 2 will grow in percentage, which for Graff is an easy way to make more of a local impact.
 
“It's money going directly to help your community," she says. "Explore the nonprofit profiles on the Giveunity app, make a donation, and you get to direct where these generous funds go this Tuesday.

"In previous years, local charities have harnessed #GivingTuesday to collect donations of new and used shoes for job interviews, gift cards and toiletries for homeless teens, financial support for local high schools and even bring a hippopotamus to Cincinnati. The possibilities to donate are truly limitless.“ 

Do Good: 

•   Sign up to create your free donor account, and give. 

•   If you're a nonprofit, connect with Giveunity so donors can support your cause.

•   Spread the word about Giveunity by liking and sharing the nonprofit's Facebook page.
 

The Christ Hospital to provide free surgeries to individuals in need

Four local residents will be the beneficiaries of free joint replacements Saturday, as The Christ Hospital is participating in Operation Walk USA for the second straight year.
 
“Two of our physicians came to us and said, ‘We ought to be giving back to our community like we do when we go across internationally,’ ” says Herb Caillouet, executive director of musculoskeletal services at The Christ Hospital. "They had been a part of Operation Walk International and had gone to other countries to do the same procedures there. So since it had never been done here in Cincinnati and as a market share leader in joint replacement surgery in Cincinnati, we wanted to be able to give something back to the city and to the citizens of the Tristate area.”
 
So far, one hip and three knee replacements are slated for Saturday’s efforts, in which everyone from surgeons and nurses to food service staffers will give of their time to provide quality care that's completely free of charge, throughout both the surgery and recovery processes.
 
“It’s a way for everybody to share their skills and talents with the community, to share our commitment with them and to them,” Caillouet says.
 
The recipients are more than grateful. Last year, for example, a man lost his job because of psoriatic arthritis and hip problems he was having.
 
“He couldn’t continue to work as a trucker, so they moved him into a warehouse role to continue, but he couldn’t continue it and he actually dropped out of the job market,” Caillouet says.
 
But after his joint replacement surgery, his walking improved, and he's now back in the workforce.
 
“He’s come back to the hospital and spoken, literally thanked the entire leadership group for the difference that their giving of their time has made in his personal life," Caillouet says. "The goal here is to find somebody who otherwise can’t afford it, that if it were done for them, they could reenter productive life, work-life, being a family member, a parent, a spouse, and to do so in a very productive way. These are life-changing events.” 

Do Good:

•    If you're a patient in need and who qualifies for a joint or hip replacement, sign up here. The 2015 Operation Walk USA application will be available beginning in January. 

•    If you're a vendor and would like to become involved with Operation Walk USA, contact Herb to discuss how your products might be of use to recipients throughout the process.  

•    Contact Herb if you're interested in volunteering with the aftercare process. For example, patients may require assistance cleaning their homes and securing transportation to and from therapy or follow-up visits. 
 

The Women's Fund to celebrate male supporters at Guys Who Get It 2.0

The Women’s Fund of The Greater Cincinnati Foundation is the only women’s fund in the United States to include men.
 
That’s because individuals like Aftab Pureval, a member of The Women’s Fund’s Leadership Council, recognize it takes more than half the population working together to make significant progress.
 
While Pureval says he’s proud that Cincinnati’s Women’s Fund is the only mixed-gender one in the U.S., he’s also surprised by it.
 
“The face of poverty in Cincinnati is women. Cincinnati is second in the nation for childhood poverty, and a majority of those children are raised by single mothers working multiple jobs just to make ends meet,” Pureval says.
 
According to Pureval, Cincinnati is also one of the worst in the country when it comes to economic mobility.
 
“If you are born poor in Cincinnati, chances are you will die poor,” Pureval says. “These issues are not just women's issues.  They are important to the future of our city. And the Women's Fund needs the talents from men and women of all walks of life if we are to succeed in our fight against poverty.”
 
To gain more of those talents across gender, The Women’s Fund is hosting Guys Who Get It 2.0 to raise awareness and celebrate the men in our community who understand that women’s self-sufficiency is an effort everyone should get behind.
 
“The Women's Fund sets ambitious, region-wide goals, and works aggressively to achieve them,” Pureval says. “I joined because I was inspired by the people at The Women's Fund and by their results. The simple fact is investing in women works.”

Do Good:

•    If you are a guy who gets it, or knows of guys who get it, sign up to attend Guys Who Get It 2.0 and attend the event from 6-8:30 p.m. Wednesday.

•    Support The Women's Fund by giving.

•    If you'd like to get involved, contact Vanessa Freytag, executive director of The Women's Fund. 
 

Holidays in the Bag to benefit new nonprofit in OTR

Black Friday shopping is just around the corner, and one way to participate and save—without leaving your Thanksgiving festivities early, and while also supporting small businesses and a local nonprofit—is through Over-the-Rhine Chamber’s Holidays in the Bag initiative.
 
Holidays in the Bag: A Black Friday Shop Local event, allows shoppers to receive discounts at more than 25 participating businesses through the purchase of an official “Holiday Bag” for $5. All proceeds from Holiday Bag sales benefit an OTR nonprofit.

This year’s beneficiary is Future Leaders OTR, a nonprofit that empowers OTR 7th-12th graders to transform themselves and their community through personal and professional development, in addition to leadership experiences.
 
“This program changes the paradigm for these kids in our neighborhood,” says Ryan Messer, founder of Future Leaders OTR. “Before all of this rebirth in OTR, they lived in a predominately African American community, and their exposure to the people coming in may have felt like, ‘Wow, all these people who are largely Caucasian are moving into my neighborhood,’ and I think what we’re showing them is there is opportunity through diversity.”
 
At the Holidays Kick Off Party last Tuesday, Future Leaders OTR engaged with other residents and local professionals, and it was an experience that Renàe Banks, Future Leaders OTR program manager, says inspired a confidence in the youth.
 
“It was quite amazing to see them walk in and someone ask them, ‘What is your name?’ Their head would be down, but then as the night progressed, they became more comfortable and more confident with what they had to say and were excited that people were inquiring about who they are and what they were doing,” Banks says.

“You saw a confidence come over them, and they went from standing at the booth to venturing off into the crowd to engage in conversation with other professionals," she continues. "When you put them in an environment where there’s professionalism, laughter, conversation about culture—they’ll reflect that.” 

Do Good:

•    Purchase a Holiday Bag, beginning November 26, to support Future Leaders OTR.

•    Like Future Leaders OTR on Facebook.

•    Spread the word about Future Leaders OTR, and if you know of an OTR youth who might be interested, or if you want to get involved, contact the organization. 
 

Kicks For Kids to deliver another memorable holiday for at-risk kids

Kicks For Kids, a Covington-based nonprofit that aims to “level the playing field for local children at risk,” is prepping for its Annual Christmas Celebration. The event merges giving and receiving and enables children to take a break from the everyday stress of life.
 
“It lets them know that, despite everything, life can be good. There can be joy, and there can be hope,” says Christine Sebastian, Kicks For Kids program director. “A lot of the kids are homeless—maybe one parent’s in jail; maybe they’re in foster care—it gives them some sense of feeling loved.”
 
After joining a chaperone to engage in a community service project—everything from making cards for children spending their holiday season in Cincinnati Children’s Hospital to preparing a meal for the elderly—more than 50 youth from Greater Cincinnati join together at Paul Brown Stadium for the celebration.
 
“It’s all decorated, their chaperones are waiting, they get paired up and have dinner, the Christmas story is read, and they go down to the Bengals locker room and tour that,” Sebastian says.
 
But the real fun begins when the children enter the visitors’ locker room to find their names on a locker filled with things like school supplies, a new winter coat, a personalized Bengals jersey and a football.
 
“Then they get to run out on the field and the Ben-Gals are there, waving their pompoms, and they run through it and down the field,” Sebastian says. “They go up and meet Santa, who calls them by name and talks to them, then brings out their presents—Bengals players help,” Sebastian says.
 
In addition to receiving, students have the opportunity to go to Santa’s workshop, where they pick out presents for their family members.
 
“A lot of letters they write to Santa—they’ll ask for something for their sister or brother or mother—one little girl asked for a bathrobe for her grandmother because she was sick,” Sebastian says. “It makes them feel good they’re able to give something.” 

Do Good:

•    Support Kicks For Kids by donating.

•    Contact Christine if you'd like to help make the event possible. Volunteer chaperones, shoppers, and gift wrappers are needed.

•    Connect with Kicks For Kids on Facebook
 

Cincinnati YMCAs aim to strengthen global community

In 2013, the YMCA of the USA, in cooperation with 40 different YMCA associations across the country, came up with a plan to expand efforts of global community building.
 
Now, one year later, the YMCA of Greater Cincinnati—one of the 40 associations involved in Y-USA’s efforts—is doing its part in the local community to ”create, strengthen and replicate innovative global services, partnerships and organizational practices at home and abroad” through its Global Center of Excellence.
 
“We really want to connect with our neighbors in our community in a much stronger way,” says Karyl Cunningham, executive director of the YMCA of Greater Cincinnati. “In a changing community, changing world, the Y’s mission has always been a movement about embracing people from different backgrounds and ethnicities, and supporting movements that are critical for the greater good of society.”
 
At the Clippard Y, which Cunningham says is one of the most “ethnically diverse” of Cincinnati’s 14 branches, members are gearing up for the Taste of the World tailgating event, where individuals bring in their favorite meal or dish to share with one another while engaging in conversation and watching football together.
 
“There’s going to be some learning opportunities that take place, and it should be a really great thing,” Cunningham says. “And as we move forward, we’re always going to have global community as a basic premise, so the Global Center of Excellence is one of those ways to keep that front and center for the work we do.” 

Do Good:

•    Support the Clippard Family YMCA by attending the Taste of the World tailgating event Nov. 16 from 12-3 p.m. The event is $10 per family or $5 per individual, and all proceeds help the Y further its mission. 

•    Learn about joining the Y

•    Support the YMCA of Greater Cincinnati by giving.
 

Photos at Skirball reveal history, transition of Cincinnati's West End

Sixty black-and-white photographs documenting the architecture, history and human experience of Cincinnati’s West End in the early-mid 20th century, are on display at Skirball Museum.
 
George Rosenthal, Daniel Ransohoff and Ben Rosen: Documenting Cincinnati’s Neighborhoods, which is part of FotoFocus, opened late last month, though photos remain on exhibit through December 21. And this Wednesday, community members are invited to a panel discussion with historians, scholars and community partners who are knowledgeable about the West End.
 
“The panel provides an opportunity to engage with people who have studied the West End, lived in the West End, written about the West End,” says Abby Schwartz, director of Skirball Museum and curator of the exhibition. “We hope to engage with these experts about the history of the neighborhood and the lessons we can learn from its demise, as well as have the opportunity to hear from those who knew the photographers whose works are in the exhibition.”
 
According to Schwartz, the photos on display tell a story about the “plight of urban neighborhoods” during times of transition.
 
“In the case of the West End, what was promised as urban revitalization really turned out to be a terrible chapter in the city's history, resulting in the destruction of an entire neighborhood and displacement of its inhabitants,” Schwartz says. “I think it presents an opportunity to think about what could have been done differently, and provides lessons going forward.” 

Do Good:

•    Attend Wednesday's panel discussion at 7 p.m. 

•    Check out the exhibition at Skirball Museum. Hours are here.

•    Check out other exhibitions that are part of FotoFocus Biennial 2014.
 

Permaganic Co.'s Eco Garden provides youth with purposeful engagement in OTR

Permaganic Co.’s youth internship program, in which inner city youth between the ages of 12 and 18 engage in the “maintenance, sales and planning” of the nonprofit’s Eco Garden in Over-the-Rhine, is invaluable, according to Bryna Bass, friend of the garden.
 
Bass has volunteered with the program and served as Permaganic Co.’s board chair; and the Eco Garden—aside from being a “beautiful place,” she says—holds value for young people in that it merges job readiness, financial literacy, art, science, service learning and agriculture all into one.
 
“Not only do the kids come in and work, but they’re also learning. There’s a lot of soft skills that are being embedded and learned at the same time,” Bass says. “And the kids come from different neighborhoods—some of them know each other, some don’t—but they’ve got to figure out how to work together.”
 
Bass currently serves as program manager for Rothenberg Preparatory Academy’s rooftop school garden, so students—many whom are also familiar with Permaganic Co.’s Eco Garden because of its proximity to home and school—are constantly sharing their enthusiasm.
 
“I hear from them all the time just how excited they are that someday they could possibly work there,” Bass says. “So when they’re 10 and 11, they want to be able to work in the Eco Garden. It’s a place that they articulate and are able to say they feel safe and good about themselves in, and they feel productive there.” 

Do Good:

•    Support youth interns' work by becoming a Permaganic Co. customer

•    Volunteer with Permaganic Co. 

•    Support Permaganic Co. by donating. 
 

Contractors form alliance to serve nonprofits

Jeff Wilmink, contractor with Century Mechanical Solutions, founded Mechanical Optimizers, because he says he recognized nonprofits would save money in the long-run if they were more aware of their maintenance and repair needs.
 
“They keep having all these emergency repairs, and I think a big part of it is no one’s giving them a plan on what they need to be doing,” Wilmink says.
 
So Century Mechanical Solutions teamed up with seven other local contracting agencies to form Mechanical Optimizers, which, according to the organization’s website, is an alliance that helps others assess, forecast and budget for both current and future needs.
 
“They’re kind of sitting there, and all of a sudden, the bomb drops,” Wilmink says. “And they didn’t even understand there was a bomb in the basement.”
 
Contractors provide nonprofits with free assessments by developing a report that details the most cost-efficient solutions, then assist the organization in finding potential donors so they can avoid emergency repairs, which are often more costly.
 
Mechanical Optimizers just launched at the beginning of September, and though Wilmink says he doesn’t know exactly where this is all going, he needs to be proactive.
 
“Being proactive—that’s the whole point,” Wilmink says. “I don’t know who I can help, but the eight of us work together on projects already, so we wanted to say, ‘Hey, OK, if you need help, we’re here to help get you to this stage.’” 

Do Good:

•    Contact Mechanical Optimizers if you're a nonprofit that wants to be proactive about repairs and maintenance. 

•    Support local nonprofits by donating. 

•    Volunteer your time to help local nonprofits. 
 

First Impact Covington Day hailed a success

More than 200 volunteers came together last Saturday on Make a Difference Day—a national day of giving—to better the City of Covington.
 
It was the first of six Impact Covington days, which COV200—the group tasked with planning the city’s Bicentennial Celebration—initiated.
 
“We want to instill pride in the community,” says Amanda Greenwell, vice chair for the bicentennial. “And we think the best way to do that is for people to actually take part and make it a better place.”
 
The committee is now accepting applications for the second Impact Day, which will take place December 13.
 
“If an organization wants to do whatever—beautification, public art, social services—we have a database of volunteers and a pretty big network of people who say they want to get involved and give back,” Greenwell says.
 
This past weekend, volunteers did everything from painting to landscaping, but the next Impact Covington Day will deal specifically with work completed at social service organizations throughout the city.
 
“These events are great opportunities to actually meet your neighbors and get engaged with your community,” Greenwell says.
 
“Today with the digital age we’re in, people are really disconnected with our neighbors, so through the Bicentennial and all the events, we’re hoping to bring the community together as one to meet their neighbors and understand more about the city and the organizations that make it a better place.”
 
Do Good:

•    Submit your Impact Covington Day application by November 10 if you're a nonprofit in need. 

•    Attend one of the hundreds of events planned for Covington's Bicentennial Celebration.

•    Sign up to volunteer with COV200.


 

NEW Cincinnati hosts Julie Foudy, promotes leadership, mentorship opps for students

Cincinnati’s Network of Executive Women hosted Julie Foudy, former captain of the U.S. Women’s National Team, this past Thursday in an effort to inspire its members, supporters and individuals in its College Outreach Program to be effective leaders.
 
“People would say, ‘You’re crazy. You can’t do that. You’re never going to be in a woman’s world—never going to be in the Olympics—women’s soccer isn’t going to be in the Olympics,’” Foudy says.
 
“But with courage and conviction—as a group—to see how powerful it is, and if you can come together for a common goal and support each other and rely on each other—I always say the magic happens outside your comfort zone.”
 
That was just a portion of the advice Foudy offered to 600 men and women from the consumer products and retail industry, who also had the opportunity to network with one another at the event.
 
Through the College Outreach Program, students are paired with mentors already in the industry, who can introduce them to others and provide them with valuable advice to help them succeed in their future careers.
 
For Foudy, mentorship is invaluable.
 
“Having that type of presence in your life—that’s everything,” Foudy says. “So that they’re taking the time to do that, I just love, because for young women in particular, you need to see it—to see there are women doing it all, who are successful, who have a family and who are able to get it done—because that can be an intimidating thing when you get older.”

Do Good:

•    Connect with NEW Cincinnati on Facebook.

•    Get involved with NEW Cincinnati and its College Outreach Program.

•    Learn about NEW benefits, and consider membership.
 

Kennedy Heights Arts Center to undergo expansion, provide more to local arts scene

It’s been a decade now since residents came together in an effort to save what was a crumbling, historic structure, slated for demolition, and which now houses the Kennedy Heights Arts Center.
 
Now, 10 years later, an even bigger transformation will occur, as the Arts Center breaks ground November 14 on construction for its second location and regional campus—the Kennedy Heights Arts Center Carl, Robert, Richard and Dorothy Lindner Annex
 
When completed next year, the building will allow the Arts Center to expand its offerings to the community in a variety of ways.
 
“In the Annex, we’ll have a multipurpose events center which will be home to different kinds of performing arts programs in theater, music and dance, and we’ll have a venue for classes and workshops,” says Ellen Muse-Lindeman, KHAC executive director.
 
“We’ll also be creating the Scripps Howard Media Center, which will allow us to expand our already popular arts education programs to offer classes in digital-based art—so, photography, video, animation, web design, graphic design and the like.”
 
There will also be space for 10 individual studios, which Muse-Lindeman says artists may choose to rent, providing them a space to work, which strengthens the arts community in the region.
 
The Kennedy Heights Cultural Campus will also house the Kennedy Heights Montessori Center, and it contains enough space for a third institution, as well.
 
“We see this as the crossroads—the core of our community—as it’s revitalized in this way,” Muse-Lindeman says. “It continues to bring a more positive image to the neighborhood, it attracts more people with it being a regional destination, and it encourages more development—more on neighboring properties—and we see this as being a catalyzing project that has lots of benefits in terms of all the services we’ll be bringing to residents.” 

Do Good: 

•    Celebrate the Arts Center's expansion by attending the November 14 groundbreaking.

•    Check out the Arts Center's various programs, and consider participating in one.

•    Learn about the various ways you can support the Arts Center.
 

United Way seeks volunteers to assist families with tax prep

Tax season is quickly approaching, and because the United Way of Greater Cincinnati recognizes it can sometimes be a stressful time for hardworking families, it’s seeking volunteers who can commit to helping those families file for free.
 
Last year, at more than 30 locations across Southwest Ohio and Northern Kentucky, 753 volunteers prepared nearly 20,00 tax returns, which provided about $21 million in refunds, and the goal this year is to have just as big—if not more—of an impact.
 
“We want people to avoid the predatory practices out there, in addition to the unnecessary fees,” says Lucy Crane, director of community impact at UWGC. “We also want to make sure they claim all the tax credits they’re entitled to.”
 
It’s not just beneficial for the families receiving tax prep, though, Crane says. The volunteers, who become IRS tax-trained and certified, learn a beneficial skill as well.
 
“I think it’s a unique opportunity, because how often do you hear about volunteering to do people’s taxes?” Crane says. “You’re interacting with people and being of assistance to them in a way that’s very concrete, and at the end of the day, you know clearly how they felt.”
 
When tax credits sometimes account for $1,000, Crane says the impact can be huge.
 
“We survey our filers and we ask them how they’re going use their refunds, and most of them use it to pay down bills—so it could be a student loan, a grocery bill, helping to pay rent—and about 10 percent use it for some kind of savings—for a car—or a lot of time, it’s for their kids,” Crane says. “They’re really grateful, and they come back year after year because they really depend on it and trust us.” 

Do Good:

•    Volunteer to commit to working at least 12 hours this tax season.

•    If you need assistance with tax prep, learn where to go to get help.

•    If you earn less than $58,000 annually, and you'd rather do your taxes on your own, file for free here.
 

Peaslee Neighborhood Center celebrates 30 years of community impact

In December 1984, a group of women—mostly composed of single moms—received keys to the former Peaslee School in Over-the-Rhine, after having led fundraising efforts to ensure their children access to quality education.

“They didn’t know where their positive steps would go, or how far that would extend for people in this community, but they just did it anyway and that’s inspiring to me,” says Jennifer Summers, executive director of Peaslee Neighborhood Center.
 
“It’s a narrative that’s not a typical narrative of low income people in our community, and that motivates me to make sure that there are consistently spaces in this community that are accessible to everybody across all types of backgrounds.”
 
Now, 30 years later, Peaslee is celebrating its space in the community that demonstrates how far the women’s positive reach has extended, in creating "a peaceful place,” where everyone in OTR is welcome and can learn from and through one another.
 
One of its particularly successful programs, and one that Summers says shows the ways in which social change is at work, is its community education partnership with the Miami University Urban Teaching Cohort.
 
“It brings people from the community—moms, volunteers, recent graduates of Cincinnati Public Schools—together to help educate young, new, potential teachers on the things they can’t learn in a book about teaching,” Summers says.
 
“So the college students see community members on a regular basis, and those relationships are formed over five or six years, so by the time that student is teaching in the local school here, they have a network of support so they can support the students in their classroom in a way that makes sense to them, that honors their experience and that is effective.”
 
One way relationships are formed is through bonding activities like quilting and storytelling.
 
“People connect across generations,” Summers says.
 
“You can’t create any kind of change collectively unless you can get comfortable enough with each other and comfortable enough to do challenging things together, and I feel like we’re leaning into that. We’re promoting basic enrichment and educational services to the community, and we’re reaching beyond that to say, ‘How do we build a world we don’t just function and survive in, but that everybody thrives in, so that our successes are tied together?'” 

Do Good: 

•    Help Peaslee celebrate 30 years by attending Peaslee Presents: A Place for Everybody on November 6.

•    If you're interested in putting together a team from your workplace or community group, volunteer to complete a project for Peaslee. 

•    Support Peaslee by donating.
 

SVP to host bigger, better Fast Pitch this year

Social Venture Partners Cincinnati will once again host its Fast Pitch competition, where local nonprofits will deliver their pitches in an attempt to attain grant money to put toward funding their missions.
 
Last year, three grantees were awarded prize money, which totaled $7,500; but this year, there is more support and, therefore, larger prizes—and more of them.
 
“You could win up to $16,000 if you do a sweep,” says Joan Kaup, executive director of SVP Cincinnati. “So, there’s $27,500 right now, but doesn’t $30,000 just sound better? I haven’t given up yet.”
 
Fast Pitch, which is modeled on a technique introduced in the venture capital and startup community, is an idea that prompts organizations to learn their story and figure out an effective way to share it.
 
“So the goal is to initially accept 20 [nonprofits] and invite them to training, and that’s all about, ‘What is your message? What is your key story?’” Kaup says. “And then those 20 will get a practice round with the Partners, who will narrow it down to eight; and those then get a training focused on, ‘Now that you know your story, how are you going to deliver it in a way that is creative, compelling and concise?”
 
SVP Cincinnati will match each organization with mentors and coaches who will work with one another for several weeks leading up to the February 11 event.
 
This year’s theme is Innovation that Matters, and the competition is open to all area nonprofits.
 
“What are the really wicked, sticky issues we’re dealing with in today’s society, and how are we going to bust that right open and take care of it?” Kaup says. “So we’re asking them to come forward with their innovative solutions that will make a difference to Greater Cincinnati. It could be children, animals, environment—I don’t want to put a fence around it—it’s wide open.”
 
Perhaps most exciting is that this year’s winner will also have the chance to compete on a national level in September 2015, as eight different SVP affiliates host this type of competition throughout the U.S.
 
“So we’re going to come together and have a national competition, which is just great for building capacity—it’s that much more exposure, that much more awareness,” Kaup says. “It will be about, ‘What is that nonprofit doing, what is the mission, the activity, how is the organization making an impact in the community, and can it be scaled to other communities? It’s exposure to what will be national funders and foundations, so the opportunity is pretty big for them.” 

Do Good:

•    If you're a nonprofit, apply for Fast Pitch prior to the November 1 deadline. 

•    Contact Joan Kaup if you're interested in sponsoring the event and helping the organization reach the $30,000 mark.

•    Save the date, and contact Joan to be put on the event's waiting list so you're first to know when tickets are available for purchase. 
 

HUC-JIR celebrates interfaith harmony, honors former prof

Lowell McCoy learned the importance of connecting with others through shared values at a young age.
 
McCoy, 95, began his career as a chaplain in the U.S. Army during World War II, then served several Methodist congregations prior to joining the University of Cincinnati and The Ohio State University’s speech departments.
 
In 1940, McCoy was tasked with helping Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion set up a speech program of its own; he then joined the faculty and taught rabbinical students the art of effective oration for 50 years.
 
According to Hebrew Union College representatives, there are no other known cases of Christian ministers training rabbis; and to honor his impact and to promote interfaith harmony, the institution has created an award in his honor.
 
The McCoy Prize in Interfaith Relations was awarded for the first time at this year’s graduation ceremonies, and it will be highlighted at the college’s 31st annual Cincinnati Associates Tribute Dinner Sunday.
 
“Throughout his career, Lowell endeavored always to build bridges of understanding and friendship between people of diverse religious and cultural backgrounds,” HUC-JIR said, when announcing the prize.
 
It's for that reason, says Rabbi David Whiman—who was ordained by HUC-JIR in 1979—that an award be named in Lowell’s honor. “Lowell’s gentle manner, kind and caring heart, and commitment to interfaith understanding and love for Reform Judaism make this prize an apt tribute.” 

Do Good:

•    Support HUC-JIR by donating.

•    Call 513-487-3047 if you're interested in attending Sunday's dinner. 

•    Connect with HUC-JIR on Facebook.
 

GiveCamp provides nearly 200K in website redesigns, apps for area nonprofits

Seventy-eight volunteer developers, database administrators and designers came together for Southwest Ohio GiveCamp this weekend, and as a result, 13 nonprofits came away with things like free website redesigns and cell phone applications.
 
Volunteers donated about 1,940 hours of their time to produce final products equating to about $194,000 in value.
 
“The nonprofits couldn’t do this on their own,” says Eric Schwartz, who has helped organize the event for the past five years. “It works out every year to be usually $14,000 of labor for each nonprofit if they were to pay to do it on their own, and we get it done in 2.5 days.”
 
According to one of the nonprofits, calculations indicate their project would have actually cost around $33,000, so $14,000 is conservative, Schwartz says.
 
This year, there was also a children's code camp, which took place Saturday afternoon.
 
“It’s good for us as parents—your kids are going to learn what you do for a job,” Schwartz says. “And you’re starting to teach the next generation of kids to do this.”
 
The best thing about the weekend, Schwartz says, was seeing nonprofit representatives hanging around with the team of volunteers working on their projects.
 
“Those are the most successful projects—where they work alongside each other, get to know how to work it and provide feedback,” Schwartz says. “And at the end, it’s just great to see their eyes light up when they see this brand new thing.” 

Do Good:

•    Connect with Southwest Ohio GiveCamp on Facebook.

•    Once you connect with the organization, learn about its volunteer-needs so you can help SWOGC help even more nonprofits next year.

•    Check out SWOGC's portfolio of work.
 

de Cavels host 11th annual brunch with hope to eradicate SIDS

The de Cavel Family SIDS Foundation hosted its 11th Friends and Family Brunch and silent auction Saturday in an effort to add to the more than $750,000 raised throughout the past 10 years.
 
Chef Jean-Robert and his wife Annette founded the organization in 2003 after losing their daughter Tatiana to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
 
Now, according to Annette, part of the goal is to keep her memory alive.
 
“The whole purpose is that she’s not forgotten,” Annette says. “And we keep giving back through her, and honoring her in her name.”
 
One way it honors her is through the Tatiana de Cavel Scholarship Fund at The Midwest Culinary Institute at Cincinnati State, which enables students to finish their studies, though the organization’s overall goal is to fund research and education in an attempt to eradicate SIDS.
 
Last year, the de Cavels were able to award $27,500 to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, Cradle Cincinnati and Cribs for Kids to enable research, support families and promote safe sleep; and organizers say this year's brunch was even better.
 
If it weren’t for the local community and members of the restaurant community—who have dedicated their time and talents to the annual brunch—Annette says none of this would be possible.
 
“It’s incredibly touching,” Annette says. “We both are not from Cincinnati, and it’s that friendship and support during tough times that has helped.” 

Do Good: 

•    Save the date for next year's brunch, which will take place Sunday, Oct. 18, 2015.

•    Like the organization's page on Facebook.

•    Support the foundation by giving.
 

Internationally renowned conductor returns to local, musical roots

Kazem Abdullah returned to his musical roots this weekend, as he made his conducting debut with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and May Festival Chorus.
 
Abdullah currently serves as generalmusikdirektor in Aachen, Germany, but he is a former member of the Cincinnati Symphony Youth Orchestra.
 
“I was living in Dayton [during my time with the CSYO], but all my training basically happened in Cincinnati,” Abdullah says. “I’d always wanted to play in a youth orchestra year-round.”
 
So from 1993-94 and 1995-96, Abdullah developed his talents as a clarinetist and played alongside other talented students and then-members of the CSO.
 
According to Abdullah, his time with the CSYO was not only musically engaging, but also healing.
 
When he was 11 years old and at Interlochen’s music camp, he received news that his brother had been mugged, shot and killed.
 
“It was a difficult time for me and my family, so it was a good thing to give my life a little bit more structure,” Abdullah says.
 
It helped Abdullah keep his mind occupied and focused on his passion, and it was also a formative experience for him, he says, as it was an opportunity to further his knowledge and continue on a path that would enable him to pursue music as a career and become an international talent.
 
“I’ve always loved Cincinnati,” Abdullah says. “I rehearsed with the CSO when I was a kid in the youth orchestra and always loved them, so to be able to actually work with them, it’s a really great honor and really great pleasure as a woodwind player.” 

Do Good:

•    Support Cincinnati's orchestras, choruses and musical programs by donating.

•    Support our performers by attending an upcoming performance

•    Learn about audition requirements for the CSYO.
 

Mannequin hosts Beer, BBQ & Bach fundraiser

Beer, BBQ & Bach, Mannequin’s second-annual yearly fundraiser to raise rent money for the charity boutique, will take place October 22.
 
“The thought behind it is, if it takes a village to raise a child, it takes my friends to raise my rent,” says Moe Rouse, the boutique’s founder. “Last year, it raised a lot more—it paid for the utilities—and I pay for the one paid position in the shop, so we can say really truly that every penny of sales goes to our seven charities.”
 
Since the boutique’s opening in 2011, Rouse says the store has generated about $50,000 per year, so UCan, Lighthouse Youth Services, the Freestore Foodbank, First Step Home, Caracole, Tender Mercies and Wesley Chapel Mission Center each come away with about $7,000 annually.
 
Though Beer, BBQ & Bach is a fundraiser for rent, Rouse says it’s ultimately a way to support the charities.
 
“Are they in fact paying my rent, or in fact giving money to the charities?” Rouse says. “It’s an idea that allows more money to go to the charities.”
 
And it’s through “a juxtaposition of things you wouldn’t expect,” she says. “It will take place at Rhinegeist—a factory that goes back to the 1800s—with this quartet playing Bach, and then people stuffing their faces with Eli’s Barbeque and Rhinegeist beer.” 

Do Good:

•    Stop by Mannequin, and ask for an invitation to attend Beer, BBQ & Bach.

•    Call 513-378-2620 if you're interested in volunteering at Mannequin. 

•    Donate your gently used items to the boutique, or stop by to shop. 
 

CYC honors Outstanding Students, raises $105K at Dream Makers Celebration

Cincinnati Youth Collaborative hosted its 11th annual Dream Makers Celebration earlier this month, raising about $105,000 for programs that “empower vulnerable students to succeed.”
 
This year’s two Outstanding Student awardees—both exemplifying that success—spoke at the event and were presented $1,000 scholarships for post-secondary endeavors.
 
Alexius Golden, who now attends Berea College on a full scholarship, and Robert McMurray, who attends Northern Kentucky University, recounted their personal stories—determination to succeed, despite barriers like homelessness—and finding a father-figure through CYC’s one-to-one mentoring.
 
“They endure conditions most of us have never faced—homelessness, incarceration in the family, violence in neighborhood, lack of family support, drugs, teen pregnancy—the list can go on,” says Jane Keller, CYC’s president and CEO.  
 
But despite these struggles, CYC seniors have attained a five-year graduation rate of 96 percent because of their work with positive adult role models and through college readiness and career preparation.
 
“Graduation from high school is so important at this stage of their lives,” Keller says.
 
“Our partner United Way may say it best when they say, ‘We reach out a hand to one, it influences the condition of all.’ And our partner Strive will say, ‘It’s through collaboration we can obtain community collective impact.’ We can’t do it alone. We have to do it together.”

Do Good:

•    Support CYC students by volunteering as a mentor or tutor.

•    Support CYC by investing in a student's future.

•    Connect with CYC on Facebook.
 

Local nonprofit focuses efforts on underfunded pediatric cancer research

Cincinnati Bengals’ Defensive Tackle Devon Still helped raise the national consciousness about pediatric cancer, but now it’s time to keep talking about it, says Ellen Flannery, co-founder of CancerFree KIDS.
 
“We’re so grateful to him for being so open about it, but we’d like to continue the conversation,” Flannery says.
 
CancerFree KIDS is a Cincinnati-based nonprofit that funds grants and forms alliances with researchers “to identify projects that need funding and make them happen.”
 
In the organization’s 12 years of existence, it’s raised about $2 million in research funding—most of which has directly benefited researchers at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.
 
“With all the money government puts into cancer research, less than four percent goes to childhood cancer research,” Flannery says. “There’s all these brilliant people trying to do research to save our kids’ lives and they can’t get funding to do it, so all these potentially life saving treatments aren’t even tried.”
 
CancerFree KIDS is working to help fill that void, but according to Flannery, it’s scary that a lack of funding is the primary barrier to curing cancer.
 
“A lot of people think the roadblocks to curing cancer are that the researchers are stumped—they don’t know what to do,” Flannery says. “But literally, it’s a lack of funding—they don’t have enough money to do the great research they want to do—so when you have a loved one who has cancer, it’s a ridiculous thing to think about. It’s just funding? We’re losing people everyday.”
 
More money needs to be put into saving lives, Flannery says, because there’s promise in the research being conducted.
 
The first grantee who was ever funded by CancerFree KIDS, for example, is about to see his research begin clinical trials.
 
“We thought it showed promise, and now he’s gone to get millions more in funding,” Flannery says. “Every animal they’ve tried it on, every type of cancer they’ve tried this drug on, it’s cured it—and that’s unheard of. It just goes to show—what if we hadn’t given that grant and he had never tried?”

Do Good:

•    Learn about the various football-related events and partnerships you can engage in to support CancerFree KIDS through its fourth-annual Tackle Childhood Cancer initiative. 

•    Text the word "tackle" to 80100 to donate $10 toward funding pediatric cancer research.

•    Support CancerFree KIDS by giving or attending upcoming events.
 

Cincinnati mom's inventiveness leads to small biz, charity partnership

When Cincinnati native and mom Shelby Mckee wanted to be comfortable and wear flats to a Bengals game on a cool October day, she wasn’t willing to sacrifice her warmth by wearing no-show socks or “footies,” so she got creative.
 
“I grabbed my husband’s dress socks and cut a hole in the top of them, and that’s where the journey began,” Mckee says.
 
Three years later, in August 2012, she and her two sisters, Christy and Stefanie, launched Keysocks—the first-ever no-show knee high socks to reach the market.
 
“Coming together with my sisters and having a business together has been amazing,” says Christy Parry.
 
But perhaps more amazing, Perry says, is that the company, after just two years of existence, is now able to partner with a charitable organization.
 
“My sister Stefanie is a cancer survivor, so last year, we had donated Keysocks to Gabrielle’s Angel Foundation for Cancer Research’s gala,” Mckee says. “They reached out to us again because they loved the socks so much that they wanted to partner with us, so we ended up putting their angel logo on the back of the socks, and 100 percent net proceeds go to their foundation.”
 
The partnership kicked off last month and will continue through Sept. 1, 2015. The goal is to sell at least 15,000 pairs to directly fund blood cancer research.
 
“To have a foundation we could partner with and be able to give back to means so much,” Parry says. “And Keysocks—we just couldn’t have a better connection with it being to cancer, with my sister”—(Gabrielle was also one of three sisters)—“and being able to give back in the early stages of such a small startup.”

Do Good:

•    Support cancer research by purchasing a special edition pair of Keysocks.

•    Support Gabrielle's Angel Foundation for Cancer Research by donating.

•    Connect with Keysocks and Gabrielle's Angel Foundation on Facebook.

EXCEL grad displays leadership through Camp Joy scholarship creation

Gunner Blackmore, Camp Joy development manager, recently completed The Executive Curriculum for Emerging Leaders (EXCEL)—a program offered jointly by Executive Service Corps of Cincinnati and the Talbert House— and its impact on his ability to make a difference in the community was immediate.
 
He initiated a class-wide effort to raise money for a $500 scholarship that will allow a child to attend Camp Joy’s summer program for one week.
 
The organization partners with various nonprofits to bring children who are living with serious medical conditions, who are experiencing grief, who are living in poverty or who are in foster care, together for traditional camp activities that bring engagement and recreation into their lives.
 
“For example, we’ll partner with the Heart Institute at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, and they’ll come out all as a group,” Blackmore says. “So when a child is at school or just in a neighborhood, they might feel like an outsider, but when they come out to Camp Joy, they’re surrounded by hundreds of other kids with a chronic heart condition, and they’ll talk about what it’s like living with the illness. It provides them a tremendous amount of support.”
 
Since there’s typically no room in the budget for partnering agencies to afford a child the opportunity to go to summer camp, this is a way, Blackmore says, to allow an individual to realize the benefit of the experience, without economic crisis presenting yet another barrier.
 
“And a lot of them end up coming back year after year, because it’s that reinforcement experience that’s an added benefit,” Blackmore says.
 
“Oftentimes our counselors can really notice them growing and becoming leaders. Sometimes they’ll be shy the first couple days and they’ll get a lot of self esteem as the year goes on. Then the second year, they’ll really take charge and become a leader for the new campers. It’s really neat to see.” 

Do Good: 

•    Support other campers by giving to Camp Joy.

•    Support Talbert House by giving.

•    Support ESCC by giving.

Citizenship, opportunity through music at MYCincinnati

The ten hours a week MYCincinnati orchestra members spend together enables students to not only become talented musicians, but also increase self-confidence, build social skills, engage in citizenship, and express their creativity and passion.
 
Through participation in the orchestra, which is offered through Price Hill Will and modeled on El Sistema—a program that utilizes music as a vehicle for social change—residents of the area are provided with an instrument, high-quality instruction and an opportunity.
 
“Every family faces their own unique set of challenges, but they all want a better road to the future for their children,” says Laura Jekel, program director. “I believe MYCincinnati is that road.”
 
Since the program’s inception, one student has gone from having never touched a violin to being an accomplished instrumentalist who has worked her way into the School for Creative & Performing Arts’ top orchestra.

Another student turned down a free opportunity to go to Kings Island, because she didn’t want to miss a single day of camp this summer.
 
For Jekel, the program opens up “a world of potential” as soon as a student gets an instrument in his or her hand.
 
“We’re giving them the skills to transform their neighborhood,” Jekel says. “To forge relationships across barriers of race and language, and to lead their communities.” 

Do Good:

•    Support MYCincinnati.

•    Volunteer with MYCincinnati.

•    Enroll your child.

Community Matters moves forward with Washing Well

The average middle class family spends less than one percent of its income on laundry, while residents of Lower Price Hill spend, on average, one-ninth of their income on laundry, according to Jen Walters, Community Matters’ president and founder.
 
“There’s about 600 families—over 90 percent of our neighbors are renters—and the vast majority rely on public transportation,” Walters says. “There’s a high percentage of female-headed households, and $9,600 is the average annual salary. Our community is full of strong hardworking people, but they don’t have access to things others sometimes take for granted.”
 
Currently there’s a lack of access to a local laundry facility, but that’s about to change, as the nonprofit gears up to implement plans for what will eventually become a worker-operated cooperative—the Washing Well project—which will “create a community laundromat to meet the severe need for access to safe, affordable and local laundry in the Lower Price Hill neighborhood.”
 
Now, rather than having to take two bus trips—potentially accompanied by children—and spend about five hours at a laundromat, residents will be able to access laundry facilities without having to leave the neighborhood.
 
After taking care of the barrier regarding access, Walters says the organization needed to address affordability.
 
“It will be priced below the market but [will] still [generate] enough to be sustainable,” Walters says. “We’ll sell detergent by the cup, because buying that detergent from the beginning was often a barrier, and they were trying to stretch it out as long as they could, which took away from the hygienic aspect for doing laundry in the first place.”
 
If the price point is still an issue, there will be nonmonetary options, like volunteering, which residents can engage in, so they can earn washes and dries; and the space itself will become more than just a laundromat.
 
Instead of sitting around waiting for clothes, residents will be able to work with an Americorps member, who will provide assistance in connecting them to jobs and resources—an added benefit, in addition to access to clean clothes.
 
“It may be the difference that stops people from thinking they can’t go for a job,” Walters says. “It can provide that confidence for kids at school and [instill a sense of] self-worth.” 

Do Good:

•    Volunteer with Community Matters.

•    Support Community Matters by donating.

•    Connect with Community Matters on Facebook.
 

Mercy Health physician hosts second annual health fair

For Kent Robinson, Mercy Health physician, it’s important that people begin to expand their notions of “wellness.” 

“It’s a very broad spectrum, including physical, mental, emotional and spiritual wellness,” Robinson says. “We have to really look at these areas and see where we could use some restoring of balance.” 

That’s the goal with A Day of Wellness, a free community health fair Robinson will host October 11.
 
“We bring together various experts and authorities, so people come and talk, and we teach people the principles of good living, and they can take that [knowledge] home to help them live better,” Robinson says.
 
A Mercy Health mobile mammogram van will be on site, and various physicians will present information on everything from diabetes to mental health.
 
“We do it in the community so people can come out and get themselves checked,” Robinson says. “So we always find people with diabetes who didn’t know it, with high blood pressure, who didn’t know it. So those people we’ve been able to bring into our practices and follow up.”
 
According to Robinson, the ultimate goal is that people will become more health conscious and learn to take better care of themselves so they have longer, more productive lives.
 
“We focus on nutrition. We have movement activities. We have elders come and talk about remaining physically active and socially engaged,” Robinson says. “We just make it a very full and interactive type of day for people so their lives become more full and more healthy.” 

Do Good:

•    Attend the event, which takes place October 11 from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. at Keystone Parke.

•    Spread the word about the event, and encourage your friends and family to attend. 

•    Contact Nikki at 513-924-8118 if you're interested in volunteering.
 

UC Economics Center develops innovative professional development series

The Economics Center at the University of Cincinnati will launch its new professional development series, Cruisin’ through the Standards, beginning this November.
 
The courses will offer sample lesson plans and instruction to K-8 teachers who can then implement material into the classroom, without having to set aside separate instructional time that is needed for core subject matters.
 
“Our whole mission is about teaching economics and personal finance at an early age,” says Jaclyn Smith, marketing director at the Economics Center. “But teachers are so busy, because they have all these new assessments, and requirements getting thrown at them—especially this year—so we’re trying a new integration approach.”
 
According to Smith, though, this isn’t simply an education-related issue.
 
“What we’re really trying to do is combat the surveys—if you look at financial capability in the TriState region, we rank really low on the national average, so what we want to do is shift that trend,” Smith says.
 
The way to do that, she says, is by introducing young students to key concepts at a young age.
 
“So if you’re teaching language arts, why not do a book like Lawn Boy where you’re teaching these children in elementary school about reading, but at the same time, they’re reading a book about a 12 year-old who starts his own lawn mowing business,” Smith says. “You’re introducing them to all these broader concepts, and we’re thinking about how to bring that to life.” 

Do Good:

•    Sign up for the upcoming professional development courses. If you register for all four Cruisin' through the Standards courses, you'll receive 50 percent off registration with the code UCEC during checkout. 

•    Help the Economics Center further its mission by donating

•    Volunteer with the organization.
 

Impact 100 funds three grantees, enables transformation

At its annual awards ceremony last week, Impact 100 awarded $327,000 to three local nonprofits in the form of three $109,000 transformational grants—a record for the all-female philanthropic organization who awarded two $108,000 grants at last year’s event.  
 
The Literacy Network of Greater Cincinnati, Price Hill Will’s MYCincinnati and Community Matters’ Washing Well project were this year’s recipients.
 
The funds will enable the LNGC to extend its reach by implementing its Adult and Children’s Basic Reading Programs in the Price Hill and Avondale Communities.
 
MYCincinnati (Music for Youth) will reach more students, as the organization can now double its hours of operation and expand its age-range offerings.
 
And Community Matters will now be able to implement its Washing Well project, which will enable the organization to build a laundromat to serve Lower Price Hill residents who currently have no easy access to laundry facilities.
 
“It's very amazing—humbling—to be part of it—inspiring—and just, wow,” says Lisa Kaminski, Impact 100 member and vice president. “I was part of the team that worked for years to break three grants and I'm a total jumble of emotions.”
 
Since its first grantee in 2002, Impact 100 has awarded $2.8 million to 25 nonprofits who are able to create “magic in their communities,” says Sharon Mitchell, Impact 100 president.
 
Cincinnati Community ToolBank and Welcome House of Northern Kentucky were this year’s other two finalists, and it’s always difficult, members say, to not be able to fund all five groups. But they aim to change that, as the organization continues to grow.
 
At the awards ceremony this year, enough pledges were made to enable Impact 100 to commit to again giving three grants next year, but the goal is to award four or even five, and certainly even more, in years to come.
 
“One of the someday-projects on my list is trying to capture the ripple effect of Impact 100,” Kaminski says. “The number of lives impacted by those who have received grants, and also the impact on those who were not granted one. We’ve already heard that Cincinnati ToolBank has gotten a 12-foot covered trailer donated—so, wow.” 

Do Good:

•    Join Impact 100 so you can help the organization further its reach in the community. 

•    If you're a nonprofit with a plan to transform lives through your work, check back Oct. 27 for information on how to apply for one of next year's grants

•    Spread the word about Impact 100 by connecting with the organization and sharing its Facebook page.
 

ATGScholars excel through citizenship, responsibility

Cleophis Carson, 16, was Michael Farrell Jr.’s inspiration for founding Against the Grain Scholars, he says.
 
“He’s hitting on all cylinders and is kind of our guinea pig for everything—he’s the oldest,” says Farrell, who came up with the concept of ATGScholars when he was teaching students who were at-risk, but who were excelling in the classroom, were respectful and essentially doing “everything they were supposed to be doing, despite the odds.”
 
To honor those students’ achievements and further their opportunities, Farrell came up with the concept for ATGScholars.
 
“We ended up going in the route of not only providing mentoring and support for the kids, but also facilitating unique volunteer opportunities, because we felt like, here we have this group of kids, always used to being the ones who are being helped, so put them in a position and give them the opportunity to be able to help other people,” Farrell said.
 
When students were first given the opportunity to pick a volunteer experience, they decided to help animals. Through Project Dog Rescue, the students chose one of the SPCA’s “old-timers”—the first time around, it was Zoey—who had been in the shelter for eight months, and found her a home.
 
For Carson, the enjoyment of knowing you helped someone feels good, he says.
 
“What I learned is that when you help and give a dog a home, it makes the dog feel very appreciated—not lonely,” Carson says. [And for those who take the dog in,] “they have added a new member to the family, which will strengthen the bonds between them. “
 
For the group of scholars, which has now grown to eight students, this is just one of the many volunteer experiences they engage in; and compassion for others and servitude are just a couple of the qualities they’re strengthening.
 
Carson, who received a full scholarship to Elder High School after graduating eighth grade at Over-the-Rhine’s St. Francis Seraph, goes to most every ATGScholars’ outing, maintains his GPA, is expected to log more than 150 volunteer hours by the time he graduates high school—about twice the number Elder requires—and he holds down a job at Kroger.
 
“A friend of mine has helped him with financial literacy, saving money, managing money, donating money,” Farrell says. “He donates 10 percent of every paycheck to his church.”  
 
“If you do it, it shows that you’re a nice guy and not selfish with your money and that you don’t spend it all in one place,” Carson says. 

Do Good: 

•    Support ATGScholars by donating.

•    Connect with ATGScholars on Facebook.

•    Contact Farrell if you're interested in mentoring or coming along on one of the ATGScholars' outing.
 

LADD, ReelPrograms to host award-winning photographer in preparation for ReelAbilities

World renowned former fashion photographer Rick Guidotti founded Positive Exposure in 1998 after he made it his mission to help others change the ways in which they see things, so in turn, they could begin to see change.
 
“As a fashion photographer, I was always told constantly who’s beautiful—who the model of the moment was—so I always stayed within those parameters of what was a restrictive beauty standard, and I was always told it was beautiful,” Guidotti says. “And as an artist, I don’t see beauty just on the covers of magazines. I see beauty everywhere.”
 
It was after leaving his studio that Guidotti says he saw a girl with albinism who was “just beautiful.” He had never met a model who looked like her, he says, so he began to research individuals with albinism to see what he could find.
 
“I found nothing but horrible images—kids in their underwear up against walls in doctors’ offices, images of just disease, sickness—I didn’t see any photographs of this gorgeous kid,” Guidotti says. “And it’s always ‘the evil albino’ that we see depicted in movies, in Hollywood—every representation I could find was a negative. And it was so upsetting and so eye opening.”
 
So Guidotti partnered with the National Organization for Albinism and Hypopigmentation to make something beautiful and show the world something different, he says.
 
“So this girl walks in the room and she was amazing—she was so beautiful, but she walked in with her shoulders all the way up, no eye contact—she had zero self esteem, and I can only imagine the abuse she had in school, the teasing” Guidotti says.
 
“I didn’t know what to do—she was so vulnerable—but just the day before, I had photographed Cindy Crawford, and I said out of respect for her, ‘I’m going to photograph her like I’d photograph anyone else,’ so the fan went on, the music went on, and I took a mirror and said, ‘Christine, look at you—you’re magnificent—and she looked in the mirror and she saw it. Her hands went on her hips, and she exploded with the smile that lit up New York City. It was incredible.”
 
It’s this beauty that Guidotti sees because of the shared humanity we all possess, he says, and it’s what’s inspired him to shift his lens from fashion photography to individuals who are portrayed as being diseased or disabled, but who are nothing short of amazing.
 
And that’s the clientele that Living Arrangements for the Developmentally Disabled works with everyday on the local level, as well as the mission of the ReelAbilities Film Festival, which the organization will present Feb. 27-March 7.
 
As part of the organization’s ReelPrograms leading up to the festival, Guidotti will speak to local schools, share his story, exhibit Positive Exposure, The Spirit of Difference at FotoFocus, and photograph local families with physical and mental disabilities to add to his collection, which will be displayed during ReelAbilities.
 
“It’s inclusion, and it’s happening concurrently, but it’s individuals everywhere in the world that don’t want to be seen as diseased or as a diagnosis,” Guidotti says. “We all want to be seen as human beings.” 

Do Good:

•    Hear Guidotti's story, and check out his work, as well as other events taking place through ReelProgram events. This Cincinnati tour of Rich Guidotti is presented by the Edwards Foundation managed by Crew Capital with support from Contemporary Cabinetry East.

•    Support Cincinnati ReelAbilities by donating.

•    Spread the word about ReelAbilities and all of the events coming up by volunteering.
 

Cincy Care to Share offers free dental care

Cincy Care to Share, now in its third year, will once again provide an opportunity for clients to receive free dental work Friday.
 
Scott Sayre, owner and dentist at Advance Dentistry, founded the event because he says the need for dental treatment in this country “goes largely under the wire.”
 
“There’s almost nobody that in their life escapes dental disease, and when you actually compound that to the really big problem—massive amounts of dental disease—it’s just horrendous,” Sayre says. “The need is huge.”
 
Clients over the age of 18 will be entitled to one free cleaning, filling or extraction. Last year, Sayre says about 300 individuals received these services, and this year, he says he hopes to serve even more.
 
“We had one mom that was going two weeks later to see her son graduate from the Marines’ boot camp,” Sayre says. “So we were able to do several extractions that day—a little more than we were supposed to—but we got her ready so she could get fitted for dentures and have her smile back before she went to see her son and all his friends.”
 
It’s stories like this, Sayre says, that prompt him to host the community-wide event, and that inspire him to build upon the event’s foundation in years to come.
 
“What I’d like to do in the future is have Cincy Care to Share where we’re doing dentistry here, maybe others are helping in their offices on the other side of town, we’ve got a general physician doing checkups, lawyers offering their services over here—I’d like to break the whole thing loose,” Sayre says.
 
“Patients are in pain. They don’t know where to turn, but they’re able to come here and get some care that day. So I think if we can help in our own backyard, it’s just a really important thing to do.” 

Do Good:

•    Spread the word about Cincy Care to Share

•    If you're interested in contributing services and growing the event next year, learn how you can help.

•    Connect with Cincy Care to Share on Facebook.

Multicultural Scholarship Fair eases financial burden for area students

Representatives from more than 20 national universities and colleges will convene at the Cincinnati Museum Center Thursday to provide local students with opportunities for financial assistance at the fifth annual Multicultural Scholarship Fair.
 
More than $1.3 million has been awarded at the scholarship fair in the past four years, and scholarships often are awarded on the spot.
 
“That’s what really sets us apart,” says Rico Rice, president of Rice Education Consulting, LLC and organizer of the fair. “We ask that the students come to us with their transcripts, résumé, letters of recommendation, and an essay on why they want to come to college, so they’re able to really have those conversations with representatives—some of whom are directors of financial aid or admissions.”
 
According to Rice, offering the fair for multicultural students is important, because historically, they haven’t had as many opportunities and are underrepresented on some of the bigger college campuses across the country.
 
“Colleges see the need for a diverse student body,” Rice says. “The second piece is a lack of resources. In certain pockets of the community, they don’t have the exposure and are dealing with a lot of first-generational college students.”
 
With so many talented young individuals in our community, Rice says it’s only fair to serve as a community resource for them so they can achieve success.
 
“Talent doesn’t get you into college. You have to apply and learn the process,” Rice says. But when students receive assistance, he says it’s invaluable. “Obviously to know that a big burden has been lifted—it’s priceless.”

Do Good:

•    Spread the word about the Multicultural Scholarship Fair.

•    Learn about and get involved with Cincinnati Museum Center's Youth Programs.

•    Connect with the Cincinnati Museum Center and Rice Education Consulting, LLC on Facebook.

Zip-lining, canoeing, river swimming among free Great Outdoor Weekend events

The 11th annual Great Outdoor Weekend is upon us, and with 125 free events and programs at 42 locations in eight counties spanning the Tri-State, it’s an event that Brewster Rhoads, executive director of Green Umbrella, says is not to be missed.
 
“Cincinnati was ranked No. 1 in America by the Academy of Sports Medicine this past spring when it comes to outdoor recreational infrastructure—trails, parks, campgrounds, rivers—but the health condition of our citizenry was No. 38 out of 50,” Rhoads says.
 
“So part of what we’re about is connecting our citizens in the region to the recreational opportunities we have.”
 
The weekend’s events, taking place September 27-28, will feature opportunities for all. Zip-lining across our region’s tree canopy, canoeing, kayaking and even swimming across the Ohio River are just a few of the options offered.
 
“It has become one of the largest—if not the largest—outdoor education and recreation samplers in the country,” Rhoads says. “It’s a way to introduce people—parents with kids, millennials and others—to the critical recreational and nature education opportunities in the region.”
 
According to Rhoads, Greater Cincinnati’s vibrant outdoor culture is a benefit to all who inhabit the area, and it’s an asset to our city, in that it's an attractor of young talent.
 
“You don’t have to live in Portland to bike to work, for example,” Rhoads says.
 
And according to Rhoads, that’s evidenced by the fact that Cincinnati was listed, for the first-time ever, as one of the top-50 bike-friendly cities in America.
 
“We don’t claim that we make all this happen,” Rhoads says. “But we play a role in being a facilitator as a promoter of collaboration to move this area forward.” 

Do Good:

•    Attend one, or multiple events at Great Outdoor Weekend.

•    If you can't make it out to Great Outdoor Weekend, check out Meet Me Outdoors! for a listing of free outdoor activities to engage in on a more frequent basis.

•    Get involved with Green Umbrella.
 

Healthy Roots Foundation continues Bluegrass for Babies, rebrands to expand education and outreach

The Healthy Roots Foundation, formerly Bluegrass for Babies, will host its sixth annual benefit concert Saturday to support Cincinnati Children’s Hospital’s Perinatal Institute.
 
The nonprofit rebranded itself this year in an effort to better reflect its focus on educational outreach for familial health education.
 
“[The name] Bluegrass for Babies no longer made sense for everything we’re doing,” says Anne Schneider, who founded the organization with her husband, Matt, in 2009. “It made sense for one of our events. So basically, it’s grown so much—we thought that the Healthy Roots Foundation was a name that represents the true essence of trying to create healthy families and improve children’s health.”
 
Since 2009, Bluegrass for Babies has raised nearly $100,000 for Cincinnati Children’s, which Schneider says she’s “incredibly humbled and thrilled” to have accomplished, because the concert—now hosted at Sawyer Point—initially began as a backyard party.
 
As the event has grown, so has the nonprofit’s goals and outreach.
 
“We’ve realized there’s a big gap in education for families—health education in general—and people really aren’t getting the knowledge they need to make good decisions,” Schneider says.
 
So at this year’s concert, six interactive experiences—all aimed at empowering families with healthy decision-making capabilities—will complement the festivities.
 
The activities are similar in nature to some of the play-based activities the nonprofit has hosted at the Cincinnati Museum Center, for example.
 
“We have a make-your-own pizza garden, so it’s a gardening activity where kids learn how it’s made,” Schneider says. “And then once it’s made or taken home and planted, we give them basil seeds, and we give them recipes to make their own pizza with it—so they’re looking at where it’s coming from, how it’s made, and then that’s your food—so it impacts your nutrition and healthy choices.” 

Do Good:

•    Support the organization in its efforts to raise funds for Cincinnati Children's Perinatal Institute by purchasing a ticket to attend Bluegrass for Babies. One-hundred percent of proceeds from food purchased at the event, from both Green BEAN Delivery and Mama Mimi's, will also benefit the Perinatal Institute. 

•    Support the Healthy Roots Foundation by giving.

•    Connect with the nonprofit on Facebook.
 

Village Life Outreach Project celebrates 10 years of impact

Village Life Outreach Project will celebrate 10 years as a nonprofit Friday at its Diamond Gala: Night on the Serengeti.
 
The nonprofit, whose mission is to “unite communities to promote life, health and education,” has a lot to celebrate, as the organization has reached some important milestones throughout the past decade.
 
More than 400 local volunteers, for example, have given freely of their time to engage in service learning and health care initiatives in three villages of Tanzania.
 
“Just knowing we’ve been able to unite this many people behind a cause, both people from Tanzania and the Greater Cincinnati area and beyond—being able to focus on how to make people’s lives better—that’s probably been the biggest reward,” says Chris Lewis, founder.
 
One of the nonprofit’s most notable successes is opening Tanzania’s first-ever health care center, which has served more than 20,000 villagers since 2011.
 
Lewis says he remembers his first trip to the region in 2003 when he was in the University of Cincinnati’s family medicine residency training program.
 
“On a daily basis, people would be brought in to the hospital I was working at, having died having to have made the arduous journey from the remote outlying regions,” Lewis says. “The first patient I remember was a pregnant lady who had bled to death having tried to walk eight hours to get to the hospital to deliver her child, and that sort of thing leaves a permanent mark on you.”
 
Village Life Outreach Project has also collaborated with Engineers without Borders, through both its student chapter at UC and its local professional chapter, to teach villagers how to build sustainable and structurally sound buildings and to begin digging water wells so villagers can access clean drinking water.
 
“Everyone comes to Tanzania thinking they’re going to really make a difference and change the world, and by all working together—yeah, we’ve made some great progress—but the biggest change I think comes to the volunteers themselves,” Lewis says. “I think their lives are changed in this experience, when they get over there and feel what it means to work in partnership with people who need you. That makes all the difference in the world.” 

Do Good: 

•    Join Village Life Outreach Project at Night on the Serengeti for an evening of celebration and a keynote address delivered by Oscar and Emmy Award-Winning Actor Louis Gossett, Jr. 

•    Support Village Life Outreach Project by donating.

•    Contact the nonprofit to learn more and figure out how you can get involved.

Impact 100 member grows, spreads philanthropic values to young members

Emily Throckmorton learned the value of philanthropy at a young age.
 
At age 18, she’s the youngest member of Impact 100, a group of women who work collectively to make a difference in the community by pooling funds to award significant grants to nonprofits.
 
Last year, the organization was able to provide Crayons to Computers and Easter Seals TriState | Building Value with $108,000 grants; and this year, membership has grown, so three nonprofits will receive $109,000 grants.
 
“You’re basically putting your faith in these organizations and choosing who you want to help and how you want to help them, and the whole experience is amazing,” says Throckmorton, who’s received membership as a gift for the past two years.
 
Throckmorton just began her freshman year at Purdue University, so as a college freshman, and certainly as a high school student, contributing to a philanthropic organization isn’t always financially feasible. But in Throckmorton’s case, her membership has been a much better gift than any material possessions could have been.
 
“This is something I will continue, not just at school, but through the rest of my life,” Throckmorton says. “Seeing the money they had spent the whole year raising going toward these amazing causes—I really want to stay involved and help out doing something like this because I love helping others.” 

Do Good:

•    Check out this year's five grant finalists, and attend the Annual Awards Celebration September 16 when this year's recipients will be announced. 

•    Help Impact 100 continue to grow. The organization is always looking for new members, particularly young professionals, so it can sustain itself and further its community impact for years to come. Consider joining.

•    If you're a nonprofit, learn about how to apply for next year's grant, and stay connected with the organization through Facebook to keep up with the latest news and updates.
 

Top female chefs, local creatives join forces to benefit YWCA

Frannie Kroner’s longtime dream has been to host a collaborative dinner with Greater Cincinnati’s top female chefs, and this Sunday, she’ll have that opportunity.
 
“There really aren’t that many in comparison to male chefs, and I’ve always really admired the lineup we’ve had in this city,” Kroner says. “And I wanted to be more of a part of that community and try to bring everyone together, because this doesn’t happen very often.”
 
Kroner serves as executive chef at Sleepy Bee Café, where the event Showcase: Dinner for a Cause, which will benefit the YWCA’s Battered Women’s Shelter, will take place.

“It’s always been in the back of my mind to try to do more philanthropic things with food, because on a day-to-day basis, in a restaurant setting, you’re usually catering to people that can afford to come to the restaurant,” Kroner says. “So it’s nice to feel like you can give back to the community in a way that it’s still done through your craft.”
 
Ten chefs will collaborate on Sunday’s multi-course dinner, while female performing artists will provide entertainment. The evening’s table centerpieces— sculptures created through a collaborative effort with Brazee Street Studios’ C-LINK Presents: Showcase: Female Artists for a Cause—will be auctioned off as well.
 
Though proceeds from the event will benefit the YWCA, Kroner says she is looking forward to the event because it won’t necessarily feel like a fundraiser so much as it will be a celebration of the local talent that female creatives have to offer.
 
“Just bringing the female creative force all in one room—that’s always been something that in theory sounds super inspirational—and I can’t wait to be part of that group and feel the energy,” Kroner says. “We’re all going to be orchestrating together in the back as we prepare, and there aren’t that many female chefs, but I think that in general, it’s an underutilized group of people.” 

Do Good:

•    Reserve your spot at Showcase: Dinner for a Cause.

•    Support the YWCA by donating.

•    Volunteer with the YWCA.


 

Rosie's Girls empowers girls with STEM-related skills

For Sandra Ramirez Pvac, a freshman at DePaul Cristo Rey High School, the YWCA of Greater Cincinnati’s program Rosie’s Girls provided her not only with a fun and engaging summer experience, but also a sense of empowerment.
 
“We made lamps, cut the pieces, sanded it and painted it,” Ramirez Pvac says. “Then we also got it to work through the electricity that we did. We also made our own toolbox—it was just cool.”
 
Rosie’s Girls is a program for girls between the ages of 11 and 13 that introduces STEM-related careers through hands-on training in carpentry and other technical trades.
 
“The part that excited me was going through carpentry, because usually when I hear about Messer and Turner Construction sites, usually men do it,” Ramirez Pvac says. “You see guys outside putting concrete on the streets, so I thought it would be interesting to go and experience that and see how it is.”
 
Ramirez Pvac actually graduated from the program in 2012, but this past summer, she returned as a counselor in training.
 
“I was excited because my younger sister was going this year, and she also was excited because she saw the stuff I had brought home,” Ramirez Pvac says.
 
Since her time in the program, Ramirez Pvac has been able to put her skills to use. When her bed broke, she fixed it. And when she was on a mission trip working in the garden of an older couple, she noticed a broken bench that was going to be thrown away.
 
“It was a pretty bench,” Ramirez Pvac says. “And they said they just hadn’t found someone who could fix it, so I got the opportunity to get the tools and fix it.”
 
Rosie’s Girls fostered a sense of independence in Ramirez Pvac, and it’s one she says she noticed with the other girls who participated in the program this past July.
 
“They were able to do the stuff themselves. They were able to have confidence by being able to do stuff that you wouldn’t see a young girl doing at this age,” Ramirez Pvac says. “And I feel like some girls actually felt like they wanted to take a career that has to do with that, with carpentry.”

Do Good:

•    Learn about Rosie's Girls, and encourage young girls to apply for next year's program. 

•    Support the YWCA by donating.

•    Connect with Rosie's Girls on Facebook.

Local man leads nation in library service advancements for blind

Clovernook Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired’s Chris Mundy joins the ranks of individuals like text-to-speech innovator Ray Kurzweil as the 48th recipient of the Francis Joseph Campbell Award.
 
The award recognizes institutions or individuals who have made “an outstanding contribution to the advancement of library service for the blind and physically handicapped.”
 
Mundy serves as quality assurance specialist for network-produced recordings at Mutlistate Center East, a division of Clovernook, as he works to improve the quality of—and expand upon the availability of—audio materials available to library patrons who cannot read print.
 
“My position’s unique, and it’s the only one in the U.S. that works directly with volunteer programs to get the material to a particular quality level,” Mundy says. “And what’s really cool is all the people that get involved—a lot of them are retirees with a background in dramatic arts or broadcasting and are capable of handling really difficult material.”
 
As Mundy travels around the country to the National Library Service volunteer studios, he assists in the behind-the-scenes production that allows for continuity of sound and quality for the various materials available.
 
“There’s a revolving door of volunteers—maybe 10 narrators involved in a typical issue of Smithsonian magazine, for example—and the whole key is, over time, the staff and volunteers involved with it are constantly changing,” Mundy says. “Plus, the technology changes. I learn it and impart some of that knowledge to them.”
 
Mundy says he’s humbled to be a recipient of the award, but he’d like for more individuals to take advantage of the resources he helps make available.
 
“At any given moment, 900,000-1 million people are currently using it (the Braille and Audio Reading service), but there are 3 million who are eligible for it,” Mundy says. “So roughly 2 million don’t know they can access it with a doctor’s note. There’s just so many people in everyday life who might really benefit from knowing about it.”

Do Good: 

•    Connect with Clovernook Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired on Facebook.

•    If you know someone who could benefit from services offered through the BARD, help them apply.

•    Support Clovernook Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired.
 

CYC grad shows fortitude through adverse situations

Withrow International High School graduate Niyubahwe Dieudonne is familiar with transitions.
 
He’ll begin his studies at the University of Cincinnati in August, and in early October, at the Cincinnati Youth Collaborative’s 11th annual Dream Makers Celebration, he’ll find out whether or not he’s the recipient of the Outstanding Student Award and a $1,000 scholarship.
 
Dieudonne was nominated for the award because of his success and perseverance through a time in his life that was by no means easy.
 
“I moved from East Africa from a small country called Burundi in 2007,” Dieudonne says. “It was really hard for me, because I didn’t know any English when I came, so it was really hard going to school here.”
 
In the sixth grade, Dieudonne enrolled at the Academy of World Languages, where he participated in English as a Second Language classes; and during his freshman year of high school, he became involved with the CYC.
 
“It was good because it gave me the experience of having a mentor,” Dieudonne says. “And the mentor would always stay in touch with us, help us with our school work—whatever we needed, they were there for us—they’d always make sure we were doing the best we can.”
 
Coming to a new country that he knew nothing about and essentially having to “start over” was the hardest thing Dieudonne says he’s ever experienced. And though he’s overcome that obstacle, he says he still struggles.
 
“Especially when I’m starting college right now,” Dieudonne says. “But I’m planning on going to UC to study biology. But moving here has inspired me to do my best and to not be afraid of challenges that life gives me.” 

Do Good:

•    Connect with CYC on Facebook, and attend the Dream Makers Celebration October 2 at Music Hall

•    Volunteer as a CYC mentor.

•    Support the CYC by making a gift.

Price Hill sports painter assists nonprofits by donating artwork

It was around the age of 7 that local artist Chris Felix says he drew a picture of his dog that impressed his mother and others.
 
“This sparked my interest in drawing more,” Felix says. “And I started taking some lessons from a cousin of mine who was an art teacher.”
 
Felix’s work has evolved over the years, and a primary area of focus for him now is sports paintings—everything from portraits of Reds players to landscapes of golf courses.
 
“As projects arise, I research my subjects by scouring books in the library, images on Google, and asking around at memorabilia shops for pertinent material relating to my subject,” Felix says.
 
He photographs his subjects and backgrounds for points of reference then gets to work, but the process doesn’t stop there.
 
Felix, who grew up in Price Hill and who has lived in Cincinnati his entire life, has a passion not only for art, but also for his city and those who inhabit it.
 
So he makes it a point to use his paintings and prints to give back.
 
Since the late '90s, Felix has donated an original and more than 20 prints per year, on average, to organizations like the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, the Reid Rizzo Foundation, the Bethany House Shelter and others, to assist with nonprofits’ missions of propelling the community forward.
 
“Helping others is something I love to do,” Felix says. “The impact is nothing but positive. I believe that we get back more than what we ever give.” 

Do Good:

•    Support Felix by checking out his art and sharing it with others. 

•    Connect with Felix on Facebook.

•    Look for Felix's art around town at places like the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame & Muesum, Art on the Levee, the Cincinnati Mueseum Center and Heirloom Framing Co.

 

Bengals tailgating sparks idea for new nonprofit

Jason Chapman says he remembers tailgating at the Bengals-Steelers Monday Night Football matchup last September like it was yesterday—and not just because it was a Cincinnati win against a top-rival.
 
He remembers it because it was the start of something bigger and more meaningful than he says he’d ever imagined.
 
“It just so happened that all day that day, I wound up helping people in small ways—giving money here and there— and I didn’t put two and two together,” Chapman says.
 
“But before the game, as we were tailgating, we saw onlookers outside the gate, and some people looked like they could have been less fortunate than myself and some of the other partygoers.”
 
So Chapman and his friends offered food to those who stood outside, and his act of kindness soon became contagious.
 
The desire to help others spread not only to the other tailgaters that evening, but also to Chapman’s friends and followers across social networks and across the country.
 
“We had enormous support from friends and followers who were willing to donate the next time we were downtown tailgating—or just anything we were willing to do—they were ready and willing to give,” Chapman says.
 
So The Midwest Project, a nonprofit for which Chapman is president and co-founder, was born.
 
The organization works by utilizing social media to raise awareness and funds for things like education, health and wellness, and nonviolence.
 
“It made me think about how I have a tremendous support team and some influence in my city and community,” Chapman says. “So why don’t we start a nonprofit so we can build on that, and that’s kind of how it started.” 

Do Good:

•    Check out The Midwest Project's website, and tell your friends.

•    Connect with the organization on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for updates.

•    Support The Midwest Project by donating or volunteering.

 

Cincinnati State's 1 Night, 12 Kitchens sets fundraising record

The Midwest Culinary Institute at Cincinnati State raised more than $100,000 dollars at this year’s 10th annual 1 Night, 12 Kitchens event.
 
1 Night, 12 Kitchens is a celebration of Greater Cincinnati’s culinary delights and a way for some of the region’s best chefs—many of whom are graduates of Cincinnati State’s Midwest Culinary Institute—to share their talents with the public. 
 
“The event really demonstrates how amazing our restaurant and hospitality industry is, and how critical Midwest Culinary Institute is,” says Elliott Ruther, Cincinnati State’s chief of development. “Over 90 percent of our graduates remain in the area, and this is just an incredible experience—seeing the scene as it continues to grow.”
 
About 600 individuals came together, either to sample various dishes or to sponsor the event and students attending the Midwest Culinary Institute.
 
Ruther said the great food alone made the event a success, but the money raised for student scholarships is what’s most important.
 
“The top chefs are there working with our students and alums—some of which are both,” Ruther says. “And they talk about hiring students. There’s a strong interest in getting students to the scholarships to really help provide opportunities for them to take in a really good program.”

Do Good:

•    Support Midwest Culinary Institute students by dining at The Summit

•    Support Cincinnati State students by giving.

•    Learn about MCI's programs and courses.

CSYO provides networking, friendship, engagement to youth

Jackie Tso, a senior at Sycamore High School and concertmaster for the Cincinnati Symphony Youth Orchestra has been playing violin for 13 years.
 
“My brother and my mom each played together when we were younger, and when I was about two, I would always go to pick up my brother’s violin and try to play it,” Tso says.
 
“And so my mom thought it’d be nice to start me on violin because I’d always showed a passion for it, so I started with the Suzuki training method when I was four.”
 
Tso just wrapped up her final concert with the CSYO as first violinist, and her time with the orchestra is something she says she’ll never forget.
 
“I’ve really just learned so much about orchestra and being a leader,” Tso says. “It’s been a blessing. I’ve developed friendships that are real friendships, and they’ll continue after high school.”
 
Tso has played with the CSYO for the past four years, and during that time, she’s had opportunities to play solos in front of large audiences and to perform alongside members of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.
 
“I’ve learned a lot from sitting next to a professional, and playing solo with that orchestra is so cool,” Tso says. “Just to have a huge orchestra behind you—double the size of a normal one—it’s just so powerful and a good feeling as well.” 

Do Good:

•    Learn about, and consider auditioning for the CSYO.

•    Support the CSO and its programs. 

•    Connect with the CSYO on Facebook.

Young Professionals' Choral Collective continues venture as it transitions to nonprofit

About three and a half years ago, the Young Professionals’ Choral Collective hosted its first rehearsal, and about 35 singers showed up; but for the past two years, the organization has been going strong, says KellyAnn Nelson, managing artistic director.
 
“We’re at over 350 singers on our roster,” Nelson says. “It’s grown much faster than we expected it to.”
 
The yp/CC is a growing organization that funds itself through donations and ticket sales, but it’s currently in the process of transitioning into the nonprofit sector.
 
“We realized it’s bigger than one person’s business.” Nelson says. “Part of our mission is that we’re not only a choir that makes music, but that we’re creating connections with local businesses, local arts organizations, and we have this triangle in addition to being a performing arts organization.”
 
On any given rehearsal night, you could find about 60 singers in what Nelson refers to as a “nontraditional space” (this cycle, it’s at Japp’s) where yp/CC members patronize local establishments by purchasing cocktails before and after rehearsals.
 
As the organization evolves and begins to form its own nonprofit board, Nelson says she hopes it encourages yp/CC singers to go out into the local arts community and support and serve on other boards as well, to further the community relationships the organization continues to build upon.
 
The model has been so successful to this point that Nelson says other cities have reached out to her about creating similar ventures in their own spaces.
 
“I’m just so curious to see if this project is so successful because it’s just in people’s hearts and souls that they want to sing, and want to sing in a social, fun and accessible way, and that works everywhere—or if there’s something truly special about Cincinnati—that people just flock to this idea in a totally unexpected way,” Nelson says. “So that’s an interesting part of our experiment right now.” 

Do Good:

•    Support the yp/CC in its second annual crowdfunding campaign by helping the organization reach its $5,000 dollar goal by May 23.

•    Attend the yp/CC's spring concert May 20 at Rhinegeist Brewery.

•    Join the yp/CC and sing.

Brittany York is a professor of English composition at the University of Cincinnati and a project manager for Charitable Words. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia.

Princeton High School represents Greater Cincinnati in national competition

The Greater Cincinnati World Affairs Council is in need of funding for its global education programs, which help the organization further its mission of “promoting international understanding, education, engagement and cooperation.”
 
One of the programs—Global Classrooms, for example, pairs international students from the University of Cincinnati with local school districts—so Greater Cincinnati’s youth can begin learning about other nations’ cultures and people.
 
“It’s an opportunity for the students to become those global citizens we’re trying to bring in to the world,” says Michelle Harpenau, GCWAC’s executive director.
 
Perhaps the most popular global education program the nonprofit offers, however, is Academic WorldQuest, which is an international trivia competition for high school students.
 
GCWAC partnered with the Cincinnati Museum Center earlier this year to host 11 teams from six different schools, as each competed for a spot in the national competition.
 
Princeton High School won the local competition and traveled to the nation’s capital to represent Greater Cincinnati in the World Affairs Councils of America’s large-scale event this past April.
 
“You can explore D.C. with that international twist,” Harpenau says.
 
The four student representatives finished in eighth place out of nearly 50 teams and had the opportunity to not only compete by offering their new knowledge of things like current events and cybersecurity, but to see our nation’s current and historical landmarks and even meet Singapore’s ambassador to the U.S.
 
“It speaks to our tagline—explore, experience and engage your world,” Harpenau says. “And it’s so important because we’re one local Council, but these issues are not just affecting us—they’re affecting the nation and the world.” 

Do Good: 

•    Support the GCWAC.

•    Join the GCWAC.

•    Like the GCWAC on Facebook.

Brittany York is a professor of English composition at the University of Cincinnati and a project manager for Charitable Words. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia.

ESCC celebrates National Volunteer Week

In recognition of National Volunteer Week, which was celebrated last month, Executive Service Corps of Cincinnati honored four of its top volunteers.
 
ESCC volunteers provide consulting services to area nonprofits by applying their skills and knowledge from the workforce to the not-for-profit sector.
 
For Bob Conklin, Procter & Gamble retiree and one of the four individuals recognized, volunteering with ESCC is a meaningful endeavor because it gives him a chance to continue to apply his knowledge in an environment that’s not money-driven.
 
“Many of the nonprofits are small organizations, staffed by people who have a tremendous passion for whatever service they’re doing,” Conklin says.
 
Conklin has assisted a variety of nonprofits, but his favorite task was supervising construction of the new Scout Achievement Center, he says.
 
“The Boy Scouts had no one who had project-management, design and construction experience, so I was able to help interpret for the architect what was needed and help on a day-to-day basis with decision-making,” Conklin says.
 
“No matter what’s designed, there are always things that are encountered in construction where plans have to be changed, and so I was able to bring the technical and project manager expertise to that to give them guidance.”
 
Conklin spent about 20 hours a week volunteering with the Boy Scouts’ project, which he says was at times challenging, but incredibly rewarding.
 
“There is such an overwhelming need with nonprofits, but they typically don’t have time or the structure behind them to work on developing things like, ‘How do I manage an organization? ‘How do I recruit people? How do I set up a financial system?’” Conklin says. “So what we can do is to provide some advice, assistance and training that really helps them be more effective at delivering their mission.” 

Do Good:

•    Contact ESCC if you're a nonprofit with a request for assistance

•    Volunteer with ESCC.

•    Support ESCC by donating.

By Brittany York

Brittany York is a professor of English composition at the University of Cincinnati and a project manager for Charitable Words. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia. 

 

State Farm and Economics Center partner to deliver financial literacy to 1,500 students

The Money Savvy Kids program will equip 50 area teachers with the resources to bring financial literacy into the classroom to 1,500 elementary students.
 
State Farm has partnered with the Economics Center to provide this program to teachers by creating a curriculum based on financial risk, goal setting and stability.
 
“I think one of the reasons it’s important is because if we know how to create a budget and fix credit ratings and plan for the future, then we’re going to improve our odds for financial stability and success,” says Jane Chitwood, State Farm representative. “Implementing that early into the youth is going to be huge for the success of our future generations.”
 
“A Slice of Life” is a sample lesson that teaches children the importance of budgeting by breaking down one amount into several different pieces.
 
“It’s a youthful mind,” Chitwood says. “How do you order a pizza and decide all the different ingredients you want on a pizza? Then how do you put it into segments, break it down to build a monthly budget?”
 
According to Chitwood, financial literacy is so important because it sets the standard for a stable future.
 
“Part of State Farm’s mission is to help people realize their dreams,” Chitwood says. “So if we can help them learn financial stability and literacy from the very beginning, we’ll be much better off.”

Do Good:

•    Contact a local State Farm agent if you would like assistance in bringing financial literacy into your school. 

•    Support the Economics Center by donating.

•    Check out the Economics Center's resources for the classroom.

By Brittany York

Brittany York is a professor of English composition at the University of Cincinnati and a project manager for Charitable Words. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia. 

 

Eleven local communities receive grants to increase physical fitness opportunities

Eleven area communities and organizations are the recipients of Interact for Health grants to develop or improve upon spaces for physical activity.
 
“It’s all about creating infrastructure in places where people can be physically active,” says Jaime Love, Interact for Health’s program officer for healthy eating and active living.
 
The Center for Great Neighborhoods of Covington, for example, was one the eleven organizations awarded; and as a result, Latonia Elementary School will be the site of a new area from which the whole community can benefit.
 
“They worked in partnership to convert the dilapidated playground at the school and turn it into a community park,” Love says. “So there’ll be a new playground, fitness equipment—there’ll be a walking track—and it really will be something that both the school and the community residents can enjoy.”
 
Other organizations will receive things like a pool lift to increase accessibility, and exercise equipment to add to a fitness trail.
 
According to Love, creating a culture of wellness where people have easy access to physical activity is the goal.
 
“We want to encourage public places that are free of charge as well, because we know cost can be a barrier to some people being able to participate,” Love says.
 
“So when we have lots of public spaces that are safe and up to date and easily accessible—people can walk or bike to them, they’re not too far away from their homes—that just increases the likelihood that they can get out with their family and friends and have some activity on a regular basis.”

Do Good:

•    Check out the 11 physical activity and environments grantees, and make use of the spaces when they become available for use.

•    If you're interested in applying for a grant to receive funds for physical activity environments in 2015, there is still time. Proposals are due by noon, May 1. 

•    Connect with Interact for Health on Facebook.

By Brittany York

Brittany York is a professor of English composition at the University of Cincinnati and a project manager for Charitable Words. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia. 

 

21c Cincinnati to host international art competition's Pitch Night

Local individuals will have the unique opportunity to gain an advantage in the spotlight among international artists, as 21c Museum Hotel Cincinnati will host ArtPrize’s Pitch Night next month.
 
The event is designed to give local artists a boost, while expanding the work of ArtPrize—a nonprofit venture and annual competition that takes place in Grand Rapids, Mich.
 
The goal of the competition is to bring more than 1,500 individuals together to expose and fund the work of emerging artists.
 
“In Cincinnati, there’s a wide range of talented artists working in all mediums—many of whom have been educated by the outstanding arts education institutions, and I feel certain there are a number of wonderful artists in Cincinnati who deserve to have broader exposure on a national stage,” says Alice Gray Stites, 21c’s chief curator and director of art programming.
 
Participation in ArtsPrize would afford local artists that opportunity, says Gray Stites, who wants to see all area artists submit proposals for Pitch Night, in which five chosen finalists will present their pitches to compete for a $5,000 grant to bring their ArtPrize idea to fruition and receive a guaranteed installment space within the competition’s 19-day, three-square-mile exhibition.
 
“ArtPrize shares our dedication to the art of today and especially that of emerging artists,” Gray Stites says. “So we hope all interested Cincinnati-based artists will participate, and we encourage the art community and public to come to the discussion.”
 
Do Good:

Contact ArtPrize for inquiries regarding the application process, and submit your proposal. 

• Attend Pitch Night Cincinnati May 22 at 21c. The event is free and open to the public. Visit the website for more details.

• Like ArtPrize on Facebook.

By Brittany York

Brittany York is a professor of English composition at the University of Cincinnati and a project manager for Charitable Words. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia. 


NKU students use grafitti as vehicle to fund nonprofits

For students like Jason Hulett, community-building events are invaluable when it comes to presenting ideas, raising awareness, sparking conversations and making a difference in the lives of others.
 
GraffitiFest, which took place last week, constitutes one of those events, says Hulett, a Northern Kentucky University senior entrepreneurship major and GraffitiFest lead organizer.
 
“I just thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if we could have graffiti on campus? And then, wouldn’t it be cool if we could provide graffiti to people on campus? And if we’re going to hold an event, we might as well do it for a good cause,'” Hulett says.
 
So likeminded students from an event planning class came together to bring graffiti artists, local musicians, vendors, teams of entrepreneurship students and the general public together to raise awareness and funds for nonprofits who provide relief to others.
 
“We wanted to show graffiti in a positive light because it gets a bad rep with vandalism and all that. But if we were going to raise money, we wanted to do it for social good and not just personal gain,” Hulett says. “So it goes toward artists and nonprofits—no CEOs—the university makes no money off this. So that was important to us.”
 
Proceeds from the event, in which graffiti artists’ work from the day was auctioned off, totaled about $1,500 dollars, which will be split down the middle to benefit artists as well as charities.
 
“It was a celebration of an artform that we think is underutilized and underappreciated, and it created an opportunity for something different to shine in a light that’s more positive,” Hulett says. “Some of the causes of the nonprofit—especially Revive the Heart with human trafficking—people don’t want to hear about that. But if you present it in that kind of format, you get a better response because people are more willing to participate.” 

Do Good:

• Like GraffitiFest's Facebook page, as the students plan to make this at least an annual event. 

• Follow GraffitiFest on Twitter.

• Support local artists and nonprofits you're passionate about.

By Brittany York

Brittany York is a professor of English composition at the University of Cincinnati and a project manager for Charitable Words. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia. 


Rooted communities at The Civic Garden Center

The Civic Garden Center of Greater Cincinnati’s annual plant sale is just two weeks away.
 
It’s the nonprofit’s largest fundraising event and brings plant lovers of all kinds together to talk, shop and have all their gardening questions answered by other likeminded individuals—all while helping The Civic Garden Center raise enough money to fund one of its programs for an entire calendar year.
 
“That allows us to do our youth education programming, or it allows us to do community gardens for another year. It’s substantial,” says Vickie Ciotti, executive director. “If we did not have this fundraiser, we would have to eliminate one of our programs, so that’s like saying, 'You can’t keep all your children.' How would you decide?”

For Ciotti, the gardening, education and environmental programs all build camaraderie; and everyone involved—whether it's one of the 500 volunteers who assist the nonprofit, or the visitor who happens upon the unlikely refuge nestled within the city—feels welcome.
 
“You see people who you haven’t seen in a long time, and it’s the most enjoyable, relaxed fundraiser I’ve ever been a part of,” Ciotti says. “There’s just this spirit to the place—we see people as they are, meet people where they are—and it’s not a pretentious group of people at all.”

Do Good:

Register for the plant sale's preview party. 

• Attend the plant sale is May 3-4. View details here.

Volunteer with the Civic Garden Center.

By Brittany York

Brittany York is a professor of English composition at the University of Cincinnati and a project manager for Charitable Words. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia. 


 

Local small biz owners launch app to increase charitable giving

When Daniel Graff, Giveunity co-founder, heard his friend’s—and now, business partner’s—story about how he tried to donate money to a homeless shelter, but couldn’t, he knew something needed to change.
 
“He had seen something downtown that triggered the idea of donating to this shelter,” Graff says.
 
“So by the time he got home and found the shelter on his laptop and he went to their little online website donation page, and it wouldn’t take some of his data, and he had to re-fill out the form, and as he tells it, the dog started barking, had to go out, and the wife came home—long story short—after an hour of trying to give them money and couldn’t, he just gave up.”
 
So Graff and his wife, designers and owners of Graff Designs Inc., and their two friends—both of MOBA Interactive—had dinner and put their heads together to come up with an idea for a smartphone app that allows individuals to donate to a local nonprofit in just three easy clicks.

With the Graffs' design skills and MOBA Interactive partners' technological expertise, the four were able to combine their knowledge to create and launch the app this past February. 

It's completely free for everyone to use, as the four app developers funded the project completely on their own, and within its first 50 days in the app store, it received 1,800 profile views. According to Graff, the top donation so far is $500 dollars, with the average contribution being about $38 dollars; and the money reaches the nonprofit instantly.

"What's been really fun for us is that we've had nonprofits showing up on the app that we didn't even know existed, and that's kind of the idea of the 'explore' section, but I've had my business now for 18 years and just wanted to do something to give back to Cincinnati," Graff says. "We don't always have the funds to donate to nonprofits, but we certainly have the time and talent to build this and give back."
 

Do Good:

Download the free app today.

• Like Giveunity's Facebook page, and tell your friends.

• If you're a nonprofit, register for free and create your profile and $GiveTag.

By Brittany York

Brittany York is a professor of English composition at the University of Cincinnati and a project manager for Charitable Words. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia. 

 

UC promotes inventiveness, innovation among students

University of Cincinnati associate professor Catalin Macarie says he wants the next innovation like Google or Facebook to come from a UC student.
 
In order to help make that happen, he took on a leadership role in rebranding the Innovation Quest Elevator Pitch, which he expanded from last year to create a university-wide opportunity, open to all majors.
 
“My ultimate goal, and this is pretty much my dream: to stop the brain drain that happened for so many years in Cincinnati,” Macarie says. “And get all these students the opportunity to stick around and continue with their ideas to have support, money and a place to help make this a solid, thriving community for young entrepreneurs, innovators and young startups.”
 
Macarie put this year’s event together, as 113 registered teams of students were given 90 seconds to present their pitches to judges and potential investors from within the local entrepreneurship community.
 
Cash prizes of up to $1,000 dollars were awarded for the top three ideas at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, and a separate award was set aside for a social enterprise.
 
The money is intended to help kick-start a plan of action, and in the case of this year’s winners, it covers everything from innovations with footwear to pharmaceuticals. 
 
“It’s all about the spirit and getting the confidence,” Macarie says. “It’s about carrying out the name of UC. It’s not inert—it’s an active, dynamic position for UC to work with the entrepreneurship community, with innovation—it’s a nice synergy going forward where every side is really helping each other.”
 
Do Good:

• Keep up with the event website, and get involved in next year's competition. 

• Spread the word. 

Connect with Catalin Macarie if you're interested in sponsoring a student or learning about a project.
 
By Brittany York

Brittany York is a professor of English composition at the University of Cincinnati and a project manager for Charitable Words. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia. 


Meet neighbors, fund community-based ideas at Cincinnati SOUP

The Cincinnati Human Relations Commission hosted its first Cincinnati SOUP event last month and awarded $132 dollars to Elevate Walnut Hills, which is a coalition of individuals working to ensure engagement and knowledge throughout the community’s revitalization efforts.
 
SOUP is a model based on something done in Detroit, where individuals join together over a potluck dinner to bond and share ideas, which they then vote on and fund something they care about by combining small donations.
 
“We were interested in how this initiative that was started by four or five people became a citywide movement that’s literally led to the funding of dozens of projects,” says Christina Brown, CHRC’s community outreach and engagement coordinator. “It’s a way to find unique projects that individuals can literally pay for themselves within their communities.”
 
The CHRC plans to host SOUP events bi-monthly to give individuals opportunities to find ways to fuel creativity and make a real difference within the City of Cincinnati.
 
And the best part, according to Brown, is that anyone can get involved.
 
“It can be startup funding. If you want to start a dads and donuts club where you have dads come together and give donuts to kids, you don’t need a nonprofit for that, but they need money to purchase the donuts,” Brown says. “You don’t have to be affiliated with a 501c3. You can just be a concerned citizen.” 

Do Good:

• Keep up with the CHRC website so you know when the next Cincinnati SOUP event will take place. Plan to attend or potentially present your idea.

• Get to know your neighbors.

• Like the CHRC's page on Facebook.

By Brittany York

Brittany York is a professor of English composition at the University of Cincinnati and a project manager for Charitable Words. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia.


Singing with neighbors at Northside Tavern

A group of about 20 individuals, all who love to sing, join together once a month at Northside Tavern to bond with one another, learn a song, rehearse it and perform it—all in a matter of three hours.
 
Sing! Cincinnati is just one of Starfire Council of Greater Cincinnati’s initiatives aimed at building a sense of community around shared interests.
 
“Inevitably, someone will always come to the back and talk about how back in college, they used to be involved in xyz choir or some choral group—something they had done previously—but then because of getting in a career, they put it by the wayside, but continue to miss it since they stopped doing it,” says Michael Heckmann, who serves as project manager for some of Starfire’s community-based initiatives, like Sing! Cincinnati.
 
“There’s not a lot of time pressure: You show up, you practice, you sing—it’s all in one night.”
 
The project just started a few months ago, but so far, the small group has performed “For the Longest Time,” “Pure Imagination” and “Happy.”
 
“I've thoroughly enjoyed helping take familiar songs and bring them to life with the amazing people that come to the events,” says Ali Marvin, one of Sing! Cincinnati’s directors. “I can't express how overwhelmed I am by the response from those who have come and can’t wait to see more of Cincinnati start singing together.”
 
Any individual who enjoys meeting neighbors and singing is encouraged to join in, as it helps Starfire to fulfill its mission of bringing people together.
 
“We want to make sure that everyone in the community is seen for their gifts and talents and the contributions they can make to society,” Heckmann says. “Those contributions lead to the building of relationships and growing of respect for all people.”

Do Good:

• Like Sing! Cincinnati on Facebook.

• Attend the next Sing! Cincinnati gathering at Northside Tavern April 23 from 6-9 p.m.

• Bring a friend. 

By Brittany York

Brittany York is a professor of English composition at the University of Cincinnati and a project manager for Charitable Words. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia. 


Philanthropic biz recognized for creating positive social and environmental impact

A 17-year long career in consulting wasn’t enough for Kelly Dolan, co-founder and CEO of Ingage Partners. There was something missing.
 
“Myself and my business partner Michael Kroeger got to the point in our careers where we felt like there was something different we could be doing that’s more purposeful and more fulfilling,” Dolan says.
 
“So we decided to start up Ingage Partners with the prospect of leveraging what we know—the consulting industry—to create a company that thinks differently, and hopefully inspires and engages people to think differently.”
 
After just three years of being in business, Ingage Partners has already etched its place in the B Corp (benefit corporation) community, as it was recently recognized for creating the most positive overall social and environmental impact by nonprofit B Lab, with the release of its B Corp Best for the World list.
 
“The model that B Corp is trying to present is this idea that, ‘No, my company’s not best in the world. We’re trying to be the best for the word,’” Dolan says.
 
Ingage is one of 92 businesses worldwide recognized, which puts it in the top 10 percent of the 990 total B Corporations nationally.
 
According to Dolan, when she and Kroeger started Ingage, they knew they wanted a strong focus on giving back to the community.
 
So, each year, the company gives 25 percent of its profits to charity. Ingage employees are also given four hours per month for paid volunteer time off. And there’s a program in place where Ingage matches donations of its employees when they give to an organization or cause they’re particularly passionate about.
 
“What we’re trying to do is inspire and engage people to do things differently—try to give back more to the community so that our business can be used for that force for good,” Dolan says. “It’s about modeling that. It’s about our employees giving of their talents, giving of their time, as well as building some momentum around this idea of using business for good.” 

Do Good: 

• Use the #bthechange hashtag to show how you're using business as a force for good. 

• Consider ways you can begin to use business for good. It starts with an individual. 

• Like Ingage Partners on Facebook.

By Brittany York

Brittany York is a professor of English composition at the University of Cincinnati and a project manager for Charitable Words. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia. 


Comic Con comes to Cincinnati Public Library for 2nd straight year

If attending Zombie Preparedness Boot Camp has ever crossed your mind, you’ll probably want to mark some Cincinnati Library Comic Con 2014 events on your calendar for the next couple months.
 
“We’re going to go over the types of zombies there are, the theories behind how the viruses are spread, as well as do activities—like build a zombie survival kit,” says LeeAnn McNabb, PLCHC reference librarian. “So we’ll see who has the best score, and there will be prizes.”
 
Zombie Preparedness Boot Camp is just one of the many options the public has to choose from when considering an educational and entertaining event for community engagement.
 
“We’re having a drawing contest now—it can be comic book, manga or anime related—and people ages 5 and up can participate,” McNabb says. “But we have events for a variety of age groups that are related to comic books or graphic novels or manga—things of that nature—and then the main event, where there will be booths and a gaming area.”
 
Various art and writing guests will also be present throughout the series of events.
 
“We bring in people who are professionals, and they’ll do a workshop on say, writing for comic books, or drawing for comic books. And of course we have materials within our collection that artists or writers can use to hone their skills or learn what they need to do for that particular genre or format,” McNabb says.
 
“So there’s a multifaceted educational approach for this event, and in general for comic books and graphic novels. We’re just hoping for a fun space where people can learn about our resources and have fun at the same time.”

Do Good: 

• Learn about the drawing contest, and consider entering. 

• Keep up with the events schedule, and plan to attend. 

• Like the PLCHC on Facebook.

 By Brittany York

Brittany York is a professor of English composition at the University of Cincinnati and a project manager for Charitable Words. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia. 

 

Local student launches campaign so she can serve in Nicaragua

For University of Cincinnati communications major Brandie Potzick, traveling to Nicaragua last year was a life-changing experience.
 
Potzick traveled with UC student group Serve Beyond Cincinnati to photograph and shoot video of the students as they helped build water and sanitation systems for those living in rural Nicaragua. But this year, Potzick is going back on her own and has launched a crowdfunding campaign to make it all happen.
 
“When I went last year, it was different than anything I’ve ever experienced, but at the same time, I felt this very strange connection to home,” Potzick says. “I felt very comfortable there, and I experienced more hospitality and love than I expected, and one of the biggest things that I learned while I was there was just how similar people are.”
 
Potzick will spend three weeks in May as she works with Nicaraguan-based nonprofit Amigos for Christ—an organization that serves the rural community by facilitating “water, health, education and economic development.”
 
“Where I was last year—most of the people in that village had to walk up to two miles to get their clean water for the day—and it’s something that’s really hard to manage, because insanitary water is the number one cause of skin disease and diarrhea and all sorts of other diseases that are most common in Nicaragua,” Potzick says.
 
In many communities there, Potzick says it’s not unusual for people to wash their clothes, go to the bathroom, drink and bathe in the same water.
 
“We know how unsanitary that is,” Potzick says. “So what Amigos does is makes it so every family in these rural communities can have up to 100 gallons of water per day for less than $5 a month, and it greatly increases their chance at a more healthy life.”

Do Good:

• Support Brandie in her crowdfunding campaign

Learn about Nicaragua.

• Engage in service opportunities in Nicaragua through Serve Beyond Cincinnati or Amigos for Christ.

By Brittany York

Brittany York is a professor of English composition at the University of Cincinnati and a project manager for Charitable Words. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia. 


Lower Price Hill Community School set to expand community outreach

In the coming months, the Lower Price Hill Community School will undergo a name change as it expands services to focus its efforts on education and improving the community through two nonprofits: Education Matters and Community Matters.
 
“But the Lower Price Hill Community School is not going away,” says Mike Moroski, LPHCS director of outreach services. “The administration’s staying the same. We’re not only going to be providing the same services we always have—we’re going to provide them on a larger scale—plus offer new services to the community.”
 
Moroski will transition into the role of director for Community Matters, which he says will function as a safe haven for residents, while offering access to more community events and opportunities.
 
“One of the things I’ve always been attracted to about LPHCS is they’re not interested in coming into the community and saying, ‘Here’s what you need to be better,’” Moroski says. “They’re interested in finding out what the community wants and then providing it.”
 
Lower Price Hill, for example, has no laundromat; so the nonprofit is working with Xavier University to launch one through the Washing Well project, which will eventually be turned over to the neighborhood as a co-op.
 
A business plan is currently in the works, and Moroski says the long-term vision is to work with Xavier University professors to offer a business incubator course, which would be open to anyone—Lower Price Hill resident or not—who would eventually like to open a new space in Lower Price Hill.
 
Jack’s Diner will also enter the neighborhood, as it takes shape within the renovated property that once housed the Urban Appalachian Council. The diner will serve not only as the only restaurant within the neighborhood, but the upstairs will function as a service learning center for high schools and colleges.
 
“It serves the neighborhood, it could be a revenue stream for the nonprofit Community Matters, and it’s a gathering place,” Moroski says. “So now we have the opportunity to provide educational space and have another revenue generator for the school.” 

Do Good:

Support Community Matters through its crowdfunding campaign. 

Support the Lower Price Hill Community School by donating, volunteering or spreading the word.

Contact Mike Moroski if you're interested in volunteering. 

By Brittany York

Brittany York is a professor of English composition at the University of Cincinnati and a project manager for Charitable Words. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia. 


ReSource launches nonprofit Member Makeover Contest

ReSource, a local organization that strengthens nonprofits by distributing “corporate surplus” like office supplies and furniture, just launched its inaugural Member Makeover Contest.
 
The winner will receive a renovation of an indoor space that is utilized to support its overall mission.
 
Last year, ReSource initiated a Member Makeover Program, in which the Lower Price Hill Community School and the YWCA House of Peace Shelter received makeovers, but this year, ReSource wants to engage the public.
 
“Collaboration’s kind of the name of the game in nonprofit now, and we love the idea,” says Martha Steier, development director at ReSource. “We decided to put it in a contest so the public can vote on it, and we’ve gotten a lot of interest from volunteers—some interior designers, DAAP students from UC willing to come out and be a work crew—so based on the response of volunteers and our members, we’ll use the time, talent and treasure that comes along to the max.”
 
Since ReSource functions as a business-to-business operation, Steier says the general public isn’t always aware of its efforts to assist member nonprofits, but a makeover is something she says is fun and that has the ability to engage anyone.
 
“Whether you have to do one in your own home or own office, or if you’re an HGTV junkie, you might appreciate the fact that nonprofits need makeovers,” Steier says. “So we’re looking at it as a benefit of membership. And nonprofits don’t get to treat themselves to a fresh start or upgrade, so we feel like this will be a wonderful way to get the word out about ReSource so we can all support the nonprofit community better.” 

Do Good:

• If you're a nonprofit member, register for the contest by March 14. Keep an eye on the website, as voting opens March 24.

• If you're not a nonprofit member, sign up by March 14, and then register for the contest.

• Support ReSource by donating or engaging in corporate sponsorships.

By Brittany York

Brittany York is a professor of English composition at the University of Cincinnati and a project manager for Charitable Words. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia. 

 

WomenWorkBooks showcases female identity, self-expression

WomenWorkBooks, which is a collaborative group exhibition of art books created by local female artists and teen girls, makes its debut at Kennedy Heights Arts Center Saturday.
 
The exhibit coincides with National Women’s History Month; and for Kennedy Heights Art Center’s Executive Director Ellen Muse-Lindeman, the project, which was inspired by work created by women in Art4Artists, is a way to showcase individual women’s voices.
 
“They’re beautiful works of art, so in talking about the exhibit, I just really saw not only how much the books are able to be enjoyed in terms of their artistic expression, but also how they can really serve as a springboard for discussion on a whole range of issues related to women and women’s lives,” Muse-Lindeman says.
 
Each art book showcases women’s hopes, dreams and curiosities, and contains responses to themes like “Voices Swimming in My Head,” “Odd Jobs for Odd Women” and “Wrinkles.”
 
The mission at Kennedy Heights Arts Center is to present visual art that sparks conversation, but it’s also to bring diverse groups of artists together, Muse-Lindeman says.
 
To that end, KHAC facilitated a project with teen girls, who used mixed-media methods like sewing, collage and painting to reflect themes like self-awareness and relationships. Their work will be displayed alongside the books made by Art4Artists.

Following one of the teen art sessions, Muse-Lindeman says she spoke with a participant who gained self-confidence as a result of the project; and that’s something she hopes finds it way into the lives of future participants this spring, as the arts center will continue its work in the community to provide similar opportunities for at-risk girls from Cincinnati Public SchoolsThe Children’s Home of CincinnatiLighthouse Youth Services and The Family Nurturing Center.

“She realized that she always was frustrated making visual art because she felt she’d have to make it look a certain way, and she really came through this experience understanding that art is really an expression of one’s self, so there really isn’t a right or wrong or a good or bad,” Muse-Lindeman says. “She really embraced that through the project, in terms of not feeling so self-conscious, but really of being proud of what she accomplished.”

Do Good:

• Attend the opening reception for WomenWorkBooks Saturday, March 8 from 6-8 p.m., and if you can't make it, check out the exhibit during gallery hours. It runs through April 19. 

• Meet the artists, and attend a panel discussion April 5 at 2 p.m. Call 513-631-4278 to schedule a personalized tour and hands-on activity if you have a group interested in attending. 

Support the Kennedy Heights Arts Center.

By Brittany York

Brittany York is a professor of English composition at the University of Cincinnati and a project manager for Charitable Words. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia. 

 

Children, Inc. honors long-time volunteer's childcare and literacy efforts

When Children, Inc. supporters join together at the organization’s annual fundraiser Raising of the Green, they’ll celebrate children and families in our communities who are taking steps toward self-sufficiency.
 
They’ll also honor the individuals who have played integral roles within the organization when it comes to service and a belief in the capabilities of others.
 
This year’s honorary event chair and recipient of the Charity in Action Award is Julie Elkus, director of innovation and design at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and long-time volunteer with VISIONS, an organization that merged with Children, Inc. last year.
 
“I was really on the ground floor of VISIONS in getting it up and running when I first moved to Cincinnati 25 years ago,” Elkus says.
 
At the time, Elkus paired up with Marcia Simmons who had just received the initial funding for a childcare facility in the West End.
 
“She had written a master’s thesis as part of her nursing degree on teen parenting and just recognized the number-one reason teen parents drop out of school is due to lack of childcare,” Elkus says. “So she wanted to be able to address that need within the community.”
 
It was through her service at VISIONS that Elkus says she recognized the need for a new approach to emphasizing the importance of childhood literacy.
 
“The way in which we were communicating to our moms about that probably wasn’t very effective,” Elkus says. “We had some talking pieces about brain development and how much of the brain is developed prior to 2 years old and the impact of reading and language on the brain and the links between reading and language with success in school, but it was really presented in some sheets of paper and pamphlets and information that wasn’t particularly easy to read or very user-friendly.”
 
So she wrote the children’s book “When My Mama Reads to Me,” and co-founded Reading For Life to secure funds to illustrate the book, publish it in English and Spanish and distributed 80,000 free copies to places like preschools and physicians’ offices.
 
“When a parent sits and holds a child in their lap, that child knows that parent loves and cares for them, and they start to associate reading with that sense of love and companionship,” Elkus says. “I’m hoping that I have created that experience for families who may not have had an awareness of the importance before or had a book in their home before.”

Do Good:

• Support Children, Inc. by attending Raising of the Green 2014.

Volunteer with Children, Inc.

• Read to a child.

By Brittany York

Brittany York is a professor of English composition at the University of Cincinnati and a project manager for Charitable Words. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia. 

 

SPARK expands to prepare more children for kindergarten

The Children’s Home of Cincinnati has offered the Supporting Partnerships to Assure Ready Kids (SPARK) program since 2009, and it continues to expand its reach, as it now serves children in four different Cincinnati communities.
 
The program’s goal is to help prepare children for the transition from preschool to kindergarten, with a particular emphasis on children who have never attended preschool.
 
“Together—me and the parents—we develop a learning plan, and that’s determined by things I see on the assessment,” says Felicia Selvie, SPARK parent partner. “And some things the parent wants to see the child work on might be, ‘I want them to identify letters in their name, I want them to write their name, I want them to tie their shoes'.”
 
SPARK has a set curriculum for 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds, but Selvie says she and other parent partners always leave a book as an activity for parents and children to read together as an at-home activity.
 
“They are getting the foundation—some kind of education—so that when they come into the school building, they’re not so behind,” Selvie says.
 
“We’re working on colors, numbers, letters, writing—and these are things that if they’re not in school, they’re not getting any of that," she continues. "The parents, of course, are working with them, but a lot of kids—they’re looking forward to having someone else other than mom work with them.” 

Do Good:

Support SPARK so it can become available to more schools in the future.

• Like SPARK on Facebook, and spread the word to your friends.

Contact Felicia if you'd like to donate books to the program.

By Brittany York

Brittany York is a professor of English composition at the University of Cincinnati and a project manager for Charitable Words. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia. 


Former teacher founds nonprofit for students who go against the grain

A few years ago, Michael Farrell Jr. was living in Chicago, but he says he got the itch to move back home; so he packed his bags, returned to Cincinnati and began taking classes at Xavier University so he could become a teacher.
 
After graduating and securing his teaching license, Farrell Jr. landed a job at St. Francis Seraph in Over-the-Rhine, but he still hadn’t found his calling.
 
“Probably like most people who teach in inner city, I was all geared up to change the world,” Farrell Jr. says. “But when I got there, I quickly realized there were a lot more challenges there than I would ever be able to imagine in my life.”
 
Despite the circumstances, something stood out to Farrell Jr.
 
“I realized in every class at our school from eighth grade to kindergarten, there were always those one or two kids in every class who came from the same circumstances as the rest of the kids, but for various reasons and motivations, there were always the one or two who did everything you asked them to do,” Farrell Jr. says. “They did their homework every night, they studied for tests, participated in class, were respectful to the teachers, staff, their classmates.”
 
So Farrell Jr. founded Against the Grain Scholars, a nonprofit dedicated to building on the foundations already established in these students’ lives, while also introducing them to community networks and showing them the impact they can have in the lives of others.
 
“The kids were going against the grain of the popular culture of their peers,” Farrell Jr. says. “And I started to realize, most of the nonprofits are geared toward a mission that’s more aligned with ‘let’s take the bad kids and make them good,’ ‘let’s grease the squeakiest wheel,’ and the thing that drove me crazy was here you have this subset of kids who are doing everything you’re asking them to do despite their circumstances, and no one’s focusing on them.”
 
So Farrell Jr. inducted the first two ATGS in December 2012. Now there are five scholars, and Farrell Jr. hopes to add two more at the start of the next school year. He’s already had to purchase a special vehicle so there are enough seats and seatbelts for everyone to ride along to tutoring and volunteer opportunities, in addition to activities and dinners where they debrief.
 
“You hear all these stories about what’s going on at home and have newspaper evidence of situations, and some of it could be true, some could be rumors, but of the stuff I knew, I thought, ‘Here’s this kid who could probably use every excuse in the book to come in here and act like a total knucklehead,’” Farrell Jr. says.
 
“But he comes in every day with his homework as if he has the teacher’s manual in his lap, and you wonder how a kid like this goes home and even finds a place to do his homework, and he was just grinding it out, so I thought, ‘OK, there’s programs, but the commitments are too heavy,’ so I though there needs to be some sort of nonprofit, some sort of in-between to reinforce his behavior and help him along the path.” 

Do Good:

Support ATGS by donating.

• Check out ATGS' Calendar of Events, and contact Michael Farrel Jr. if you're interested in getting involved or attending an event with the group.

• Like ATGS on Facebook, and share the page with your friends.

By Brittany York

Brittany York is a professor of English composition at the University of Cincinnati and a project manager for Charitable Words. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia. 


CSO celebrates African American song with Classical Roots

About 150 voices from dozens of Tri-State churches will join together in song Friday evening in one of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra’s biggest community outreach initiatives of the year.
 
Classical Roots, which is an annual program that celebrates African American musical traditions, is focusing its efforts this year on the power of song.
 
“Each year we have a different theme,” says Paul Booth, chair of the CSO’s Diversity and Inclusion board committee. “And everyone you speak with that performs with the choir indicates it’s an absolutely awesome experience.”
 
Cincinnati Pops conductor John Morris Russell will lead the Community Mass Choir, who will perform with the Cincinnati Symphony’s full orchestra, in addition to special guest performers, like Grammy-Award winning Gospel leader and pastor Marvin Winans, who is headling the event.
 
“It’s unique in that persons from all walks of life, who perhaps just love to sing, but who also do have some ability to read music, can perform with a world-class orchestra and conductor,” Booth says.
 
Making classical music accessible to a wide range of audiences is one of the CSO’s goals, and reaching out to community members to make the symphony experience one that all can enjoy and learn from is something the organization does an excellent job with, Booth says.
 
“Our world is diverse, and certainly Cincinnati is a diverse city,” Booth says. “And I think any organization that’s going to be successful should be certain that they reach out and involve and appeal to all aspects and segments of the community.” 

Do Good:

• Purchase a ticket to attend Classical Roots, Friday, March 7 at 7:30 p.m., and spread the word about the event to your family and friends.

Support the CSO and Pops by donating.

• Like the CSO on Facebook.

By Brittany York

Brittany York is a professor of English composition at the University of Cincinnati and a project manager for Charitable Words. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia. 


YWCA celebrates female leadership in workforce

Charlene Ventura, president and CEO of the YWCA of Greater Cincinnati was involved in the women’s movement in Cincinnati prior to beginning her career in 1974. 

“There were a lot of inequities,” Ventura says. 

“There were jobs that were not open to women in Cincinnati—people who would collect money from meters, elevator operators. The newspaper ads were stereotypical, with nursing, clerical jobs, cleaning—maybe a teacher—and all the others were male help wanted.” 

So Ventura worked with the YWCA as a collaborator to open city jobs to women and to change the advertising system so all jobs were open and weren’t categorized based on gender. 

During a time period when women were making 60 cents for every dollar a man made, Ventura says it was important to celebrate role models for women in the workplace. 

“There were no women astronauts, there was one woman CEO of a Fortune 500 company, who got the title because her husband died, and there were no women on the Supreme Court,” Ventura says. “And we thought this was a pretty dismal scene, so YWCAs across the country were starting to look at women’s economic empowerment.” 

So the YWCA hosted its first Career Women of Achievement event to celebrate female leaders in the workplace, and now, 35 years later, women are making 74 cents for every dollar a man makes, there are 57 female astronauts, 22 who are CEOs of Fortune 500 companies and three who are on the Supreme Court. 

At this year’s May 14 event, eight women will be recognized, while scholarships will be awarded to promising future leaders. 

“These are unsung heroines, and oftentimes people haven’t heard of them,” Ventura says. “But it’s really important to present their accomplishments and leadership, so they can lift as they climb and help others say, ‘I can do that.’” 

Do Good:

Purchase a ticket for this year's luncheon.

Support the YWCA by volunteering or donating.

• If you are a woman seeking assistance or shelter, contact the YWCA by calling one of its hotlines. 

By Brittany York

Brittany York is a professor of English composition at the University of Cincinnati and a project manager for Charitable Words. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia. 

Illustrators collaborate with WordPlay students on exquisite corpse project

Some of Cincinnati’s best illustrators showcased their work this past weekend at the opening reception for STORY TELLING: The Fine Art of Illustration.
 
Brazee Street Studios and C|LINK, a website designed to connect local creatives with one another, are presenting the exhibition, which runs through April 4 and features collaborative pieces by eight illustrators and children at WordPlay.
 
“We had our very wonderful willing illustrators start off a drawing of a character, so they made a head or face, and we took them back to WordPlay and let the kids finish them,” says Leah Busch, gallery coordinator at Brazee.
 
WordPlay is a Northside-based nonprofit that provides free tutoring, literacy and creative writing programs for students; but it’s this kind of unique opportunity that sets it apart as an engaging place for an entire community.
 
Tara Calahan King, illustrator, muralist and public sculpture designer, says she was particularly excited to create something students at WordPlay could build on because she’s worked with children for about 20 years and has had the chance to witness many different reactions in response to illustrations.
 
“Usually it’s grand excitement,” she says. “I can only imagine when they first saw the character’s head—their expression—I’m sure there were big smiles on their faces, and just the excitement to complete that figure—the body—and to feel a part of something—to feel that connection between ourselves and them.” 
 
The project was inspiring for the children and the illustrators alike. Christina Wald, who drew a tiger in a top hat, liked her character so much, she’s going to incorporate it into her comics.
 
“How amazing for these kids to be showing with artists like Tara and Christina,” Busch says. “I think Brazee as a whole—that’s part of our mission—to just be really accessible.” 

Do Good:

• View the exhibition at gallery One One.

Support WordPlay by donating or volunteering.

Join C|LINK.

By Brittany York

Brittany York is a professor of English composition at the University of Cincinnati and a project manager for Charitable Words. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia.


Shared gifts, knowledge at Local Learning Labs

Price Hill is the most recent and third Cincinnati community to offer citizens monthly meet-ups and free classes at its Local Learning Lab.
 
Local Learning Labs, which are also offered in Northside and Silverton, are environments designed to engage community members in teaching and learning.
 
“Anyone can come, and all are invited,” says Danyetta Najoli, co-host of Price Hill’s Learning Lab and community coordinator at Starfire Council of Greater Cincinnati.
 
Price Hill’s Local Learning Lab kicked off in January, and since its inception, individuals have come together to learn about things like aromatherapy, gardening, and African and Brazilian dance.
 
Sarah Buffie, community connector at Starfire—the local nonprofit that hosts the Local Learning Labs—says the gatherings provide an outlet for community members to share gifts without the exchange of money. All sessions are completely free.
 
“Community members can see themselves as access points to one another. We’re in a society where a lot of communication happens through the internet, and being able to get together and see one another as gifted and talented people, versus neighbors we never talk to—it starts to break down some of those social barriers we might have,” Buffie says.
 
“It’s bringing back that borrow-a-cup-of-sugar mentality. Why go out of your community when you can get it right there?” 

Do Good:

Attend the Price Hill location's Local Learning Lab March 11. 

Get connected with your community at another Starfire-hosted event, including Local Learning Labs in Silverton and Northside. 

• Contact Danyetta or Sarah if you're interested in bringing a Local Learning Lab to your own community.

By Brittany York

Brittany York is a professor of English composition at the University of Cincinnati and a project manager for Charitable Words. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia. 


More than 200 boys will join in song at free boychoir fest

The third annual Cincinnati Boychoir Festival will bring upwards of 200 boys from more than 80 different schools together Saturday to sing at Memorial Hall.

Most boys will see the music for the first time Saturday morning, but for those involved with Cincinnati Sings!, it’s a culminating performance and a chance for students to showcase their efforts from the past six weeks.

“It had become primarily a suburban institution, but we wanted to make sure we were reaching boys of all parts of the city, of all economic levels, of all talent levels,” says KellyAnn Nelson, festival director.

Nelson directs Cincinnati Sings!, which is a volunteer choir for elementary school students in five Cincinnati Public Schools.

“We’re getting feedback from their teachers and finding out it’s something they look forward to each week,” Nelson says.

In fact, the biggest problem the choir has, Nelson says, is singing too loud—they have passion.

The festival is a way to give a one-day experience to any boy from around the city.

“We have boys coming from Mason, we have boys who have never sang in a choir in their life, we have boys who are black, Hispanic, white—all together, singing together for a day, wearing the same T-shirt, eating the same pizza and singing the same music,” Nelson says. “The boys are really in love with it.”

Do Good:

• Attend the free concert at 1 p.m. Saturday.

• Check out the full events schedule, and attend a Cincinnati Boychoir concert.

•  Support the Cincinnati Boychoir.

By Brittany York

Brittany York is a professor of English composition at the University of Cincinnati and a project manager for Charitable Words. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia.


Creative writing workshop will build community through storytelling

Everyone has a story to tell.

A Community of Stories, which is a two-day creative writing workshop, will bring individuals from all walks of life together so they can share those stories with otherwise unlikely recipients.

“Through the power of our words, we have the ability to change the world, and when people agree to come together like this, it creates an impact,” says Wendy Braun, head of creative writing at the School for Creative & Performing Arts and founder of the workshop.

“So many people are silenced here—you’ll hear one story, and it’s like it’s the only story, or the only voice.”

At the two-day workshop, high school students, teachers, professional writers, community members and guests from local organizations like City Gospel Mission, Our Daily Bread and Tender Mercies will join together to engage in flash fiction, poetry, spoken word and other forms of writing.

It’s a chance, Braun say, for people to get to know each other and break down barriers.

“One thing I noticed about writing workshops and events is they tend to be closed off to people who have a CV or resume that proves they’re a writer,” Braun says. “At SCPA, some of my kids have money, some don’t at all. But I was able to get enough people together who literally out of the goodness of their heart thought that this was a good cause.”

Do Good:

Register for the event, which takes place March 22-23. Participants must register by February 21.

Contact Clare Blankemeyer if you're a writer interested in participating, or if you're willing to donate snacks or bottles of water for workshop participants.

• Spread the word about the upcoming workshop, and encourage your friends to attend.

By Brittany York

Brittany York is a professor of English composition at the University of Cincinnati and a project manager for Charitable Words. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia. 

 

Fidelity employees engage in virtual mentorship

Fidelity celebrated National Mentoring Month at the end of January by kicking off its innovative new program, which allows its employees to engage in a year-long virtual partnership with 40 students from the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Cincinnati.

“The students will actually be talking with their mentors about some specific topics that coordinate with the Diplomas to Degrees program, which each month highlights a different topic—one month might be college access, one might be financial literacy,” says Niki Gordon, Fidelity’s manager of community relations and program mentor.

The virtual mentorship program is the result of a partnership organized by Cincinnati Youth Collaborative, whose mission is to “empower vulnerable children,” says Danielle Gentry-Barth, CYC chief development officer.

For Fidelity call center employees, it’s a way to engage with others in a meaningful way, without the stresses of coordinating schedules that require employees to leave the office during lunch or in between commutes.

“We have about 4,000 employees here, and we have a lot of folks on the phone and a lot of folks that are required to travel for their jobs as well,” Gordon says.

“When we were looking for mentoring opportunities, a lot required them to take a day out of their week to go visit the student at their school, so when you’re looking at someone with a day job and they have a family, a couple hours a week ends up taking a lot of time realistically out of their day, so we wanted to make it convenient for the mentor and the mentee.”

Do Good:

• Be a mentor.

Support the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Cincinnati.

Contact CYC if you'd like to specialize a mentor program with your own company.

By Brittany York

Brittany York is a professor of English composition at the University of Cincinnati and a project manager for Charitable Words. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia.


Creativity and cuisine will collide at The Carnegie's Art of Food

Visual artists and some of the finest chefs in the Tri-State will join together at the end of this month for the opening reception of The Carnegie’s annual exhibition The Art of Food.
 
“This is the seventh year we’ve been doing it, and it’s really great,” says Katie Brass, executive director at The Carnegie. “There’s a lot of stuff you can build on, whether it’s cookware or utensils or wine glasses. We’ve had some amazing art come out of this. “
 
In addition to cookware and utensils, edible designs and creative dishes will fill all six of The Carnegie’s galleries, with creations from chefs ranging in specialties represented.
 
Seasonal foods from Eat Well and hand-crafted delights from Chocolats Latour are just a couple of the local eateries to be showcased at the culinary art show.
 
For Brass, though, The Art of Food is more than a display of unique art forms. It’s a community experience.
 
“Our gallery opening—just like when you sit down and eat—you’re with friends, and you sit down at the table, and you’re having this wonderful time,” Brass says. “And it all revolves around food—and that was the basis for this.”
 
The Art of Food opens February 28 at 6 p.m. and runs through March 16. 

Do Good:

Purchase a ticket to attend the opening reception of The Art of Food, February 28 from 6-9 p.m.

• Check out the exhibition during Gallery Hours, which are Wednesday-Saturday, 12-5 p.m. 

• Like The Carnegie on Facebook.

By Brittany York

Brittany York is a professor of English composition at the University of Cincinnati and a project manager for Charitable Words. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia. 


Downtown lawyer recruits 22 new tutors for Be The Change

When Andy Kaplan, a partner at Vorys law firm, first heard about Be The Change—a collaborative tutor recruitment program that serves students within the Cincinnati Public Schools district—signing up wasn’t a question.
 
“I always liked working with kids,” Kaplan says. “And my wife is an English teacher, and I have a son who did Teach for America, who is now teaching in the elementary school grades, so I knew I had some great resources for helping kids learn to read.”
 
After making a phone call, Kaplan found himself at Hays Porter Elementary School in the West End. Within a close proximity to his firm, Kaplan was able to begin tutoring during his lunch break once a week.
 
Now in his third year of tutoring, Kaplan has since recruited 22 other lawyers—more than 25 percent of Vorys’ lawyers in Cincinnati—to join in the effort.
 
“I thought, ‘We’ve got like 80 lawyers in our Cincinnati office,’ and figured there had to be a number of people who would find this attractive,” Kaplan says. “So I publicized it and called a meeting for people who had any interest.”
 
For Kaplan, tutoring is a special experience not only because he’s helping children succeed, but also because of the bond he’s able to form with students through literacy sponsorship.
 
“Virtually every single time I went to tutor, I’d come home with some moment that really kind of affected me—sort of an unexpected moment,” Kaplan says. “Like when my student last year would say to me, ‘Me and my daddy read that magazine you gave me over the weekend together,’ which is just what you’re hoping for.” 

Do Good:

Sign up as a Be The Change tutor. 

• Learn more about the need for tutors, and tell a friend. 

• Support your local school districts. 

By Brittany York

Brittany York is a professor of English composition at the University of Cincinnati and a project manager for Charitable Words. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia. 

 

Local man works to create sustainable fire service in Africa

After graduating from Northern Kentucky University in 2006, Dave Moore became fire chief of Glendale; but his life changed after visiting Nairobi, Kenya, on a mission trip in 2012.
 
“They run schools in the slums of Nairobi, and they had asked me to come and help with issues of fire safety because they had had some fires and welcome any sort of fire prevention there,” Moore says.
 
With three fire engines and 156 firefighters for a city of roughly 5 million people, Nairobi’s fire stations are underequipped and understaffed.
 
“We did basic training with the school staff—how to conduct a fire drill,” Moore says. “We taught some of the basics. They had never heard of stop drop and roll—that was a new concept for them.”
 
Moore says one thing the school asked was that he try to build a connection with the Nairobi fire department prior to returning to the United States, so he met the chief and was able to get some of the firefighters to also join in on the training sessions at the school.
 
“Then, as we were getting ready to head home, the fire chief asked if there was a way we could help the fire department in addition to the schools. I was expecting them to say, ‘We need money, fire trucks—big things,” Moore says. “But what won me over was when he said, ‘We need knowledge.'”
 
That comment stuck with Moore, and when he returned to Cincinnati, he left his job as fire chief and founded Africa Fire Mission—a local nonprofit dedicated to “building and increasing the sustainable capacity of fire departments across Africa.”
 
Since that time, Moore has organized an effort to ship 200 sets of bunker gear and training materials to Nairobi; and this past November, he returned to the city with two other Cincinnati firefighters to provide a week of training to about 75 of Nairobi’s firefighters.
 
“One of the other benefits we could never have realized through the donations was bringing fire service to the forefront of the attention of the governor there,” Moore says. “He found out the fire department had been trying to buy fire trucks for years, and on the day of our donation, he signed a contract to buy nearly 30 fire trucks for Nairobi, which will be delivered by the end of 2014.”
 
Nairobi’s fire service is improving, but Moore says he’s not going to leave them behind.
 
“We’re working to create sustainable fire departments,” Moore says. “Not one-time gifts where the support then goes away.”

Do Good:

• Support Africa Fire Mission by making a donation. The next set of donations and training materials will be sent to two cities in Zambia, and the cost to ship one container is $10,000 dollars.

Contact Dave if you'd like to volunteer with Africa Fire Mission in any capacity, or if you would be willing to allow Africa Fire Mission to speak about the organization at your community group, church, etc. 

• Support the organization by purchasing a Nairobi Fire Service t-shirt.

By Brittany York

Brittany York is a professor of English composition at the University of Cincinnati and a project manager for Charitable Words. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia. 

                                                

SVP Cincinnati coaches nonprofits for Fast Pitch speeches

For the past four weeks, eight nonprofits—all of which are working to transform the lives of at-risk children through education—have been training with Social Venture Partners Cincinnati coaches to perfect their elevator speeches for Fast Pitch.
 
SVP Cincinnati, the local chapter of an international group of philanthropists, is composed of 40 partners who do more than just fund nonprofits. Members give of their time, expertise and passion as they use their knowledge and skills to collaborate with local organizations to help them better fulfill their missions.
 
And on February 12, SVP Cincinnati will host 120 individuals involved in and supportive of the local nonprofit community at its inaugural Fast Pitch event at the Art Academy of Cincinnati, where organizations will have three minutes to hit on their key goals and accomplishments as they compete for one of three grants, ranging from $1,000-$5,000 dollars.
 
“Fast Pitch is known in the venture community, and we’re learning how to apply it to nonprofits,” says Melisse May, SVP partner and event chair. “And we’re filling a void as we get that training more established and broadened, because every nonprofit needs their elevator speech, and that’s where they struggle the most.”
 
While three nonprofits will receive a grant, all organizations competing will receive two hours of consulting on a topic of their choice; and according to May, the coaching is more valuable than the money to many of the nonprofits.
 
“In the case of Fast Pitch, it’s like Mark Twain said: ‘I apologize for the length of this letter, but I didn’t have time to make it shorter,’” May says. “It takes a lot of thought, a lot of crafting, and you have to really know the essence of your organization to have a good, short pitch.”  

Do Good:

Purchase tickets for Fast Pitch, where you'll hear from Tom + Chee founders—who certainly know how to pitch—and listen to competing nonprofits' speeches, then vote for your favorite. Tickets are $20 and include food from Tom + Chee, in addition to one drink ticket. 

• Join SVP Cincinnati by becoming a partner.

• Like SVP Cincinnati on Facebook, and if you're a nonprofit, connect with them and apply for a grant. 

By Brittany York

Brittany York is a professor of English composition at the University of Cincinnati and a project manager for Charitable Words. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia. 


From empathy to advocacy after SNAP challenge

In Hamilton County alone, 148,570 individuals—18.5 percent—are considered “food insecure.” More than 20 percent of that number is made up of children—40,250 of whom are not receiving sufficient nourishment.  

In an effort to raise awareness of food insecurity and increase advocacy for its 25 member groups, Community Shares of Greater Cincinnati recently completed its first SNAP Challenge, in which 55 individuals committed to eating on a strict budget for one week—a budget simulating the $31.50 per week allotted to an individual receiving SNAP benefits today. 

“We wanted to reiterate the fact that even though you’ve taken this challenge and it might have been difficult, that’s a tiny fraction of what someone in poverty would actually experience, because they have so many other things working against them,” says Alicia Hildebrand, an Americorps Public Ally and the organizer of Community Shares’ SNAP Out of It Challenge. 

Things like transportation, lack of time to meal-plan and lack of resources in the kitchen to prepare healthy meals are just a few of the obstacles hundreds of thousands of our neighbors are facing. 

As part of the challenge, Community Shares organized a meal-planning workshop, facilitated by Peachy Seiden of Peachy’s Health Smart, in an effort to show individuals facing food insecurity how they can maximize their resources to eat healthy. 

According to Hildebrand, many people realize that hunger exists, but they don’t realize the prevalence of food insecurity in our country, let alone our region. 

“The experience can be a great catalyst for the positive changes we want to see in our community,” Hildebrand says. “And I think that once you have the empathy and you understand and can make that change from a point of understanding, then you can turn that empathy into advocacy and take it to another level and work toward policy change.” 

Do Good:

• Support Community Shares' member organizations by giving.

• Volunteer with one of Community Shares' member organizations.

Contact Alicia Hildebrand if you're interested in getting involved with Community Shares.

By Brittany York

Brittany York is a professor of English composition at the University of Cincinnati and a project manager for Charitable Words. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia. 

 

CCC offers free choir program for CPS students

For the past three years, an anonymous donor has provided funds for the Cincinnati Children’s Choir to further its mission of providing “all children the opportunity to experience musical excellence in a creative environment.”
 
This year’s $20,000 donation will again allow the CCC to offer its free Cincinnati Public Schools Honor Choir program, which engages CPS students in fifth- through seventh-grades, in an intense two-day rehearsal program that culminates in a gala performance.
 
“Since so many schools are losing their music programs, this gives the opportunity for them to still get that musical exposure,” says Rachel Breeden, operations associate for the CCC.
 
CPS Honor Choir members will learn a diverse set of choral arrangements under the direction of nationally recognized musicians like Rollo Dilworth, associate professor at Temple University and highly sought-after African American composer, who will lead a day of rehearsals and serve as guest conductor for the students’ concert May 10.
 
“People send hundreds of dollars to do clinics with him, and we’re offering that for free to the community,” Breeden says.
 
The CCC’s resident and most advanced singers from the Bel Canto Choir, led by Robyn Lana, artistic director and program founder, will mentor the CPS Honor Choir throughout the weekend—an experience that Breeden says is invaluable in that it promotes leadership and music education.
 
“We’re creating leaders in our community because they’re learning to teach others these important skills,” Breeden says. “It’s important for us that generations pass on information to others, so we’re creating not only singers, but music educators and people who are passionate about the arts in our community.”

Do Good: 

• Register your child to participate in a Cincinnati Children's Choir program; and if your CPS student is recommended for the CPS Honor Choir, register them by March 7.

• Support students in the CPS Honor Choir by attending their free performance May 10 at 3 p.m. inside Corbett Auditorium.

• Like the CCC on Facebook to keep up with programming and events.

By Brittany York

Brittany York is a professor of English composition at the University of Cincinnati and a project manager for Charitable Words. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia. 

 

Local United Way leads nation in measuring social, emotional skills in youth

The United Way of Greater Cincinnati is leading the country in an effort to measure social and emotional skills through the implementation of the Devereux Student Strengths Assessment (DESSA)-mini.
 
The United Way partnered with Philadelphia-based nonprofit Devereux—an organization that supports behavioral health around the country—to create the system, which is a nationally standardized assessment and the first of its kind.
 
After the first year of data collection, more than 4,000 students from kindergarten through eighth-grade at 21 of the UWGC’s partner agencies, like Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Cincinnati and the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Cincinnati, have completed the assessment and will continue to use it to measure and adjust programming to better serve youth.
 
“Programs that promote social and emotional skills result in children doing better academically. They’re also the same skills in many cases that employers are looking for,” says Paul LeBuffe, director of the Devereux Center for Resilient Children.
 
According to LeBuffe, the ability of a child in school or an adult in the workforce to do things like “cooperate with their peers, make good decisions, manage their emotions and act ethically” are necessary skills that need to be taught so that one can succeed in life.
 
Social and emotional competencies come as a result of learning concepts like self-awareness and responsible decision-making during childhood, and LeBuffe says the UWGC is creating a model to show the nation how measuring soft skills can better communities.
 
One way these skills can be taught is evidenced by Chicago-based nonprofit Collaborative on Academic, Social and Emotional Learning's (CASEL) program, Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies (PATHS), which teaches first- and second-grade children “the turtle technique”.
 
“What they do is have a story about this turtle, and one of its strengths is it has a shell, and when a turtle has a problem to solve, they go inside their shell, and first they think of what the problem is, then think of different solutions, then think about what will happen if they try one of the solutions,” LeBuffe says.
 
“And then they pick one. So the kids will get down on the ground and pretend they’re a turtle, but what they’re doing is learning how to solve problems in a responsible fashion.” 

Do Good:

• Find volunteer opportunities through the United Way of Greater Cincinnati.

• If you're a parent, pay just as much attention to your child's social and emotional skills as you do for their academic skills.

• Advocate that schools implement programs to promote children's social and emotional well being.

By Brittany York

Brittany York is a professor of English composition at the University of Cincinnati and a project manager for Charitable Words. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia. 


NKY woman makes strides against nutritional poverty

When Monica Remmy settled on a place to live and made the decision to purchase a house, she found herself drawn to Northern Kentucky—more specifically Newport—because of its walkability and amenities.
 
“There’s a family-run butcher, two small theaters in walking distance—there’s a lot around here,” Remmy says.
 
The area is one Remmy appreciates, but she also understands the various needs of her community.
 
She lives just down the street from the Henry Hosea House—a nonprofit that serves those in need. And it’s the only Northern Kentucky facility that serves a hot evening meal seven days a week.
 
A few Christmases ago when Remmy couldn’t travel to Tennessee to visit her mother—who Remmy says grew up in Appalachia and knew what it was like to live in poverty—she took the money she would have spent on presents and instead bought items for the Hosea House.
 
“I dropped everything off and told them I have skills in graphic design and would like to help if I can,” Remmy says.
 
She later found herself putting together a fresh food drive for the organization, and spent most of 2011 helping the Hosea House apply for—and receive—a $30,000 grant to combat nutritional poverty.
 
“As part of the three things we wanted to do around nutritional poverty, I led a project on Hosea House’s behalf and put together a garden,” says Remmy, who now serves as volunteer manager for the garden, where she works to plant and harvest fresh produce for use in the soup kitchen.  
 
From non-GMO Roma tomatoes donated from someone in the neighborhood to plants offered from the individual on the other side of the neighboring fence, the backyard plot of land has transformed into a focal point in the community.
 
“Everyone who walked by stopped to say how beautiful it was or how impressed they were with how tall things were getting, and it really brought a nice little bright spot,” Remmy says. “And all of the produce that isn’t used in the kitchen to prepare the meals is given out to the guests. It wasn’t even definite we’d get it off the ground that first year, but we did, and it’s been amazing.”  

Do Good:

Support the Hosea House. Remmy's goal is to restore funding for educational programs with local school children at the garden. 

Contact Remmy if you would like to volunteer with the garden. 

• Support the Hosea House by donating needed items.

By Brittany York
Brittany York is a professor of English composition at the University of Cincinnati and a project manager for Charitable Words. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia. 

 

Handbags for Hope celebrates literacy, honors committed learners

The Literacy Network of Greater Cincinnati will host its third Handbags for Hope event Thursday, January 30 to celebrate literacy and those who help the organization achieve its mission of providing hope to the more than 280,000 individuals in Cincinnati labeled as functionally illiterate.
 
Designer handbags and vacations will be auctioned off throughout the evening, but the highlight of the event will be the presentation of the 2014 Hope Award.
 
The past two recipients were adult students who demonstrated determination and earnestness for learning to improve their abilities to read. 
 
Mary, the first Hope Award recipient, was a volunteer crossing guard at her local school district, who was later offered an office position at the school upon completing classes at the Literacy Network and receiving her GED. Herman, a man in his sixties who was the 2013 Hope Award recipient, decided it’s never too late to learn to read.
 
“His life goal was always to be able to teach the Bible to his 15 grandkids,” says Kim McDermott, director of communications at the Literacy Network. “So he slowly began to learn how to read, and it’s always a fighting battle for people who struggle with symptoms of dyslexia, but he’s gotten so much better.”
 
This year’s recipient will be the family of an individual who is a student in the Children’s Basic Reading Program.
 
“That program works with students who struggle with symptoms of dyslexia, who usually would have to go to Children’s Hospital to be diagnosed and pay high prices for special education classes,” McDermott says. “But we’re able to screen them—not diagnose them—to see what level of reading they’re at and if the classes might help them.”
 
The recipients will accept their award at the event, where they’ll share the impact literacy has had on their family.
 
“You really don’t know what these people struggle with until they stand up and tell their own story,” McDermott says. “It’s touching and becomes so real.” 

Do Good:

• Call the LNGC at (513) 621-READ to purchase a Handbags for Hope ticket. 

Volunteer with the LNGC.

Support the LNGC by donating.

By Brittany York

Brittany York is a professor of English composition at the University of Cincinnati and a project manager for Charitable Words. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia. 

 

Cincinnati Zoo event aims to help restore region's tree canopy

Editor's Note: This event has been rescheduled for Saturday, February 1.

If restoring the region’s tree canopy and preparing it for the future is a cause for which you’re passionate, you’re invited to take part in the Taking Root campaign’s Great Tree Summit 2014.
 
The Great Tree Summit, which takes place at The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden Saturday, January 25, is a way for community members to brainstorm and form strategies to help Taking Root reach its goal of planting 2 million trees by 2020.
 
“We don’t want to just pump information toward people. We want them to now really get involved,” says Jody Grundy, environmental activist and campaign leader.
 
Saturday’s Summit will consist of breakout sessions where individuals form teams based on specific actions, like educating or communicating with others about Taking Root’s efforts, in addition to discussing how particular areas within the campaign’s eight-county, three-state region, can join together to organize specific plans of action within one’s community.
 
“Large trees and native trees are very important to stabilize the whole environment and all the species that are dependent on them,” Grundy says. “We want to bring to people’s attention the importance of trees and to communicate that we should not take for granted a resource we all depend on. We all need to be players in this.”

Do Good:

Register to attend the Great Tree Summit 2014 Saturday, January 25 from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden.

• Plant a tree and register it to count toward the 2 million-tree goal. 

• Like and share Taking Root's Facebook page.

By Brittany York
Brittany York is a professor of English composition at the University of Cincinnati and a project manager for Charitable Words. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia. 


Memories in the Making empowers individuals with dementia

The Alzheimer’s Association launched its Memories in the Making program in 1986 when Selly Jenny, an artist living in Orange County, Calif. began to explore the ways patients with dementia could express themselves through art.
 
“Her father had dementia, and as his verbal skills were declining and she’d go for visits, she realized it was harder to communicate,” says Joan Hock, Memories in the Making and social engagement coordinator at the Alzheimer’s Association of Greater Cincinnati. “So they started painting together, and she found that he really became very engaged and showed a lot of pleasure in painting.”
 
At the local chapter of this national nonprofit, 13 residential facilities in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky participate in the program, while two open community sites host this free program for individuals in the early stages of dementia.
 
“We also have what’s called Time for Caregivers—it’s a place where family members receive support,” Hock says. “We want it to be a wellness model—talk with them about various things they can do for themselves and also give them a break.”
 
About eight individuals participate in each MIM session, which is hosted by an artist facilitator while caregivers engage in enrichment activities and supportive fellowship at the same time.
 
Hock says the greatest successes for individuals in the program are that they’re able to engage in an activity that creates normalcy during an otherwise turbulent time, and they’re also able to create artwork—sometimes expressing a memory—that they can share with the world.
 
“People use very bright, very vibrant colors as they’re making choices,” Hock says. “And you’re nurturing yourself as you go through that.”  

Do Good: 

Purchase tickets for the Alzheimer's Association of Greater Cincinnati's spring benefit The Art of Making Memories at Horseshoe Casino. While there, say hello to MIM artists and bid on the artwork they've created. 

• Support the Alzheimer's Association of Greater Cincinnati and its Memories in the Making program by purchasing MIM notecards.

• Learn about the Memories in the Museum program, and attend a session. 

By Brittany York
Brittany York is a professor of English composition at the University of Cincinnati and a project manager for Charitable Words. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia.


UIU receives $500,000 in grants honoring Ruehlmann family

Former Cincinnati Mayor Eugene P. Ruehlmann and his wife Virginia saw public service as more than just an option, but as “an obligation and an honor,” according to their daughter, Ginny Wiltse.
 
“The qualities they both exemplified—a quiet strength and a humility—there was collaboration in the sense that all people are equal in the conversation, and everybody needs a voice at the table,” says Wiltse, volunteer director of Caring Response Madagascar, a local nonprofit that serves the needs of the poor in East Africa.
 
Wiltse also serves as chairperson for the Board of Trustees at Union Institute & University—an institution that Wiltse says was and is an “attractive place” in both the eyes of her parents as well as herself because of the “servant leadership” exuded by UIU President Roger Sublett.
 
UIU is the recent recipient of two $250,000 grants in memory of Wiltse’s parents: The Eugene P. Ruehlmann Public Service Fellowship Program, which comes as an award and tribute from Western & Southern Financial Group, and The Virginia Ruehlmann Women in Union Fellowship, awarded by the Helen Steiner Rice Fund of the Greater Cincinnati Foundation.
 
“The $250,000 over five years was a tribute to my mother’s decade of service and to the way her life and value of higher education also mirrored the value of higher education of Helen Steiner Rice, the poet,” Wiltse says.
 
According to Wiltse, her mother needed scholarship support to attain her master’s in education, so the recent funds will enable full-time female graduate students at UIU to do the same.
 
The Eugene P. Ruehlmann Public Service Fellowship will be awarded to a UIU doctoral student and will assist individuals in their dissertations, which embody Ruehlmann’s dedication and fervor for community betterment.
 
“My dad served as mayor in the late '60s and early '70s, and he brought this community together by encouraging conversation and collaboration across racial boundaries between businesses and the community, and by bringing people together in a cooperative and collaborative manner,” Wiltse says. “These were his hallmark achievements.” 

Do Good:

• Engage in public service. 

• Support UIU and the Ruehlmann fellowships by giving.

Learn about UIU and consider applying. Know that it's never too late to go back to school, as UIU excels in adult education.

By Brittany York
Brittany York is a professor of English composition at the University of Cincinnati and a project manager for Charitable Words. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia. 

 

Cincinnati Public Library merges literacy with art

The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County’s annual Teen Drawing Contest is underway.
 
From now until January 31, students between the ages of 12 and 18 are encouraged to create a piece of artwork inspired by a story or book, and submit it for a chance to win art supplies, Chipotle gift cards and a permanent place in the library’s virtual collection.
 
“A lot of teens like to express themselves creatively, and they find inspiration kind of everywhere, like any artist—inspiration’s everywhere,” says Jennifer Korn, TeenSpot manager at the PLCHC’s main branch. “But it seems like the teens find a work of literature, or a comic, or a character that they really connect with, and that becomes a huge inspiration in their art.”
 
For this year’s contest, the library is partnering with Elementz Urban Arts Center to offer four different artist-led workshop sessions for teens.
 
“The artist who’s teaching it—his focus has been street art, graffiti and also comics—but he’s willing to work with the teens regardless of medium and style to provide feedback and tips,” Korn says.
 
Student attendees will receive a sketchpad, drawing pencils and a kneadable eraser to work on their concepts.
 
“When we started this contest, we were hoping to make the connection between literature and creative expression,” Korn says. “Obviously, literature is a creative inspiration because it’s writing, but you can express that through other mediums and also show teens that the library does have books, but we have things beyond books—activities, programs and contests that show we also value their input in the community.” 

Do Good:

• Register your teen to attend one of the drawing sessions

• Encourage a teen to enter the contest and submit their work, as well as an entry form to any PLCHC location by the January 31 deadline. 

• Support the PLCHC and Elementz by donating.

By Brittany York
Brittany York is a professor of English composition at the University of Cincinnati and a project manager for Charitable Words. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia. 

 

Artist as Activist program offers venue for social change

Arts enthusiast Joi Sears grew up in Cincinnati, where, as a student, she was able to take advantage of offerings like ballet classes at the Cincinnati Ballet, in addition to musical theater and other dance classes at the University of Cincinnati’s College Conservatory of Music.
 
After graduating from Walnut Hills High School, however, Sears went away for college and landed in New York City, where she’s lived for the past 10 years. She’s also spent her fair share of time abroad in places like Amsterdam and Brazil—home to Theatre of the Oppressed.
 
Theatre of the Oppressed, a term used to describe interactive, participatory activities that audience members engage in to explore and analyze the realities in which they live, is what Sears is now introducing to the Cincinnati community through her nonprofit Theatre for the Free People.
 
The mission: Using the arts as a vehicle for social change.
 
“Last year, I moved back to Cincinnati, so now I’m here and have been really inspired by the startup community and all the creative things happening here,” Sears says.
 
To engage the creative community with Theatre for the Free People and the techniques of Theatre of the Oppressed, Sears is offering the Artist as Activist program, which is a 10-week project that takes place at the Clifton Cultural Arts Center, beginning Saturday, January 11 at 12 p.m.
 
“We’ll be doing a workshop which will include games that help us think about our impact—our art and our impact on our community and our world,” Sears says.
 
The second half of each session will include one-on-one time or collaborative opportunities for artists to think critically about their work and create some sort of project to showcase at the end of the 10 weeks.
 
Sears says she envisions everyone from poets, visual artists and even teachers who want to come up with more creative lesson plans—artists of all kinds—joining together to make an impact.
 
“Art is at the forefront of any social justice movement—it’s very central to creating change in the world,” Sears says. “So I really want to empower artists to think about what it is that they do and how they can use that—use their voice to make change.”

Do Good:

Read about the Artist as Activist program, and apply.

Contact Sears if you're an artist interested in collaborating, or if you're interested in attending a session or a couple sessions and would like to work something out. 

• Like Theatre for the Free People on Facebook.

By Brittany York
Brittany York is a professor of English composition at the University of Cincinnati and a project manager for Charitable Words. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia. 

 

Save Local Waters and Cincinnati Zoo promote rain barrels through art initiative

Many individuals fail to realize that small changes can make monumental differences when it comes to conservation efforts, says John Nelson, public relations specialist for the Hamilton County Soil and Water Conservation District.
 
The HCSWD is part of The Regional Storm Water Collaborative—more commonly known as Save Local Waters—and the organization’s goal is to raise awareness about water quality issues in the Ohio River Valley by educating the public about ways to improve it.
 
“One of the best ways people can conserve water and also help with storm water runoff is to install a rain barrel at their homes,” Nelson says.
 
To encourage more individuals to make use of rain barrels by collecting water that can be reused, as opposed to allowing it to flow quickly while collecting pollutants that end up in our water systems, Save Local Waters has partnered with The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden to host its second Rain Barrel Art Project.
 
“Rain barrels look like trash cans—they’re very plain looking barrels—so we came up with an idea to beautify them, and to take it to the next level,” Nelson says.
 
From now through January 25, individuals can submit proposed artwork to Save Local Waters. If selected for the project, they’ll then have the opportunity to paint a barrel to be displayed in the zoo’s Green Garden during the month of April, with a culminating event April 24 in which barrels will be auctioned during the zoo’s Party for the Planet Earth Day celebration.
 
“Last year, we had about 40 rain barrels entered from people all over the Ohio River Valley, and this year we’re hoping we get more,” Nelson says. “People will take these to their homes and install them, and all the money raised from the auction is used for conservation education.” 

Do Good:

Register with Save Local Waters to paint a barrel.

• Visit the zoo between April 1-24 to view painted barrels, and attend the benefit auction April 24. 

Learn about what you can do to clean up our waters, and contact the organization to get involved by volunteering.

By Brittany York
Brittany York is a professor of English composition at the University of Cincinnati and a project manager for Charitable Words. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia. 

 

NKU students help award $83,500 to area nonprofits

Northern Kentucky University is one of the nation’s leaders when it comes to incorporating student philanthropy into the classroom.
 
And this past semester, 146 students involved in the Mayerson Student Philanthropy Project were able to assist area nonprofits in receiving $83,500 worth of funds.
 
“I did a study that surveyed NKU alumni who participated in the Mayerson project and found that after they left NKU, they were much more likely to volunteer for nonprofits, make donations to them and to serve on boards of directors for nonprofits,” says Julie Olberding, director of NKU’s Master of Public Administration program.
 
Olberding taught a volunteer management course in the fall, in which her class partnered with Toyota to work as advisors for the company’s funding board.
 
“Ultimately, it makes them better grant writers and grant seekers, because they’ve been on the other side of the table and have been able to see what works and what doesn’t work,” Olberding says.
 
The indirect giving model was used in Olberding’s volunteer management course, but in other classes, grants are awarded to the Mayerson Student Philanthropy Project so that students can make decisions and directly fund initiatives for nonprofits.
 
“I love to go to the ceremony at the end of the semester to learn how other classes did it and what new and interesting ways that they have gotten NKU students to engage with the community, and think about giving back and investing in our region,” Olberding says.
 
“NKU has one of the oldest philanthropy programs in the country, so we’re seen as leaders in the field, and people have looked to us for advice and guidance in starting their own programs.”

Do Good:

• Check out the student philanthropy handbook if interested in starting a similar program at your institution.  

• Support the Mayerson Student Philanthropy Project by donating.

• Engage with local nonprofits by volunteering your time or by donating. 

By Brittany York
Brittany York is a professor of English composition at the University of Cincinnati and a project manager for Charitable Words. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia. 

 

Faces without Places bridges educational gap for homeless children

Without stability in education, Ramin Mohajer, executive director of Faces without Places, says homeless children’s chance of eventually breaking the cycle of poverty is virtually nonexistent.
 
Faces without Places provides educational programming and supplies, in addition to extracurricular opportunities, to the 6,000 children experiencing homelessness in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky each year.
 
“The average student experiencing homelessness is two to three years behind in education,” says Mohajer, who recognizes how important it is to work toward closing that gap.
 
Through programs like ZooMates, for example, children pair up with Xavier University students who provide mentorship and stability for those involved.
 
“Many children had never been on a college campus, and a few of them didn’t know anyone who had ever even gone to college,” Mohajer says. “So we had the students come up to Xavier University and take different tours. They did a science lab experiment, and that got them really excited about the prospect of going to college.”
 
In addition to experiencing life on a college campus, students learn science through a hands-on approach, while taking regular field trips to the Cincinnati Zoo.
 
“That’s been a really successful program for us,” Mohajer says. “It gives positive role models to kids—the kids can’t wait—they’re running up to the mentors, giving them all a hug, and it really ends up as a long-lasting, rich bond.” 

Do Good:

• Support Faces without Places by donating.

• Support Faces without Places by volunteering.

• Like Faces without Places on Facebook.

By Brittany York
Brittany York is a professor of English composition at the University of Cincinnati and a project manager for Charitable Words. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia. 

 

Tom+Chee backs small nonprofits

Tom + Chee knows what it’s like to be the underdog.
 
What was once a food tent at Fountain Square is now a nationally recognized brand under contract to be a more-than-100-store operation in 2014 (see Tom+Chee prepares for rapid growth in 2014). And it’s this rise-from-the-top mentality that Tom + Chee co-founders Jenny Rachford and Jenn Quackenbush say they apply to the company’s involvement in the nonprofit sector as well.
 
“Of course we’d love to give to everyone doing good work,” Rachford says. “There are a lot of people trying to do good things, but the small groups don’t have a lot of the support the big ones can pull.”
 
So Tom + Chee created The Grilled Cheese That Cares program this past October when it partnered with The Kentucky Thorough-Breasts—a team of breast cancer survivors and dragon boat racers affiliated with Paddling for Cancer Awareness.
 
“We developed a campaign which involved the Pink Dragon Fire Donut, which was a glazed donut with cherry mascarpone, graham cracker and jalapeno compote, and donated a dollar from each to their cause,” Rachford says.
 
Continuing with the trend of supporting small, local nonprofits, T+C  is now collecting gifts for children connected with Autism 4 Families and Puzzling Panthers, in exchange for a free grilled cheese donut.
 
So for a total of seven families and 27 children, the financial strain of purchasing gifts from each child’s wish list will be removed, as presents will be provided through the Grilled Cheese That Cares initiative.
 
“Christmas time is special—especially for kids,” Rachford says. “We all have our childhood memories of Christmases, good or bad, but as grownups and even with our business—we’re kid-centered, family-centered and focused, and this is something that genuinely comes from that place. We want to make families happy.” 

Do Good:

• Contact Jenny Rachford or Jenn Quackenbush if you're a local nonprofit who would like to partner up for future Grilled Cheese that Cares efforts.

• Visit a Tom + Chee location, pick up a gift tag with a child's name and request on it, and return the unwrapped item by Dec. 20 for a free grilled cheese donut.  

• Support local nonprofits.

By Brittany York
Brittany York is a professor of English composition at both the University of Cincinnati and Xavier University. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia. 

UC Economics Center preps school leaders

For Chris Kloesz, lifelong Cincinnati resident and principal at Loveland High School, participation in the Alpaugh Scholars Leadership Program was invaluable.
 
This five-month program offered through the University of Cincinnati’s Economics Center brings local educators and business leaders together to enable school leaders to better understand the connection between communities, schools and the ways the economy impacts both.
 
“I would say that my favorite session—one that really stands out—was a very in-depth historical tour of the city, where at the beginning of the day, we boarded a charter bus and went to a number of different locations where we received extensive background on how the city developed, going back to over a couple hundred years ago,” Kloesz says.
 
According to Kloesz, schools function as microcosms of their local community, so having an understanding of “what we are,” “where we’ve come from,” and “what we want to be” is knowledge that can’t be ignored when looking toward future educational visions.
 
“It’s beneficial to have that perspective as we continue to work to improve education, society, social welfare programming, government structure—all those things that function and work together,” Kloesz says.
 
“I had no idea from one month to the next, the type of knowledge I’d pick up, nor did I know how I was going to apply that; but here I am a couple years later, on a day-to-day basis, being able to reflect on my experiences and the knowledge I’ve gained and applying it to my vision and understanding for what my responsibilities are.”

Do Good:

• Learn about the Alpaugh Scholars Leadership Program, and contact the Economics Center if you're an educator who is interested in registering.

• Help the Economics Center achieve its mission of sharing financial literacy knowledge by making use of its teaching tools and resources

• Connect with the Economics Center on Facebook.

By Brittany York
Brittany York is a professor of English composition at both the University of Cincinnati and Xavier University. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia. 


OMA inspires confidence, provides autonomy to individuals with dementia

Opening Minds through Art does more than provide individuals with dementia a creative outlet for expression. It enables them to build confidence by recognizing their abilities, while also building relationships and engaging with volunteers. 

OMA, which is a therapy-based program developed by the Scripps Gerontology Center at Miami University, aims to build “bridges across age and cognitive barriers through art” by pairing students with elderly individuals. 

Twice a week, students facilitate work on art projects with about 35 residents of Cedar Village Retirement Community—all of whom are either dealing with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. 

“It’s been so amazing to see how stark of a contrast it is when they’re doing creative versus noncreative activity,” says Julia Fallon, University of Cincinnati senior and OMA volunteer.

Fallon, who also conducts research with OMA founder Elizabeth Lokon, says enabling individuals to tap into their creative sides prompts responses that might not otherwise come about. “Especially with art and music, there might be memories associated with those things or emotions that might not be elicited by anything else,” she says.

For Miami University senior Josie Rader, who is an OMA student leader and facilitator, autonomy is one of the biggest takeaways of the program. 

“Personal choice is just so big—even choosing the paint they want to use—it’s all chosen by them, so just having that freedom and creating something that they don’t believe they can create is amazing,” Rader says. “Sometimes they get a little concerned and say things like, ‘Oh I’m not an artist,’ or ‘I can’t do this,’ but at the end, they see a masterpiece that they never imagined they could do.” 

Do Good:

• Support OMA by donating.

• View residents' artwork, which is on display at Cedar Village in the hallway behind the activity center. The latest project involved the creation of tiles as part of a collaborative effort with Rookwood Pottery.

• Like OMA's Facebook page.

By Brittany York
Brittany York is a professor of English composition at both the University of Cincinnati and Xavier University. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia. 


Cincinnati's Network of Executive Women leads nation in College Outreach

Mallory Malinoski is a testament to Cincinnati’s success in the Network of Executive Women’s College Outreach program. 
 
NEW Cincinnati, the local chapter for this nonprofit that aims to bring, keep and advance women in the field of consumer products and retail, was recently recognized nationally as “Best of Best” for College Outreach.
 
“Sometimes students aren’t the best at leveraging the networking power that’s available, but the one-on-one support they get from being paired up with a mentor who can provide you with resources to help you get your foot in the door—that’s valuable,” says Malinoski, former College Outreach student and NEW member.
 
Malinoski attended Xavier University and began full-time employment at SC Johnson & Son, Inc. after graduating.
 
She was recently promoted to an account management position, which she says would have never been possible had she not participated in NEW Cincinnati’s College Outreach program.
 
“They invited me to participate in a networking roundtable,” Malinoski says. “And through the College Outreach program, I interviewed and got an internship during the last semester of my senior year, and then they offered me a full-time position. It got my foot in the door.”
 
In the six years of NEW Cincinnati’s existence, more than 275 university students like Malinoski have participated in similar networking opportunities, mentorships and internships. 
 
“A lot of it is word of mouth,” Malnoski says. “A lot of it is behind the scenes—placing students in the right opportunities to get the students in these entry-level positions.” 

Do Good:

• Like NEW Cincinnati on Facebook.

• Learn about NEW benefits, and consider becoming a member.

Get involved with NEW Cincinnati's College Outreach program.

By Brittany York
Brittany York is a professor of English composition at both the University of Cincinnati and Xavier University. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia. 

 

Glass for Greater Good merges art with giving

About 13 years ago, River City Works started an event called Friday Night Blows, where glassblowers would come together monthly for a public glassblowing demo, while creating pieces to benefit a local nonprofit.
 
River City Works is no more, but out of it spawned a collective of artists called Queen City Glass Arts, who wanted to keep the event going.
 
Now, as a collaborative effort with Brazee Street Studios, the event—rebranded as Glass for Greater Good—returns to a hot shop this Friday from 6-9 p.m at Brazee.
 
“Glassblowing is so theatrical and so wonderful to watch,” says Sandy Gross, Brazee Street Studios’ owner. “So it’s an opportunity for us to almost do a performance—some theater—and at the same time raise awareness.”
 
At Glass for Greater Good, which will now take place on the second Friday of each month (Bockfest is in the works for January), the artists will craft toys, which they’ll then donate to St. Vincent de Paul’s Angel Toy program.
 
The public is encouraged to gather at Brazee, check out local artists’ work, watch the demonstration and bring an unwrapped toy that SVDP volunteers will distribute to children in time for the holidays.
 
Gross says collaboration is so important and that anytime it becomes a focus, communities improve.
 
“For me, art is about another language and helping people see beauty, and working together,” Gross says. “And any opportunity where you can do all these things at one time is pretty special.” 

Do Good:

• Support St. Vincent de Paul by donating.

• Attend Glass for Greater Good Friday from 6-9 p.m., and consider bringing a toy to support the Angel Toy program.  

• Like Brazee Street Studios and Queen City Glass Arts on Facebook.

By Brittany York
Brittany York is a professor of English composition at both the University of Cincinnati and Xavier University. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia. 


Runway hair show returns to The Carnegie

The Carnegie’s biannual exhibition "The Art of Hair" returns this January, in the midst of this Covington-based art venue’s 2013-14 season. 

The exhibition debuted in 2012 when 40 models from 13 Tri-State salons came together to celebrate elaborate hairstyles, costumes and makeup as an art form. 

“The Carnegie’s uniquely positioned to do this—in the region, in Northern Kentucky or Ohio—we’re the only organization that’s a fully functioning gallery, fully functioning theater and an education center,” says Katie Brass, Executive Director. “So we don’t have anyone to compare us to as a whole. We’re multidisciplinary, and we embrace that.” 

For Brass, the “over-the-top models” that storm the runway showcase designs that are “absolutely amazing,” as stylists’ clients completely shift their looks for one day, covered from head to toe with everything from hair spray and makeup to unique styles of dress.

The volunteer models, Brass says, assist The Carnegie in fulfilling its mission of serving as a welcoming venue with the capacity to present creatives’ work through a variety of different mediums. 

“Seven years ago, if I’d go somewhere and say, ’Hey have you ever been to the Carnegie?’ no one would raise their hand,” Brass says. “But now, people see it and think, ‘There’s no way I’m in the middle of Covington.’ People can come and relax and enjoy art in a really great, friendly space; and I want people to walk away and say, ‘Wow, that was pretty amazing, and I can’t believe the Carnegie was able to do that.’” 

Do Good: 

• Attend the Art of Hair runway show at either 1 p.m. or 3 p.m. January 12, 2014.

• Like The Carnegie on Facebook

• Check out The Carnegie by visiting the galleries or seeing a production

By Brittany York
Brittany York is a professor of English composition at both the University of Cincinnati and Xavier University. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia. 


WCC to celebrate women at Feist-Tea

The Woman’s City Club of Greater Cincinnati will gather together to celebrate local, feisty women on December 8 at its annual event, appropriately named Feist-Tea.
 
“I have fun doing creative little things, so I came up with this idea that we need to celebrate women who get feisty and who get things done,” says Ruth Cronenberg, Woman’s City Club board member. “They’re not necessarily the big donors or in the newspaper—you don’t know what they’re doing—but they are feisty and they’re the kind of women we want to hold up.”
 
Cronenberg became involved with the WCC prior to retiring from the Greater Cincinnati Foundation in 1998.
 
“I worked through the era when women had a hard time working—they got half the pay men did,” she says. “But we were some of the working force that made changes for this generation, and now that I’m retired, women like me who have been through that are members of the WWC, and we’d like to continue making changes and help support younger women coming into the workforce and doing things in the community.”
 
This year, the WCC is honoring women for a variety of reasons—everything from informing members about political issues impacting the area and encouraging inner city literacy efforts, to inspiring artistic efforts among children by creating a life-size giraffe out of duct tape that Cronenberg says “must be about 12 feet tall.”
 
“This idea started as a fundraising event, but unlike others like it, we don’t charge, so that all people can come,” Cronenberg says. “It works very beautifully and very smoothly. And it’s a festive event, whereas most of our meetings are focused on an issue. But we grab old lace tablecloths from around the house and gloves and hats and anything that looks like a tea event and just spread it through the room— add a little décor.” 

Do Good: 

• Honor local women by attending Feist-Tea.

• Help support your community and get to know other women by becoming a WCC member.

• Support the WCC by donating

By Brittany York
Brittany York is a professor of English composition at both the University of Cincinnati and Xavier University. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia. 

 

Local creatives team up to give back

Ornaments designed by the newly formed grassroots group Creativity for a Cause will be auctioned off December 2 to support the Contemporary Arts Center’s involvement with Memories in the Museum—a newly developed art program, intended for individuals dealing with memory loss.
 
Creativity for a Cause’s “Making Holiday Memories” is the first of what Elizabeth Olson, who helped found the group, hopes to be many efforts aimed at not only giving back to the community, but also providing local designers the chance to become inspired.
 
“I’m in design at P&G, and am regularly in contact with people who work there and in the at-large community who are creative with timelines, projects and budgets, and that’s their day-to-day vocation and avocation; but what I’ve noticed is, a lot of times, people will say, ‘I’m short on inspiration,’” Olson says. “They get tired or worn out, and I’ve watched what they do to try to get inspired. And what I recognized was that they didn’t want to listen to or watch somebody—they wanted to make stuff.”
 
So Olson, who also serves as a board member for the CAC, came up with the idea to engage designers across the Tri-State in a way that would allow them to apply their craft in a new way.
 
“Designers—the really good ones—are motivated by empathy,” Olson says. “And they want to help people. They want the things they create, even in these commercial products, to make a difference in peoples' lives.”
 
About 14 designers are involved in the group’s first project, and because the group is so individualized and organic, Olson says she expects a variety of ornaments, created through different mediums.
 
“I like to work with textiles. There’s some industrial designers who might decide to do 3D printing,” Olson says. “It’s intentionally left open so people can bring whatever they want to explore or feel proficient at.” 

Do Good: 

• Attend the CAC's event One Night, One Craft and support Memories in the Museum by bidding on Creativity for a Cause's ornaments in the silent auction.

• Contact Erica Camp if you're a designer or creative interested in participating in Creativity for a Cause's future efforts.

• Like the Contemporary Arts Center on Facebook.

By Brittany York
Brittany York is a professor of English composition at both the University of Cincinnati and Xavier University. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia.

 

SparkRecipes gives back, fights hunger with recipe contest

SparkPeople wants you to be inspired to live a healthier and happier life, and with the re-launch of its SparkRecipes website, you can do just that while finding nearly 600,000 quick, tasty and nutritious options to incorporate into your meal preparing routine.
 
To celebrate health and fitness site’s re-launch and to give back to its community of members, as well as the communities in which its members reside, the company is hosting the $10,000 Split-the-Pot Recipe Contest.
 
The aim is to find the best slow cooker recipe in the country, while also providing assistance to individuals who are facing issues of food insecurity.
 
“Slow cooking is a style that’s very popular with our members—it’s usually pretty vegetable heavy, it’s healthy, it’s easy,” says Joe Robb, SparkPeople’s digital marketing manager. “But we also wanted to make this a contest with a social component. So we came up with a split-the-pot idea where the grand prize is $10,000 dollars split down the middle—half to the winner and the other half to the soup kitchen or charity of their choice.”
 
According to Robb, it’s important for SparkPeople to give back because it’s the site’s community of members that makes SparkPeople “America’s largest diet and healthy living website.”
 
“We believe the reason our site does so well is not just because we have tools to measure exercise and goals, but a big portion is the community aspect,” Robb says. “It’s a reflection of what we see in our daily lives—if someone is having trouble getting those last few pounds, they get positive motivation to get them to their goal—and in Cincinnati and all across the world, they’re part of a community. So this is a way to help out our online community while also taking half that prize money to help out their local community.” 

Do Good: 

• Vote for your favorite recipe daily, and if you come across a local member's recipe, vote to support a close-to-home nonprofit. 

• Browse SparkRecipes to find healthy eating options.

• Volunteer and support nonprofits in your local community. 

By Brittany York
Brittany York is a professor of English composition at both the University of Cincinnati and Xavier University. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia. 

 

One City, One Symphony connects community through music

For Sylvia Samis, 40-year veteran violinist with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, the One City, One Symphony initiative has provided the opportunity to share stories of the personal connections she has with the music she plays.  
 
“I think so many times, when people come see us on stage, the guys wear tuxedos and we’re formal. So this is an opportunity to have a more close-up relationship and be able to talk to each other and have a discussion and maybe to see that the people involved are just the same as the people in the audience—that we’re together on this,” Samis says. “And I think the idea is just to make the music as important to the community and worthwhile so that they see it as part of their everyday lives.”
 
For the two years One City, One Symphony has been in existence, Samis has participated as a speaker in various listening parties across the city, where community members come together to listen to recordings of the pieces the CSO will play at the One City, One Symphony culminating performances November 14 and 16.
 
Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4 and Mozart’s David Penitente are the focus pieces for this year’s initiative, so the CSO will explore themes of love, fate and redemption.
 
“I knew right away what I wanted to talk about,” says Samis, who says she connects closely to themes of fate and destiny.
 
“As it turned out, my husband and I—his mother and my father were next door neighbors in Poland before the war in the 1930s,” says Samis, who did not meet her husband Charles until 1969 when they both took jobs in New Orleans, arriving just three weeks apart from each another.
 
“From being possibly boy and girl next door had the war not come, we still wound up together all those miles and years later,” Samis says. “And at the listening parties, many times they want to know more personal things. So once I’ve opened up my life to them, they’re really very interested in hearing more and I’m happy to share that with them—they ask almost anything—and I think they’re just glad to know the people on the stage.” 

Do Good:

• Purchase tickets to the One City, One Symphony performances November 14 and 16 at Music Hall.

• Learn about CSO Parties of Note, and attend an event. All proceeds directly benefit the CSO. 

• Support the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestra by donating. 

By Brittany York
Brittany York is a professor of English composition at both the University of Cincinnati and Xavier University. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia. 

 

Cincinnati Youth Collaborative takes interest in student success

Cincinnati Youth Collaborative alumni Chloe Nared began her involvement with CYC when she was in the third grade, and she continued with the organization through her senior year of high school.
 
“I’ve been in it almost all of my life, and can definitely say they’ve been a great support system for myself in trying to make it through personal hardships,” Nared says.

CYC makes a difference in the lives of young people in second grade through college by providing mentoring, dropout prevention, high school success, college readiness and college success services. The organization brings together more than 1,700 volunteers and 100 local businesses and organizations to help young people graduate from high school and successfully make the leap forward into college and career.
 
Nared’s first CYC experience was with the mentoring program, which she entered into after her aunt, who worked at the organization, enrolled her.
 
“She decided it’d be good for me to have a mentor—who turned out to be her—but I didn’t know what the program was until fifth or sixth grade. I just knew I was hanging out with my aunt/mentor,” Nared says. “But it was good for me because it got me out of the house and away from situations. Everything was going into a downward spiral as I got older—things became harder, I was less focused in school—that’s something the program definitely helped with.”
 
Nared, who is now a freshman at the University of Rio Grande, says had it not been for the mentoring program, she wouldn’t be where she is today.
 
“She pushed me, practically shoved me through the door to get me from middle school to high school, high school to college,” Nared says. “She’s definitely been a positive motivator in my life.”
 
College Access’ Talent Search and Jobs for Cincinnati Graduates are two other CYC programs that Nared took part in—both of which eased her transition from high school to college.
 
“My career specialist was definitely interested in keeping me in school—I can’t even explain it. I don’t know if it’s that she took a personal interest in me or just all of her students period, but just making sure that they had something to do after high school, whether they enlisted in the military, enrolled in college or just simply being employed after high school,” Nared says.
 
“I love to give back as much as I’ve received, and I feel like because I’ve been given that chance—an opportunity—I feel like it would be great for me to do the same thing as someone else and just help guide them the way that I was guided by my mentor, my college advisor from CYC and my career specialist from JCG.” 

Do Good: 

• Volunteer with CYC as a mentor or tutor.

• Support CYC by donating.

• Connect with CYC by liking the nonprofit's page on Facebook.

By Brittany York
Brittany York is a professor of English composition at both the University of Cincinnati and Xavier University. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia. 

 

Random Snacks of Kindness benefits nonprofit community

If you’re in need of a locally made $10 dollar holiday gift, Random Snacks of Kindness is now available, and 100 percent of the profits will benefit ArtWorks, a nonprofit organization that employs and trains local youth and talent to create art and community impact through three strategic programming areas: public art, art therapy and entrepreneurship.
 
The snack mix is the first of what local chef Frances Kroner hopes will be many productions in her philanthropic line.
 
“My parents are in social work and nursing, and I always felt a little guilty—like I didn’t give back as much as I’d like to in my life or my career,” says Kroner of Feast and Sleepy Bee Café, which is her newest venture, set to open next month in Oakley.
 
Random Snacks of Kindness is what Kroner calls “a sort of merging of a lot of different things in life all at once.”
 
In addition to being a way to give back, the idea for the first project came as a response to her experience in ArtWorks’ SpringBoard business development program.
 
“I got to know them better and how they work with apprentices and thought it was a really cool organization,” Kroner says. “I had seen the murals and heard of them, but I got a glimpse into the back end of things once I went through SpringBoard, and after I finished, I wanted to stay connected.”
 
So Kroner pitched an idea to the organization that would take the apprenticeships the organization already had in place, and expand them from mural-based art to food-based design and entrepreneurial skills.
 
“I didn’t realize how big an impact it was going to have on them, but you can tell already that it was such an eye opener to them to see how much work goes into a product—how much work goes into a business,” Kroner says. “I think they’ll probably retain that knowledge—they’ll remember for a long time.”

Watch a video introducing Random Snacks of Kindness to learn more.

Do Good:

• Support ArtWorks by purchasing the apprentices' Ginger Coconut Snack Mix. 

• If your nonprofit would like to partner with Random Snacks of Kindness to create a mix in the future, contact Frances Kroner.

• Like Random Snacks of Kindness on Facebook, and share the page with your friends.

By Brittany York
Brittany York is a professor of English composition at both the University of Cincinnati and Xavier University. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia. 

 

Band of Helping Hands enables children to pursue life goals

Chelsea Piper, who works at a mental health agency that services children with special needs and who are in need of foster care, saw a need for more activities and extracurricular opportunities in the lives of those she encounters on a daily basis.   

So she and a co-worker founded Band of Helping Hands.

“We realized how many of the kids don’t have access to services like dancing or computers or art lessons or karate—stuff that a lot of kids get to do but they don’t,” Piper says. “So we started it as a way to find activities for them.”

Band of Helping Hands is now in its second year of operation, and since last August, the nonprofit has helped about 75 young individuals further explore their passions.

“There are a few kids we’ve had that just have such a talent for art but who haven’t had a chance to express themselves,” Piper says. “They didn’t have supplies at home or anything, so we’ve given supplies, and kids have entered them in contests because they want to grow up to be artists. And we’ve had some phenomenal dancers who haven’t had lessons from a professional, but it gives them an outlet and something to look forward to in a safe place."

The nonprofit has also purchased a computer for the children to use to complete homework and conduct job searches, and has set up a space with equipment like a pool table and a basketball hoop for students to utilize.

“I have a letter from one little boy who wanted to play baseball, but he didn’t have a glove or uniform, so we purchased him a baseball and bat and glove to practice with, and he wrote us just the sweetest letter thanking us and telling how he was able to play in his first game,” Piper says. “And I was in tears—he was just so appreciative and excited to be able to do something he hasn’t been able to do for 12 years.”

Do Good:

• Support Band of Helping Hands by donating.

Contact the organization if you'd like to volunteer teaching a class or extracurricular activity.

• Connect with the nonprofit on Facebook.

By Brittany York
Brittany York is a professor of English composition at both the University of Cincinnati and Xavier University. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia.



OVRS executive director's reach extends beyond one nonprofit

For more than 20 years, Jamie Steele has worked to provide residential services for individuals with developmental disabilities; but his passion and drive to help others reach their full potential has been strong since the age of 4.
 
“My little brother Andy was born with developmental disabilities—he could never walk or talk throughout his life—and he passed away at age 30,” Steele says. “He and I were close in age and pretty good friends, and all the activities he went to, I then would go to, too, and volunteer, then become staff, so he was definitely the most influential person on me.”
 
Steele has now accepted the role of executive director of Ohio Valley Residential Services, a nonprofit that differs from other residential service providers in that it allows individuals to engage in independent living, as opposed to the group home model.
 
“They can be in their apartment and thus feel more independent,” Steele says. “A number of people with disabilities are like you and me. They want to have their own space and participate in activities of daily living—bathing, dressing cooking—so it’s our job environmentally to provide an atmosphere where they can reach their individual potential.”
 
In addition to heading a nonprofit, Steele makes it a priority to help other organizations fulfill their own missions. As an avid music lover, he’s formed a rock band called The Code, which donates its proceeds back to the nonprofit community.
 
“It’s always been engrained in me that this is a community,” Steele says. “And if I want to ask the general community to accept people with disabilities, then I have to be willing to also give back.”  

Do Good: 

• Connect with Ohio Valley Residential Services on Facebook.

• Support OVRS by donating.

• Contact OVRS if you are interested in becoming a board member.

By Brittany York
Brittany York is a professor of English composition at both the University of Cincinnati and Xavier University. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia. 
 

Autumn Air Art Fair prioritizes art education

When fiber artist Pam Irvin traveled to Tennessee one weekend for an art show that she says ended up being more of an outdoor street market, she was prompted to do something different, and on a local level, to help support artists by putting their work at the center.
 
“I wanted a focused target audience—one that wanted to buy art and not elephant ears and pizza and stuff like that,” Irvin says.
 
So five years ago, Irvin founded the Autumn Air Art Fair, which she hosted in her backyard as a way for 13 artists to gather together to showcase and sell their work.
 
“We had a great turnout, and the next year we took it to the next level; and since I live in Clifton, I wanted to support the Clifton Cultural Arts Center, so we decided to rent the facility and have the show there,” Irvin says.
 
The show is now in its fifth year, and it’s grown steadily since 2009. For the first few years, Irvin saved proceeds from the event, which she donated to the Art Academy of Cincinnati last year to provide scholarships for four individuals.
 
This year’s show, which took place this past Saturday, generated revenue for what Irvin hopes will be enough to provide 10 scholarships toward art education.
 
“The Art Academy has a portfolio prep class geared toward sophomores and juniors in high school who want to go on and pursue a career in art and who need a portfolio for college admissions, so that’s a three-week intensive thing over the summer, and I’m hoping we can award at least two of those this year,” Irvin says. “That one that makes the biggest impact, because obviously some kids have the talent but don’t necessarily know what they need for the application or don’t have the materials.” 

Do Good:

• Follow the Autumn Air Art Fair's blog to keep up with the event's artists throughout the year. 

• Support art education in your local schools or at the Art Academy of Cincinnati.

• Support the Clifton Cultural Arts Center by donating.

By Brittany York
Brittany York is a professor of English composition at both the University of Cincinnati and Xavier University. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia. 

 

ReSource offers free shredding for nonprofits

Kevin Torch, senior transaction manager at CBRE, has served on the board for ReSource for the past three years now, and he’s passionate about it because it’s a way to help hundreds of nonprofits at once.
 
“You’re not really working for just one nonprofit—you’re really working for like 400,” Torch says. “We’ve been involved in the community for over 20 years, and to date have saved nonprofit members about $36 million dollars. We’ve served over 1,400 nonprofits, and we continue to redirect hundreds of tons of useable products from local landfills.”
 
ReSource distributes corporate donations like office furniture and supplies to member nonprofits that can then shop at the organization’s warehouse for pennies on the dollar.
 
As a way to raise awareness about ReSource and what it offers to the local nonprofit community, Torch is heading up Shred Week, sponsored by CBRE and Cintas, which will take place at the organization’s Sharonville office November 4–8.
 
“Most nonprofits are all required to shred their documents, but they don’t necessarily have the resources to do so, so it allows a company like ReSource to help them out in that capacity,” Torch says. “The goal, though, is to generate more community awareness and in turn hopefully drive more potential nonprofits to join the warehouse as they learn about who we are. There’s so many, and as you go around and talk to people, a lot of them don’t know who ReSource is. Hopefully it gets more people to understand the green use of ReSource.” 

Do Good:
• Contact Molly Lohr of ReSource if you'd like to volunteer during Shred Week. 

• Bring your nonprofit's documents to ReSource, along with proof of your 501(c)(3) status November 4–8 between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. for Shred Week, and join together with community members for food and entertainment between 12 and 2 p.m. November 8.

• If you're a nonprofit, consider becoming a member of ReSource. 

By Brittany York
Brittany York is a professor of English composition at both the University of Cincinnati and Xavier University. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia. 


Library adds to digital collection, streams film and TV

Watching television shows and movies online just became even easier—and free—as a result of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County’s recent addition of streaming services like Hoopla and Freegal Movies into its collection.
 
“We’ve been talking about this for a while with Netflix and Hulu and all those other products out there that consumers are used to seeing,” says Holly Varley, PLCHC’s material selection and acquisitions manager. “We definitely wanted to stay up to date with that digital content. That’s a goal of ours with the community—to make sure we’ve got digital content for e-books and audio books—and streaming and movies was the next piece of the puzzle.”
 
Hoopla offers library cardholders the opportunity to stream up to eight movies or television shows per month, while Freegal Movies enables users to view as many as three movies or television shows every 48 hours.
 
Both services eliminate any worries of damaged or lost materials and late fees, which makes borrowing and loaning materials easier and more convenient for all parties involved.
 
“There’s nothing to break, nothing to melt in your car, to get peanut butter on—it’s all just going to be there on your device,” Varley says. “And we just thought with as many people out there in the world who have tablets and smartphones, and as that gets more prolific, people expect to be able to use things on their device. We want it to be right there in terms of technology needs.” 

Do Good:
• Familiarize yourself with the library's digital material, and begin to use it. 

• Support the library by volunteering.

• Connect with the library through Facebook.

By Brittany York
Brittany York is a professor of English composition at both the University of Cincinnati and Xavier University. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia. 
 

OpenDataCincy hopes to improve Cincinnati by collecting and publishing information

OpenDataCincy’s goal is to improve the region by publishing various data sets from the local government and the civic sector.
 
It has proven successful in other regions. In Boston, for example, the police and fire departments were asked to release the latitude and longitude of each fire hydrant throughout the city.
 
“They were spending significant time shoveling out snow each winter to make sure they weren’t concealed in case of an emergency, so to take the truck out, manpower it and shovel it out was time-consuming and taxing,” says Erin Kidwell, OpenDataCincy’s program manager. “They could have been focusing on other things. So they published locations of all the fire hydrants, and citizens and community councils took it upon themselves to adopt fire hydrants so that when there was heavy snow, they’d go shovel it themselves. The community made sure the focus for firefighters could be on community safety.”
 
In an effort to make more data sets available to the public and to put them in the hands of organizations that can make use of them, OpenDataCincy is engaging community members in the Nonprofit Data Challenge.
 
“Nonprofits are in a tough position and, in most cases, they’re reliant on donations or grant dollars, and a lot of those requests come with a desire for quantifiable evidence as to what their mission and vision is set out to achieve,” Kidwell says. “Not having that sometimes can make it difficult to meet fundraising goals.”
 
So nonprofits are encouraged to identify data sets they could make use of, submit their ideas to OpenDataCincy, and the public will then have a chance to vote for their favorite nonprofit so that the data can be processed and used to help solve a problem.
 
Open data policies in other cities have enabled “citizens to be more highly engaged, created economic development, and have allowed technologists to create web apps and sites that have generated betterment to the region,” Kidwell says. “It’s something we’re pretty excited about here.”  

Read more about OpenDataCincy in our four-part Demand Better series.

Do Good:
• Participate in the Nonprofit Data Challenge by nominating data.

• Begin casting your vote in the Nonprofit Data Challenge November 1. 

• Share OpenDataCincy's website with others, and contact the organization to be added to the newsletter and learn more.

By Brittany York
Brittany York is a professor of English composition at both the University of Cincinnati and Xavier University. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia. 

 

soHza connects women, customer becomes agent of change

Empowering women to make positive change is Debbie Lupariello’s goal—not only for herself and her new business venture soHza—but for the women locally and globally who come together to help make the company a success.  
 
Lupariello co-founded soHza and launched the company in April. The concept is to employ global women who create fair trade jewelry, then sell the pieces online with proceeds benefitting local nonprofits serving women in similar capacities.
 
“Some of the jewelry is made from melted down bullet casings or weapons—where HIV women in Ethiopia took something that was horrible in their lives and made it something beautiful,” Lupariello says. “So you pick up a necklace and hold it in your hand, it’s made with weapons, and then a percentage of those sales help victims of domestic violence here locally with Women Helping Women.”
 
According to Lupariello, the United States is almost “like an island,” but women across the country have so much in common, she says, and bridging the gap is important.
 
“We’re not like Europe. People aren’t traveling through,” Lupariello says. “It’s hard for us to even relate to people in the next neighborhood.”
 
But by partnering local women with women across the country, then putting customers at the center of that connection, Lupariello says a bond is created with an incredibly real connection.
 
“The most amazing thing about it is how strong that bond happens,” Lupariello says. “We believe that when women are at the center of change, anything is possible.” 

Do Good:

• Contact soHza or visit the website to sign up for the newsletter. 

• Support women by purchasing a piece of jewelry. 

• Learn about the women involved, and help share their stories. 

By Brittany York
Brittany York is a professor of English composition at both the University of Cincinnati and Xavier University. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia.


Local nonprofit to win $10,000 social media makeover

Connecting with the public is a must for nonprofits, and in a day and age where social media is continuously evolving and becoming more relevant, maximizing one’s presence online can make a huge difference in the way an organization fulfills its mission.
 
“If you think of any businesses out there with a really touching story to share, it’s often nonprofits who are challenged with limited resources,” says Kirsten Lecky, client strategy director at dooley media.
 
For Lecky and dooley media CEO Matthew Dooley—both of whom have backgrounds working with nonprofits—helping a local organization share its story is an important opportunity that can’t be bypassed.
 
“They rely so much on having to connect with people emotionally first, and they have to get passionate about their cause and their mission. And then often once you’ve made that connection with someone, it leads to them donating their time or their money or volunteering,” Lecky says.
 
So dooley media, in conjunction with Mark Bowen MediaSpotted Yeti MediaRockIt Copywriting and Brian Arnberg, is hosting a contest that will award a $10,000 social media makeover to one local group.
 
The makeover will include a social media strategy session and audit, training, an on-site photography session, a half-day video shoot, a logo redesign, a Facebook page and various other social media tips and resources.
 
“It’s important because you need a platform—a way to be able to reach more people and share and connect with them,” Lecky says. “They need a way to be able to just get them talking to each other. Once there’s more word of mouth and that buzz, it builds that awareness.”  

Do Good: 

• If you're a nonprofit in need of a social media makeover, enter to win prior to October 31.

• Like dooley media on Facebook, and keep up with the contest results so you can vote for your favorite nonprofit November 1–15.

• Support your local nonprofits and engage with them through social media platforms.

By Brittany York

Brittany York is a professor of English composition at both the University of Cincinnati and Xavier University. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia. 

 

Metro bus stop shelters transform into public art

For individuals waiting to catch the bus throughout the downtown and Over-the-Rhine communities, painted depictions of scenes from popular novels will now help them pass the time.
 
Characters like Harry Potter, Willy Wonka and even Dorothy and Toto now enliven the shelters of 24 Metro bus stops.
 
“For our customers, the experience of waiting on a bus is now enhanced by beautiful artwork—it’s the talking piece when they’re sitting next to someone or just something to capture their attention to make their wait more enjoyable,” says Brandy Jones, Metro’s communications coordinator.
 
Metro and the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County partnered with ArtWorks to put six of the nonprofit’s apprentices to work by showcasing their talents while brightening the city. ArtWorks connects artists of all ages with opportunities in the arts through inspiring apprenticeships, community partnerships and public art.
 
“The students put in a lot of work and creativity, and it’s so interesting from an entire novel to see what they pulled out of it for an art theme,” Jones says.
 
Inspired designs came from a public vote the library hosted to gain information regarding the community’s favorite settings and characters. And at the end of September, the apprentices’ works were showcased and viewed by participants in a walking tour.
 
“We talked about what it means for our community to see art in everyday settings,” Jones says. “And it was a good experience for them to show off their hard work, and a good experience for the community to appreciate the youth and their positivity.” 

Do Good:
• Support ArtWorks by donating.

• Ride the Metro and view apprentices' art while waiting. There is a map located within each shelter which tells the locations for each design. 

• Support the PLCHC by signing up for a library card

By Brittany York
Brittany York is a professor of English composition at both the University of Cincinnati and Xavier University. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia. 


Price Hill Will introduces new model for community gardening

Part of Price Hill Will’s mission is to improve the neighborhood through community engagement, and the organization has found an innovative new way of doing so—by shifting the traditional model of community gardening.
 
“Not everyone’s going to be able to come out to a community garden, so we wanted to diversify our green program so that we can help people in their own places and really meet everybody’s needs where their needs are,” says Pamela Taylor, Price Hill Will’s community outreach coordinator.
 
So the nonprofit created a program called Grow It Forward.
 
“We come to your home, install garden beds and get you started with planting free of charge,” says Chris Smyth, sustainability coordinator at Price Hill Will. “All we ask in return is that you help with three more garden installs.”
 
So a community member requests a garden setup, which is customized depending on how much space is available and what an individual wants to grow. Then they volunteer their time by interacting with their neighbors to help them do the same.
 
“It’s kind of a decentralized model of community gardening by bringing people together to help with each others’ gardens,” Taylor says. “Or people can share seeds or sprouts, plants, or even produce later on.”
 
In addition to receiving a garden setup and the motivation to meet your neighbors while offering a helping hand, Taylor says there are a multitude of other benefits the program offers.
 
“It’s fun to be out in the back yard gardening in the sun. It’s healthy growing fresh fruits and vegetables, and it’s much cheaper to grow your own foods and supplement nutrition than it is to go out and buy produce at the grocery store or the farmer’s market where it might be even more expensive,” Taylor says.
 
“And if people have difficult work schedules or transportation issues getting to a community garden, it’s a lot more accessible for them. There are also a lot of barriers people have—but there’s a source of knowledge we can share about what goes together well, what types of plants will grow when, and things like that.”

Do Good:
• Contact Chris Smyth if you'd like a garden set up, or if you're interested in volunteering your gardening skills and knowledge.

• Support Price Hill Will by donating. 

• Sign up for Price Hill Will's weekly newsletter.

By Brittany York
Brittany York is a professor of English composition at both the University of Cincinnati and Xavier University. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia. 


Charlie's Kids Foundation emphasizes safe sleep for infants

Born in April 2010, Charlie Hanke was everything his parents could have asked for in a newborn.
 
“He was a beautiful baby boy, and just perfect in every way,” says Sam Hanke, Charlie’s father. “And we were a very normal family for three weeks—doing all the normal things parents do—and we got so much joy and love from this little baby.”
 
But on April 27, 2010, Hanke says Charlie was “fussy” and was having a difficult time getting to sleep.
 
“I was holding him and sat down on the couch and fell asleep. And when I woke up, Charlie didn’t,” Hanke says. “And it’s been a beginning of a new life for my wife and I and for my friends and family who’ve helped to kind of get us to move forward from that night.”
 
One way Sam and his wife Maura have moved forward is through the creation of the Charlie’s Kids Foundation to raise awareness about the issue of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and the importance of safe sleep.
 
“Safe sleep practices have been shown to reduce the risk of SIDS significantly, and we know families aren’t doing it. As a result, too many babies are dying,” Hanke says. “Cincinnati has over two times the national average for infant mortality rates, and some areas within the city have mortality rates that are on average the same as in Iraq and developing countries, and that’s unacceptable and embarrassing.”
 
In hopes of preventing other families from going through a loss similar to the one they experienced, the Hankes want to do all they can to educate others about the dos and don’ts of infant sleeping habits. Their latest venture is commissioning a children’s book, "Sleep Baby, Safe and Snug;" the profits will help the nonprofit further its mission.
 
“It’s really just a gentle book written by a local doctor and pediatrician friend of mine—John Hutton,” Hanke says. “And the interest and excitement around this book has just been humbling. We released it in June and presented it in a couple different venues and have already sold 100,000 copies in the last three months.” 

Do Good:
• Purchase a copy of "Sleep Baby, Safe and Snug" online, or at local booksellers like The Villager or Blue Manatee. Copies will soon be available at Joseph-Beth Booksellers as well.

• Support Charlie's Kids by donating.

• Like Charlie's Kids on Facebook, and share safe sleep dos and don'ts with others.

By Brittany York
Brittany York is a professor of English composition at both the University of Cincinnati and Xavier University. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia. 
 

Melrose YMCA avoids closure and celebrates diverse community

For nearly 70 years, the Melrose YMCA has served as a unique and diverse gathering spot within the Walnut Hills community.
 
“It has been very inclusive,” says Connie Springer, YMCA member and volunteer. “We call it one of the most diverse Ys in the city, because for people of all socioeconomic levels and colors, it’s very welcoming, incredibly friendly, and a lot of people have been members for like 40 years.”
 
There’s a history at the Melrose YMCA, and that’s why Springer says she joined together with other Y members to host Community Day Celebration last month.
 
For Springer, celebrating the Melrose YMCA is important because earlier in the year, its place in the community was in danger.
 
“It was part of a nationwide plan to close Ys, and we were on the chopping block,” Springer says.
 
Notifications were sent to members that hours of operation were soon to be shortened, but for Springer and other faithful members, reduced hours were not an option.
 
“I was part of a committee of six working to make people aware of how important the Y is and what a community asset it is in Walnut Hills,” Springer says. “And we just persevered. The six of us, and eventually others who felt strongly about keeping the Y together—half a dozen or so other people—we just worked really hard to have the hours extended and to tell the community about the Y.”
 
Springer’s work, however, is not done. The ultimate goal, she says, is to continue to increase awareness through events like last month’s Community Day Celebration so that more people can engage with members of their communities in a safe and vibrant location.
 
“People have raised their families at the Y, different generations have learned to swim there. It’s been a really important part of people’s lives,” Springer says. “And the people are so friendly—it’s really unusual I think. You really develop friendships and a sense of community when you go there. On a day-to-day basis, you just feel welcome, and there’s camaraderie.”

Do Good: 

• Learn about memberships, and consider supporting the YMCA by joining. 

• Support the Melrose YMCA by utilizing the space and participating in the programs offered. 

• Volunteer at the YMCA.

By Brittany York
Brittany York is a professor of English composition at both the University of Cincinnati and Xavier University. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia. 

 

Artist with low vision showcases life through paintings

Barbara Petersen began taking art classes at Clovernook Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired in 2008; and it was in her low-vision support group that her interest in a painting class was first piqued.
 
“That’s an area I had always been interested in but never had tried,” Petersen says. “[My instructor] Scott [Wallace] has me do large shapes and objects instead of real fine-detailed things like somebody with normal vision could maybe do. He adapts—he teaches what he teaches to everyone—but he adapts it to my visual impairment.”
 
Petersen was born with cataracts, which she had removed at the age of 3, but because of scar tissue, she’s unable to have lens implants.
 
Low vision, however, does not stop Petersen, though she says it does impact every area of her life.
 
“But painting has given me confidence, because when I first saw the big canvas [Wallace] gave me, I thought, ‘There’s no way I can fill this up,’” Petersen says. “And I started at the bottom corner on the right, and little by little, with the techniques he taught me, I was able to do more and more.”
 
Now Clovernook’s Willoughby Art Gallery will host a gallery opening featuring Petersen’s work, which includes a collection of acrylic paintings, in addition to large ceramic pieces and jewelry.
 
The title of her exhibit is "Love Lifted Me," and her works include a series of hearts to represent various aspects of her life.
 
“I’ve always loved the old hymn about how God’s love has always lifted us out of whatever valley we’re in. In addition to blindness, I had some issues with depression and things like that, and God was faithful to get me through that,” Petersen says.  “But I also have two heart conditions I’m dealing with, and one day, I was in the cardiologist’s office and saw a big poster, and I thought it was a painting of a heart, and I asked and they said, ‘Oh we’d rather see one of your paintings there than the poster,’ so that’s what gave me the idea to do a series of hearts.”

Do Good: 

• Like the Clovernook Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired on Facebook.

• Support Barbara Petersen by viewing or purchasing one of her pieces. Guests can visit the gallery from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and also by appointment.
 
• Support the Clovernook Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

By Brittany York
Brittany York is a professor of English composition at both the University of Cincinnati and Xavier University. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia. 


Constella Festival engages kids with free classical music events

When Tatiana Berman, international soloist and chamber musician, moved to Cincinnati in 2006, she says she took note of the multitude of musical arts organizations in town, and the possibilities for collaboration began to stir.
 
“I thought it would be nice to present a more unified idea to the Cincinnati people, but also to the outside world in a way, by better showcasing some of the organizations—by putting them together in a festival,” Berman says. “I approached a couple friends of mine to come and play, and they did. By bringing in these internationally renowned musicians, I then was able to put the local organizations in this same festival, and as a result, they get more international attention.”
 
Known as the Constella Festival of Music and Fine Arts, Berman’s creation is now in its third season. The Festival is comprised of several performances and installations that take place in October and early November in both conventional as well as unusual venues and surroundings. And as the world-class talent continues to thrive, so do Berman’s ideas for adding to the festival experience.
 
This year, Berman incorporated free children’s concerts into Constella’s lineup with the intent of merging storytelling and chamber music to create an experience that she says she hopes is “educational, entertaining and enchanting."
 
“One thing everybody knows that’s suffering is music and arts for kids in the schools,” Berman says. “I have two kids myself, and I’m a strong believer that the way things are right now—it doesn’t make sense to me—it’s been scientifically proven that kids who do art and music do better academically, and I have proof in my children and lots of my friends. It develops their brain, and not just the basics—it develops their self-confidence. They become focused—the concentration. You name it—it’s good for them.”
 
Incorporating children’s activities into the festival lineup is just the beginning for Berman and other musicians involved with Constella, however. Thanks to a recent grant, the organization will now be able to go to local schools to perform and give students the necessary tools to know that, just because they may not be able to receive a musical education at school, they can do it on their own.
 
“You can make music and make art, and it’s not this thing where they have to buy stuff, necessarily. We give them a handout of resources—music-making apps, free things they can do at the museum and at different places, free concerts for children, things like that,” Berman says. “The idea is to really encourage them and make sure they understand they can make music in any way, shape or form, and there are different ways of getting involved and going to make art as well.” 

Do Good: 

• Like the Constella Festival of Music and Fine Arts' Facebook page.

• If you're interested in bringing Constella children's performances to your school or community, contact event organizers.

• Support Constella by donating and by attending festival events—all events are kid-friendly, and student tickets are available.

By Brittany York
Brittany York is a professor of English composition at both the University of Cincinnati and Xavier University. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia. 

 

Hospitality Academy hosts Recipe for Success, helps student chefs

About a year and a half ago, Cincinnati State Technical and Community College partnered with the Freestore Foodbank to put together a program that would help individuals from Cincinnati’s urban core transition into a culinary career path. 
 
The two organizations worked together to create what is now called the Hospitality Academy of Cincinnati and is designed for graduates of the FSFB’s Cincinnati Cooks program.
 
“We were able to give students 30 credit hours for prior learning, and then we designed a Kitchen Management Certificate—a three-credit hour program that taught the students more complex things like food inventory management. So the students who graduate end up having 33 credit hours, which is nearly half an associates degree,” says Dennis Ulrich, Cincinnati State’s Vice President of Workforce Development.
 
After the completion of the first-year pilot program, 14 of the 20 participants graduated, four are now enrolled at Cincinnati State and one opened up a catering business.
 
“So it’s had wonderful actual results in terms of what they’ve been able to do in going through the program,” Ulrich says.
 
To continue producing results, however, the Hospitality Academy has to come up with the funding.
 
“It costs about $65,000 dollars to run a program, which means it’s free for the students, but that’s the cost,” Ulrich says.
 
In an effort to raise $125,000—enough to support two programs—the academy will host Recipe for Success, a fundraiser bringing together 20 restaurants that will serve food by the bite at Horseshoe Casino. During the event, student chefs will participate in a competition requiring them to create a meal out of ingredients provided to them in a mystery basket.
 
“We’re trying to become self-sufficient by putting together a food event,” Ulrich says. “There are a lot of folks who have struggled in their lives—who have had some difficulty legally or financially—and they’ve really stepped up to try to get a career pathway. They have an excess of 105 graduates of Cincinnati Cooks, so these are people from the inner city who’ve really struggled and who have a tremendous opportunity getting through the new program and getting another level of opportunity in their careers.”

Do Good: 

• Support the Hospitality Academy of Cincinnati by purchasing a ticket to attend Recipe for Success November 3 from 5 to 9 p.m. at Horseshoe Casino.

• Sponsor Recipe for Success. 

• Like Cincinnati State Workforce Development Center's Facebook page, and spread the word about Recipe for Success by inviting your friends to the event.

By Brittany York

Brittany York is a professor of English composition at both the University of Cincinnati and Xavier University. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia. 

 

NKU facilitates STEM learning for students from pre-school through college

Improving students' performance in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics—otherwise known as STEM education—is Northern Kentucky University’s Center for Integrative Natural Science and Mathematics’ ultimate vision for students from pre-school to college.
 
“We host students on campus, serve as liaison between public schools, faculty and resources on campus, support undergraduate research, fund certain staff positions, and promote active learning on campus,” says John Farrar, CINSAM director. The term is typically used in addressing education policy and curriculum choices in schools from kindergarten through college to improve the nation's competitiveness in technology development.
 
Last year, the organization piloted the Next Generation STEM Classroom program, though it has been involved with professional development throughout public schools in Northern Kentucky for years.
 
“The way the project works now is we have a fishbowl where our outreach specialists go and model an active learning lesson with the kids, and the teachers then observe,” Farrar says. “Then at the end, after the kids leave, they have recap sessions, and that’s really a time for them to reflect on what they saw, evaluate it, and focus on content and curriculum.”
 
Rather than conducting professional development sessions in a setting where Farrar says “experts” from higher education come in and “tell the teachers what they’re doing wrong,” CINSAM instead focuses on a collaborative learning opportunity.
 
One particularly effective lesson that Farrar enjoys is an interactive one in which a plastic fish in a bowl slowly disappears as the students add things like fertilizer, potting soil and oil to mimic the effects of pollution.
 
“And then they talk about—OK, what should we do about that? How can we clean up that water?” Farrar says. “So the kids go through an experiment where they look at cleaning up the water. So what kind of filters would you use? They have a coffee filter that they can add different things to—sand or gravel or charcoal, different things, and they’re not told how to put this together really—they investigate in this lesson what works to clean up the water and what doesn’t work.”
 
Farrar says teachers are pleased, and test results indicate progress for the students who have been involved.
 
“We hope that kids are, of course, knowledgeable about science, but that they think like scientists—they know how to approach problems—they know how to do critical thinking,” Farrar says. “And I’m thinking this project really has potential to be a larger effort. I really do believe that it’s the best way or a best practice in teaching teachers—in training them—and so it’s something that could really become something beyond just our region. It really is effective in having the teachers learn, but then as the teachers learn, they can transfer that to their students, and that’s what we’re all about—making sure the students get good educations.” 

Do Good: 

• Explore CINSAM's programs for students and parents.

• Like CINSAM on Facebook

• Follow CINSAM on Twitter.

By Brittany York

Brittany York is a professor of English composition at both the University of Cincinnati and Xavier University. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia. 

 

CCO brings classical pop music and anti-bullying message to SCPA

Today the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra hosts classical pop music fusion Time for Three at The School for Creative & Performing Arts for a master class in which the trio will address the issue of bullying.
 
“As classical musicians and a bunch of nerds—meant most affectionately—we’re very cognizant of the effects of bullying, and we’ve all gone through it in some fashion or another,” says Thom Mariner, executive director at the CCO. “But we’re big believers in musical education as a way to positively affect positive development.” 
 
Tf3 is a group of classically trained musicians who Mariner says “got together surreptitiously” because of their admittance in the conservatory to liking pop music—an admittance that Mariner says is “a little bit sacrilegious.”
 
The trio, who created a mashup video in 2011 titled “Stronger,” all experienced bullying because of their interests in classical music when growing up; so “Stronger” is a message of inspiration to encourage individuals to continue to pursue what they love.
 
Tf3 not only will present its message about bullying to SCPA students, but tomorrow, on National Anti-Bullying Day, the group also will help the CCO kick off its 40th anniversary season with a performance at its opening concert.
 
“What they’re doing is a brilliant way to bridge gaps in understanding regarding classical music,” Mariner says. “They’re rare in the fact that, while they’re conservatory trained, they all grew up playing improvised music and are extremely comfortable playing off a score or just having fun.”

Do Good:

• Support the CCO by subscribing to its 40th anniversary season.

• Purchase a ticket to attend the Time for Three concert Wednesday, October 9 at the SCPA. 

• Support students at the SCPA by attending their performances

By Brittany York

Brittany York is a professor of English composition at both the University of Cincinnati and Xavier University. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia. 

 

Place from Space seeks to transform vacant spaces

For local architects Elizabeth Schmidt and Brad Cooper, transforming vacant and underutilized space is one way to enliven neighborhoods and encourage community members to interact with the built environment.
 
So the two architects, with the help of the Architectural Foundation of Cincinnati and a recent grant from FUEL Cincinnati, launched Place from Space—a competition that allows individuals to submit ideas for making use of empty and available spaces throughout Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky.
 
“Thus far, we’ve received a handful of submissions that are kind of all over the map in terms of what they’re proposing,” Cooper says. “That was the idea—to generate a wide variety of ideas that are creative, innovative and aren’t just cleaning up the trash or cutting the weeds in the lot—they’re supposed to be simple but innovative.”
 
The competition will be open for submissions through November 4, and participating neighborhoods include East, West and Lower Price Hill, Over-the-Rhine, Covington, East Walnut Hills and Walnut Hills.
 
A designated neighborhood group from within each community will select the finalists, while the public will vote on the People’s Choice finalist; and come spring, Schmidt and Cooper say transformations should begin.
 
“We’re both very interested in community design and designing for people,” Schmidt says. “We had seen some competitions in other cities that seemed to be really successful, and we thought with all the new energy and excitement in Cincinnati and with all of the momentum Cincinnati has in its unique neighborhoods, that it’d be a great fit for the city as well.” 

Do Good: 

• Submit your ideas for turning underutilized spaces into active and vibrant places.

• Check out ArchiNATI for more fun ways to engage with Cincinnati's built environment.

• Support your local community and neighborhood groups by volunteering, participating in activities or simply getting reacquainted with your neighbors.

By Brittany York

Brittany York is a professor of English composition at both the University of Cincinnati and Xavier University. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia. 

 

St. Vincent De Paul, DAAP students collaborate on fashion show fundraiser

When Liz Carter first entered the door of St. Vincent de Paul Cincinnati more than 14 years ago, she was immediately drawn to a community of individuals who give of themselves.
 
Carter now serves as executive director for the organization, and like the volunteers surrounding her, she makes it a priority to be involved in the lives of people in need of the bare essentials.
 
“We’re going to somebody’s kitchen that’s freezing cold in the winter because utilities are off, or you have to get there before dark because they don’t have any light,” Carter says. “We go into places where they don’t have a scrap of furniture.”
 
Carter says she remembers a story from a volunteer who went into a family’s home to find three small bowls sitting on the kitchen floor, while thinking the family must have kittens.
 
“And then three kids come in, and the mom pours a little cereal in each of the three bowls,” Carter says. “Once you see that, you can never go back. I fell in love with those volunteers and what they’re doing, and I don’t think there’s another thing like it around.”
 
To raise funds to help more families, the nonprofit is partnering with the University of Cincinnati’s College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning for the 11th year to host RetroFittings—a fashion show in which this year’s theme is “A Night at the Opera.” The event is this Thursday, October 10, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Music Hall.
 
“Over the years, we’ve had literally hundreds of students who’ve gone to our thrift stores, and they take $10 dollar gift certificates and get whatever they can to create the most phenomenal outfits you can imagine,” Carter says. “Their creativity floors me.”
 
According to Carter, it’s more important than ever that individuals attend the event to help support St. Vincent de Paul’s clients in need.
 
“Everybody keeps reading about the recovery and the recession and that we’re working our way out of it,” Carter says. “But I’m just going to say that we’re not seeing that. Our requests from food are up; our request with rent and utility assistance is up.” 

Do Good:

• Purchase a ticket to attend RetroFittings Thursday, October 10.

• Support St. Vincent de Paul by donating. 

• Get involved by volunteering.

By Brittany York

Brittany York is a professor of English composition at both the University of Cincinnati and Xavier University. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia. 

 

Growing Sound creates new anti-bullying strategy using music

As part of its Before the Bullying initiative, Growing Sound, a Covington-based music publisher, worked with 15 students in the Greater Cincinnati area to produce six music videos aimed at promoting pro-social behavior.
 
“We have an acronym—AFTER—for the five things we’re really addressing socially and emotionally in these collections of songs: acceptance, friendship, teamwork, empathy and responsibility,” says David Kisor, Growing Sound’s creative director. “Those are all the pro-social behaviors that prevent bullying from happening in the first place, so as we inoculate our children against things like the flu and against diseases, we can actually inoculate them against bullying by knowing that we all know these pro-social behaviors.”
 
According to Kisor and the research Growing Sound has conducted, schools that participate in anti-bullying campaigns actually end up with more bullying—not less.
 
“Once the bullying is there, we need to take care of ourselves and address things, but coming down hard on the bullying is trying to bully the bullying out of school, and that categorically does not work,” Kisor says.
 
Growing Sound, which is a division of local nonprofit Children, Inc. produces CDs and other materials based on the latest research regarding social and emotional development. And Kisor says music is one of the most beneficial ways of delivering that content.
 
“We remember things in songs long after we remember what someone just told us,” Kisor says. “In the first place, it sticks in the brain and shapes the way we think, and secondly, it’s just fun.”
 
Students who participated in the music videos, which will be released weekly throughout October in recognition of National Bullying Prevention Month, interacted with one another in a way that emulated the pro-social behaviors the organization is trying to promote, Kisor says.
 
“We did the rehearsal and shot all six videos in one day, and in the middle of the day, our research director, Tom Lottman, pulls me aside and says, ‘It’s amazing—the pro-social behaviors we’re trying to sing about in these songs—I see it happening in between,” Kisor says. “And it was just amazing to see the friendships and the bonding. Many students didn’t know each other at all before, and now they’re friends, Facebook friends, and they talk to each other.” 

Do Good: 

• Like Growing Sound on Facebook.

• Support Children, Inc. 

• Check out the music from "Everyone is Someone" and "Take Care," both of which are part of the Before the Bullying campaign.

By Brittany York
Brittany York is a professor of English composition at both the University of Cincinnati and Xavier University. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia.

 

Strut Your Stuff teaches women about cars, helps low-income women with transportation

Empowering women through economic self-sufficiency is the primary goal of The Women’s Fund of the Greater Cincinnati Foundation.
 
“We don’t deliver direct services, but we lead the conversation and help make some macro changes through research and convening different groups together to talk about it,” says Meghan Cummings, Development Officer for The Women’s Fund.
 
Some of the organization’s latest research efforts are aimed at addressing the root causes of children’s poverty—which stems from the issue that many of these children are living in single female-headed households—in addition to a phenomenon known as “the cliff effect.”
 
“As a woman or man works up this ladder of self-sufficiency—perhaps they’re on some public supports for that—they reach these arbitrary limits when they’re just starting to make it; and instead of benefits peeling off, they drop off all at once,” Cummings says.
 
“Sometimes a $2,000 dollar raise a year—90 cents an hour—can trigger a childcare loss of $12,000 dollars a year. It’s just unbelievable, and the net is that these people aren’t moving out of poverty. They’re probably at a situation worse than where they were, and something needs to be done about it, so we’re taking a leadership role to say, 'OK let’s figure this out.'”
 
In addition to research and leadership efforts, Cummings says it’s also important that The Women’s Fund provides opportunities for friends and donors to also feel empowered by learning something while continuing to give back.
 
So for the third year, the foundation will host Strut Your Stuff—an annual event that helps women gain knowledge and confidence about issues regarding cars and transportation, while also benefitting the Samaritan Car Care program for low-income women in Northern Kentucky.
 
“We partnered with Bruce Kintner who helps women get car maintenance—he does oil changes and changes the fluids just to keep them going,” Cummings says. “So we have an event where we teach women how to interact about their car, and then the proceeds help low-income women keep their cars in order, because if they don’t have that car, transportation is a huge barrier. Can they get to work everyday and drop their kids off, or not? So it was a natural tie-in.” 

Do Good: 

• Sign up to attend Strut Your Stuff.

• Donate to The Women's Fund.

• Listen to Dale Donovan, who volunteers his time and knowledge of cars to The Women's Fund each year at Strut Your Stuff, on 55KRC.

By Brittany York
Brittany York is a professor of English composition at both the University of Cincinnati and Xavier University. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia. 


Local young professional champions community engagement

For local young professional Michael Bronson of Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease LLP, volunteering is an integral aspect of life that an already full schedule cannot get in the way of. 

“I made a concerted effort a few years ago to become more involved in community activities, because up until that time, I really had a pretty singular focus for a long period of time on my career and my family,” Bronson says. “I don’t believe there’s anything wrong with that, but at the same time, I felt a little bit of self-consciousness or guilt that I had been pretty fortunate in my life and hadn’t spent much time for people who hadn’t.” 

As a full-time professional, husband and father, Bronson has had to make time for giving back. 

Volunteer firefighting, youth sports coaching and serving with programs like TriState Habitat for HumanityProKids Young Professionals and Friends of the Little Miami State Park are five of Bronson’s regular endeavors; but even on the job, he’s hard at work on both professional practice and community giving. 

“Since moving back to Cincinnati, I’ve always been a believer in the United Way and have been a contributor, but I was originally asked to lead the campaign without knowing much about what that entails. I was a little apprehensive at that time about whether it would be something that I’d be good at or whether it would be something I could find the time to do adequately,” Bronson says. “And as it turned out, and I’ve been doing it for several years now—the experience has been a lot more fun and gratifying than I expected.” 

Through the Cincinnati Pledge Drive and Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease’s partnership with the United Way, Bronson says he’s constantly finding new opportunities to engage people by making it worth their while to “create opportunities where they might not otherwise see them.” 

Bronson grew up in Cincinnati, and he says he’s seen it improve greatly throughout the years. So for him, the work he does in the community is simply a way of contributing so that other individuals who choose to live and raise their children here in the future have the same opportunities he’s had. 

“This community has a lot of things going for it now, but a lot of untapped potential as well,” Bronson says. “We need to continue to develop education and develop opportunities for people and kind of foster the sort of economic growth and development that can only lead to new and exciting ventures here in Cincinnati—and continue to attract great people and businesses to the area.” 

Do Good:
• Volunteer for a cause you are passionate about. 

• Make volunteering an activity the family can do together. 

• Support Bronson in his volunteer work with Terrace Park Volunteer Emergency Services, Habitat for HumanityProKids, the United Way of Greater Cincinnati and Friends of the Little Miami State Park.

By Brittany York
Brittany York is a professor of English composition at both the University of Cincinnati and Xavier University. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia. 

Northside salon raises money for abused and neglected kids

In 2005, the number of child deaths that occurred as a result of abuse or neglect in the United States was four per day. Five years later, the number continues to rise and is now up to five children a day.

“That definitely was kind of a wake up sign for us,” says Eric Schweitzer, co-owner of Taylor Jameson Hair Design. “It’s actually becoming a problem that’s being talked about, and with the rate at which it’s growing, it’s becoming more of an epidemic in a way.” 

To show support and raise funds to assist ChildHelp, a national non-profit organization dedicated to helping victims of child abuse and neglect, Schweitzer led efforts at Taylor Jameson to coordinate White Out Child Abuse—The Cincinnati White Party. 

The event brought individuals together for an end of summer celebration that Schweitzer says he would like to see grow and transform into an annual benefit that assists children on a more local level, as well. 

“Children are the future,” Schweitzer says. “Without them, what’s going to continue to propel humanity forward? “ 

Taylor Jameson has raised about $2,000 dollars so far, and donations are continuing to come in, which Schweitzer says is thanks to the contributions of the salon guests—another reason why he says Taylor Jameson wants to reach out to local nonprofits changing children’s lives. 

“As a local small business, we rely so much on the support of the city and communities that we operate in to supply us with regular salon guests and customers,” Schweitzer says. “It’s definitely our way of being able to turn around and say thank you by going and stepping outside of our normal day-to-day role.” 

Do Good: 

• Support ChildHelp by donating.

• Consider launching a local chapter of ChildHelp in Cincinnati.

• Connect with Taylor Jameson Hair Design on Facebook.

By Brittany York
Brittany York is a professor of English composition at both the University of Cincinnati and Xavier University. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia. 

Greater Cincinnati Foundation celebrates 50 years with Big Idea Challenge

To honor 50 years of contributions and volunteers who enable The Greater Cincinnati Foundation to support nonprofits in the region, the organization decided to launch the Big Idea Challenge

“We’re a permanent community institution and plan to be here for at least 50 more years,” says Elizabeth Reiter Benson, GCF’s vice president of communications and marketing. “So we thought about people in the community who aren’t familiar with the foundation or who haven’t been part of our work in the past, and thought about what sort of project or gift to the community we could give that would get more people involved.” 

Inspired by a similar challenge in Minnesota, the Big Idea Challenge highlights submissions for potential projects that would make our city better, and allows people living within the community to vote on which idea they would most like to see come to fruition. 

Seven different segments of community life are represented in the ideas—everything from cultural vibrancy and education to the environment and health and wellness. 

“The category we call Strong Communities received a lot of entries, because a lot of people—when thinking about making the community better—center on community engagement or getting particular groups of people together,” Reiter Benson says. “But I think what was impressive to me in the finalists’ results was really the breadth of ideas. They had things from very specific parts of neighborhoods, all the way to trying to bring the whole region together—almost neighborhood Olympics.” 

Voting is open through Sept. 27, and winners will be announced in October, when local nonprofits will be matched up with winning ideas and will receive the funds needed to pilot a project and get the ball rolling. 

“We had a goal of about 1,000 votes and already have 3,000, so the community is clearly excited about the opportunity that they get to pick the winner,” Reiter Benson says. “We didn’t know what the response would be, so to have this many people involved in something is really a great fiftieth anniversary gift to us.” 

Do Good: 

• Read all ideas and vote for your favorite.

• Like the Big Idea Challenge on Facebook, and share the page with your friends. Encourage them to vote.

• Continue to check the site even after winners have been chosen so that you can help keep the ideas in motion. 

By Brittany York
Brittany York is a professor of English composition at both the University of Cincinnati and Xavier University. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia. 

Brazee Street Studios supports children through Beads of Courage

For more than 43,000 years, beads have served a variety of purposes across cultures and throughout time. 
 
From symbols of status and bravery to protection and courage, beads are reminders to those who wear them that strength and endurance matter.
 
For Dorie Guthrie, instructor and visiting artist coordinator at Brazee Street Studios in Oakley, working with glass is a passion. And knowing that children with serious illnesses receive the beads she invests her time and skill in to use as trophies of sorts is gratifying.
 
“I have a good friend in Seattle, and her son had cancer and did the Beads of Courage program, and it just dawned on me that when she was talking about him going through the chemotherapy and spinal taps and everything that’s going on, they’re just pushed through all these different procedures that they’re kind of incoherent about half of them,” Guthrie says.
 
“And then when they wake up, they have beads for every single thing they went through, and it makes them realize—wow, this is what my body has went through—cause they’re going through so much at that time.”
 
Guthrie and other artists at Brazee Street Studios come together once a month to flamework and then donate beads, which go directly to individuals receiving care at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.
 
But once a year, the studio artists join together for the Beads of Courage Bead Challenge, which is a marathon bead-making session that will take place September 21 and will engage the public so they, too, can see how beads are made and can engage in the process and reach out to the children receiving treatment, as well.
 
“It’s just so nice for the children to be able to reflect, and for us as bead makers to be able to have the skill for them to appreciate and love these things that are going to be with them forever,” Guthrie says. “That’s a very strong bond in a relationship that correlates directly with having this beautiful bead and then appreciating it just as much as we appreciate making it for them.”

Do Good: 

• Support Beads of Courage.

• Attend the Bead Challenge at Brazee Street School of Glass and support the program by sponsoring a bead or by making one of your own and writing a note to a patient. 

• Contact Dorie if you're interested in volunteering at the Bead Challenge.

By Brittany York
Brittany York is a professor of English composition at both the University of Cincinnati and Xavier University. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia.

Cincinnati Fondo brings cyclists together in support of Freestore Foodbank

The second annual Cincinnati Fondo takes place September 22 when cyclists will come together to ride one of two courses—a 57-mile Fondo or a 114-mile Gran Fondo—along the roads of Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky’s countryside to raise money for the Freestore Foodbank.
 
For novice cyclist Ramon Rodriguez, who serves as vice president at Fifth Third Bank and as a board member of the FSFB, the race is a way to enjoy beautiful scenery while also supporting a great cause.
 
Rodriguez joined the board of the FSFB about six years ago at a time in his life when he says his scope of understanding with regard to the organization’s goals was limited.
 
“Like many people here in Cincinnati, we see the lines that form in front of our Liberty distribution center, come Christmas and come Thanksgiving, where families go and get their boxes for holiday meals,” Rodriguez says. “But the scope of services and the reach that the Freestore has was something that was totally new to me.”
 
The organization’s reach is far more apparent to Rodriguez at this point in time, and while he’s inspired by all of the programs offered by the FSFB, he says he has a particular affinity toward the Power Pack Program.
 
“These are packages of food that are assembled for the benefit of children that have food insecurity when they come home after school. So, either they pick it up on Friday, and they have food for the weekend, or once there’s longer breaks from school, they’re able to have some form of food security available to them,” Rodriguez says. “And we provide that, and it takes only four dollars to create one power pack for a child every week.”
 
Registering for the Cincinnati Fondo, Rodriguez says, will provide the funds necessary to help the FSFB with programs like the Power Pack, and in this case, would be enough to provide a child with enough packs for an entire month.  
 
“We have major corporations based here in Cincinnati, but you still see a large number of children that still come home to empty pantries,” Rodriguez says. “That’s been a big driver. I have a 7- and 9-year-old at home, and thinking of them going without—it’s unimaginable.”

Do Good: 

• Register for the Cincinnati Fondo.

• Support the Freestore Foodbank by making a donation.
 
 • Volunteer with the Freestore Foodbank.

By Brittany York
Brittany York is a professor of English composition at both the University of Cincinnati and Xavier University. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia.

Landor Cincinnati brands nonprofits and community

Landor Cincinnati is more than a branding firm that produces client-driven work. It’s a creative community of individuals with a propensity to make our city better. 

“It’s really just part of our culture to engage in our community in a really significant way,” says Steve McGowan, executive creative director at Landor. “Anyone in our building, any of our associates—if they have a concept, they’re free to bring it to us, and we almost 99.9 percent participate and help them make a difference in the community.” 

The company’s partnership with Dress for Success Cincinnati, a non-profit aimed at increasing women’s confidence by providing professional attire and job-readiness coaching, will celebrate four years together at the organization’s annual fashion show Thursday, September 19 at the Hyatt Regency Ballroom downtown.

“There’s something great about the Dress For Success partnership in that the power in branding is to make that human connection—that really authentic connection,” says McGowan, adding that everything DFS believes in was reflected in the design decisions and ultimate feel of the event—from centerpieces to invitations to the show. “There’s a synergistic relationship that happens when something like this comes together, so when we do find those relationships, we hold on to them yearly because we know we’re helping to empower women, and in the process, empowering our designers to make a change and make a difference. 

For Jessie Zettler, Landor’s associate design director, the fashion show is a particularly gratifying event, because DFS clients are able to walk the catwalk and share their personal success stories. 

“We really believe in the power of design and creativity—change the world for the better,” Zettler says. “And a lot of the efforts Landor is investing in are great examples of that. When you see all that hard work, the blood sweat and tears come to life, it’s so fulfilling for all of us.” 

From Visionaries + Voices to the Cincinnati Museum Center and most recently with the production of Lumenocity for the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Landor takes creative license to deliver quality work for a rich variety of community entities. 

“With Lumenocity, I just came back from a luncheon where we were presenting to the board, and they were just so grateful. The results are coming in, and the social media, what it’s done for OTR, what it’s done for Washington Park, what it did to shine a light on Music Hall and then the fact that the symphony itself—we were welcoming Louis Langrée in as our new conductor—all the stars aligned in three magical nights,” McGowan says. 

“It exceeded so many expectations. It’s total experimentation," he continues. "This was a once in a lifetime opportunity because it had never been done with a live orchestra, but it added a cool factor and introduced a whole new demographic to the symphony in a way that ticket sales are better, there’s a new perspective to the symphony as a place of experimentation. Honestly, that’s why we do it. We have the skills, the tools, and if we can help, we’re more than happy to apply the tools in a way that makes a meaningful difference.” 

Do Good: 

• Support Dress for Success Cincinnati by purchasing tickets to the fashion show.

• Reach out to Landor if you are a nonprofit or if you have an idea that you want to share or need some help launching. 

• Connect with Landor and Dress for Success Cincinnati on Facebook.

By Brittany York
Brittany York is a professor of English composition at both the University of Cincinnati and Xavier University. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia.

Fifth Third eBus visits local nonprofits, promotes financial empowerment

Ohio’s education standards are shifting and now include a financial literacy component, although that hasn’t always been the case. 

“Financial literacy is not something that’s been taught to every person,” says Jeff Kursman, Fifth Third Bank Cincinnati’s vice president of public relations. 

According to Kursman, it’s necessary to educate individuals with regard to how they can effectively manage their money in order to create stronger communities. 

In an effort to do so, the Financial Empowerment Mobile (eBus) will travel to various Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky communities to partner with nonprofits and work toward providing unbanked or under-banked individuals with the information they need to get a handle on their finances.

The eBus will offer information on saving, needs versus wants, credit cards, mortgages, fraud awareness, protection, loss mitigation and more. 

Kenneth Webb, Fifth Third Bank Cincinnati’s community relationship manager, says the eBus serves a vital need in the community because it brings free services to community members who might not otherwise receive them because of the intimidation they might feel when entering a bank. For instance, Webb says traditional business attire can be intimidating, so the employees who staff the bus dress in polo shirts and slacks, which makes them more approachable.

“A lot of times, people who are having problems paying their mortgage feel embarrassed about going to an actual bank or financial institution to talk about their concerns or their needs,” Webb says. “So last year, we brought people from our loss mitigation, our home ownership assistance, and they were on the bus and were able to save homes because people came to the bus to get their work done instead of going to an actual branch. So this bus is a vehicle that not only is empowering people, but actually saving peoples’ homes.” 

Do Good: 

• Visit the eBus at the Life Learning Center from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sept. 18, 2013. 

• Keep up with the eBus' schedule, as it will return to the Tri-State throughout the year. 

• Learn about Fifth Third's other financial empowerment programs for children and teens.

By Brittany York

Brittany York is a professor of English composition at both the University of Cincinnati and Xavier University. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia. 


United Cerebal Palsy aims to expand, provide transitional support

Janet Gora, who serves as acting executive director at United Cerebral Palsy of Greater Cincinnati, says she fell into her current line of work by accident. 

“My degree is in recreation management—I played a lot of sports and thought I’d run a YMCA or something like that,” Gora says. “I was hired as a recreation specialist back in 1988 for people with pretty severe disabilities, and I’ve been in the field ever since.” 

Gora says she stayed in the field because of the genuineness of the people with whom she serves. 

“They’re funny and they’re very—they don’t play games. What you see is what you get,” Gora says. “They have no filter, and I like working with people like that. I see a chance to kind of advocate for people who have been put on the back burner for many years.” 

UCP provides individuals in their post-high school years with access to academies that allow them to hone skills and explore their various interests, but Gora’s vision for the nonprofit is that it becomes a place in Cincinnati that fills a void in assisting families with children approaching adulthood. 

“We’re really looking at how to help students in that transitional age—14 and above—to help families figure out, ‘When this kid’s 21, what’s going to happen?’ Gora says. “There’s a whole new set of rules, so families need a lot of help and support during this transition, and that’s our future looking forward.” 

Do Good: 

• Make a six-month committment to serve as a mentor within UCP's Academy of Literacy. 

• Sign up to volunteer with UCP.

• Support UCP by donating

By Brittany York

Brittany York is a professor of English composition at both the University of Cincinnati and Xavier University. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia. 

Lessons learned, lives transformed at Lawn Life

Tim Arnold grew up in Seven Hills—a suburb that he says was filled with poverty and crime. 

“My mom was a very wonderful mom, but we didn’t have a lot, and it didn’t take long before I turned to crime and other avenues to get what things I wanted in life that couldn’t be provided for me,” Arnold says. “I was charged my first felony when I was 11 years old and joined a gang when I was 12 years old. The only thing I knew for most of my young life was the thug life.” 

Arnold says it wasn’t until he was about 25 years old that he learned the value of hard work—something he says wasn’t clarified or properly taught within the confines of the neighborhood in which he grew up.  

“It’s really just exemplified as hustling without getting caught, and you know, a lot of these things you don’t see until hindsight—I can tell you that much—when you’re in the trenches, working under those precepts, it’s definitely your way of life,” Arnold says.

But when Arnold was 25, he says something just clicked. 

“I had a personal epiphany,” Arnold says. “I decided to apply for a job, and not just apply filling out applications, but to apply myself to a job—I had never had a real meaningful job up until that point. I had been in and out of detention centers, after juvenile halls, after probation stints and said I was going to give this one a real honest try and was really sincere about it.” 

So Arnold began work at a steel mill in Carthage where he invested himself completely in learning a trade while also learning valuable life lessons. 

Arnold says he quickly became a favorite, started working more hours, began making more money and ended up saving enough to buy a house that he flipped and sold for a $50,000 profit in just three short months. 

At the steel mill, he watched the plumbers and the electricians, and followed them around taking in as much knowledge as he could—learning skills that he never learned when growing up—and he began flipping more houses.  

“I realized there’s a lot of money to be made in these physical trades. When I was rehabbing that first house, I’d go to the corner store and see a guy there—a kid, 16 years old—you’ve seen them too, with a gas can. ‘Can I get a dollar man?’ Nah, come cut the grass of the house I’m fixing up. And you can get ten dollars instead of one. And if you’re good, you can help the plumber out, carry all his supplies,” Arnold says. “And that very first kid realized the value of hard work because he started making hundreds of dollars with me, and he stayed with me for a couple years and went on to work at P&G—a homeless kid on the street corners that I picked up, ended up with P&G.” 

Since that first kid five years ago, Arnold says he’s since hired almost 420 others at Lawn Life—a nonprofit he founded to provide work opportunities and knowledge to at-risk youth. 

“I hope to teach them some type of transferable skill they can carry on with them so that I can effectively be that stepping stone into the workforce for them,” Arnold says. “And I just love it so much.” 

Do Good: 

• Support Lawn Life by donating

• If you see a Lawn Life youth in a green shirt working in your neighborhood, tell them "thank you." 

• If you know of a youth who might benefit, encourage them to apply to Lawn Life. 

By Brittany York

Brittany York is a professor of English composition at both the University of Cincinnati and Xavier University. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia. 
 

Susan G. Komen staffer engages young professionals in supporting breast cancer awareness

Julie Oberschmidt has experienced the pain that comes from watching a loved one have to deal with breast cancer. 

“I had a grandmother who passed away and had breast cancer,” Oberschmidt says. “And I think it’s very important that we’re raising the money to fund research.” 

Oberschmidt works in development and communications for Susan G. Komen Greater Cincinnati, but she’s also leading the charge with a new young professionals committee.

“While there are young women who are diagnosed with breast cancer, it’s more common in older women, but I wanted to make sure we were getting the young community in Cincinnati involved,” Oberschmidt says. “Letting them know who we are and what we do in the community at a younger age, versus if they just came across us at an older age when family or friends are coming in contact with this disease.” 

She just started the organization about three months ago, but Oberschmidt says her group of about 20 volunteers is ready for its first major event, Dine Out for the Cure, in which eateries throughout the city will donate up to 50 percent of their profits for the evening of September 11, while individuals gather to enjoy dinner and fund an important cause. 

“Seventy-five percent of funds raised stay in the Cincinnati community to fund no-cost mammograms, screening treatment and support services for those who can’t afford it,” Oberschmidt says. “One in eight women is diagnosed with breast cancer, so it’s a pretty common disease, and we can’t turn our back on those who need our service.”

Do Good: 

• Support Komen Cincinnati at Dine Out for the Cure.

• Sign up for the 16th annual Race for the Cure.

• Support Komen Cincinnati by making a donation.

By Brittany York

Brittany York is a professor of English composition at the University of Cincinnati. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia. 

Bill collector turned financial counselor finds her calling in helping others

When Mary Hurlburt started working as a bill collector in the early '90s, she says it took just two days for her to realize that it was not her professional calling.

Hurlburt didn’t want to collect money from people—she wanted to help them learn how to manage their money and feel confident about their financial literacy and capabilities. 

“Families can’t deal with other problems if they also have money concerns,” Hurlburt says. “Financial issues trump almost all others.” 

Hurlburt, who says she’s found her “true calling” as a financial educator, works in community outreach at LifeSpan Ohio,  Inc.—a nonprofit dedicated to “strengthening families and individuals who seek to improve the quality of their lives.” 

Through the organization’s Financial Counseling and Education Division, Hurlburt works to counsel individuals while helping them reach their goals, but she says some of the most exciting opportunities she’s had in her career have come as a speaker at the SmartMoney Choices conference—formerly called Women and Money. 

Although LifeSpan did not partner with SmartMoney Community Services until this past January, Hurlburt has been speaking at the the SmartMoney Choices annual conference for more than 10 years, delivering talks and tips about budgeting essentials.

“I start all my talks by reminding the audience that it isn’t what you make that makes you rich but what you save,” Hurlburt says. “Money doesn’t make you happy—it’s having control over your money that brings happiness.” 

Through the conference, which took place two weeks ago, individuals from the Greater Cincinnati community were able to come together to take personal responsibility to get their finances back on track and learn about various initiatives like Bank On Greater Cincinnati and Greater Cincinnati Saves—programs that help foster individuals’ success. 

“The Greater Cincinnati Saves program is an individual promise by a person to save money for something—nobody checks on them,” Hurlburt says. “We just say, ‘Make a promise to yourself to save money; declare that promise on our website; and then you’ll get text or e-mail reminders—whichever you prefer—with savings tips. And as of this morning, we have 427 savers pledged to save $29,000 dollars in Greater Cincinnati; and it’s just great.”  

Do Good: 

• Become a Cincinnati saver. 

• Contact Mary Hurlburt if you would like to request a speaker who can address financial concerns for various audiences.

• Like LifeSpan Ohio and Smart Money Community Services on Facebook.

By Brittany York
Brittany York is a professor of English composition at the University of Cincinnati. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia. 

Cincinnati/NKY launches Read On! Campaign

Damian Hoskins grew up in the West End of Cincinnati on Findlay St. downtown—an experience he says was difficult economically and required a much-needed support system in order to succeed. 

Hoskins, director of collaborative action at The Strive Partnership, is now helping to lead the Read On! Campaign in an effort to dramatically improve third-grade reading levels in the region so that other students can receive the same support his grandmother provided him with during his young life. 

“My grandmother really impressed upon us the importance of education,” Hoskins says. “Having that level of support was critical in helping me achieve milestones, so the transferability of that is being able to do the same thing for kids in our community.” 

Hoskins, who taught middle school for about 13 years, understands all too well that students who are not able to read at grade level by the third grade have a hard time ever catching up. 

“Up until third grade, kids are learning to read, and after that, they begin reading to learn,” Hoskins says. “The ability to read to learn—to comprehend what is read—reading with fluency, vocabulary acquisition and what all of this sort of means, especially for the most vulnerable of our populations—those who fall below the poverty line—is that it becomes much less likely for a student to succeed academically if they’re not reading proficiently by the third grade.”

To address these concerns, the Read On! Campaign, which will last for eight years, aims to remove any barriers that inhibit a child from gaining needed levels of proficiency. 

“What we’ve found based on national research as well as local data is that there are some key factors we need to address as a community to make sure kids are reading on grade level—factors like attendance, making sure the kids are in school, summer learning,” Hoskins says. 

The campaign kicks off Aug. 27 and will initiate an effort to reach students in more than 19 school districts throughout Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky.  

“Hopefully what that will mean along the way is we can develop a level of sustainability in a model where all our kids—our community members—are supporting these very important educational milestones,” Hoskins says. “And at the same time, working to build a robust counter pipeline that gives back to the Cincinnati community because we invested in them early enough.” 

Do Good: 

• Like the Read On! Campaign on Facebook, and connect with the organization by advocating for student success or by funding the campaign. 

• Attend the campaign kickoff at the Cincinnati Museum Center Aug. 27 from 10:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. 

• Sign up to tutor students through the Be the Change program in Cincinnati or the One to One program in NKY.

By Brittany York

Brittany York is a professor of English composition at the University of Cincinnati. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia. 

Dorin family funds Clovernook Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired student interns

Natalie Centers, a graduate student at Xavier University, began her internship this summer at Clovernook Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired, thanks to the establishment of the Dorin Fund, which was set up through the Community Foundation of West Chester/Liberty to help improve the quality of life for those who are blind or visually impaired.
 
“George and Marion Dorin are just wonderful people,” Centers says. “I asked Mr. Dorin why he decided to do this, and he said, ‘I look out my window every day and am just so grateful that I’m able to see how beautiful the world is, and I want to help other people do that.’”
 
As a result, Centers is able to apply theory and skills from her occupational therapy coursework to assist a population of individuals who are not only blind or visually impaired, but who also have multiple disabilities.
 
“It’s not what I thought of when I thought of working at the Center for the Blind, so it adds another challenge to their lives and a lot more adversity,” Centers says. “But it’s amazing to see that despite that, they’re the most pleasant, friendliest, welcoming people in the entire world despite all the difficulties they face on a daily basis.”
 
The most meaningful part of the experience for Centers is the time she spends communicating with individuals in the Adult Day Program, she says, because it allows her to take time to really listen and get to know the people on a more intimate level than most.
 
“I’m purely there to interact and be with the consumers, and it’s played a big role for them to have someone who has the time to listen,” Centers says. “It’s been most rewarding for me to get to ask the deeper questions and find out more about their lives and the things that make you feel like you are who you are, but you don’t necessarily share when you first meet someone. And those are the things that get looked over in a population like this—what is your favorite movie, what do you do on the weekends, asking about their brothers and parents—it’s just been really neat, and it encourages them to be more social with employees and with each other.”
 
Through talking and engaging in activities with individuals at Clovernook, Centers says she’s learned that her concept of quality of life doesn’t necessarily have to equate to someone else’s.
 
“It’s all about being able to do what you can do and enjoying the things you enjoy, and it doesn’t necessarily matter what your ability level is of doing that,” Centers says. “But everybody—whether you’re verbal, not verbal, can see, can’t see, can hear, can’t hear—everyone has a purpose, and it’s really about helping them to fulfill that purpose and reach their fullest potential.” 

Do Good: 

• Support the Clovernook Center by making a donation.

• Get involved by becoming a volunteer.

• Like the Clovernook Center on Facebook.

By Brittany York

Brittany York is a professor of English composition at the University of Cincinnati. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia. 


Village Life Founder brings hope, strengthens Tanzanian ties

When Chris Lewis made a solo trip to Tanzania as part of his residency at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine in 2003, it was his first visit of what would become many.
 
“I was working in a local hospital—I use the term 'hospital' fairly loosely,” Lewis says. “They sometimes have running water, sometimes have electricity, sometimes have medicine. What they all the time do a good job of is using whatever resources they have to save lives.”
 
At the time, that hospital was one of two Tanzania facilities that served half a million people, Lewis says, and the need for more accessible assistance was critical.
 
“Pretty much on a daily basis, I saw people carried in to the hospital that had already died on the road trying to walk six, eight hours,” Lewis says. “One of them was a lady who was pregnant and hemorrhaged to death while in labor, and that sort of stuck with me. I came back home to Cincinnati and then had the urge to go back.”
 
Rather than return to the same hospital, however, Lewis saw the need to assist those in the outlying regions who couldn’t make it to the hospital in time, so the idea for Village Life Outreach Project was born.
 
“After our first group trip in 2004, people received us very warmly but were skeptical we’d return. There had been other groups from the U.S. and other European countries that had traveled there and made promises to work with people and maybe dropped off supplies or money and never heard from them again, but our approach was different,” Lewis says. “We don’t just give handouts—we develop relationships with the community so we can work long-term to identify and solve problems the folks there face.”
 
After Village Life returned for a second, third, fourth and eventually eighteenth group trip, Lewis says the people came to understand the nonprofit’s dedication.
 
Lewis says Village Life has established strong relationships in the communities the organization serves, including a sister organization on the ground that manages the group’s projects on a daily basis, the region’s first-ever permanent health center, a school, and programs providing everything from nutrition, water filtration and mosquito nets to help prevent malaria.
 
“The main goal centers on our mission statement, which is to unite communities to promote life, self and education," Lewish says. "So that whole concept of global unity and trying to play a part is our long-term goal—just bringing people together, helping them understand each other. Understanding people different than you makes you better understand yourself, so we’ve been thankful to have so much help from the Cincinnati community. It’s all about that idea of promoting love across continents throughout the world to people who are fellow human beings.”

Do Good: 

• Support Village Life by attending Night on the Serengeti 2013.

• Support Village Life by making a donation.

• Contact Village Life if you're interested in volunteering.
 
By Brittany York

Brittany York is a professor of English composition at the University of Cincinnati. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia. 
 


Bluegrass for Babies helps infants get critical medical treatment

When Anne Schneider’s youngest son was born in 2008, he was immediately transported to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, where he underwent surgery for a digestive disorder less than 24 hours after birth.
 
“They were able to repair it, and we had this amazing experience, and basically, if he didn’t have this surgery—with the new technology and everything—he wouldn’t have survived,” Schneider says.  
 
To express gratitude for her son’s lifesaving procedure, Schneider, along with her husband, co-founded Bluegrass for Babies—a nonprofit dedicated to improving children’s health by ensuring they get the best start possible.
 
“My husband and I just really love bluegrass music, and it’s this music that really transcends generations,” Schneider says. “It’s this pure form of music that takes you back to traditional values, so it’s really resonating with people as the roots of American music and this pure form of traditionalism and family values.”
 
Schneider says it’s important to have people take a step back and realize what the most important things are in life, and to start to recognize basic needs while understanding how to “preserve and care for them.”
 
Prior to their first son’s birth, the Schneiders hosted a backyard bluegrass party each year, but in 2009 when they began Bluegrass for Babies, they decided to move the party from their backyard to a larger venue where they could raise money to support children’s health initiatives.
 
The organization’s fifth annual bluegrass concert will take place Sept. 21 at Sawyer Point and will benefit the Perinatal Institute at Cincinnati Children’s.
 
“It’s the division that manages all the babies—not just at Cincinnati Children’s—but any birth that happens within the Greater Cincinnati area, and also up in Dayton,” Schneider says. “So they have this wide ranging reach, and then within that, actually this year, we’re donating to the Center for Prevention of Preterm Birth.
 
As of last year, the organization was able to raise about $80,000 dollars, which Schneider says she hopes to build upon so that other families don’t have to go through the anxiety that hers did during the birth of their son.
 
“They don’t know what caused my son’s disorder. It was caused by something that happened very early on in his life—during the pregnancy,” Schneider says. “But when I was going through the experience—just that anxiety that any parent goes through in that situation—it’s really hard emotionally and as a family. So anything that we can do to prevent that in terms of improving children’s health, that’s what we’re really sort of trying to do.”

Do Good: 

• Attend the Bluegrass for Babies benefit concert Sept. 21.

• Attend Bluegrass for Babies' outreach events.

• Volunteer at the benefit concert next month.

By Brittany York

Brittany York is a professor of English composition at the University of Cincinnati. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia. 

Community Shares develops partnerships, enables nonprofit growth

This past weekend, community members and representatives from 25 local nonprofits came together to support the work of Community Shares of Greater Cincinnati’s member groups in the organization’s 10th annual Gourmet Grub for Good.
 
The amateur chef competition raises awareness and honors the work that member groups are doing to promote environmental, economic and social justice.
 
“There are folks providing services to those in need, but there are also organizers and advocates within those constituencies to make sure people have the right information about their civil and human rights—how they petition legislature if there’s a question about how policy would affect them,” says Jeniece Jones, chief executive officer of Community Shares. “If they’re educated through those agencies to take action, they can really do impactful things that change not only their lives but make the community better as a whole.”
 
Jones, who grew up in a “very forward-looking type of family,” has cared deeply about the community and the various causes that impact its growth ever since she and her husband moved to Cincinnati 20 years ago, she says.
 
“With our member groups, I knew I couldn’t work at all of them, but when I saw the list I just thought, ‘Wow, I’ll get to work where all these agencies involved,’” Jones says. “I really understood their missions, and anything I could do to help them grow or advance—that’s something I wanted to do.”
 
Through Community Shares’ workplace and community giving campaigns, organizations that work on everything from women’s and LGBT issues to health care, affordable housing, animal welfare and prison reform—and the list goes on—are able to put unrestricted funds toward goals that would otherwise be more difficult to reach.
 
“A number of the organizations have funding from other sources with a specific focus, but we’re kind of the grease in the wheel that allows them to use money to bridge between one program or another to help with an unexpected expense, new partnership or pilot initiative without funding set up,” Jones says. “It’s smart to be in the partnership because it can help them advance or explore things that may or may not be otherwise accessible.”

Do Good: 

• Start a workplace giving campaign.

• Volunteer with one of Cincinnati Shares' member groups

Donate to Cincinnati Shares, or choose a specific member group to financially assist. 

By Brittany York

Brittany York is a professor of English composition at the University of Cincinnati. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia.


Fidelity Investments transforms Holmes Middle School

When Fidelity Investments began its partnership with Holmes Middle School four years ago, its aim for Transformation Day was to do everything it could as an organization to ensure students would receive a quality education in an environment that would prompt them to do their best.

Over the years, the company has brought hundreds of volunteers and community partners together to further achieve that goal by doing things like building an outdoor amphitheater and painting and beautifying the school. 

Niki Gordon, who serves as Fidelity’s manager of community relations in Covington, says the most important thing is that the improvements translate to student success. 

“Attendance is consistently over 96 percent, which in an urban setting is difficult to achieve; behavior and discipline problems are down over 90 percent over the past two years,” Gordon says. “And the principal has seen that as incentive in places we’ve created that the kids want to come and learn, and they get rewarded for certain things. So whether that’s being able to go visit and sit in the new media center—some of the spaces we’ve created with comfy couches and those kinds of things—students see as an incentive for behaving and doing the right thing and being there.” 

This year’s transformations included an array of larger projects—like creating an outdoor garden that will serve as a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) learning opportunity through a program implemented by Teach for America. 

“We’re working with the Teach for America science teacher at the middle school, so we built these raised garden boxes, and then after that she’ll be using those to do a year-round project where students will grow crops, and they’re learning about the science of the planting in the classroom,” Gordon says. 

The project goes even beyond STEM learning, however, as it also taps into service learning and engages students and other community organizations in a way that allows them to give back. 

The Boys and Girls Club will also be working on those during the summer, and then as they harvest those, they’ll give them back to the community," Gordon says. "Chapman Childhood Development Center—an onsite early childhood development center—will receive the produce from the garden. Looking at the power of collaboration and community and how we’re able to impact these students has been great through the process.” 

Do Good: 

• Sign up with Covington Partners to mentor a student. 

• Offer your skills or expertise in a local classroom.

• Organize a book or supply drive for students in need.

By Brittany York

Brittany York is a professor of English composition at the University of Cincinnati. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia.

 

Betts House Showcases Cincinnati's built environment

You’ll want to add the Betts House to your list of must-see historical places—it's the oldest brick building in Cincinnati.

The Betts House, which was built in 1804, has withstood the test of time. It still stands today as a center that recognizes and celebrates the history of Cincinnati’s built environment. 

“It has a unique place in our history and in the state of Ohio,” says Dayle Deardurff, interim executive director at the Betts House. “It’s an example of some of the earliest architecture in Ohio and early manufacturing of bricks—the bricks were made by the man who built it, and earthquakes, tornados, storms, and 200 years of people moving in and out of this place stayed. So it’s a wonderful example of architectural stability and preservation.” 

To commemorate the shifts in our city’s history over the past 200 years, the Betts House showcases a timeline to remind current residents and visitors of the movement beyond the home that has occurred and continues to evolve. 

But recognizing the art of brickmaking and the effort that is needed to construct a lasting structure is also important, so each summer, the Betts House offers a summer youth program called Bond at the Betts House, which teaches children and young people about the skills and tools needed to perform jobs as architects, bricklayers and construction workers. 

“I’m one of those parents who takes her kids to historical places all around the country, so my family and I have done Williamsburg, Gettysburg—we stop and visit these kinds of places—and I think it’s a great opportunity to help showcase a site in Cincinnati that a lot of people probably don’t know about,” Deardurff says. “If I can do something to help make it more visible and people can come here and we can partner with other organizations to put on exhibits and children’s activities—bringing in a lot of families who otherwise wouldn’t have known this place existed—I think that is fun and personally rewarding.” 

Do Good: 

• Support the Betts House by joining or donating. 

• Visit the Betts House to see upcoming exhibits architeXploration and Bricks, Barrel Vaults & Beer: The Architectural Legacy of Cincinnati Breweries.

• Like the Betts House on Facebook.

By Brittany York

Brittany York is a professor of English composition at the University of Cincinnati. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia.

World Piano Competition strives for world-class status

Though the World Piano Competition has been in Cincinnati for the past 57 years, Mark Ernster, WPC executive director, says this past season represented a shift in thinking about how to promote and celebrate the art of classical piano music in a way that does the competition justice. 

The primary way the organization has done that, Ernster says, is by developing a partnership with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and the University of Cincinnati’s College Conservatory of Music. 

“Cincinnati, as a city, has a wonderful arts heritage, and they’ve got a wonderful orchestra, and they have a wonderful conservatory—CCM and the CSO are pretty highly regarded around the world,” Ernster says. “If you add into that an element of a piano competition, you create the possibility to draw more worldwide attention to the city through this additional art form because it builds on strengths at the conservatory and builds on strengths with the orchestra.” 

Ernster says he remembers his first experience with the WPC back in 2009 when he attended the finals of the Artist Competition, and about a year later, he knew he wanted to get involved and help the WPC further its mission and reach more people. 

“The artist finalists were wonderful musicians, and I was surprised by the fact there was nobody there—I got perfect seats like two hours before the event," Ernster says. "That’s usually a bad sign, right? Except the quality of the music was very high.” 

So in 2010, Ernster joined the board, and this past October, he began his work as executive director and was able to start conversations about integral community partnerships. 

“Without their help, I don’t think we would have gotten as far as we’ve gotten this year,” Ernster says of the WPC, which was able to offer competitors a world-class jury, thanks to its partnership with CCM, in addition to a performance opportunity with the CSO. 

“A piano competition is really wonderful when you really draw the top aspiring artists, and the way you get the top aspiring artists is you have a great jury and you have a good performance opportunity,” Ernster says. “There are a number of piano competitions around, but very few of them are partnered with a major symphony orchestra, like the CSO. And almost none have the combination of a major orchestra and a major conservatory.” 

Do Good: 

• Learn about the Dinner Concert Series and attend an event. 

• Like the WPC on Facebook.

Contact the WPC if you'd like to get involved or volunteer. 

By Brittany York

Brittany York
is a professor of English composition at the University of Cincinnati. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia.


Mercantile Library's Hackathon inspires creativity, produces ideas

Young merchants and clerks of Cincinnati came together in 1835 to found and organize the Mercantile Library, which to this day maintains historic collections of books and artwork in the city. It is recognized as “one of the oldest cultural institutions in the Midwest.” 

When the young minds and innovators came together at that time, in what was one of the largest cities in the United States, the goal was to move Cincinnati forward. 

To this day, that goal remains the same. And at the end of April, the library hosted a Hackathon—an event that brought together young coders who possess the ideas and skills needed to market the library and its offerings to a younger generation. 

“At a typical hackathon, some people will have an idea of a team they want to get together and a project, or a product they want to launch," says Zach Zimmerman, a member of the Hackathon’s first-place team, and who is now working to build the library a new website.

"But at the core of the hackathon, you push it out to people, and they come, and you break off into groups and start to ideate about what you could do, what you could build to provide a solution that hasn’t been thought about before or that could really push a company or product over the edge and make it something big.” 

Zimmerman says one of the ideas his team had to make the library’s website appealing was to rely simply on the building’s beauty and grandeur, as the space showcases history and sells itself through its offerings to the public. 

“The building is gorgeous," he says. "The art that’s there, and just flipping through some of the books—these are 200- to 300-year old books, and the art and just the labor that went into making them—it’s just fascinating to me. I just felt very inspired, and our team actually worked at the library when the hackathon kicked off. They said you could go out and about, and at the end of the hackathon, come back and present your ideas. But we actually stayed at the library the majority of the time because it was a very inspiring place—somewhere I felt pushed to do more.” 

Do Good:

• Become a member of the Mercantile Library.

• Support the library by making a donation.

• Like the Mercantile Library on Facebook.

By Brittany York

Brittany York is a professor of English composition at the University of Cincinnati. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia.


Sawyer Point celebrates 25 years

Twenty-five years ago, scrapyards and storage facilities spanned the mile-long stretch of land that now composes Sawyer Point and Yeatman’s Cove. 

“When Cincinnati took on the development of Sawyer Point, the City and Cincinnati Recreation Commission were dedicated to reaching out to the local community,” says Deb Allison, Cincinnati Parks’ business service manager. 

That dedication created an area of greenery that now fits into a two-mile stretch of award-winning landscape along the Ohio River—and it’s one that Allison says should be honored.

“It’s really important to celebrate the vision that the City, the recreation commission and the park board had at that time in what the riverfront could be,” Allison says. 

To celebrate that vision, the Cincinnati Park Board will host a Rockin’ Birthday Bash for Sawyer Point. 

The all-day music festival will take visitors back to 1988 when Sawyer Point first emerged as a spot for community gatherings, and it will do it in 1980s fashion with throwback bands that Allison says might remind guests of the time when the park was first commissioned. 

Like all birthday bashes, the event is intended to be a celebratory happening, but it’s also a time to reflect on how far the riverfront has come in recent years and the impact the parks and local developments have had on the city. 

“The community and the residents of the City of Cincinnati are extremely dedicated to their parks, and put a lot of effort into ensuring the sustainability of the parks now and in the future,” Allison says. “With the development of different parks—you can see that people are being drawn into those areas. Whether it’s to the restaurants or the residential areas that are either for rent or for sale, or the different businesses that have been able to open around the Banks development—people and visitors make it a beautiful, safe and friendly environment for people to enjoy.” 

Do Good: 

• Attend the Rockin' Birthday Bash.

• Like Cincinnati Parks on Facebook.

Support the parks.

By Brittany York

Brittany York is a professor of English composition at the University of Cincinnati. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia.

Talbert House and ESCC combine efforts to help nonprofits

After a combined 120 weeks of courses geared toward nonprofit leadership and development, Talbert House and Executive Service Corps of Cincinnati have decided to join forces and combine their programs into one. 

Beginning in September, the two nonprofits will begin the Executive Curriculum for Emerging Leaders through the newly created Nonprofit Leadership Institute of Greater Cincinnati. 

“I think the fact that we were two organizations in similar spaces in the marketplace trying to do similar things as it relates to leadership education and development—it got to a point of is there a way for us to really work together on this?” says Andy McCreanor, executive director and CEO of ESCC. 

The goal is to offer services to other nonprofits—large or small—so they can gain the skills and education necessary to position their organizations for community-wide success. 

“The true value of The Nonprofit Leadership Institute of Greater Cincinnati will be shown by how well nonprofits perform in the community, whether you’re a nonprofit, someone receiving services from a nonprofit, a community investor or a corporate partner looking for a socially responsible way to impact the lives of people,” McCreanor says. “The Institute offers great potential for participants and partners to receive a solid return on their time and investment.” 

McCreanor says the most enjoyable part for him is graduation. It's a day when he gets the chance to hear class participants talk about their growth and increased expertise when it comes to successfully operating their nonprofit. And come May 2014, he says he hopes to hear of many more success stories.

“The idea is that nonprofits would essentially see what we call a no-wrong-door approach to leadership education and development—that whether you’re a large or small nonprofit, that coming to the nonprofit leadership institute, you’d be able to find the subject matter, the program, the course that suits your needs,” McCreanor says. “Not all nonprofits are created equally, so the idea is that the institute would allow a nonprofit to find the program or development that is important to them.”

Do Good: 

• Sign up for EXCEL by August 1 if you are a nonprofit interested in education and leadership development. 

• If you are interested in partnering with The Nonprofit Leadership Institute and the EXCEL program, contact Tom Monaco or Carol Leigh. 

• Like Talbert House and ESCC on Facebook.

By Brittany York

Brittany York is a professor of English composition at the University of Cincinnati. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia. 

Behringer-Crawford showcases local history

When people travel, museums often become tourist attractions for those who hope to learn more about their surroundings and immerse themselves in the town and culture they temporarily inhabit.  

But museums don’t have to function solely in that capacity, nor should they, says Tiffany Hoppenjans, curator of exhibits and collections at the Behringer-Crawford Museum.

“We don’t appreciate what’s in our own backyard and the rich heritage that’s a part of our lives and our culture,” Hoppenjans says. “So this is the place to come—we’re the biggest museum in Northern Kentucky and are trying to tell Northern Kentucky’s story. Not just who’s important and what they did or what groups settled here, but how we as a community fit into the Greater Ohio Valley and the country and the nation.”  

The museum, which is housed in Devou Park, was donated along with the surrounding land to the city of Covington in 1910. It later became a museum when William Behringer donated his collection of oddities and objects in the 1950s. 

Behringer-Crawford houses a variety of items—everything from a restored 1892 streetcar to a two-headed calf. 

“Many museums have their own oddities," Hoppenjans says. "it’s a throwback to how museums started—as curiosity cabinets. People were collecting weird things from their travels—interesting things they came by.” 

What began as a 5,000-square-foot space now has plenty of room to share—far more than one man’s collection. With four floors and an area that has now quadrupled in size, the museum tells the history of Northern Kentucky, using transportation as a mode to travel through time.

“We’re not a transportation museum,” Hoppenjans says. “But we have some wonderful pieces, and you time-travel. You go from the rails to the rivers to the roadways to the runways, and have fun along the way.” 

Do Good: 

• Visit the museum, and check out the current featured exhibit, which honors Northern Kentucky musicians over the years.

Support the museum by contributing monetarily or by donating artifacts. 

• Become a museum volunteer.

By Brittany York

Brittany York is a professor of English composition at the University of Cincinnati. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia.

Library teaches teens finance basics

Graduating high school students of the class of 2014 will be the first group in Ohio that is required to learn financial literacy.

“So many teens were graduating high school without basic knowledge of financial literacy, like avoiding high-interest credit cards—scams that are so present on college campuses,” says Jennifer Korn, TeenSpot manager at the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County. “And there have been a number of studies that say students who don’t have the basic knowledge are likely to end up in serious debt as very young adults and are unable to get ahead and unable to save money as they go into adulthood.” 

To fill that void and to encourage more teens to be conscious of their finances, the library is offering a series of workshops for teens between the ages of 12 and 18. The workshops will teach the students how to create a budget and open a savings account. 

Thanks to a grant from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority Investor Education Foundation, PLCHC is one of just 14 public libraries nationwide to offer the workshop.

“I think a majority of teens across the board don’t have a very good understanding of the importance of saving or of budgeting your money, so maybe they get an allowance or have a job or babysit, but it’s mostly for entertainment purposes,” Korn says. “But there’s not a lot of consideration for the future and the long term—that if you start saving your money now and that money starts to build, then in 15 or 20 years, you can be in a much better position than if you would not have started saving.” 

Korn says all the activities in the series are teen-focused and engaging, so students might be given a sample scenario where they have a set amount of money and want to go to the movies, but also need to consider the fact that their best friend’s birthday is coming up. 

“Anything that reinforces what they’re doing in an interactive or a social way,” Korn says. “The hope is that once they graduate high school and enter their postsecondary education or the real world, they feel confident, can handle their money and are savvy consumers and savvy savers.” 

Do Good: 

• Learn about the financial literacy workshops, and sign up to attend

• Keep up with teen programs at the library, and attend an upcoming event.

• Like the PLCHC on Facebook.

By Brittany York

Brittany York is a professor of English composition at the University of Cincinnati. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia.

Art Off Pike revitalizes urban arts fair

For this year’s Art Off Pike, a group of about 30 creatives and business professionals will converge to bring artists, musicians and street performers together for the ninth annual urban arts fair. 

“It started as this grassroots arts festival, and what has happened is it’s situated on this precipice of needing a little bit of new life and energy breathed into it,” says Cate Yellig, arts director of the City of Covington. “We’re looking at really having a feast for the senses. We’d love to have street performers and dancers and [make it] a little more multidisciplinary so that we can distinguish it from a lot of your other art fairs.” 

Yellig says about 50 volunteers from the community run the event each year, so the tight-knit ties are particularly unique and inviting. 

“It’s definitely embracing emerging artists and people who live in your urban environment,” Yellig says. “Covington is a city that’s really trying to embrace the arts as economic development. And by showcasing the talent found here locally and providing them the opportunity to sell their work to a crowd where they get 100 percent back for themselves—this is a really great visibility opportunity.” 

Hub +Weber Architects’ Jim Guthrie, who served as last year’s chair and who is on the board this year, says he appreciates the diversity of the art, in addition to its accessibility. 

“Last year, there was an artist who did sketches and doodles of anything you wanted,” Guthrie says. “It made art very important. If you could have a piece of art reflecting anything you wanted, what would it be? I struggled for hours to come up with something worthy.” 

Organizers are currently accepting entries through the Call for Artists, and Yellig says the more varied, the better. 

“We want 2D and 3D, mixed media, crafts—we’d love performers and musicians, and if there’s a glassblower that has a mobile truck of some sort—we really want to kind of have this high-level of quality but also affordability with the arts or with the offerings for each artist,” Yellig says. “But we also want to have a really diverse group of artists as well because that makes it more attractive to people coming to the festival.” 

Do Good: 

Volunteer at this year's festival.

• Submit your work by applying through the Call for Artists.

• Like the event on Facebook, and mark your calendar to attend September 29.

By Brittany York

Brittany York is a professor of English composition at the University of Cincinnati. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia.


TL2 pairs teens with local businesses, teaches economics

Most high school students count down the days until summer vacation, but for those participating in the Economics Center’s summer program—Today’s Learners, Tomorrow’s Leaders—the countdown continues.  

TL2 students spent the first month of their summers back in the classroom as they took a microeconomics course and visited local businesses to earn both high school and college credit. 

Economics can be an abstract concept, says Daniel Barkley, University of Cincinnati adjunct professor and Economics on the Move founder. 

“When I was in undergrad, some of my professors would take us to buildings that were being worked on so you could see how they were being constructed, and I learned a lot that way, so I figured why not do it with economics?” he says.  

Rather than simply reading about economics in a textbook, Barkley says it’s important for his TL2 students to see the business side of things as opposed to the consumer side, which everyone is already familiar with. 

“A lot of companies will open their doors and show you—it doesn’t matter if it’s baseball or you’re making rubber seals—but it’s similar philosophies," he says. "And they’re at the age when it’ll sink in and do well."

Students had the opportunity to experience the inner workings of a variety of places, including Great American Ball Park, Meridian Bioscience, CVG Airport and Sur-Seal—all of which offer different services but operate under similar principles. 

“I realized that a lot of these businesses are alike in so many different ways," says Mozika Maloba, who attends Walnut Hills High School and was a participant in this year’s TL2. "They have so many different things that connect them. At first, I think I neglected to see that, but it’s funny how you can connect CVG to the Reds' stadium or Meridian BioScience, and I think that’s one of the main things I learned. Economics is such a broad field that can connect to every business.” 

And like most cooperative learning opportunities, students have the chance to not only expand their knowledge, but also their social networks. 

“Along with the whole business prospect of it, you are actually getting a group of friends you can stay in contact with for a while, and they all have the same goals and ideas in their heads,” Maloba says. “And after three weeks, there’s so many correlations between you and the 26 others in the same room as you, so it’s really cool how you can befriend people and then later on, after this year, you can talk to them once again.” 

Do Good: 

• Learn about TL2, and if you're interested in the program, apply next year.

Support the Economics Center to help fund programs for students like TL2.

• Like the Economics Center's page on Facebook.

By Brittany York

Brittany York is a professor of English composition at the University of Cincinnati. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia.

Fuel the Fire funds social impact projects, betters communities

Young professionals are full of ideas, but turning ideas into fruitful startups takes funding, which is not always easy to come by—especially for recent college graduates.
 
“We have a lot of talent in Cincinnati, and we don’t want that talent to leave this city," says Tangela Edwards, communications chair for FUEL Cincinnati. "We want to keep it here."
 
FUEL Cincinnati, which is a division of Give Back Cincinnati, is a local micro-grant funder that provides philanthropic entrepreneurs with the ways and means to kick-start an idea that will impact our city for the better.
 
The nonprofit funds projects year-round, but its second annual fundraising event, Fuel the Fire, takes place June 27. That event enables five projects to not only have the opportunity to receive funding, but also to gain recognition and exposure so that other interested individuals become aware of their concepts.
 
“Major donors might not want to give initially—they want to see how well you do,” Edwards says. “And sometimes that takes a small amount of money to help a startup get off the ground. Our main focus is to give awareness to five groups—they’ll be able to fundraise outside of this—but this is one thing we’re able to do for them.” 
 
At the event, participants will present their ideas, and the public will vote on its favorite project.
 
This year’s entries span a wide range of concepts, and cover everything from indoor composting, bike sharing, leadership and training for adolescent males, edible landscaping, and even a series of pop-up biergartens in the intersections of five alleyways in Walnut Hills.
 
“Community building, education, environment, diversity—the idea is that if they can fit into any of those categories, we want to hear from them,” Edwards says. “If someone has a great idea that they feel will impact Cincinnati in a positive way but they don’t have the funding or need additional ideas and support, then that’s what we’re here for.” 

Do Good: 

Purchase a ticket to attend Fuel the Fire. 

Support FUEL Cincinnati by donating.

• Spread the word about FUEL, and if you have an idea, apply for funding.

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.


Cincinnati Children's Home leads health care integration efforts

The Children’s Home of Cincinnati is taking the steps needed to become a national leader in health care integration. 

“There are more examples of policies that say we need to do health care integration than there are of actual examples of organizations that have done this and done this well, which tells you The Children’s Home is pretty cutting-edge,” says Barbara Terry, vice president of health care integration at The Children’s Home.

Terry, who says she is passionate about health from a holistic standpoint, has 35 years of experience and recently joined The Children’s Home to help the organization introduce physical health care to its already existing mental health care programs. But she says she is not the only one responsible for the idea of health care integration.

“They’ve certainly been reading the tea leaves and saying, ‘We should think about systems—plural—in this community,’” Terry says. “So you think about mental health, education and human services as systems. We really need to figure out how we integrate systems so that vulnerable children get the care they need—the right care at the right place at the right time—and that becomes huge.” 

For Terry, education and prevention are key. 

“We know that individuals who face challenges in the mental health arena—typically as they get older—they have tremendous chronic health problems,” says Terry, who attributes the issue to a difficulty in navigating an array of disconnected systems. 

To address that issue, Terry envisions a system that recognizes that the mind and body cannot be separated. And while the idea might begin with The Children’s Home, she says the effort needs to span across the community. 

“This isn’t just The Children’s Home—it’s about children and adolescents in our larger community,” Terry says. “They’ve been willing to invest in me and invest in this approach, but my vision would be that we need to work with the community. We need to help share successes with the community so that we can say, ‘How can this spread?’ I don’t want the work to be insular. We have to appreciate community here.” 

Do Good: 

• Get involved by contributing items on The Children's Home's wishlist

• Volunteer with The Children's Home.

• Assist The Children's Home by donating or supporting a classroom.

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. 

 

Clovernook campers explore community, depth of art

For children at the Clovernook Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Discovery Youth Summer Day Camps allow them to further their own skills and knowledge while also bettering the community. 

From technology and art activities to life skills and neighborhood involvement, campers can engage their senses while tapping into areas that they might not have otherwise had the opportunity to explore. 

Participants at art camp, which ended this past week, have no vision, limited vision or are losing their vision. They created pieces that sparked dialogue about what it means to be part of a larger community. One project involved the campers creating wind chimes made of cat and dog clay cutouts. The kids then donated them to the SPCA of Cincinnati to sell. 

“They enjoyed it, but it was very sad,” Art Instructor Scott Wallace says of the children’s visit to the SPCA. “It gave me an opportunity to go into this whole thing about art in terms of how some of the greatest art is not the world’s prettiest, and some art talks about issues and things that are going on and some things that are not great, so it gave us the chance to talk about what’s important.” 

Campers also worked together to create a colorful heart made from recycled bottle caps—which can be dangerous if left as trash—as a statement about healthy communities. 

“What’s happening is—wild birds are eating them—and they can’t digest them,” Wallace says. “So it’s killing them. It’s so much about recycling. You can take the most insignificant material and make great art.” 

Two of the children who worked to create the bottle piece project are totally blind, but by working together with other campers, they were able to create a beautiful display. It's what Wallace enjoys the most because he’s not so much an instructor as he is a facilitator. 

“For people who have never had vision—their approach is totally different—because they have a certain way of working and a certain level of expectation for their work, and they’re completely cool with it,” Wallace says. “The blind community and the people who’ve never had vision are fine. I think they get tired of us trying to instill our beliefs, but what I like to do is make the best of the vision they have left. And I just sit back and let them do their thing, but it really shows what community can do.” 

Do Good: 

• Like the Clovernook Center on Facebook, and keep an eye out for photos of campers' art work.

• Support the Clovernook Center by donating.

• Get invovled by volunteering.

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. 

Hillenbrand creates illustrating, publishing opportunities for children

When Will Hillenbrand was growing up in College Hill, he spent a lot of time reading picture books at the library, which would make him late for his baseball games at next-door Crawford Field.

“You may wonder, ‘How do we encounter art in our lives?’" Hillenbrand says. "And actually, it’s all around us. We might not realize it; however, the art that engaged me was through storytelling.” 

The library was critical in Hillenbrand’s journey as an illustrator and writer, but his journey actually started at his father's barber shop, where he spent time listening to “big fish stories."

“One way I’d kind of disappear in the background easily would be during the summer because my mom would make my dad a hot lunch, and I’d walk it up to the barber shop,” Hillenbrand says. “I’d walk the lunch up there and put it in the hall closet and then sit under the air conditioner and try to become part of the wallpaper.” 

Hillenbrand says he remembers one of the other barbers talking to a customer about his other job, which was cutting down trees, and how it was similar to cutting hair. 

“So if I were hearing something in that little synopsis, I might end up going home and drawing a person with a forest on their head and a barber cutting it, but it’s comical,” Hillenbrand says. 

As a child, Hillenbrand had the exposure and opportunity to not only fall in love with his craft, but also to practice it. And it’s this same opportunity that he’s now offering to other children. 

From now until the end of August, children have the chance to submit artwork that depicts their heroes for consideration in Hillenbrand’s e-book, which is entitled Everyday Heroes: Local Children and the People Who Inspire Them.

“What we’re interested in are characters that fall and get up and show us how they manage their challenges and struggles,” Hillenbrand says. “And we cheer for them and want them to do it, and for children, we want to be able to give them opportunities to share.” 

Hillenbrand has hosted two workshops at the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County thus far, and children have been able to not only brainstorm, but also to dabble in digital media.

“There was a bridge that the children and I kind of walked back and forth across—it wasn’t a podium—it’s not that kind of thing,” Hillenbrand says. “And the library’s a great context because around the walls, you’ve got idea people—ideas that might be a first story—and when they participate, their ideas are validated, and they can feel like, ‘I’m an idea person, too,’ and isn’t that a good feeling?” 

Do Good: 

• Check out Hillenbrand's library workshop about digital drawing on YouTube.

• Children ages 12 and under are encouraged to submit their artwork to the library for consideration in Hillenbrand's e-book.

• Learn about the variety of ways you can support the library. 

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. 

 


Elkins returns gift to Ohio Innocence Project

Clarence Elkins has now spent the past seven and a half years in his home and around those he loves, which is as much time as he spent behind bars for crimes he did not commit.

About 15 years ago, Elkins was arrested and taken to county jail, and was later convicted and sentenced to life in prison for murder and rape. On Dec. 15, 2005, almost eight years later, Elkins was exonerated by DNA testing, thanks in large part to the countless hours of work invested by the University of Cincinnati’s Ohio Innocence Project—a team of students that fights for the wrongfully imprisoned.

When Elkins first heard the guilty verdict read, he says it took some time to sink in because he kept trying to convince himself that he was trapped in a nightmare or a horrible dream. 

“I just thought that it would be over soon, but that wasn’t the case,” Elkins says. “After I was sent to prison, it dawned on me that it was for real, and it wasn’t a nightmare and how tragic the injustice was—not only on me but on my entire family.” 

In hopes of helping to alleviate that burden on other innocent individuals and their families, Elkins and his wife, Molly, donate $5,000 per year to the OIP. In the past 10 years, OIP has helped 16 individuals like Elkins remember what it’s like to be free.  

The gift, which helps top-performing OIP students further their educations, is more than just a scholarship. For Elkins, it’s a token of his appreciation. 

“The students were always—they’d give me hope, and they were so kind—they do great things for people, and not only the people that have the injustices upon them, but their families as well,” Elkins says. “They cared enough about me to look into the injustice that happened to me. I was raised in believing you get what you give—and I always believe that, and that’s what I want to do. I just want to give back to those that give to me—that help me.” 

Do Good:

• Like the Ohio Innocence Project on Facebook.

• Keep up with OIP's work through their newsletter

• Support organizations like the OIP by giving.

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. 

Advocates for Youth Education help close funding gaps

Twenty-five years ago, a group of African American women in Cincinnati came together to begin Advocates for Youth Education. 

“There were three ringleaders who decided, ‘You know what, ladies? We can do this,’ so they just invented AYE and got their friends to join them,” says Kathy Merchant, who serves as president and CEO of the Greater Cincinnati Foundation and who is also an AYE member. 

Like the other 39 AYE members, Merchant’s role is completely voluntary, and it involves donating money out of her own pocket each year to help fund scholarships for minority students who excel in academics and community service.

Through her work with GCF, Merchant says she studies how to eliminate or reduce racial disparities in a community.

“It’s one of the things we’ve studied hardest,” Merchant says. “Making scholarship money available is absolutely one of the ways, so it’s a full circle type of experience for me.” 

This year, AYE's group of 40 women was able to donate $50,000 dollars to assist 17 students. 

“Even after you’ve pieced together absolutely everything that exists, from government loans and the myriad of checkerboard things available to students, there’s still a gap,” Merchant says. “Data shows that the gap on average is about $4,000 if you’re just talking about the cost of public universities. These grants don’t quite get that high, but they go a long distance toward that make-or-break last dollar between what it takes to go to school and actually being able to do it.” 

Merchant sees evidence of the program's value on the faces of parents at the annual awards dinner.

“It’s hard not to go there and cry,” Merchant says. “A lot of these kids are from single-parent houses, and their parents go to the dinner and are choked up because of how happy they are that someone would want to help their child.” 

Do Good: 

• Contribute to a larger scale scholarship fund, such as the Cincinnati Scholarship Foundation.

• Connect with an organization like the Cincinnati Youth Collaborative to find a student to mentor. 

• Serve as a volunteer tutor at a nearby school.

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.

Art's impact at Camp Carnegie

At Camp Carnegie, children from around the region come together to brainstorm, write a script, perform a play and create their own scenery and costumes. Still, for Alissa Paasch, who serves as the camp's education director, the goal is not to make sure that every child becomes an artist.

Instead, she hopes that young people involved "become well-rounded human beings who know how to communicate, problem solve, who care about each other, and who are using the arts to spur their interest in the world.”  

Through this year’s theme, Opposite Land, participants use their imaginations to prompt one another’s creative instincts. Paasch says the children’s caring attitudes find ways to the forefront through the process. 

“It’s so much about cooperation and collaboration, and we’re always discussing and responding to things,” Paasch says. “We were doing an activity about imagination and how important it is for us to imagine things and use our theater tools to bring it to life, so then as we were talking, we’re saying why it’s important to keep using our imagination, keep it fresh—even as adults—and one little girl says, ‘In order to care about or work with others, you have to be able to imagine how they feel so you can actually make the right choices.’”

It’s these kinds of moments, Paasch says, that make her realize that even as a teacher who plans each lesson, she can learn from the young participants. 

The artistic process at Camp Carnegie enables children not only to learn and grow with one another, but to experience theater and all its elements in just two weeks, which culminates with their own original productions.

“We want to make sure they understand there’s a lot of hard work and perseverance that has to go into creating a piece of theater,” Paasch says. “We want them to feel proud of all the work they’ve done at the end.” 

Do Good:

• Purchase a ticket to Suits that Rock to support The Carnegie's educational programming. 

• Attend a performance to support the summer campers' work. Choose a session and attend on the final day of the workshop at 4:30 p.m.

Support The Carnegie by donating. 

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.

Engaging diverse communities at Kennedy Heights Arts Center

Ellen Muse-Lindeman, who has served as executive director of the Kennedy Heights Arts Center since 2008, says the work she does to help build community through the arts is the essence of why she loves the neighborhood in which she works and where she’s chosen to raise her family.

Muse-Lindeman, who moved to Cincinnati in the ‘90s and now lives in Pleasant Ridge, lives within walking distance of the arts center and says she values her diverse and active neighbors.
 
“The folks are really involved,” Muse-Lindeman says.

And that’s evident through the center’s origin story. It was founded by residents who came together to save the historic Kennedy Mansion from demolition. They not only succeeded, but they turned it into an engaging enterprise for the community and others to enjoy.

“That kind of spirit is the foundation of the arts center and still is a big part of what it’s about in terms of bringing people together,” Muse-Lindeman says. “Arts and culture build a stronger community and make a neighborhood a better place to live.” 

Each year, the KHAC engages the public in a variety of ways from exhibitions, classes, camps and even an annual artist-in-residence program.

“We are really looking to not only present a wide range of media and different subject matter through our galleries, and to feature both regional artists and artists from outside of the region,” Muse-Lindeman says. “But in particular, we have a goal of presenting exhibits that create dialogue and that build connections between artists and communities.” 

The center’s current exhibition, Visible Voices, merges visual art with poetry. 

“We’ll be successful in this exhibit if we engage people in terms of not only experiencing the artwork, but also in connecting with one another,” Muse-Lindeman says. “That’s ultimately what we’re aiming to do, and to also really nurture that relationship between artists and their community and to provide opportunities to work and to encourage that ongoing collaboration.” 

Do Good: 

• View the current exhibition, Visible Voicesand attend an artist talk or poetry reading. 

Donate to the Kennedy Heights Arts Center.

Volunteer at the center. 

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.

Economics Center teaches biz basics, philanthropy

For the past seven years, elementary students from local schools have been learning about personal finance and the ways a market functions. 

“A lot of adults don’t understand how a market works, and these kids can tell you exactly how a market works,” says Julia Heath, director of the Economics Center at the University of Cincinnati. “A lot of people think the government controls prices or the sellers control prices and nobody else controls it, but that’s not true—it’s a market that determines the prices—and these kids know that.”

The students know the principles of a market because each year, they get to participate in the Student Enterprise Program’s Market Madness, where they’re given the opportunity to create and sell products. 

This year’s theme was based on recyclable materials and re-use, so students created things like bookmarks, bracelets, stress balls, notebooks and magnets.

“Some have their products laid out and are walking around with sandwich boards marketing their products, while others are buyers," Heath says. "Then halfway through the round, an air horn sounds, and the sellers then have an opportunity to change their price. So they see a market at work, and they know that if they’re selling things like crazy off their table, then they need to raise their price. If nobody’s coming by, they need to lower their price or increase their marketing.” 

Students also have the opportunity to take a college tour at UC, which Heath says is important because it allows them to envision themselves on a college campus and see if it’s the right fit for their own futures.

Market Madness is an annual event, but throughout the year, StEP’s director, Erin Harris, is busy with the program’s student-run businesses within their own classrooms. 

“They can earn money through their business by good behavior, good attendance and good grades,” Heath says. “And then four times a year, we go to the school with a truck that’s got a bunch of stuff in it, and students then make a decision about whether they want to spend their money, save their money or donate their money.” 

For Heath, it’s wonderful that students are learning economics principles, but the most gratifying aspect of StEP, she says, is students’ willingness to donate rather than save their money for a big purchase like an mp3 player or digital camera at the end of the year.

“Our most economically challenged schools are often our highest donators,” Heath says. “The class suggests the organization that will get their donations, and often it’s something they’ve had direct contact with—like they’ll choose the Alzheimer’s Association because one or two of the kids has had a grandparent that’s been stricken, or they choose Children’s Hospital because they had a classmate who spent a lot of time there, or they’ll choose the March of Dimes because their sibling has been affected. It’s really quite remarkable.”

Do Good: 

Contact Erin Harris if your school could benefit from StEP activities.

Volunteer in a StEP school store or classroom. 

Support the Economics Center by donating. 

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.

Embracing inventiveness, providing opportunity at Shark Eat Muffin

Starting her own theater company is something Catie O’Keefe says she’s always wanted to do. 

“There’s that internal drive where you want that control for what’s being put on, or you want to see new things being developed,” O’Keefe says. 

Though that drive is nothing new, O'Keefe's playwriting ventures didn’t begin until she found she was getting bored with the characters she played in her high school’s musicals. So, she wrote new characters, and, at the age of 16, started turning them into plays.

From 2006-2010, when O’Keefe was living in London and pursuing a master’s degree in playwriting, she started formulating ideas for her future company. And when she moved to Cincinnati, she decided it was time to move forward with her vision and make something happen.

That something is Shark Eat Muffin Theatre Company. 

“Cincinnati has a big theater scene, but it’s mainly well-established companies, and there’s some new companies doing some well-known works. I wanted to give a focus to new playwrights and make it a learning experience in a professional environment,” O’Keefe says. 

Shark Eat Muffin’s first production enabled a McAuley High School student—now graduated—and an older gentleman whom she says had been writing a while but who had missed opportunities to take her class at New Edgecliff Theatre, to present their work on stage for the first time. 

“It’s really difficult to fill the gap of you having a reading of your play, but then what happens?" she says. "How many readings do you have before it’s finally put on stage?”

Shark Eat Muffin’s second production this season, The Space Between my Head and my Body, made its United States debut Thursday at the 2013 Cincinnati Fringe Festival. O’Keefe wrote the play about six years ago, and it opened in London, transferred to the 2008 Edinburgh Fringe Festival and was then published by an American company in 2011. 

“We did a lot of workshops about identity and that feeling of finding yourself—what you look at might not be what someone else sees when they look at the same thing,” O’Keefe says. 

Bringing her play from Europe to the U.S. is the first step in creating a company that fulfills O’Keefe’s goal of international fluidity for Shark Eat Muffin. 

“We’re kind of starting the beginning of a project where we bring a couple of actors from London to perform in Ohio and move in that direction of connecting different cultures and different people from different places,” O’Keefe says. “Bringing them together to perform great theater is our ultimate goal.” 

Do Good: 

• Like Shark Eat Muffin Theatre Company on Facebook, and tell a friend.

• Attend a showing of The Space Between my Head and my Body at the 2013 Cincinnati Fringe Festival.

• Support Shark Eat Muffin by making a donation.

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. 

 

Community-based arts involvement with PAR Projects

When Jonathan Sears was 16 or 17, he says he was introduced to his saving grace: the idea that he could make a living by doing what he loved.

“I wasn’t the most well-behaved student growing up, but I was always in to art,” Sears says. “I was always drawing and getting into trouble that way.” 

When his mother introduced him to graphic design, he says his interest was piqued. And that’s what he now wants to do for others with Professional Artistic Research Projects, which he co-founded in 2010. 

“There’s only elementary schools in Northside—there’s no middle school or high school programming—so things are kind of wide open,” Sears says. “A lot of the budding adults really don’t have good resources to tap into that can help further their education, help further their creativity. So the idea is to teach practical arts training—we’ll delve into things like website building, blog maintaining—things of that nature that can maybe spark some interest in creative fields, but aren’t necessarily only painting classes or only drawing classes.” 

PAR Projects consistently finds new and creative ways to engage the public in fine arts (for example, there is an “urban-sculpture-maze-of-corn-discovery-experience” in the works), with the ultimate goal being to secure funds for an Art and Education Center for Northside. 

Sears says the organization hopes to break ground, or at least have all funds secured by the end of the year. But construction will begin in September on a mobile facility, which will be part of the education center. It will function as a portable classroom and a gallery space. 

“For me, I see myself as one of those people who directly benefited from what I’m trying to give back,” Sears says. “There’s so many ways you can engage people with the arts—coordinating galleries and events or working in a museum—just different creative outlets we’re hoping to inspire.” 

Do Good:

Sign up for PAR Projects' email list.

• Attend Brass Meets Bronze June 7-9 to support PAR Projects, the Constella Festival and the MainStrasse Village Association.

Support PAR Projects.

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.

Good 100's Josh McManus leads Cincinnati improvements

Josh McManus has been instrumental in implementing innovative programs and community improvement projects in Cincinnati, and he’s now considered a top 100 individual helping to move the world forward by doing, according to GOOD Magazine’s GOOD 100. 

McManus, who founded Little Things Labs, says he’s always been interested in the fusion of social good and economic productivity, so he leverages his two interests in ways that prompt community engagement and change. 

Over the past seven years, McManus, 35, has launched three place-based invention laboratories and more than 25 community improvement projects in Cincinnati, Detroit and Chattanooga, Tenn.

SpringBoard Cincinnati, a nine-week crash course that helps participants take a dream or idea and, if feasible, bring it to fruition by starting up a business, and CoSign—the first project to move through Cincinnati’s lab Haile’s Kitchen—are two of the best-known McManus-inspired programs that have improved the city. 

“With CoSign, I think it gives an entirely new imagination of what signage in the public realm can be,” McManus says. “And it also has a direct benefit to the businesses in that they’re much more visible now.” 

CoSign paired local artists and signmakers with small businesses in Northside to bolster economic activity, and it’s these types of engagements that McManus says are necessary in order for individuals to keep up with industry and technology. 

“We’re not evolving as quickly as technology and manufacturing have, so I think we’re due a tremendous social revolution,” McManus says. “And in order to do that, you have to have these places where you experiment and try new things and you’re unafraid to fail, so the need for these laboratories comes from this new revolution I think we’re set for.” 

Do Good: 

• Like Little Things Labs on Facebook

• Apply with SpringBoard Cincinnati if you have a business idea. 

• Like CoSign on Facebook.

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. 

Greater Cincinnati World Affairs Council shares cultural experiences

Through education and exchange programs, in addition to efforts to engage the public in cultural events, The Greater Cincinnati World Affairs Council works to make region to be a successful global leader.

“We always say it starts with a handshake and an exchange of ideas to open up a really good relationship for people,” says Katie Krafka, GCWAC manager of operations and education programs. “So the more other people know and the more that Cincinnati is global, the more we can function as an international city someday.” 

The organization has broadened its reach over the past few years, Krafka says, as it only reached about 500 students in 2011. But in 2012, it reached out to more than 2,000 students. 

In 2012, the organization launched Global Classrooms, in which international students living in the city went to elementary school classrooms to share their cultures with others. 

“It’s more than geography, government, religion—we go in with coloring pages, music, food—and we talk about other cultures,” Krafka says. “It’s really impactful because students can relate to another student.”

Though Global Classrooms is aimed at a younger audience, the GCWAC reaches out to all age levels, including adults. But its most unique program, Krafka says, is Model APEC, which is similar to Model UN, but focuses instead on Asian Pacific countries. 

“No other Council does this in the country,” Krafka says. “It’s when student teams claim a country, and they research a topic like water rights, land use, trading or security, and they get together with other claimed economies in other schools and they debate and pass resolutions.” 

Krafka says the nonprofit’s vision is for everyone in the region to have at least one international experience in their lifetime, whether it’s through an educational program or discussion, eating international food or gaining an international relationship by hosting a visitor.

“We want every person to have a global mindset of some sort and be able to think more critically about the world around them,” Krafka says. “Once people meet someone from a different country and they can relate to them, speak to them, get to know them just a little bit, it breaks down these stereotypes and different walls we might not even know we have built up, so when you hear about things happening in other countries, you feel a lot more connected and sympathetic.” 

Do Good: 

• Like the Greater Cincinnati World Affairs Council on Facebook, and keep up with upcoming events.  

• Support the GCWAC, and donate. 

• Contact the GCWAC and volunteer to host an international visitor for dinner or a short visit. 

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. 

 


NEW mentorships promote female leadership

Amy Armstrong Smith, national account manager at Brown-Forman, says she knows what it’s like to be the only woman in the room. 

“I’m in an industry that’s male-dominated,” Armstrong Smith says. “I’m the only woman nine times out of 10.”

When Armstrong Smith first attended an event for the Cincinnati chapter of the Network of Executive Women nearly three years ago, that all changed. 

“Never had I been in a room with that many professional women,” Armstrong Smith says. “It reinvigorated me.” 

Since Armstrong Smith became involved with NEW—whose mission, she says, “is to attract, retain and develop women for the field of consumer products from a manufacturer and retail perspective”—she’s engaged in a variety of outreach activities for high school and college students. She's also served as a mentor, both for women interested in pursuing a career in the field, and for those already immersed in it. 

“I’m mentoring a woman at NEW who just told me she got the promotion that we’ve been talking about and working on with how to position it,” Armstrong Smith says. “And it was so great because when she told me—her success is my success.” 

According to Armstrong Smith, the mentorships work both ways because the college students she assists reenergize her. 

“They look at the world in a whole different perspective,” she says. “And they’re giving me a new perspective too—a new way to look at the business—a new way to approach it through technology.” 

Armstrong Smith says she’s appreciative of the networking opportunities NEW offers because when she graduated from college in the ‘80s, you had to do it on your own.

“I’m with other professional women," Armstrong Smith says. "I’m stimulated—we’re talking about the industry. But the number one reason I do this is because I have a daughter, and I want her to be able to walk into a room when she starts her first career in 20 years as Rosie Smith, just like Tom Smith would walk in the room.” 

That’s what Armstrong Smith says drives her. 

“I’m so appreciative of the women who went before me, and if I don’t turn around and help Rosie and the generations behind me, women are never going to move the needle,” she says. “We won’t get to our full potential that we know we all can get to.” 

Do Good:

• Like the Cincinnati chapter of NEW on Facebook.

• Contact NEW if your business would like to become a sponsor. 

• Become an individual member.

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. 

 


Smale Riverfront Park offers family-friendly summer programming

Nestled between Great American Ballpark and Paul Brown Stadium, Smale Riverfront Park provides the public with everything from green space and gardens to bike paths, fountains, a labyrinth and porch swings that face the Ohio River and allow family and friends to sit back and relax. 

For Deb Allison, Cincinnati Parks’ business service manager, the space serves as “the front doorstep, not only to Cincinnati, but also to the state of Ohio.” 

To encourage more visitors to embrace the landscape, events will take place from now through mid-September to promote family-friendly fun this summer. 

The Greater Cincinnati Foundation was kind enough to support this new series, in partnership with the Cincinnati Parks Foundation, so we’ve been able to put together this amazing lineup,” Allison says. 

The lineup includes events that are divided in three different areas—music, theater and movies—the latter of which Allison says she’s particularly excited about. 

“They’re not all just kid movies, but they’re all kid-friendly, so the entire family will enjoy,” Allison says. 

Brave is the next scheduled film, set to air the evening of May 31. 

Allison says families are sometimes hesitant when it comes to navigating the area and finding parking, but she says she doesn’t want that to discourage them. Most events are scheduled for non-Reds game days, so parking is more available and less expensive.

“Smale Riverfront Park can not only act as the backyard for the residents and citizens of Cincinnati, but it can also act as a destination place for people who have never been or that are coming for the first time,” Allison says. “It’s an amazing, unique oasis and should be explored and experienced by everyone.” 

Do Good:

• Attend Family Summer Fun events at Smale Riverfront Park.

• Contribute to the evolution of Smale Riverfront Park by voicing your opinion about what you'd like to see on the park's new carousel, coming in 2015.

• Get involved and contribute.

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. 

GO Cincinnati engages community, serves nonprofits

About seven years ago, Crossroads began a transformation that positioned it as more than just a church. Its vision was to focus on ways in which it could serve others—in not just the community, but across the world.
 
Crossroads’ work with GO South Africa was making an impact in the lives of those battling poverty and HIV/AIDS, but at the same time, volunteers began to think about their roles in their own community.
 
Modeled after GO South Africa, a team of volunteers initiated GO Cincinnati. It's an outreach activity that started out with about 1,200 volunteers who completed 65 projects throughout Greater Cincinnati in a single day for nonprofits.
 
“People really connected with the idea of serving their city, and on the front line serving those in need,” says Kelley Kruyer, director of Cincinnati ReachOut projects and leader of GO Cincinnati. “They’re doing the hard work every single day, so we thought it would be cool to thank them for the work they do in our community.”
 
This year, 7,000 volunteers will combine forces on May 18 to complete 400 projects that range from painting and landscaping to putting up drywall and serving meals.
 
According to Kruyer, the best parts of GO Cincinnati are the long-term relationships Crossroads has formed over the years with the organizations it serves.
 
“We know their buildings, their properties, their needs, and we know how to best help them, so sometimes we put together a multi-year plan, and it gives them the peace of mind and helps them to budget so they don’t have to spend money on things that we’re happy to help with,” Kruyer says. “It’s just a really special day.”
 
Kruyer, who grew up in Northern Kentucky, left her hometown in the ‘80s. During that 10-year period of her life, she says she wondered what she was doing because everyone and everything she loved was here. She says that's the kind of passion for the city that drives Crossroads to engage and reach out.
 
“We love our city—and by Cincinnati, we mean all of it—from Burlington to Middletown to Amelia to Cleves—the whole Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky area,” Kruyer says. "We’re just totally committed to making it one of the best places in the country to live.” 

Do Good:

• Find a nonprofit that interests you and lend a helping hand.

• Assist Crossroads in its volunteer efforts throughout the year.

• Like Crossroads on Facebook.

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. 

 

ReUse-apalooza empowers individuals, advocates

Designers, do-it-yourselfers, the environmentally friendly and people who generally enjoy a good time will gather May 17 for Northside’s fourth annual ReUse-apalooza.
 
Building Value and its parent-organization, Easter Seals TriState, host the annual event to raise awareness about reuse and to support on-the-job training and other programs that assist people with disabilities.

This year’s event will include the Designer Challenge, which highlights some of the work BV does. The organization reuses building materials to create everything from useful pieces for the home to works of art.
 
Items will also be up for auction, and according to Lisa Doxsee, communications manager for EST and BV, it’s a way to “assist individuals with disabilities and disadvantages to more fully live, learn, work and play in their communities.”
 
Each year, the event raises close to $30,000 of unrestricted funds, which allows the closely connected nonprofits to further their missions by enabling individuals who might otherwise have difficult times securing employment to learn necessary skills and gain experience.
 
“They just can’t seem to get both feet on the ground at the same time, and they just need some assistance in getting the education or the training they need and the opportunity to learn,” Doxsee says. “When they do, they’re able to move out and get their own jobs and fully support themselves and often start to train others—it’s really a cool thing to watch.”
 
Not only does BV help put people to work, but the organization also helps keep materials out of area landfills.
 
“What we do is go into a home, and maybe you wanted a new kitchen cabinet set, so we take out your kitchen cabinets in a way that it can be reused and resold,” Doxsee says. “We’ve taken down full homes and salvaged 60 to 70 percent of the home with the lumber and products that come out of that.”
 
The ultimate goal, however, is to provide the ability to succeed to those who have encountered barriers in the past—whether those barriers be physical, mental, economic or educational.
 
“We believe that every person deserves to feel the thrill of success—no matter what that success is,” Doxsee says. “So everything we do is to try to help empower those individuals to find success in whatever it is that they need.”

Do Good:

• Support Building Value and Easter Seals TriState by purchasing a ticket to ReUse-apalooza.

• Donate to Building Value and Easter Seals TriState.

• Volunteer with Building Value and Easter Seals TriState.

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. 

 
 

Stepping Stones celebrates 50 years of family at upcoming reunion

What started 50 years ago as Greater Cincinnati’s first summer day camp for children with disabilities is now a two-site operation that serves about 1,000 children, teens and adults with disabilities year-round. 

Stepping Stones will celebrate its 50th anniversary on May 18 with a reunion aimed not just at celebrating the organization’s accomplishments over the years, but it's also intended to bring together the thousands of volunteers, staff members, participants and supporters who have enabled the nonprofit to grow and flourish since 1963. 

Deb Alexander, 61, is a retired teacher who started volunteering with Stepping Stones in 1969. She says it was the work she did with the organization that led her down the path of pursuing a career in special education. 

“I was a junior in high school—I know nowadays the kids do community service, but in those days, we didn’t really have to do that—and I had heard of Stepping Stones and just thought it’d be an interesting way to spend my summer,” Alexander says. “I didn’t really know a lot about children with disabilities. I ended up just really loving what I was doing out there, and it helped me choose my career.” 

Alexander says she remembers fondly what she refers to as “Kodak moments,” where “everything comes together and a child you’re working with can do something today that they couldn’t yesterday, or that they can do something independently.” 

It was moments like these that Alexander says challenged her. 

“What could I do to figure out how to teach?” she says. “A quote that really stuck with me that I heard once is ‘If a child can’t learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way we learn.' So that inspired me to go on, and I taught for 30 years.” 

Alexander is passionate about her line of work, so much so that upon retiring, she returned to Stepping Stones 39 years after her first volunteer experience. She began working part-time in the organization’s alterative education program, Step-Up, for students with autism. 

Step-Up, which began in 2004, is available to students who have been referred to the program by their school district and who are no longer able to attend public school because of extreme behavior. 

“Just to see a student successfully get through the day without a behavior outburst and to really gain confidence in themselves that they could learn new skills was really neat,” Alexander says. 

Though Alexander has returned to Stepping Stones many times since 1969, she says she’s looking forward to returning once again to experience the 50th anniversary reunion. 

“It’s a place where we all learn together and have grown together, and that’s such a big part of it—the relationships,” Alexander says. “There’s a lot of people that I think their heart’s out there, and they just keep coming back or they return because it’s just a place that meant a lot to them—the staff as well as the students."

Do Good: 

RSVP for Stepping Stones' 50-year anniversary celebration May 18.

Support Stepping Stones by donating.

Get involved with Stepping Stones by volunteering.

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.

 

Learning to survive, then thrive, at Junia and Company

Zakia McKinney knows all too well the heartbreak and inability to reach one’s full potential when trapped in an abusive and unhealthy relationship. 

“I just thought the world had ended," she says. "I couldn’t trust anyone. I felt I wasn’t worth anything."

McKinney was stuck in a cycle that she says lasted throughout her late teens and twenties. But at the age of 30, she made up her mind that she could no longer live in that manner. 

“I had an instance where a young gentleman had beaten me in the middle of the street,” McKinney says. “And I just thought I can’t do this—I can’t live life like this.” 

It’s been more than 20 years now since McKinney started helping women, but she says she made a promise to herself that as soon as she was able to help herself, she was going to dedicate her life to helping others by empowering them. And that’s what she’s done through her nonprofit, Junia and Company. 

“The word ‘Junia’ means ‘pretty flower,’ and we named it that because we believe there’s something beautiful in each woman to give back to society and the community,” McKinney says. 

Since Junia’s inception, McKinney has helped more then 3,000 women do everything from break unhealthy relationship cycles to gain confidence and leadership skills and move closer to attaining their life goals. 

McKinney, who recently celebrated her 57th birthday, says a few of Junia’s former clients attended her party to thank her for the changes they were able to make in their lives.

“One was a young woman who we picked up from Anna Louise Inn, and our programming turned her life around—she has a beautiful little girl—she’s going to start her own daycare business, and her husband’s going to start a photography business,” McKinney says. “Another, who we found sitting in the corner with her head down with a beautiful head of hair. Now she works as a machinist who does phenomenal work—and she’s looking to move in to other parts of the country utilizing the skills she’s acquired because she had the confidence to go after it.”

Through Junia and Company’s Ann’s House—one of three homes in the city that accept women and their children—women are given the opportunity to learn life skills and participate in all of Junia’s programming so they can break the cycle of homelessness and learn to not only survive in their community, McKinney says, but also to thrive. 

Women learn computer skills. They learn to cook. They contribute to the home once they find employment. They create a savings account. They tend the garden, and they even make a cucumber salsa, which they package and sell at Lettuce Eat Well Farmers' Market. 

“Whatever proceeds are made for that day, they get to put in their pocket,” McKinney says. “We try to make sure they get what we consider our 55 key life areas to have them sit on their feet, stand on their feet and stay on their feet.” 

Do Good: 

• Support Ann's House by partcipating in Ann's House 5K Run/Walk at Winton Woods on May 18. 

• Call (513) 544-6957 to support Junia and Company by donating. 

Contact Junia and Company to volunteer at Ann's House by helping with the garden or collecting and delivering in-kind donations such as sheets and toiletries. 

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.

Teens create, learn, grow through ArtWorks' summer jobs

When it comes time for teens to find summer jobs, becoming a muralist doesn’t typically top the list of possibilities. Unless you live in Cincinnati.

With ArtWorks’ Adopt-an-Apprentice campaign, however, 110 teens from around the city will be hired to collaborate with each other and community partners to create 10 new murals this summer. 

For Kyra Watkins, who has been an Apprentice since her freshman year of high school and who hopes to finish out her senior year with yet another apprenticeship, the opportunity is full of benefits.

“Besides the fact that you become a muralist in your own right—because that’s not a profession even most adults have—[ArtWorks] always cared about the youth,” Watkins says. “It’s not just, ‘Give a child a paintbrush, and if they do well, you pay them.’ They set up financial sessions and youth nights where you get paid to learn how to manage your money, to budget your money and to be smart.” 

Watkins says the experience is particularly beneficial because each set of teenagers works under a project manager who helps them learn to identify their skills, learn new ones and ultimately work together to create a final product.

A new addition to this year’s campaign will be the involvement of ArtWorks’ SpringBoard business graduate, Chef Frances Kroner, who will lead a select group of Apprentices in developing, producing and selling a new snack mix. Apprentices involved in that project will experience the summer program's first-ever entrepreneurial opportunity. 

For students who are passionate about art and who want to make it part of their lives, being an Apprentice allows students to gain real-world experience while leaving a lasting impression on the city. 

Watkins, a senior at Withrow University High School, will soon graduate and begin a new chapter in life as she pursues a degree in political science with aspirations to go to law school. But no matter where she goes, she says, a part of her will always be in Cincinnati. 

“No matter where I travel, my art will always be here—it’s very homey, like you left something at home and you always have something to come back to,” Watkins says.

Do Good:

• Help employ an Apprentice by donating to the Adopt-an-Apprentice campaign.

• Like ArtWorks on Facebook.

• Get involved with ArtWorks by volunteering.

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. 

 

BOOST partners with Dress for Success Cincinnati to inspire women's confidence

Jenny White, owner of BOOST, says she’s always loved giving back, and now that she’s a business owner, she has a platform to better serve others. 

BOOST, an offsite meeting space, was intended to boost productivity and creativity. After contemplating what nonprofit would best fit the BOOST business model, White decided to partner with Dress for Success Cincinnati to inspire confidence in women who are searching for jobs, but may not have the needed professional attire they need for job interviews.

“It’s rewarding to give back in any way, but when I think of specifically working with Dress For Success Cincinnati, it means even more because it’s woman-to-woman,” White says. “It’s very empowering to me as a woman to know that I’m helping empower other women to move in a positive direction.” 

Both the downtown and Mason locations of BOOST now have collection areas, and meeting attendees are encouraged to bring in any unneeded professional attire that could benefit DFS Cincinnati’s clients. 

“I just found it to be a simple and convenient way for our meeting attendees, as well as BOOST, to make a significant difference in women’s lives,” White says. “Even our male attendees can get involved, talk to their wives, see what they don’t want anymore and bring it in.” 

White says the new collection sites should be particularly helpful because DFS Cincinnati’s only drop-off locations are downtown and in College Hill. With a location in the northern suburbs, more clothes will start to come in. 

In addition to providing women with business attire, DFS hosts self-esteem workshops to further encourage women to succeed. As a result of the new partnership, White says she’s getting ideas about how to successfully run selfesteem workshops of her own. 

Enabling women to feel better about themselves is a mission White can get behind and one she understands personally.

White says she was picked on as a child, and it kept her from doing things that she otherwise would have done. By the end of the year, White says she’s determined to host a workshop for young girls to "boost" their confidence as well.

With the new DFS and BOOST collaboration, the ultimate goal for White is that women no longer have obstacles that hold them back from moving with their lives. 

“I firmly believe that if you’re looking good, then you’re feeling good, and you’re dedicating more of your whole self to that interview,” White says. “I hope the clothes they put on will give them the boost of confidence that they need to acquire a job.” 

Do Good:

• Donate women's business attire and accessories to Dress for Success Cincinnati at one of their drop-off locations, or at the downtown or Mason BOOST meeting space.

Support Dress for Success Cincinnati by making a financial contribution, volunteering or hosting your own clothing drive.

• Like Dress for Success Cincinnati and BOOST on Facebook.

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. 


Library garners national attention, celebrates with Amnesty Day

The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County is one of 10 recipients out of 140,000 libraries and museums across the country to receive this year’s National Medal for Museum and Library Service. 

The award recognizes outstanding service to communities. So, in appreciation of library users and as a way to celebrate, the PLCHC will offer a Fine Amnesty Day May 15. 

“We really wanted something to express our appreciation to the community, and we started thinking about what is it that people hate most about the libraries—we all know that—the fines,” says Kim Fender, Eva Jane Romaine Coombe director. “I’ve been here 25 years, and we haven’t done this in my time here at all, but our hope is that people who have not used the library because of their fines come in and have those fines removed and come back to the library and get their cards started up again.” 

Fender says the library most likely wouldn’t have received the award without the support of the community, because the library’s heavy usage was one reason the Institute of Museum and Library Services was so impressed. 

With more than 17.6 million items borrowed in 2011, the PLCHC is considered the eighth-busiest library in the nation, and its commitment to providing academic assistance and encouragement to both children and adults is evident through the variety of programs it offers and successfully implements through its partnerships with other community-based organizations. 

Last summer, for example, the library partnered with Cincinnati Public Schools and the Freestore Foodbank to serve about 7,000 meals to children. 

“That’s something people don’t normally think of libraries doing,” Fender says. “But when they were in there eating, they could sign up for summer reading or programs.” 

Fender says the library staff also goes out of its way to make sure children are learning by actually attending school. 

“If we see kids in the building during school hours and we think they might be truant, we check up and say, ‘What school do you go to?’ and look at the school calendar, and we call someone from the school to let them know because they have to be in school to learn,” Fender says. 

Fender will travel to Washington, D.C. with Amina Tuki, a local resident who came to Cincinnati from a small village in Ethiopia who was not fluent in her native language, but who learned English by picking up a small book called Coming to America at the PLCHC.  

“She says it took her all day, but she made her way through it, and she took it home and read it to her husband and children, and her older son started crying,” Fender says. 

Fender and Tuki will accept the award May 8. Library users can celebrate Amnesty Day May 15 by taking their library card to any local branch. 

Do Good: 

• Go to your local branch and have fines removed May 15 so that you can begin to use the library's resources. 

Sign up for a library card if you don't already have one.

Support the library.

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.

UC College of Law faculty teach in, fund scholarships

When the Office of Admissions expressed concerns about declining enrollment within the University of Cincinnati College of Law, faculty members decided to take a proactive approach. 

“The thought was that because we’re small, it wouldn’t really take that much to make a difference in the composition of our class,” says professor Marjorie Aaron.

Professor Christopher Bryant invited faculty members to talk about their concerns, and after a few meetings, the group proposed creating new scholarships that would be funded by faculty contributions. In order to raise funds, faculty would also host a teach-in, where local law professionals could receive continuing legal education, and in the process, ease the burden of financial debt for current and prospective students. 

More than $50,000 has been raised since the creation of the College of Law Faculty Scholarship Fund—with $10,000 raised in a single day at the March teach-in. 

“We went in with the focus to use what we do and what we like to do to help them, but there were a lot of unanticipated benefits, and maybe the most significant is that it really built a foundation for an ongoing relationship between the law school and what the needs are from the firms downtown,” Bryant says. 

“That was already happening, but I think we kind of institutionalized that in a way that gives real promise for the future. The mission of the university is to be a resource for the community—and there’s appetite for that.”

And the verage student loan debt for UC Law’s 2012 graduates was about $84,140 per person, according to UC Law’s financial aid website. Student representatives were able to speak about the burden of loans at the teach-in. 

Aaron says their words echoed issues common in legal education today. “If you had a dream to work in public interest, it becomes much harder to do that when you have an enormous debt burden,” she says. “So they did talk about that fact, but also the idea that no one wants to make a foolish financial move when they’re starting out.” 

Since faculty members want their students to be able to pursue their passions, they’ve contributed $40,000 on their own to assist with funding. 

“We’re a really tiny faculty—we don’t have 30 people,” Aaron says. “But we really know our students and we care about our students, and that was true before the debt issue and it’s even more true now. And the fact that we were able to raise as much money as we did and generate the willingness to volunteer is a testament to how strongly we feel about supporting our students.”

Do Good: 

• Support UC Law.

• Volunteer your time and knowledge.

• Like the University of Cincinnati College of Law on Facebook.

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. 

A day in the life of a Cincinnati Rollergirl

If you’ve ever wanted to know what it’s like to live a day in the life of a Cincinnati Rollergirl, you’ll have your chance, should you bid on that prize and win the auction item at The Cure Starts Now Foundation’s sixth annual Once in a Lifetime Gala & Auction.

Christina Kuhnhein, also known as “Ruthless Chris,” has been skating with the Rollergirls for two years, and she says the winner of the auction will experience first-hand how seriously the skaters take their sport. 

“We’re confident, very focused," Kuhnhein says. "Everyone has their own thing in the locker room—some are quiet and listening to their playlist that’s going to pump them up, and some are very excited and yelling and trying to pump everybody else up. But it’s a very serious environment—we want to win. Our coach usually gives us a pretty good pep talk beforehand, and we just go over what we’ve been doing in practice—our strategy—remaining in control and confident and calm.” 

The auction winner will sit in on pregame and halftime locker room sessions, in addition to receiving a private practice session, VIP tickets to the final home game of the season, a two-and-a-half hour standard practice session with the Girls, and what Kuhnhein says the team refers to as “lots of swag”—T-shirts and other gear. 

Rumor has it there will even be a gift certificate for a tattoo included in the package. “Rollergirls have this reputation of having all these piercings and tattoos, and it’s such a tough sport,” Kuhnhein says. “And I will say that I’ve never seen so many tattoos since I’ve started hanging in this circle, but honestly, it’s just something fun.”  

Kuhnhein says she remembers watching RollerJam back in the '90s. There was a “lot of fast skating and theatrics,” but the sport is much different now because “people aren’t as concerned with how they look.” 

“It used to be about outfits and trying to show off, but now it’s much more athletic—it’s teams that are very serious about strategy, working together and really killing the other team," she says. 

While Kuhnhein says she loves the aggressiveness and the stress relief she gets from skating, she’s just as passionate about giving back. 

“It is an honor to go out and help other charities in our city, and helping local businesses—we have a lot of fans that have certain charities that are close to their hearts, and we try to help in any way we can,” Kuhnhein says. “We’re doing at least one if not two or three charity events a month.” 

The Once in a Lifetime Gala is circus-themed and features live performers from the Cincinnati Circus, in addition to special guest and daredevil Nik Wallenda. The event takes place May 4 and helps fund pediatric brain cancer research. 

Do Good: 

• Support The Cure Starts Now Foundation by purchasing a ticket to the Once in a Lifetime Gala & Auction.

• Check out and bid on available auction items. 

• Like the Cincinnati Rollergirls on Facebook, and follow The Cure Starts Now Foundation on Twitter. 

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. 

Children, Inc. merges with VISIONS, extends reach to Ohio

The best communities have a lot of people who get involved, according to Rick Hulefeld, founder and executive director of Children, Inc. 

Children, Inc., a Northern Kentucky based nonprofit, aims to ensure that young people are successful both in school and in life. And a primary way in which the organization succeeds in doing that is by developing partnerships with schools and other community-based nonprofits in order to maximize resources to help as many as possible. 

Its most recent partnership is with Cincinnati’s VISIONS Community Services, which sought out Children, Inc., as a partner for a merge. With the merger comes a new division of Children, Inc., which will now operate in both Kentucky and Ohio.

As a result of the merger, Children Inc. will continue its programs, which include everything from before- and after-school care to service learning initiatives in schools, while building its programming by incorporating VISIONS’ multi-generational approach. 

“They had something unique,” Hulefeld says. “They had a certified family counselor on staff who would meet on a regular basis to help—that’s a model that needs to be carefully expanded and taken to the next level. But we want to do something VISIONS has already been doing, and then bring a lot more resources to it.” 

One way of doing that, Hulefeld says, is to partner with other organizations that have similar goals.

“There are organizations who really want to help families to become self-sufficient,” Hulefeld says. “Sometimes, little things get in the way of big dreams.” 

If organizations could partner to provide families with funds for bus fare to get to job training, and if they could also enroll their children in the center, Hulefeld says the children would ultimately do better in school “because they won’t always be at the mercy of the next financial crisis.” 

“We can’t live in communities where just a few people do everything,” he says. And it’s this motto that makes its way into the service learning initiatives that Children Inc. sets up in local schools so that students can learn by doing, while also giving back and making a difference during the process. 

Recently, the organization set up a project for a group of first grade students who were learning about the effects of the sun. 

“If you get too much of it, it’s bad,” Hulefeld says, so Children’s Inc. provided the school with funds to purchase bracelets that would change color based on how much sunlight the wearer was getting. The students then sold the bracelets and made $843, which they gave to Shriners Hospital for Children to help provide funds for burn victims. 

“What you really want to teach kids is that you can make a difference—and not some day—you can make it now,” Hulefeld says. “We all know that we cannot by ourselves do what the community needs us to do. None of us can do this by ourselves, but we can get together with other people and figure out, ‘How do we do what we’re doing better?’” 

Do Good: 

• Like Children, Inc. on Facebook.

• If you are a teacher interested in a service learning programcontact Children, Inc. for free assistance.

• Contribute by making a donation to Children, Inc. 

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. 

ReSource launches new programs to serve nonprofits

ReSource redistributed products to assist 330 local charities last year, and it has the potential to be able to reach even more organizations this year through its two new programs, which the nonprofit will unveil at its May 15 Launch Party in Sharonville. 

For more than 20 years, ReSource has collected surplus donations from corporations, and then made items like office furniture and personal care products available to nonprofits for pennies on the dollar. 

“We’re the connector to the nonprofit organizations,” says Development Director Martha Steier. She says ReSource’s ability to bring businesses together has broadened her ability to make an impact in the community. 

Steier says the organization’s mission is to help build stronger nonprofits, so ReSource provides warehouse space for member organizations to come shop for what they need.

“So much we have here with a little creativity and a little open-mindedness can be put together for reuse,” Steier says. 

In addition to offering needed items for low-cost purchase, ReSource will now offer items for rental with its Event Décor Rentals program.

“We’ve had—for about five or six years—a fall fundraiser, as many nonprofits do, and we have a decorations committee who is responsible for decorating tables and making invitations,” Steier says. “And we’ve had several board members that do these same events for other nonprofits, and everyone borrows from everybody else, or they go and buy things and end up storing them in their basements.” 

Rather than buying things and getting limited use from them, ReSource had the idea to get donations for décor, store the items in the warehouse space and then make them available for rental. This allows nonprofits to save money, which they can instead put toward serving the community, Steier says. 

In addition to the Event Décor Rentals program, ReSource will launch its room makeover program, which already has two clients: the YWCA Clermont County women’s shelter and the Lower Price Hill Community School.

ReSource has several architects on its board with the skill and talent to show rather than tell community members the benefits of the nonprofit. 
 
With an all-volunteer design team, ReSource will create specifications to transform rooms within area nonprofits so that they are more useable and conducive to serving the organization’s mission. 

For example, ReSource will replace ripped carpet and make the YWCA’s living room more inviting for women and children. The organization will also renovate a 50-year-old annex within the LPHCS so that it can serve as a classroom for individuals enrolled in the Cincinnati State Technical and Community College’s Bridge program.

“It’s sometimes hard to explain our story,” Steier says. “We really want to be able to show everyone what nonprofits can do with the corporate donations.” 

Do Good: 

• Attend ReSource's Launch Party at its Sharonville warehouse space. 

Contribute to ReSource by donating. 

• Become a member nonprofit if you would like to shop at ReSource for needed items. 

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.

Cincinnati Ballet funds outreach with Club B

Supporters of the Cincinnati Ballet can keep young people throughout the region hopping, and leaping, by doing some dancing of their own at Club B, a dance-filled fundraiser at the Cincinnati Masonic Center.

The Ballet offers more than its traditional classic and contemporary seasons. The studio downtown and its satellite in Blue Ash host dance classes and demonstrations. Club B benefits the ballet’s “extracurricular activities,” including scholarships and classroom residencies, most of which are offered free of charge to talented students who need extra support. More than 135,000 people of all ages take advantage of the complete repetoire of educational programs annually.

Leyla Shokooe, box office and marketing assistant for the Cincinnati Ballet, says Club B is “more relaxed than our winter Nutcracker Gala, which is pretty formal.”

Dancing, cocktails and VIP treatment are guaranteed, she says. “[Club B] provides a way to interact with the Ballet that illustrates the humanity behind it.”

For more information on ticket pricing and what Club B offers, visit the Cincinnati Ballet’s website.

By Sean Peters

Reds Hall of Fame and Museum improves accessibility

The Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame and Museum is “by far, the largest and most active” facility dedicated to a Major League Baseball team in the United States, according to Executive Director Rick Walls. He says there are only about six museums like the Reds' even in existence.

To build on that activity and allow more fans of the game to experience the history of professional baseball, which is rooted in Cincinnati, the museum sought a grant to improve accessibility to its exhibits for visitors with visual or hearing impairments.

About 42,000 people in the Greater Cincinnati area alone are blind or visually impaired, and Walls says 31 million individuals in the U.S. have experienced hearing loss.

“You hear these ideas and start to think about baseball, and how people sat at home and listened to the game on their radios and how a commentator had to paint the picture of the story behind it, and then you hear about the others who would go to the baseball field who remember the green grass and the lights on the field,” Walls says. “Baseball provides all these senses to different people in different ways. And to some, you provide only some. To others, you provide all of it, so I thought—how do we bring that color out? How do we let people experience the Hall of Fame in different ways?” 

After receiving nearly $21,000 from the Erma A. Bantz Foundation and partnering with the Cincinnati Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired for advice on how to best use the funds, the Reds' Hall of Fame went to work.

Larger font sizes, more effective sound and lighting levels, and closed captioning are all improvements that Walls says were simple and cost effective, but the non-profit also invested in large-print maps and assisted listening devices. 

“Competing sound and how it affects people differently was something we became aware of, and with every audio element within the museum, there will be a transmitter to these devices,” Walls says. 

But the organization’s partnership with CABVI extends beyond the improvements. The two nonprofits will team up to bring various groups to the museum for tactile tours during which participants will be able to do more than see and hear about Reds history—they’ll have the chance to experience it by touching artifacts. 

“I think this ends up being a program for everybody, and not just those who have impairments because the tactile tour is going to become popular—who wouldn’t want to hold a piece of history?” Walls asks. 

Walls says he’s excited that more people will now have the chance to experience all the museum has to offer. 

“I think that’s one of the most important things we do—and that’s when a grandfather or grandmother comes in with their grandkids, with their son and daughter—they don’t have a lot in common these days because of technology,” Walls says. “But when they do come in here, they have something in common, and it’s the simple game of baseball. And when they look at the wall, a grandparent will point at a player on the wall and say, ‘Look at this guy,’ and then the grandkid will point at Brandon Phillips or Jay Bruce, and then all of a sudden, they’re together, and that’s really a neat phenomenon.”

Do Good: 

• Plan your visit to the Reds Hall of Fame and Museum, and consider becoming a member

• Support the Reds Hall of Fame and Museum through the Legacy Brick Campaign or the Joe Morgan Statue Campaign.

• Support CABVI by donating or volunteering your time.

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. 

Cincinnati Montessori Society celebrates 50 years

Fifty years ago, a group of parents who were passionate about Maria Montessori’s philosophy of education developed the first Montessori preschool in the area. 

And following the preschool’s inauguration, the group formed the Cincinnati Montessori Society, a nonprofit whose focus is to promote Montessori education while serving as a resource to countless schools, teachers, parents and students in the community.

“One of my favorite quotes is, ‘Follow the child,’” says Heather Gerker, vice president of CMS. “We meet the child where they are developmentally.” 

Montessori classrooms, which are both child-centered and composed of mixed age groups, are set up so that children can learn through a multisensory approach that allows them to figure things out at their own speed—and the philosophy works, Gerker says. 

At CMS’s Annual Spring Conference and celebration of 50 years of success, neuroscientist Dee Coulter delivered the keynote address. 

“This work that Maria Montessori did over 100 years ago is now being proven through neurological work happening now,” Gerker says. “[Coulter’s address] was really affirming and validating to the teachers there.” 

Not only were teachers excited to go back to work on Monday after hearing Coulter’s presentation, Gerker says, but they also had the opportunity to participate in breakout sessions that were aimed at providing strategies and insight that lead to better education.

Topics ranged from promoting mindfulness through music to strategizing ways of better assisting children with ADD and autism. 

Gerker says she’s particularly passionate about the resources that CMS provides because they’re based on a philosophy that’s now scientifically proven, and she’s seen it work in the lives of her own children. 

“It gives them a solid sense of self, that they’re so independent and happy, which I think is the ultimate goal,” Gerker says. “I just want to make sure it’s available to all children.” 

Do Good: 

 Become a member of CMS.

• Check out the resources offered by CMS.

• Connect with CMS on Facebook.

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. 

Elementz provides safe venue, creates outlet for expression

Jori Cotton, who grew up in North Avondale, says she wrote poetry to express her feelings and struggles throughout high school. When she went to college at The Ohio State University, however, she took a step back from her poetry. She attended open mic nights, she says, but performing wasn’t for her. 

“I enjoyed it, but it wasn’t for me to get up there,” Cotton says. “I was just taking the art in.” 

After graduating college, Cotton returned to Cincinnati, and one of the first places she says she went was to another poetry open mic session. And in October of 2006, she finally performed. 

“I’ve just been addicted ever since,” says Cotton, who now leads Voices of Freedom—a spoken word program at Elementz

The non-profit Elementz, which is located downtown in OTR, provides a safe place and a creative outlet for young people who want to turn the negative influences or surroundings in their lives into positives. 

“I like to give a voice to what you may call the underdog,” Cotton says. “I like to expose the truth—things that have happened historically—I like to let people know about how to reach their higher self and to believe in themselves and take time to work through emotions. We’ve all been through things, but we have to work through them.” 

Cotton’s group of 10, which is composed of participants who are primarily between the ages of 16 and 24, meets for two hours once per week. 

“One of the things about spoken word is getting the juices flowing about our story, so we take time to talk,” Cotton says. “We talk about the disparities in education; we’ve talked about gun violence, rape victims, some of the good things and not so good things that have taken place in Cincinnati. We talk about domestic violence, just real issues—relationships, self esteem—we talk about pretty much everything.” 

Once everyone’s had time to talk, they put their words onto paper and then share their work in a judgment-free environment, which Cotton says is important to her because it allows everyone to feel empowered. It’s usually the shyest ones who end up sharing some of the most powerful ideas, she says.

“It just gives them hope that the environment they’re in right now isn’t the best, but it can get better,” Cotton says. “Spoken word helps you feel confident when you get up there and you’re sharing your pieces, and that confidence will spill over into other areas of life.”

Do Good: 

• Support Elementz by making a donation.

• Learn about the various programs offered at Elementz, and show up during a session to see if the program is the right fit for you. The first visit is free, and if you enjoy yourself, become a member. 

• If you're a teen, celebrate National Poetry Month by submitting one of your pieces to the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County's Random Acts of Poetry contest. Attend one of Jori Cotton's spoken word workshops at the library.

• Support Elementz by attending their monthly showcase, which takes place on the third Thursday of each month.

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. 

 

Grailville, public library encourage poetry, sharing

Poet and teacher Pauletta Hansel leads a group of 13 women toward spiritual and personal growth in her weekly Practice of Poetry class at Grailville, a retreat center that takes up more than 300 acres of farmland in Loveland. 

The women meet in a 19th-century Victorian home where they learn, write, listen and share their work with one another.
 
In one of her most recent classes, Hansel says the group of writers looked at the “events, people and places that live on in our memory in a way that we always come back to them as personal touchstones.” 

The women work together to see what they can “make come alive” in each other’s work, Hansel says. Just this past week, they had the opportunity to share their work on a larger scale through their partnership with The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County for the 15th annual Poetry in the Garden Series

Seven of the 13 women from Practice of Poetry read their work in front of the audience of 58. Though most have read their poems in front of others before, Hansel says the event provided many of them with their first real opportunity to share in a more public way.   

“One woman read a poem that she had brought recently to craft class, and that was about a moment when both her parents were still alive, and she walked in and saw them in a very quiet, intimate moment at the kitchen table,” Hansel says. “It was about how moving that was for her to see her parents sitting quietly holding hands and taking that moment to—you know, [with] illness and their children’s worry swirling around them—to just be quiet and just be in love.” 

It’s these powerful and important life moments that Hansel’s poets and other community members have the opportunity to share during the Poetry in the Garden Series, which features contest winners in addition to local and regional poets who appreciate the art of poetry. 

“They’ve worked incredibly hard to promote and create a group of readers that is really diverse,” Hansel says. “There are some academically connected poets, but most in the group are community poets. They are people who are working in other walks of life who are using poetry as a way to communicate.”

The series also provides audience members with the chance to read their work at an open mic session that follows each set of readings. 

Hansel says participation in the Poetry in the Garden Series was incredibly meaningful to her group of poets because many of them are inspired by listening to what they hear. 

“Just coming and having the opportunity to use writing as a way to pay attention to their own inner lives and listen to themselves and be listened to by other women is the most important thing.”

Do Good: 

• Learn more about Grailville's programs, and register to participate. A new Practice of Poetry series will begin this summer with registration opportunities coming soon.

• Attend readings or share your own work at the Poetry in the Garden Series, which takes place at 7 p.m. each Tuesday in April.

• Like Grailville and The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County on Facebook to keep up with each organization's latest news and events.

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. 

 

Cincinnati Shakespeare Company enriches students' lives with theater

The Cincinnati Shakespeare Company has worked for nearly 20 years to bring accessible theater to its audience members. 

And though William Shakespeare’s works are almost 450 years old, CSC finds a way to make his themes relevant in the lives of about 22,000 students every year. 

“If we just sit here and say you have to come here and buy a ticket to our show, we wouldn’t be achieving our mission,” says Jeanna Vella, CSC’s director of education and communications. “We feel it’s really important to go out into the community and bring theater to them, and that really starts in the schools and creating lifelong audience members.”

The company travels up to two hours away to present Shakespeare’s works in schools throughout the Tri-State, in addition to performing discounted matinees for groups who do choose to visit the theater

CSC’s educational outreach extends beyond performances though, as the company hosts acting classes and summer camps as well. 

“I love telling parents when they call me when their kid’s in sixth grade, and I say, ‘Well if you’re going to do camp, I’m just warning you—you’re in it for six years now,’” Vella says. “We have a lot of kids who just fall in love and do it all through junior high and high school.” 

During classes and camp, resident company members coach participants on everything from movement to voice as students prepare to act out plays and particular scenes from the Bard’s works.   

According to Vella, the benefits stretch further than improved acting skills, as students note that their public speaking abilities improve, in addition to teambuilding skills and the ability to make friends. 

“It’s not just, 'Can you do a sonnet better?' It’s, 'Can you operate better as a speaker, as a friend and just build your confidence level?'” Vella says. 

Part of that confidence comes from finding one’s niche and connecting with people who have the same interests. Vella, who grew up in the Cincinnati area, says she can relate. 

“I went to Lakota, and I know the theater program’s so big there, so it’s sometimes hard to break in if you’re not a great talent,” she says. “It’s just nice for some of these kids to find a place where they can really participate and feel like they’re part of something.” 

Do Good: 

• Learn about summer camp offerings, and register your child. There is a session for adults as well. Learn more about it, and consider registering here

• Learn more about acting classes for students and adults, and consider signing up. 

• Support the CSC by making a donation, purchasing tickets to an upcoming show or by engaging in educational offerings.

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. 

Architecture firm engages Covington students to add graffiti to Pike Street

Ben Eilerman says he realized his love of architecture during his adolescent years at Covington Catholic High School. 

As a professional in the field at Hub+Weber, he has the opportunity to engage in educational outreach with other students who have that same appreciation for art at the same age he did.

Hub+Weber’s latest venture, which not only engaged students in artmaking but also gave them real-world experience, involved Holmes High School’s graffiti club and visual communications class. 

Located in Covington since the firm’s founding nearly 40 years ago, Hub+Weber relocated for the first time last year. Though it maintained its roots in the area, the firm moved from its old home on Greenup Street to the city’s former train station on Pike Street. 

“Behind it are the old passenger stairs up to an elevated rail line, and that area is largely abandoned,” Eilerman says. “[It had] that kind of urban decaying aesthetic to it that we were drawn to, and we wanted to use that space and address it from our standpoint, and then also to start to make the city aware of it.” 

So Hub+Weber reached out to the Center for Great Neighborhoods, who put the firm in touch with Donny Roundtree, the visual communications teacher at Holmes. 

“We talked to him and saw that this was a great opportunity to bring his students down and do a real-life project and build it into something bigger, as far as his curriculum goes,” Eilerman says. 

So the two joined forces to provide students with the opportunity to create an eight-foot by 16-foot graffiti art mural. 

“The students explored different techniques so each of the panels read as an individual panel, and as it draws into the center, it starts to be defined more as a singular mural,” Eilerman says. “It has the background of the Covington skyline across the back, and then it has two trains coming out of the center from a tunnel with the word ‘Pike’ in the middle.” 

Eilerman says the area surrounding Pike has undergone a renaissance over the past few years, so the firm wanted to find a way to contribute by livening up the area while also reaching out to a local school district. 

The mural is currently on display inside the building, and a week ago, the students showed off their work at a gallery opening hosted by Hub+Weber. They received feedback from local designers who gave advice about what it means to “take the arts into a profession,” Eilerman says. 

This month, the mural will inhabit its permanent home—below the underpass where it will be visible from the sidewalk and street for all to see. 

“They spent about six months or so on this,” Eilerman says. “We really acted as a client—they brought the sketches and they talked about what their vision was, and we talked about what ours was, and they had to mesh that. They had to provide a proposal for their work—and I think it was a big benefit to the students.” 

Do Good: 

• Support the arts in your local school district. 

• Support Holmes High School's Nordheim Gallery.

• Like Hub+Weber on Facebook

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. 

Summe-Haas returns to second home at Memorial Hall

When Teresa Summe-Haas was 16 years old, she started a ballet school in the basement of her Northern Kentucky home, which she successfully led for about 25 years. 

And when it was time to find a space to perform, she rented Cincinnati Memorial Hall for her students’ recitals. 

“I fell in love with it—it was just beautiful,” Summe-Haas says. “Everyone would walk in and talk about the building. It’s a historical treasure, and I think it’s just breathtaking.” 

This past February, Summe-Haas returned to the building—this time as Memorial Hall’s executive director. Though in a different capacity, she’ll again work to bring the arts into people’s lives through the more than 100-year old architectural landmark. 

Summe-Haas says her first goal is to bring more arts productions to the facility. 

“With Music HallWashington Park and SCPA, this is a very strong arts district,” she says. “I want to try to make the arts available to as many people as possible and really unite and bring that excitement back to the community.” 

The Hall is regularly used by groups like the Cincinnati Boychoir and the Queen City Concert Band, and upcoming events include the MusicNOW Festival and IgniteCincinnati; but Summe-Haas’ vision is to fill the building with as many people as possible, on as many occasions as possible. Preferably with at least 10 events per month.

Though she just began her role as executive director a month ago, Summe-Haas has big ideas. She says there’s the possibility for a future signature series which would incorporate monthly features and performances for everything from ballet to chamber music. And she says she’d also love to utilize the building in its entirety, after renovations, by potentially turning the quaint and cozy attic with its old train rails on the sides, into a coffee or wine bar. 

“It’s nice to walk into the gorgeous foyer and then go upstairs to the Parkview Room, utilize that for a reception and then go into the theater for a performance or a lecture, then come back down to the Green and Gold rooms for a dinner or buffet or additional networking, and then maybe finish the evening off with going up to the attic for coffee or wine,” Summe-Haas says. "It just lends itself to make it an entire day event. Being here just brings back my goal of reintroducing Memorial Hall to the community and to establish the arts in as many people’s lives as I can touch.”

Do Good: 

• Keep up with Memorial Hall's events calendar, and attend a production. 

• Preserve the Hall by getting involved and donating.

• Rent the space for a performance, wedding, lecture, reception or corporate event. 

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. 

Life Learning Center instills confidence, facilitates job placement

Since 2006, the Life Learning Center in Covington has been working to help at-risk individuals find hope, own past mistakes and learn how to successfully move forward so they can achieve their goals. 

Participants who are committed to bettering their lives work through a 16-week educational program where they attend classes centered on topics from stress management to financial management. They also work one-on-one with a life coach who helps them set and define goals, and work through some of the issues that may be holding them back. 

Once participants have completed the Foundations for a Better Life and Pillars of Growth components of the program, they move on to Working for a Better Life, where they learn how to craft effective résumés, apply for employment and engage in mock interviews so they feel more prepared for future job placement.

Erich Switzer, director of awareness and fundraising at the Center, says there are many individuals who are either afraid of or discouraged by the process of job searching and that the NKYLLC helps them move past those fears. 

“I saw the need of the folks we serve—people just really struggling, and seeing HR as the enemy—almost that they’re not people or that they’re out to get them or that they come up with reasons to not hire people,” Switzer says. “So we have people from other companies—HR representatives—come in and do mock interviews with them, do an HR panel, and this is where we start breaking down some of the barriers. They’re real people, they do want to hire you, but you’ve got to be able to answer the questions, and you’ve got to have the skill sets to be employed.” 

Forty percent of the individuals the NKYLLC has served have criminal backgrounds, and one of the barriers they face is figuring out how to talk about their employment gaps. The nonprofit addresses the issue by teaching classes on effective oral communication. 

“Why people are stuck for so long is they really can’t change the way they’re communicating about what’s taken place, so when they sit down and talk to an employer—I’ve seen it when we’ve done mock interviews—it’s just a purposeless sort of rambling,” Switzer says. 

“So we help them tighten that up and move forward. You’re already in front of the employer, so they have some level of interest in potentially hiring you, so you don’t want to spend too much time on a potential negative. You want to get to the positive where you can sell yourself and talk about your skills.” 

The NKYLLC helps individuals come to understand the positive assets they have to offer through StrengthsFinders and a variety of inspirational activities. And since the nonprofit’s inception, more than 800 participants have found jobs. 

“If there’s one word that sums up the Center, it’s about providing hope for people who likely don’t have any," says Switzer. "We try to start building them back up with positive affirmations rather than the stuff they’ve been listening to.” 

Do Good: 

• Donate to the Life Learning Center. 

• Volunteer if you are an individual who would like to help lead classes or if you are a business who would be interested in participating in mock interviews or panels. 

• Like the Life Learning Center's Facebook page and share the page with your friends, especially if you know of someone who could benefit from the center's services. 

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. 

 

Madcap Puppets immerse audiences in artmaking

Entertaining audiences and making children laugh is not the only goal of Madcap Puppets. It aims to educate, share cultural experiences from around the world and engage children in artmaking while fostering growth and an appreciation of the various genres of art that merge together through puppeteering.  

The primary ways troupes interact with children are through their performances of “fractured fairytales,” which reach audiences in about 500 elementary schools per year, says John Lewandowski, Madcap’s artistic executive director

“It connects well to literature, the study of geography and regions and countries because they do come from all over the world,” Lewandowski says. “This is something that we have as a human culture. We have this fairy tale interest in our literature, and that’s in every culture—just like puppets. It's in every culture, in every country.” 

One piece the troupe performs extends beyond the reach of elementary schools. It takes the stage across the country as puppeteers pair up with symphony orchestras to present “The Firebird,” which tells the story of a magical bird that brings both good and evil to its captor. The story is based on a Russian fairy tale.

“We perform it during youth concerts that have been organized to try and develop younger audiences,” Lewandowski says. “This is a major problem with large orchestras—that their audiences are 75 and 80 [years old] and getting smaller and smaller—and they use us to try to pull in family audiences.”

According to Lewandowski, it’s vital that children are exposed to and have the opportunity to engage with musical, visual and performing arts because the benefits to other areas of their development as a result of doing so are too great to be ignored. 

“It builds those key elements in their growth and formation, self-confidence, teamwork, the ability to express themselves and to think in a divergent, problem solving way,” Lewandowski says. “These are all essential elements in growing up, and these are what the arts bring.” 

Do Good: 

Book a show.

Contact Madcap Puppets to volunteer and help the organization set up its new facility in Westwood.

Donate to Madcap and help the organization in its efforts to build an education center and 200-seat theater in its new facility.

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. 

 

NKY celebrates educational leaders

When it comes to preparing students to become future leaders and contributors to society, schools have a huge responsibility. And while their work is often recognized from within, it’s not often enough that it's honored on a community-wide basis.
 
The Northern Kentucky Education Council and the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce seek to remedy that, however, with their 2013 Excellence in Education Celebration—though it’s not just the work of students and educators that they plan to recognize.
 
“We started thinking about the awards dinner and others in the community who are also driving action in the excellence in education besides our educators, and realizing it goes beyond the scope of the school day,” says Polly Page, NKYEC’s executive director. “It’s the responsibility of our entire community to make this happen for our children.”
 
According to Page, students, teachers, administrators, school board members, mentors and businesses within the community all play a role in the education of younger generations, and it’s important to come together to let those individuals and organizations know that their work does not go unnoticed.
 
Students will be recognized in various categories for academic performance and leadership skills. And this year, there’s a new award that recognizes one’s ability to overcome obstacles and succeed in school, despite barriers that may have occurred along the way.
 
“Those stories were really very heartwarming, and folks don’t really think about Northern Kentucky having students with a lot of trials and tribulations,” Page says. “But these were really pretty poignant about what the students have experienced in their lifetimes.”
 
With educators, businesses and community members, it’s all about what they’re doing “to go beyond the requirements” at their positions, Page says.
 
“There are many companies in Northern Kentucky that have a solid partnership and are really thinking about ways they can make a difference in the classroom,” says Page. “Employees are working in the classroom and teaching side by side with instructors and working with students.” 
 
Kentucky was ranked 10th in the nation in Quality Counts this year, which Page says is huge because the state was more than 30 positions behind that ranking in past years. But it’s all about moving forward and making sure “students and young adults are prepared for college.”
 
“We want to take it up and meet national standards,” Page says. “It’s a time for everybody to just hit the pause button and take some time to celebrate what’s going on in our community—who is driving action?” 

Do Good: 

Register to attend the 2013 Excellence in Education Celebration, which takes place March 28.

• Volunteer as a mentor or literacy coach in the One to One program.

• Encourage your business to partner with its local school district in the B.E.S.T (Business Education Success Teams) program.

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. 



Annie Ruth honors local women with Dada Rafiki

At the age of 3, Annie Ruth began her work as a visual artist, and during her freshman year of college, she read her first poem aloud in response to her nephew's death. Ever since then, she’s worked as a community-based visual and performing artist with the goal of bringing together diverse groups of people. 

Though Ruth’s first art exhibit was at the age of 3 (on the flaps of blank pages of her family’s encyclopedia set, she says), she never expected it to be a career path. 

“For the longest time, I was headed down the path of becoming a doctor because my mom was sick a lot when I was growing up,” Ruth says. 

Ruth, now 49, grew up in College Hill. She says her career transition from doctor to artist didn’t happen until her high school years when she and a friend were involved in a serious car accident while on the way to a football game. 

“I finally realized I had been blessed with this tremendous gift of art, and it was my art that helped build bridges and connect to people’s hearts,” Ruth says. “So I would be a doctor, but my art would be that healing mechanism.” 
 
Since the mid-'90s Ruth says she’s dedicated a lot of her work toward celebrating and empowering women, and in 2005, she created Dada Rafiki—a photo exhibit that honors women. It garnered recognition and a yearning for more stories. 

“When people came to view the exhibit, they said they needed to see more of it, so in 2006, I moved the exhibit to the Community Action Agency, which had just opened a new building in the Jordan Crossing area," she says. "So I pulled in other artists and poets as well, and we were able to actually donate a 22-piece permanent collection to honor 22 women, and it’s kind of grown since then.” 

Now Dada Rafiki: Sisters of Legacy, which celebrates the lives of 40 women who are 65 years and older, makes its debut at a nationally renowned establishment—the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center

Ruth says the intention of this installment is to “begin to create intergenerational dialogue so we can really have a chance to sit at the feet of our elders and hear some of their stories and know why they did some of the things they did that impacted Cincinnati and the rest of the world.” 

In addition to the exhibit’s three-month display at the Freedom Center, replicas will travel to 59 different venues in the Cincinnati area where community members can view the art and participate in different programs, which range from concerts and lectures to intergenerational talks with young mothers. 

“When I think about my ultimate outcome, there is a mission,” Ruth says. “Because Cincinnati is known for being such a separated community, I want to highlight that the whole community is not that way and that many of us dream of a world where people can come together and appreciate each other for the uniqueness that everyone brings to our city."

Ruth says her focus is on what she believes can bring people together—music, poetry and song—“a universal language.” 

“I hope that people, from viewing and experiencing things going on in Dada Rafiki, will celebrate the contribution of women, but also appreciate the uniqueness that true diversity has to offer,” she says. “True diversity is about building bridges and connecting. It doesn’t mean we’ll always agree, but creating mutual respect for all types of art forms.”

Do Good: 

• View Dada Rafiki: Sisters of Legacy at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.

Support Annie Ruth in her educational efforts to connect underserved communities with the arts through the Eye of the Artists Foundation.

• Like Eye of the Artists and Dada Rafiki on Facebook to keep up with the latest news and events.

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.

Washington Park celebrates eco-friendly living with EcoSculpt

Part of Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation’s mission is to create spaces that are open and welcoming; and one way 3CDC achieves its mission is by offering an array of programs within its two public spaces: Fountain Square and Washington Park.

Beginning April 5 at Washington Park, EcoSculpt installations will be on display in an effort to not only raise awareness about green living, but also to recognize and celebrate local artists. 

“Washington Park is in the center of the arts community—we’re across from Music Hall and SCPA is right next door—so we’re always astounded by the level of creativity surrounding the park,” says Brittney Carden, communications officer at 3CDC. “So we want to in turn promote some of that creativity and open people’s minds.” 

In years past, EcoSculpt, which is a collection of sculptures made entirely of recycled materials, has taken place at Fountain Square, but Carden says 3CDC wanted to move the event to Washington Park so that it would reach a greater variety of people and encourage them to maintain the spaces that are intentioned for their use.

“People might look at Coke cans or bottle caps and see at it as garbage—nothing can be made from that—and that’s not true,” Carden says. “People have made fantastic art from a lot of these recyclable materials that we no longer value.” 

Tom Tsuchiya’s “Atlas Recycled,” which is a seven-foot tall sculpture made of recycled cans and bottles, was a 2010 EcoSculpt submission that gained national recognition. It traveled to New York City’s Grand Central Terminal and Washington D.C.’s National Mall. Carden says it's these types of memorable pieces that showcase local talent through the lens of reusing and recycling items often viewed as trash. 

“We’re showing that these items do in fact have a use, and something beautiful and wonderful can be made from them,” Carden says. “Hopefully EcoSculpt will attract more [people] to the park and promote eco-friendly living.”

Do Good: 

• View the EcoSculpt exhibit April 5-26 at Washington Park.

• Attend events at Washington Park. 

• Like Washington Park's Facebook page.

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.

Cincy playwright aims to enrich national theatre scene

Mike Hall, 34, says he fell in love with theater at the age of 16 when he began attending Loveland High School and knew he had to make friends. 

He says he grew up as an “Army brat” who moved around a lot, though most of his family was based in or around the Cincinnati area; and when he moved to Loveland to finish high school, he first turned to “theater people,” who “are for the most part, pretty embracing.” 

Hall started acting in school productions and never turned back. He attended Northern Kentucky University as a theatre major, then went on to spend his time performing with various theatre companies in the area. 

Acting, Hall says, was his primary endeavor. That is, until he had a conversation backstage with Josh Steele in 2009, as the two were waiting to begin the night’s production of “Angry Housewives” at New Edgecliff Theatre

“We both wanted to see ‘Ghostbusters’ the musical happen,” Hall says. “We figured big budget movies and musicals like that are successful, and it’s usually the cult classics that make it, so we decided to try to write it.” 

After talking to a copyright lawyer, however, the idea for “Ghostbusters” had to be scrapped, but all was not lost. 

“He told us that was the worst idea ever, unless we wanted to be poor the rest of our lives,” says Hall. “But we still wanted to write something based around it, so we decided to turn it on its ear and write about what we know, which is the world of theater—so we decided to write about a group of actors who want to do ‘Ghostbusters’ the musical. They get told that they can’t and still decide to do it by changing the process around completely.” 

So Hall and Steele did just that and became first-time playwrights with “Don’t Cross the Streams: The Cease and Desist Musical,” which became a hit after its debut at both the Cincinnati and Indianapolis Fringe festivals last year. 

The two writers didn’t want to stop there, however. According to Hall, they’re “kind of hooked,” so the two recently formed their production company, Hugo West Theatricals; and the first major goal is to produce “Don’t Cross the Streams” as a two-act show, get it published and performed in cities across the country. 

Hugo West Theatricals, in conjunction with Falcon Theater, will start with a week-long run beginning Friday at Monmouth Theatre. 

Hall says he and Steele have added a few songs and expanded on the script to create a comedic piece they both feel good about. 

“I think the audience will be entertained, and that’s probably the most important thing theater can teach—is that we’re really supposed to entertain people—we can’t get too much on our high horse and make it a message all the time,” Hall says. “We have to keep the audience in mind—and when the audience comes to see it, I think they’ll know that we’ve kept them at the forefront.”  

Do Good: 

• Support "Don't Cross the Streams" by purchasing tickets to a performance at Monmouth Theatre, March 15-23.

• Join and share the Facebook event page with your friends to spread word about the upcoming run of "Don't Cross the Streams." 

• Like "Don't Cross the Streams" on Facebook.

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.

Tap into maple season with Cincinnati Parks

For the past month, Cincinnati Parks’ naturalists have been busy tapping sugar maples, collecting sap and boiling it down to produce real maple syrup. They’ve even taught the public how to make use of their own backyards to do the same. 

With March quickly approaching, maple season will come to a close, but not without celebrating what Explore Nature! program assistant manager Erin Morris refers to as “Maple Madness.” 

Maple in Mt. Airy and Pancakes in the Woods are “for those who maybe aren’t interested in doing it in their backyard, but for those who love the sweet success of the season, who want to taste that and who want to learn a little bit about the history,” says Morris. 

For decades, Cincinnati Parks’ representatives have worked to relay the importance of nature education to the public.

“When we started in the 1930s, technology was pretty minimal—we only had vehicles in the last 20 years, so people were outside,” says Morris. “There was no air conditioning, and they’d often sleep outside during the summer season, so people were much more connected to the outdoors and natural experiences.” 

With a changing culture and a technologically oriented society, Morris says people have lost the connection with the outdoors. The Explore Nature! program aims to remedy that, however, and celebratory maple sugaring events are some of the ways in which it teaches people about the outdoors. 

At both maple events, participants begin with a pancake breakfast, where they enjoy the syrup that’s been produced by the trees surrounding them. They then go on to learn the story and process behind maple sugaring. 

Following breakfast at Maple in Mt. Airy, participants are immersed in the time period. They ride through the woods in a hay wagon to an area where naturalists dressed as Native Americans and pioneers teach about the first uses of maple syrup in the United States through taste-testing and hands-on experiences that explain photosynthesis and the ways trees provide nutrients for both humans and nature. 

“When people think of maple sugaring, they think of Canada because they have the sugar maple leaves on their flag, but Ohio’s been producing maple syrup since the Native Americans in the 1700s,” Morris says. “It’s getting back to our history in Ohio—and even history in Cincinnati—but also having that connection with local products.” 

Maple Madness events take place throughout the first two weekends of March. 

Do Good:

Register your family, friends or student group for Maple in Mt. Airy.

• Enjoy pancakes cooked by celebrity chefs and learn about maple sugaring at Pancakes in the Woods at the California Woods Nature Preserve.

• Like Cincinnati Parks on Facebook, and join and share their events with your friends.

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. 

 


OTR Foundation preserves history, promotes community

From organizing events involving beer and historic churches to providing affordable housing and jobs to those who have struggled to attain them in the past, the Over-the-Rhine Foundation does a little bit of everything. And it's all for the purpose of reinventing and celebrating a diverse, historically-rooted community.

At the beginning of February, Kevin Pape, who’s lived in Cincinnati his whole life and who grew up with a fondness for the OTR community, stepped up to the role of president of the foundation. 

OTR has been a part of Pape’s family history for multiple generations, so he’s someone who understands what the community has to offer. 

His grandparents lived in OTR and operated a business there until 1935, though it was actually started back in 1850. Pape lived in the community himself for about four years in the 1970s, and his office at Gray & Pape—a cultural resource management and historic preservation consulting firm—just celebrated 23 years at its Main Street location.

Pape says because of his background, he deals with the renovation of historic buildings all the time, but his vision for OTR contains much more than the preservation of buildings.

“I think my interest really is in community-building,” Pape says. “The message is that it’s really all about putting people back into historic buildings and finding ways to do that in a meaningful way.” 

One way Pape and the OTRF plan to build on that vision is through their strategic plan, which entails owner-occupied redevelopment, historic preservation and the goal of making OTR the greenest historic neighborhood in the country

“We also want to encourage people who are investing in the neighborhood to seek ways to provide meaningful employment and jobs for people that live in the neighborhood who may not have had access to opportunities before,” Pape says. 

While working to show that “green buildings, sustainable buildings, LEED certification and historic preservation are actually compatible,” the OTRF also helps organize events like Bockfest, which Pape says showcases what’s good and great about the community.

This year, the nonprofit, in conjunction with American Legacy Tours, is offering historic church tours, which will highlight the architecture and stories of four different 19th century landmarks within the community.

 “When you think about the size of OTR and the number of churches, it gives you a good sense about the density of people and the diversity even at that time that would have such a population to support a variety of churches,” says Pape.   

It’s that diversity that has withstood the test of time, and which Pape says the community embraces at all levels.  

“Socioeconomic, racial, ethnic, you name it,” Pape says. “It provides residential density that allows people to share ideas and celebrate those differences in being able to all live in a compact place at one time. It’s about not only economic vitality, but residential vitality.” 

Do Good: 

• Attend Bockfest, and register for the Historic Churches of OTR Tour.

• Support the Over-the-Rhine Foundation by becoming a member.

Volunteer to help the organization preserve and revitalize OTR.

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. 

 

Budget cuts jeopardize Media Bridges, volunteers needed

Tom Bishop, president of Media Bridges, has worked to give the public a voice by providing access to media and channel space for years. But because of recent budget cuts and word from current members of Cincinnati City Council that the organization will not receive funds again, Media Bridges’ future is at stake. 

Rooted in the Cincinnati area, Bishop grew up in Hamilton, attended college and spent time working for public radio, in addition to spending 17 years with Norwood Community Television prior to his time at Media Bridges, where he has been employed for the past nine years. 

Bishop says he realized early on what good can be done with media.  

“I think I’ve always had it in the back of my head that you should leave the world a better place than you found it, and the idea of doing that with media is a really cool combo,” he says. 

Throughout his years at Media Bridges, Bishop led the nonprofit in providing free classes to the public on everything from studio and video production to editing and web design. The organization has also championed free summer camps for children so that they, too, can learn to be active participants in media by learning things like video skills, comic book design, animation and radio programming. 

Throughout the next few months, however, the organization will be forced to implement class and membership fees, so the facilities and access to create public programming will no longer be completely free. But Bishop says the organization will ensure that those below the poverty line are not left behind. 

“I’m sure we’re going to lose some people—and that’s really a shame,” Bishop says. “Cincinnati City Council has made the decision that their government access television station is much more important than the people actually having a voice in the community, and by making that decision, they’re telling the people to just go away, ‘I don’t want to hear from you.’” 

Because of the cuts, Bishop says the organization is in dire need of volunteers to help teach classes and run the studio so the public can continue to have a voice. Though he’s optimistic that Media Bridges will still be around in 2014, he says he’s not sure what it will look like. 

“Frankly, making up the amount of money we used to get via the cable franchise—put it this way—if we pulled it off, we’d be the only people to pull it off,” says Bishop. “When all funds have been cut, nobody has survived.” 

For Bishop, the cuts are disappointing. He says it threatens the future of the “many small victories” the organization has achieved over the years. 

“We have a program called Film Outside the Lines, where we work with people with developmental disabilities and turn them into film producers where they create their own films,” says Bishop. “The success of that is right there on their faces when they’re showing their films at screenings and entering them at film festivals and things like that.” 

Without public access, Bishop says people are left behind to hear only the voices of “the pundits, politicians and sports heroes” who make up a small portion our population. Instead of receiving media, Bishop says it’s more important than ever that people also participate.

“It doesn’t have to be about the almighty dollar—it can be used to make communities stronger," says Bishop. "Media can be used to build dialogue—to let people communicate. It’s not that there shouldn’t be media for profit, but that shouldn’t be the only kind of media there is. And slowly but surely, we’re entering a world where that will be the only kind of media.” 

Do Good:

Volunteer with Media Bridges to help them shift gears to a volunteer-driven organization. 

• Support Media Bridges by making a donation.

• Learn about Media Bridges' classes, and register for one so that you can become an active partcipant in the media.

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. 

 

Cincy ReelAbilities film festival unifies inclusive community

ReelAbilities, which is the largest film festival in the country to showcase the artistic talents and life stories of people with disabilities, began in New York in 2007. But in 2011, Cincinnati became the first place to broaden the festival’s influence by making it a multi-city event, and for its second year running, ReelAbilities plans to increase its reach with a fervor that emphasizes the shared human experience. 

Co-chaired by Living Arrangements for the Developmentally Disabled and Visionaries + Voices, the festival brings community members together to view award-winning films by and about people with disabilities, all while creating a dialogue and providing a platform for storytelling and educational panels that promote understanding and inclusion. 

For local spokespersons April Kerley and Kathleen Sheil, the festival is important in that it aims to show people that the only real disabilities that all people have are those of misguided perceptions. 

Kerley, a local Paralympian who swam in the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing and who is also featured in the film “Warrior Champions,” which will air during the festival, says the event is about inclusion. All people experience a technical disability at some point in time, “even if it is only a temporary one, such as a sprained ankle or recovery from surgery,” she says. 

“It is not an ‘us versus them’ equation,” Kerley says. “We’re all in this together.” 

Sheil, who receives services from LADD and who is working as an event planner for ReelAbilities Cincy has Down syndrome, but she says she doesn’t allow her disability to define her. “I take that disability, and I put it into ability,” she says. 

Her attitude is a positive one, but Sheil says she knows all too well the horror stories of bullying that arise from a lack of understanding when it comes to people with disabilities.

Sheil’s boyfriend, who has autism and wears glasses, was singled out during his high school years because of his disability, she says. 

“They’d call him four-eyes and step on his glasses and break them,” Sheil says. “And that’s not what we do. That’s not the right thing to do. To me, it really doesn’t matter if you have a disability or not, and the reason why I say that is because everybody has a disability and everybody is different, and that’s okay.” 

It’s these stories that ReelAbilities Cincy hopes to share, as inclusion and acceptance are topics that are vital and necessary, according to Shiel. 

“I want people to hear how important it is to the people that have not just disabilities, but abilities, so that they can share their stories,” she says. “And so that way, they can be the people who shine, people who are stars and people who really know what’s going on in their world.” 

ReelAbilities will take place at various locations throughout Cincinnati from March 9-16.

Do Good: 

Attend a film showing to support ReelAbilities.

• Like the ReelAbilities Cincy page on Facebook.

Spread the word to family and friends so that they, too, can participate in the ReelAbilties Film Festival. 

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.

Hands-on experiments with nature at Environmental Education Center

Aubree Forrer runs a one-woman show at the Campbell County Environmental Education Center. From maintaining taxidermy displays, fish tanks, birding areas and trails, to coordinating and leading free activities to engage the public and educate them about the environment, she does it all. 

Forrer started working at the Center about two years ago, and ever since, she’s kept busy by immersing herself in nature and sharing her love of the outdoors and all of the living things that inhabit it with others. 

In the past few weeks, she’s led night hikes and activities where people have had the opportunity to build birdhouses and bird feeders. 

“Little kids and adults both enjoy it,” Forrer says. 

While leading night hikes, Forrer says she uses experiments and hands-on activities to engage children and get them excited about nature. 

“I do one activity where I blow up balloons, and you have to guess the color of it, and most times, you get the color wrong,” she says. “I shine a light in it, and that teaches you about rod cells and cone cells in your eyes and how it’s different from humans to nocturnal animals, and you see that the color of your prey—like an owl trying to capture a mouse—isn’t as important as seeing the shape or shadows of that mouse.”

Then participants sit in a group and actually watch the owls in action. Forrer says owls are just one of the many animals in the area. Those involved in the hiking program get to see bats, badgers and possums, among other wild animals. 

One of Forrer’s favorite activities, and perhaps one of the most popular at the Center, is coming up in March, when people come together to make a nesting wreath for birds. At this event, Forrer provides the public with twigs, wheat, feathers, fur and other materials that they can piece together, which birds can later pick apart, as they gather supplies for a nest.

“So if you put it by your house or on the side of it, you can watch the birds gather that material from your wreath,” Forrer says. “It’s a lot of fun because you can use your own creativity in terms of making it as colorful as you want and decorating it.” 

While Forrer prepares for events, she also puts together educational supplies so she can provide people with a PowerPoint, for example, so they can take it home and see pictures of birds in the area and know how to identify them as they gather material from the nesting wreaths. Forrer says activities like this are nice—especially for the kids who live in the city who don’t have as much involvement with nature. 

“A lot of kids in the city areas that don’t really get to go outside and be in the woods, they can come out here and see things they normally don’t get to see, and they can ask questions—normally they’re always full of them,” says Forrer. “Sometimes it sparks their interest and they want to come out here all the time, every other weekend or so, and their parents are making the trip out here to just take a walk outside or come in our building and look at our different animals and our fish tanks.” 

Forrer says she’s fallen in love with teaching kids about nature and that she's living her dream job. Though she has quite the responsibility, as she’s the only employee at the Center, she loves every minute of it and couldn’t be happier to be achieving her mission.

“My ultimate goal is to educate the public, especially kids, about what the environment has to offer and how they can help preserve it, help it and use some of the things that natures provides us with to learn from.” 

Do Good: 

• Like and share the Center's page on Facebook to keep up with events and fun facts about nature.

• Sign up for Shape Up and Go Green!, an event focused on physical fitness and environmental awareness for adults. Sessions will take place Monday mornings beginning in April. Call 869-572-2600 to register. 

• Volunteer to help Aubree Forrer maintain the Center's trails and bird feeders. Contact her if you're interested in helping.

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.

Project Downtown focuses on interfaith effort to give back

Each Sunday, a group of volunteers, most college-aged, meet at the Clifton Mosque to make sandwiches, bag lunches and wrap pastries to pass out to individuals in downtown Cincinnati. 

The volunteers make up an organization called Project Downtown, a nonprofit whose local chapter has been in existence since 2008, and whose ultimate goal is to eliminate poverty downtown. 

Yousef Hussein, director of PD, says the goal is a lofty one, but he’s confident that it can be accomplished. 

“It’s going to be difficult, but at the end of the day, I feel that if we set our mind to it, and people receive us properly, we can get the support and make a big impact in our community," he says. 

The Cincinnati chapter of PD began with leadership from students in the University of Cincinnati’s Muslim Students’ Association who wanted to form an organization that got them more involved in the community and that reflected their mindset of wanting to take care of their neighbors. 

Hussein says about 40 percent of PD Cincy’s near 140 members are either immigrants or first-generation Americans, and that it’s important to get them “more involved in the American fabric.” 

“As a result of that, the children aren’t as exposed to what goes on in downtown Cincinnati or aren’t exposed to the poverty that’s so close to them,” says Hussein. “A lot of them live in the suburbs, and it’s just a great opportunity for them to see what goes on in downtown Cincinnati. I think that when you have that sort of compassion and care for the general community and the community understands that, you’re able to break down the religious barriers you see between Muslims.” 

PD Cincy is not just a Muslim organization, however. It’s an interfaith group that aims to help others, and that’s what Hussein says he likes best. “You’ll see Catholics, Protestants and atheists, and it’s just beautiful to see them come together for one common purpose.” 

PD Cincy currently distributes 70 bagged lunches, in addition to breads and pastries donated by Panera Bread’s Operation Dough-Nation program to individuals along Vine Street. One-third of those lunches, in addition to any leftover bread, are then left in a box outside of the downtown mosque in Over-the-Rhine for anyone hungry to grab. 

“There’s a couple families that live nearby, and as we’re coming down, you can see them looking out the window so they can grab a couple for their kids,” Hussein says. 

But according to Hussein, it’s more than food that residents of OTR need.

“A lot of individuals have mental health problems; a lot of them are just lonely,” he says. “If you’re in a situation where you’re homeless, chances are you don’t have a support network; and as a result of that, people have things they need to get off their chest. We really like to sit down and figure out what the needs are in their community.” 

So Hussein says PD Cincy plans to broaden its giving so that the organization provides more than just food. One way it plans to give back is through a hygiene drive, where volunteers will pass out kits filled with things like toothbrushes and lotion to help prevent people’s hands from cracking in the cold weather. The nonprofit is also planning a sock drive. 

“It’s easy to find clothes, but socks are hard to find, and washrags—you wouldn’t think it, but if I had a washrag to offer someone, they’d take it,” says Hussein. “Little things like that make a big difference. We run on a shoestring budget, but if we’re able to do those things with a lot of thought behind it, it makes a huge difference.” 

Do Good: 

• Learn more about Project Downtown by visiting the organization's website

• Volunteer by making sandwiches, packing lunches and distributing food on Sundays from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. All are welcome, and those interested in helping should meet at 3668 Clifton Ave. Enter through the back basement door. 

• Assist the organization by donating or contacting those involved if you're interested in forming a partnership. 

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. 


Uptown Consortium partners with Urban League to promote job growth

Uptown Consortium, an organization dedicated to building up and revitalizing the neighborhoods of uptown Cincinnati, currently has about $700 million worth of development that has been completed, is underway or will be completed in the next 12 months, says Beth Robinson, president and CEO of the nonprofit. 

“We were looking for a way we could reach out to the residents and make sure they’re participating in the economic and development boom here in Uptown,” Robinson says. 

So the organization partnered with the Urban League of Greater Cincinnati to sponsor and modify sections of its SOAR Program and Construction Connections apprenticeship. 

Robinson says the Urban League’s programs are a perfect fit because they have high job-placement rates for their graduates and are also located in Uptown. 

“A few years ago, we did some work in this area and did a session with HR representatives from the big institutions up here—an informational session—and from that, we learned job readiness is something that our residents here who are out of work could really benefit from," she says.

To help address that issue, SOAR, which is a three-week program that provides training in areas like resume writing, interviewing and employer expectations, will help to prepare Uptown residents and then help them gain employment.

Once participants complete SOAR, they are encouraged to take part in the Construction Connections program if they show an interest in the trade. Through the eight-week program, participants learn the basic skills needed to secure employment. “Urban League is great because they have working relationships for job placement with all the big construction companies in town,” Robinson says. 

Uptown Consortium is looking at its sponsorship of the two programs as a pilot project, but Robinson says she’s confident that it will be successful. If all goes as planned, about 25 Uptown residents will go from unemployed to employed in the coming months, with 15 of those residents working on the construction and developments in their community that will improve livability and promote place-making. 

“We’re really excited,” Robinson says. “We feel like it really adds value for Uptown residents.”

Do Good: 

• Learn more about SOAR and similar programs by visiting the Urban League of Greater Cincinnati's website.

• Keep up with all the news from Uptown Cincinnati by liking its page on Facebook.

• Be a part of community building in Uptown by checking out the events happening in the area.

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. 


Community opportunity through Carnegie's Call to Artists

For nearly 40 years, The Carnegie has strengthened the Northern Kentucky community as a venue that displays, fosters and inspires creativity in both the visual and performing arts. One way it fulfills that mission is through its annual Call to Artists, which is now underway.

Call to Artists provides a means for the nonprofit to expose the work of local and regional artists, as it selects enough pieces to fill its six galleries for the 2014 season with more than 30 solo and group shows. 

Gallery director and curator Bill Seitz says he’s fine-tuned the process behind the Call to Artists by ensuring that the work chosen is based solely on artistic merit, as all of the artists are juried anonymously. 

“Each artist is equal; it doesn’t matter," Seitz says. "I tell artists, ‘I don’t care if you’re in the Museum of Modern Art. The only way you’re getting a show here is because your work’s good.' I have friends who have never gotten a show here because they haven’t made the cut. Give me the best art and artists, and they’ll give me the best shows.” 

Seitz says the fact that work is chosen anonymously is part of the beauty of the process. “I know in the world, you can get a lot of things on who you know, but here, I put everyone—especially the artists—on equal playing turf.” 

When Seitz says he puts everyone on equal playing turf, he means it, because The Carnegie’s galleries are meant for everyone in the public to enjoy—not just art aficionados who seem to understand and connect with every piece they see.

“I think a lot of people get intimidated coming to galleries because you have that elitism stereotype attached to it, and we try to break that down," Seitz says. "We try to make that personal. When you come in, you’re family. If you don’t like something, that’s okay.” 

According to Seitz, It’s not expected or even fair to assume that one particular show will capture the attention of everyone. There are some pieces in the gallery that he says even he doesn’t like, and he wants the public to know that that’s okay and perfectly normal. 

“You’ll run into somebody who’ll say, ‘Well, all he showed was contemporary artwork, and it’s not my thing,’" he says. "So I’ll say, ‘You didn’t see the glass show or the basket show or the craft show.' I do 30 to 40 shows a year. We try to put a little bit of everything in there. You cant like it all—because I don’t like it all—but you’re going to come and hopefully find something you like or find something that maybe enlightens you about something you didn’t know you like.” 

There are all kinds of art, and variety is something the Call to Artists prides itself on finding. From photography, to art made from paper, food or even hair, the exhibitions don’t place value on one type of art over another, but instead encompass a wide array of work, from as many artists of differing abilities as is possible. 

“You’ve got to put everything in perspective," Setiz says. "The biggest thing I tell people is I’m happy that you came, happy that you showed up, that you looked at art, that there was something there that you enjoyed that made you happy, that you looked at something and communicated with it."

“That’s what art is—visual communication. It’s like sitting down with a book—that’s written communication. You can put on a CD or go to a movie or a theatrical performance—there are different art forms, but see the talent that’s basically in your own backyard. The fun part of it is that this is your own; they’re your own talent; these are people that live right in this area.” 

Do Good:

• Visit The Carnegie's current gallery exhibition "Pulp Art."

• Submit your artwork for review with the Call to Artists.

• Support The Carnegie by becoming a member.

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. 


Architecture by Children embeds learning in discovery of the built environment

Kyle Campbell remembers designing his first house when he was home sick from school in the fourth grade. 

“Ever since then, going through high school, while most people would go out and do things, I would actually build models of houses I designed just for fun,” he says. “Coming into architecture was sort of a long time coming.” 

Campbell, who currently serves as the Architectural Foundation of Cincinnati’s board member for the Architecture by Children program, did not initially make the decision to major in architecture, but he says the built environment has always had a huge impact on him. 

“I was a huge LEGO nerd,” says Campbell. “So the thought of building space and constructing things and designing things has always been a big part of who I am.” 

Now Campbell is sharing his childhood love with others in the ABC program. Jointly sponsored by the AFC and a local chapter of the American Institute of Architects, the program aims to teach architectural principles to students through hands-on projects, as explained by volunteer architects. 
 
Campbell is one of those volunteers, but he’s also working to evaluate the program by matching it with the Ohio Department of Education's academic content standards to ensure that it has a lasting educational impact. 

“The AFC, as of this year, has decided that we want to take a more invested role in how the program unfolds because essentially, what we’ve been in the past is a donor of money,” Campbell says. “We’d like to be able to provide more manpower and more resources to help it be more successful.” 

The program currently reaches about 60 schools and 1,100 students, with ideally one architect assigned to each school. Participating students are tasked with a new project each year. This year, they are designing a museum of their choice for a space at 12th and Vine streets downtown. 

One seventh grade student has envisioned a nature museum with a river running throughout and a grand staircase with water flowing from the roof to simulate a waterfall that flows into an outdoor pond the public can enjoy. Her museum also contains a fountain enclosed in glass so people who are not inside the museum can interact with it.

“It’s just amazing coming from a seventh grader because those are the things I’d dream to do in a real-world project,” Campbell says. “The most important thing is to keep the kids understanding that it’s okay to be creative and to think outside the box.”

Campbell says he’s proud of the architecture this city has to offer, and he’s made it a personal goal to help the AFC achieve its mission of “educating the greater community of Cincinnati on the built environment.” 

“Most people don’t realize that Cincinnati has a fantastic history in architecture; it’s actually one of the most historical cities in the development of modern architecture,” Campbell says. “I want to be able to use the AFC as a way of educating the general public on those kinds of things.” 

Do Good: 

• View ABC student projects at the downtown branch of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County during the week of April 13-20. 

Contact the AFC if you live in a home or know of a historically significant building that you'd like to share or learn more about. 

• Attend the AFC's exhibit,  ENVISION CINCINNATI. 

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.

Rosenthal champions 'New Voices' of art in community at Prairie

David Rosenthal began his art career in a traditional setting, but he says it wasn’t the right niche. As an M.F.A. graduate and full-time professor in the University of Cincinnati’s fine arts department, he spent most of his time in the studio. While he enjoyed his work, he says he felt there was a divide and that too many people in the community simply didn’t connect with art created in that environment. 

“That whole practice was kind of centered on the idea that the artist was the creator, and that art happened in the mind and at the hands of the artist,” says Rosenthal. “And I wanted to get away from that idea.” 

So he set out to find a way to put art into the hands of a completely different demographic, and in 2009, Rosenthal founded Prairie, a nonprofit that works to gather artists together to create and explore ideas in non-traditional ways. 

Educational programming is one of Prairie’s primary functions, and through the New Voices program, Rosenthal aims to bring two groups together for the purpose of building an understanding of the human condition through art. 

The most recent collaboration: residents of City Gospel Mission’s Exodus Program—a long-term rehabilitation effort that seeks to help men who struggle with alcohol and drug addiction—and students from Milford High School. The program lasted 12 weeks and consisted of weekly excursions where the two groups came together to photograph the Over-the-Rhine community, discuss their work, talk about why it’s meaningful, and then reflect on the whole process. 

“I think that when art is put in the hands of people who don’t usually have that tool, it’s just incredibly powerful because I think that somebody who has never had the opportunity to be expressive usually has a ton to say,” says Rosenthal. “When you combine that with another group of people who maybe does that on a consistent basis, like high school students who are involved in the arts, you can see these bridges forming, and barriers coming down—significant barriers. That’s all through the language of expression.” 

While Rosenthal is a facilitator in the process, he says he’s also an art-maker because of the “creative energy and problem solving” that he brings to the program. Part of his drive stems from his 15 years of art experience, but he says it also goes back to his undergraduate days when he studied history.

“I think I really just became interested in social science—why people create the kind of institutions they create, how people relate to each other through those institutions, how they bring us together, divide us, create progress, get in the way of progress—that kind of thing,” he says. “I think really my curiosity is what happens when you introduce these expressive, creative tools into social situations.” 

Reactions from those involved in the program are positive. Rosenthal says the Milford students’ video reflections revealed changes within the students that were both eye-opening and for some, even “life-changing.”

“There’s always some kind of sheltering or inward looking that happens at every high school because students are so busy, and that’s just the nature of the whole program—you do your work at school,” says Rosenthal. “So I’ve found that there’s lots of opportunities for students to get out and see the world and really kind of answer some of those questions that come up in their daily work about the world all around them, and I’m really happy to be doing that work.”

Do Good: 

• Attend Prairie's upcoming exhibition "After the Fall," which is a collection of artists' work, built on the theme of female identity. The exhibition opens Feb. 9 and continues through April 6. Contact Prairie for more information. 

• Support art programs within your local school district. 

• Join Prairie in its misison to reach out to community organizations by getting involved with a local nonprofit.

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.

Building strong communities through Charitable Words

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.” 

Do Good: 

• Connect with Charitable Words by liking and sharing its Facebook page.

• Contact 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. 

Untethered adds intimacy to local theater scene

It's not often that you find students so engrossed in their studies that they decide to do more than what's asked of them and expand a project beyond the realm of the classroom. For Untethered Theater, however, a single-scene performance in a theme study course taught by Miami-Hamilton professor Bekka Reardon led to a full-fledged self-produced play in 2011. And now, two years later, the group's continued passion for intimate theater continues as the ensemble takes on Adam Rapp's "Red Light Winter"—the second of four plays in the company's 2012-13 season

"Red Light Winter" portrays the hard truth of "how impossible it is for people to let things go," says Mary Kate Moran, one of Untethered's three founding members. It takes place throughout the course of a year: one night in Amsterdam and then a year later in New York City, and it's performed in a 50-seat basement-level space at the Clifton Performance Theatre, where Moran says the audience is oftentimes in the middle of the action. 

"We want to provide accessible, sort of in-your-face storefront theater," says Moran. "It's intimate. It's participatory. We want to be so different that you're going to go to a night of theater and feel like maybe you walked into something and were a fly on the wall." 

Moran says the ensemble, which has nine official members—most of whom have full-time day jobs as well—decided to put on the play because of some of the members' intense passion for its themes, in addition to the group's mission to perform pieces that people don't see very often. 

"This is a labor of love," says Moran. "We go and do this full-time after we get away from our desk or retail jobs or whatever because there's no other place we want to be. We just want to create art that is a lot of fun for people who know and love theater." 

Untethered contributes to the community by bringing its skills and dedication to the stage, but the company also hopes to reach out to the neighborhood by providing support to increase involvement in the arts. "We want to have nights where we have shows where almost all of the profits go toward people in the community," says Moran. "We want to surprise people with that kind of stuff. We love Clifton, we love being in Clifton, and we want to make Clifton a better place." 

Untethered Theater's "Red Light Winter" will continue through Feb. 2. 

Do Good: 

• Purchase tickets to a performance of "Red Light Winter." 

• Support Untethered Theater and its sister-company Clifton Players by attending an upcoming show or purchasing a season subscription.

• Like Untethered Theater on Facebook.

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. 

Tiers of Joy ensures no child is forgotten

Pauline Williams remembers her 10th birthday coming and going. There was no celebration, no cake, no birthday party—it was just a normal day. Williams lived with her mother in a local women’s shelter at the time and says there was no one to help them aside from those within the facility, who were already working to do the best they could to help others. 

Williams received a card from her mother and an acknowledgement on her special day, which she says was enough for her because she understood that her mother wasn’t able to give a lot at the time, other than herself. 

Though appreciative, Williams felt that she and the other children in the shelter deserved to celebrate their lives. “It just kind of felt bad,” says Williams. “And I felt like, if I ever grew up and was able to give back or do something about this, that’s what I’d do.” 

So Williams went to culinary school, received her degree and created the Tiers of Joy Foundation to ensure that other children’s birthdays do not go unnoticed. “Children need to feel empowered in order to grow up and become successful adults,” she says. “That’s really why I started this.” 

In April 2012, Tiers of Joy became an official nonprofit, and Williams began working with other organizations to see how she could benefit the children they serviced. 

From SpongeBob SquarePants to jewelry box-themed cakes, Williams now does it all. Her cake designs are solely dependent on children’s interests, and she works to make sure that young people feel honored and appreciated when embarking on new years of their lives. 

Williams currently serves children within the Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky communities, but she says the sky is the limit. “I’d like for it to be a nationwide organization, where we can reach out to children all over to empower them through the celebration of their lives, so I hope for this to become something much larger than what it is.” 

Do Good: 

• Sign up to be a volunteer baker

• Donate money or baking supplies; or consider holding a Supplies Drive at your next office party or community event.

• Spread the word about Tiers of Joy by following them on Twitter or liking them on Facebook.

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. 

Calling all clowns, classes start Feb. 5

If you’ve ever wanted to become a clown, there’s no better time than now. Funny Companie Clowns, who volunteer their services at private parties and community events—all for the purpose of benefiting Cincinnati Children’s Hospital—need your help; and in an effort to recruit volunteers, they’ll begin free clown classes Feb. 5. 

Throughout a six-week series, soon-to-be entertainers learn the art of clowning. Topics include costumes and makeup, ballooning, face painting, skits and character development. 

“The character is supposed to be an extension of yourself,” says Don Bachman, who founded Funny Companie in 1983 and has volunteered and led the troupe for the past 29 years. Bachman, whose clown name is Dr. Fun, says character development was initially hard for him because he wanted to be “the smart clown,” and at one point even aspired to be “the mayor of clown town,” but those characters just weren’t the right fit.

“You’ve got to be yourself," he says. "You’ve got to be who you are—so Dr. Fun was born—and he’s just dumb, and always wrong and always getting into trouble, and that’s kind of who I was.” 

Since the group’s inception, Funny Companie has raised approximately $200,000 in unrestricted funds for Children’s Hospital. The money can be used where the hospital best sees fit, and Bachman says for a long time the money went toward pediatric liver care

“It’s huge that you can take an adult liver and cut it down and transplant it into a kid because there’s not a lot of kids’ organs available for transplants,” says Bachman. “So that was a huge discovery, and it was done in Cincinnati.” 

While Funny Companie’s funding goes toward the children in the hospital, the clowns perform primarily for healthy children in the community; but it’s not just children whom clowns entertain, Bachman says. 

“Everybody laughs at a clown," he says. "Everybody smiles—even driving the car, we have magnetic bumper stickers that say, ‘Caution, sometimes I drive like a clown,’ and then they go by and see a clown driving the car, and they can be 80 years old and they’re laughing and smiling and waving at the clown—it’s not just kids."

“Same thing with balloons—who likes balloons? Everyone likes a balloon. It doesn’t matter how old you are. A balloon is just a magical little piece, and so you’re making everybody’s life a little bit better.” 

Bachman and the other volunteers in the Companie love what they do. So much so that they purchase their own makeup, costumes and balloons. They oftentimes spend about four hours of their weekends preparing for and performing at an event.  

“It’s a pretty good-size commitment, but it’s not something that you’re giving and not getting anything in return,” says Bachman. “If you give a kid a balloon or you paint their face and hold the mirror up and their eyes and face light up—that’s your paycheck.” 

Right now, however, the number of volunteers is at an all-time low. “I’d always hoped that there’d be some younger people who come in and run with it and it’d go on forever, but right now I’m one of the youngest people in the group—our oldest clown is 78,” says Bachman.

“There’s only about six of us right now. Anybody can do it, but there’s nobody really that’s 30 that can take it over, and that’s the sad thing. I’d really like to see somebody younger get in it and maybe run with it.” 

Because the clown company doesn’t do much advertising, most of the people who call for bookings have seen the clowns perform in the past. “It’s nice to be able to tell people 'yes' when they call for an event, and it’s the hardest thing to tell them no,” says Bachman. “But it just happens where some weekends, we just don’t have anybody.” 

Clown classes begin Tuesday, Feb. 5 and will take place from 7:30 to 9 p.m. in room D242 at Children’s Hospital’s Albert B. Sabin Education Center. All ages are welcome and encouraged to attend. 

Do Good: 

Volunteer as a clown. Attend free classes which will take place Tuesday evenings from 7:30 to 9 p.m. beginning Feb. 5. 

• Spread the word about classes, and encourage a friend to become a clown.

• Book the Funny Companie Clowns for a future event. Contact Children's Hospital's Department of Development at 513-636-6080 for more information. 

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.

ESCC helps nonprofits maximize output

In 1995, a small group of retired business executives came together with the intent of giving back to their community by investing their time and talents in work that would assist nonprofits. Now, nearly 18 years later, Executive Service Corps of Cincinnati is the recipient of an $85,000 award that will help more than 130 volunteers provide low-cost, high-quality strategic thinking, planning, training and coaching to other nonprofits in need. 

The recent funding will help the ESCC implement its Community Benefit Business Model, which, according to Andy McCreanor, executive director and CEO of the organization, is a model that has essentially always existed within the nonprofit, but has now been refined and strengthened. The model helps nonprofits maximize results so that they may receive additional funding to better fulfill their missions, which ultimately works to improve the communities they serve.

“It enables investors to get more out of the nonprofits that they’re investing in, and secondly, it helps the nonprofits because we’re affordable," says McCreanor. "We’re merely a vehicle so that the community gets the benefit that they’re trying to get."

The ESCC has worked on long-term projects with more than 500 nonprofits in Cincinnati, Northern Kentucky and Southeast Indiana since 1995, including most recently the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati. ESCC also offers a 10-month program at its Nonprofit Leadership Institute each year; and at its culmination in June, more than 100 nonprofit leaders from Cincinnati will have graduated. 

McCreanor says that because of the recent economic downturn, nonprofits have suffered and organizations are reevaluating and assessing their goals and missions.

“We’re here to help,” he says. “If you’re struggling out there, it really doesn’t cost anything to talk about what you’re dealing with, and if in fact there is a way for us to help, it’s going to be done at a very low cost, so it’s kind of the best of all worlds.” 

Do Good:
• Sign up to attend classes at the Nonprofit Leadership Institute.

Volunteer your business skills and experience to serve other nonprofits.

Reach out to the ESCC if you are a nonprofit that could benefit from its services.

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.

Clovernook Center for blind and visually impaired empowers artists

Wanda Owens, who lost her vision to multiple sclerosis when she turned 20, says working as an artist is something she’s wanted to do since she was a little girl; and at the age of 64, she’s fulfilling her childhood dream. Beginning Feb. 9, her work will be featured in an exhibit titled “Illuminated Soul” at Clovernook Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired’s Willoughby Art Gallery

Owens will have 20 ceramic pieces on display and available for purchase. She’s completed all of her work in the studio, and since she is a Clovernook artist who participates in classes on site, she will receive 100 percent of the proceeds—something Alison DeFisher, manager of communications at Clovernook, says empowers the artists.

“A lot of people have described it as an outlet for them, to be able to participate in art and be able to express themselves and increase independence because it’s not traditionally something a person who is blind is thought to be able to do,” says DeFisher.  

Art classes are by appointment and take place weekly at Clovernook’s studio, and they are open to anyone who is blind or visually impaired. Scott Wallace, recreation specialist at Clovernook, leads individual painting and ceramics classes, in addition to group classes, depending on participants’ goals and interests.

“I’m blessed to have a wonderful teacher who is very encouraging,” says Owens. “Everything he says, I can do, and he helps me to see color.” She says Wallace will help her pick out paint colors by reminding her of shades. He will, for example, tell her that the shade she is currently looking at is slightly darker than baby blue; and this will remind her of what baby blue looks like, which enables her to choose the appropriate shade so she can proceed in portraying her vision. 

“It’s really a spiritual experience,” says Owens. “I asked God to bless the labor of my hands, and He has.” 

Owens is a former singer, and this is something she says inspires her artwork, though there is nothing specifically in her pieces that reflect her pastime. Two things that Owens says she tries to feature in all of her works, however, are “clowns and the Lord.” Owens says she loves to laugh, so she always tries to incorporate that element of joy into her pieces. 

“Illuminated Soul” will begin with an opening reception from noon to 5 p.m. Feb. 9, and it will remain open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and by appointment through March 8. The opening reception for “Illuminated Soul” will be featured on the first day of this year’s Macy’s Arts Sampler

Do Good: 

• Support Wanda Owens by viewing or purchasing her pottery at "Illuminated Soul."

• Make a donation to support the Clovernook Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

Volunteer your services to help fulfill the Clovernook Center's mission.

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.

Betts House exhibit reveals past visible through modern lens

What better way to experience the beauty and diversity of Cincinnati’s historic architecture than within the walls of its oldest brick house?  

Forward Into the Past, an art exhibit custom-tailored to its venue, will open at the historic Betts House on Jan. 12. 
Photographer Jens Rosenkrantz, Jr,. combines a variety of historic and contemporary materials to reveal long-ago places and scenes, which remind viewers “that in a city like Cincinnati, the past is ever present through the historic architecture and streetscapes we encounter daily,” says Julie Carpenter, executive director of Betts House.

Rosenkrantz, local artist, entrepreneur and partial owner of Clifton’s La Poste Eatery and Django Western Taco in Northside, uses a variety of techniques to recreate century-old views of the city.  

Finding old maps at the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, he overlaid them with historic photographs for an aerial and street-view of 19th century Cincinnati. In other photographic landscapes, the artist removed reminders of modern life—telephone lines, stop lights—and reveals the unadulterated historic authenticity that many of the city’s streetscapes still process, viewed from behind the frames of old windows salvaged from Building Value

“We spend most of our time living in a house or working in a building, but we seldom think about the built environment,” says Carpenter. “A great way to think about that is from an artist’s perspective.”   

This show is the final exhibit in the Betts House’s 2012-2013 series, The Art of the Built Environment, supported by a Project Support Grant from ArtsWave.

The Betts House, built in 1804 and located in the Betts-Longworth Historic District near downtown, is the only local museum that explores the history of the built environment through architecture, building trades and materials, construction technologies and historic preservation.  

Do Good:

• Visit Forward Into the Past, which will run from Jan. 12-Feb. 28 at the Betts House, two blocks west of Music Hall at 416 Clark St.

Donate time or funds. Historic homes require regular maintenance and upkeep; consider a donation to the Betts House or help with its house tours or public programs. 

• Stop by Jens Rosenkrantz’s studio at The Pendleton Art Center to see his work, which ranges from history-inspired pieces to abstract and contemporary material.

By Becky Johnson

From The CR: Word Problem

Cincinnati Review Managing Editor Nicola Mason introduces a new selection from the award-winning literary journal, Margaret M. Luongo's "Word Problem."

Recently one of our staff wrote a funny intro on our blog claiming that creative writers are afraid of science. Well, Andrea Barrett may object to that claim. And Joanna Scott. And John Banville. And Alan Lightman . . . Actually, it turns out writers love science. What they hate---with an animus as deep and churning as the earth’s molten core---is MATH.

That’s what I thought, anyway, until I read Margaret Luongo’s “Word Problem,” which presents as one of those tricky standardized-test solvables: First there’s the section that sets up the scenario, then a series of questions about said scenario that you, the test-taker, must answer.

In the case of “Word Problem,” Luongo herself provides these answers (whew!). The twist is that the “problem” aspect of the story involves . . . people: specifically a mixed-bag of music students at a nationally acclaimed academy. And while Luongo initially describes these students in the dry, factual non-style of the traditional word problem, what creeps into the narrative---despite the analytical thrust inherent in the story’s structure---is heart.

It is there in the questions this author posits---which are surprises in and of themselves---and in the answers that transform our surprise into a kind of wry wonder. This “Word Problem” is not about cold logic, but about the gifts we are given, the forces that shape us, and the mystery at our centers that defies the cut-and-dried solution.

Intrigued?

Read the full story at The Cincinnati Review.

Do Good:

• Subscribe to The Cincinnati Review.

• Keep up to date on The CR's latest news on Facebook.

• Read notes from staffers, a self-proclaimed motley crew of literary types, on The CR's blog.

Calling all boomboxes for city's first 'Unsilent Night'

Drew Klein never thought it would be hard to find 80s-era boomboxes.

When the Findlay, Ohio, native, who works as the Contemporary Arts Center’s first ever performance curator, imagined bringing “Unsilent Night” to town, he figured local thrift stores would be flush with portable cassette players, the kind immortalized by John Cusack's classic ode to young love in “Say Anything.”

When he lived in New York, Klein knew of the December-focused public art/performance/event launched by composer Phil Kline in 1992. It’s a simple, and brilliant, idea: people gather with boomboxes and other portable music devices and traverse city streets to create a moving mass of sound. Each plays one of four tracks Kline’s composition, which lasts about 45 minutes.

“If you listen to the piece, it sounds just like minimalist chimes and bells,” Klein says. “It sounds like a holiday song without anything that would skew it toward one specific culture.”

The Cincinnati “Unsilent Night” takes place Dec. 15 and starts at 6:30 pm at the Contemporary Arts Center, where staff will have cassette tapes prepared as well as other methods of sharing the music with participants.

“I thought it would be a really good opportunity to have the CAC organize the event and call it a performance—to re-conceptualize what a performance could be and bend the audience’s expectations,” says Klein, who just turned 30. “Instead of being passive audience members, they will be directly responsible for participation and success.”

“Unsilent Night” will be staged in at least 25 cities this year, most of them coastal. Cincinnati is the only city in Ohio scheduled to host the event. In other cities, groups offer their own creative takes on the “unsilent” theme—some pull wagons with speaker-amplified laptops, some carry iPhones or iPods, some come in costume (think Three Wise Men or Santa). The possibilities are limited only by participants’ creativity.

“We know we are not going to get the 1,500 that show up in New York,” says Klein, who explains that the procession will begin at the Contemporary Arts Center and then wind its way through the streets of downtown, first heading north to Washington Park before turning back toward its destination, Fountain Square. “The hope is that this starts a really organic tradition that allows people from various backgrounds and cultures to come together to participate in an evening that is nontraditional that is tied to the holiday season.”

According to composer Kline, even if just 20 percent of the “Unsilent Night” walkers have a sound device of some sort, it will be enough to create something remarkable.

If all goes well, Klein expects for participants to wind up on Fountain Square and have a few minutes of music left to play, but he acknowledges that keeping everyone at the same point in the music is likely impossible. The composer allowed for that inevitability, though, Klein says. “There’s room in the music to allow for some beautiful mistakes.”

Do Good:

Download the tracks for “Unsilent Night.”

Join the chorus at the CAC.

• Watch other cities celebrate “Unsilent Night.”

By Elissa Yancey
Follow Elissa on Twitter


Kilgour School awarded $24K innovation grant to boost tech access, entrepreneurial skills

A new financial literacy enrichment course at Kilgour School is expanding, spurred by a $24,000 innovation grant awarded by tech communications company MiCTA.

The grant builds on a class that Cincinnati's Partnership for Innovation in Education (or PIE) piloted at the school, called Student MBA: Bringing Business to the Classroom.

Mary Welsh Schlueter, PIE's founder and chief executive, developed and taught the five-week class at Kilgour as part of a student enrichment period. Schlueter, a Kilgour parent, modeled the class after a Harvard Business School course.

"I taught basic concepts, including the SWOT analysis, the five Ps of marketing and the product life cycle," says Schlueter.

Students' tech, financial and entrepreneurial skills were tapped when they were asked to find ways to increase lemon sales.

"They developed many new ideas and used lemons in different ways, not just as a food source or cleaning agent," says Schlueter.

The project led to the creation of an Android app, a game called Lemon Smash. "The goal of the game is to smash lemons to make lemonade so you can make some moo-lah," its description reads. Proceeds from the 99-cent app go back to the school.

The class and app creation brought on some big partners. Sprint donated the technology, UC's Economics Center wrote and compiled all the achievement assessments and NKU’s Center for Applied Informatics helped students design and develop the app. There are plans to make it available for the iPhone as well.

"This was a $100,000 project, and all of the work was done pro-bono," Schlueter says.

The MiCTA grant will allow the class to continue. It will also fund 20 new handheld tablets for the school's gifted program.

NKU will partner with the school to offer an app development class, which will also be available to any Cincinnati Public Schools student who has access to take the class virtually.

PIE is looking to expand funding opportunities for the STEM-aligned program using app development and technology to "incubate" students' entrepreneurial efforts and promote across the globe,  says Schlueter.  It's a way to help students learn valuable skills, provide a new revenue stream for schools, and allow deeper tech uililzation for K-8 students and teachers across all subject areas.

Do Good:
• Find out more about Kilgour School.

• Like Cincinnati Public Schools on Facebook.

• Find out more about MiCTA's grant program.

By Feoshia H. Davis
Follow Feoshia on Twitter

COR Music Project celebrates classical music in concert with youth

Editor's Note: COR presents its holiday concert Dec. 6 at Purcell Marian High School in Walnut Hils.

“We believe that the arts signify and represent the health of the community. Vibrancy in the arts makes a community a more desirable place to live and to work.”

That’s the mindset prompted Louisa Shepherd to help found the COR (Cincinnati Out Reach) Music Project in December 2011, a free, after-school orchestra program that provides innovative access to classical music to youth who are typically underserved when it comes to arts programming.

The group also wants to give those same students opportunities and inspiration to attend college. COR Executive Director Deron Hall is a French horn player for the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music, and Shepherd herself was able to attend college thanks to a music scholarship. 

“We have a passion for music, and it’s taken us from one circumstance to another,” Shepherd says. “We’re very much about giving back and revitalizing the arts in our community.”

The approach is two-pronged: COR’s teaching artists lead piano, voice/choir, guitar and electronic music courses at schools that lack arts programs. At the same time, COR works year-round with local communities to form orchestras for youth in grades three and up. The first such effort will launch in Avondale this January.
 
Purcell Marian High School is currently COR’s sole institutional partner; the goal is to secure partnerships with at least three more area schools next year. 

“We like to say we work in the community and not for the community,” says Shepherd. “We’re making it something the community stands behind and sees as valuable. It’s about showing the community the tools we have and finding out what we can do together.”

COR’s “all play, none pay” philosophy is supported by ArtsWave grants, outside donations and nominal commitments from partner schools, as well as the group’s organized fundraising efforts. 

Do Good:

• Watch COR in action online.

• Make a tax-deductible donation to support COR

• Keep up with COR news and events on Facebook

By Hannah Purnell
Follow Hannah on Twitter

New nonprofit makes 'Investment' in emerging artists

Imagine a group of folks who take artists out of backstreets and basements and introduce them to arts patrons and established organizations. 
 
Imagine these artists getting paid for their work and giving back to Cincinnati. And imagine these artists staying in Cincinnati to grow their work as well as the arts and culture of the city. 
 
Meet Urban Impresario, two brothers and a former gallery director, whose plan is to do just all that and more. The group is a creative talent agency, which hopes to provide connections and opportunities for raw talent. 
 
“In order for young artists to survive and thrive, it is essential to provide professional development and economic opportunities to these young creatives,’’ says Derek Peebles, co-founder of the brand new talent agency. “We want to serve as their mentors and managers and link them to institutions.”
 
Urban Impresario’s non-profit status is currently pending, but that is not stopping the group from moving forward at lightning speed.
 
Peebles and his brother, Domonique Peebles, and Cate Yellig, a friend and former director at the Phyllis Weston Gallery, saw an unmet need and formally created the group earlier this month. They are kicking off their launch next week with an exhibit at Switch in Over-The-Rhine.

The show — which is the first of a series dubbed "The Investment" - will display canvas and paper works from 13 young artists. The show will feature work by Max Unterhaslberger, a student at the Art Academy of Cincinnati. 
 
“I am proud to contribute to a community that has given me so much,’’ Unterhaslberger says. 
 
Artists will receive 60 percent of each sale. The other 40 percent will go back to fund Urban Impresario, Peebles says.
 
Peebles, 30, says Urban Impresario has four goals: To provide performing and visual artist outlets to develop their talents; provide platforms for artists to become marketable; provide mentors and support for artists, and ultimately, to provide opportunities for artists to make money.
 
“We want to bring people in the arts together. We know that the more connected they are the more economically viable they become,’’ he says, noting that there is a $9 economic impact for every $1 invested in art. 
 
The approach is not solely to introduce the larger community to emerging artists, but also to introduce artists to concepts that will help them enhance their artistic skills and bolster community-building skills – including engaging younger students. The group plans to partner with area schools to target at-risk youth. 
 
“We are starting to discover that kids learn better from youth,’’ he says.
 
The show next week is just the beginning of what Peebles says he is confident will become a viable patch of Cincinnati’s artistic quilt. 
 
“We want to build a platform for artists to be social entrepreneurs,” he says. “And we are excited to make this happen.”
 
Do Good:
 
• Attend the launch party and urban-style art exhibition featuring 13 emerging local artists. Show is from 5-9 pm, Nov. 30, at Switch Lighting and Design store, 1207 Vine St. 
 
• Like Urban Impresario on Facebook.
 
• Be one of the first to follow them on Twitter.

By Chris Graves

Chris Graves is assistant vice president of digital and social media at the Powers Agency. 
 

InkTank re-emerges, launching reading series in OTR

It turns out that tech startups aren’t the only people who know how to pivot. When InkTank, a nonprofit focused on literacy development and creative writing shut down in 2011, citing funding issues, its writer’s salon survived and continued to meet, but the occasional readings (and other services) it provided seemed lost. Now, the free, bimonthly InkTank Reading Series promises to change that.

Despite losing its former Main Street location, “we kept talking about doing something, but we didn’t really have a direction or location,” says Seán Dwyer, one of six core members of the group. He helps organize the series and attract the talent: emerging authors from the Midwest.

The InkTank salon paired with 1215 Wine Bar and Coffee Lab in Over-the-Rhine to host the readings, which will feature a published regional author preceded by two emerging, local voices. The first event, which will be held Nov. 27 at 8 p.m., will host Cincinnatian Ian Stelsel, a graduate of the prestigious Iowa Writers’ Workshop and husband of a former salon member. Stelsel plans to read from a collection of short stories set to publish in 2013.

There’s been no trouble attracting authors to read at the gatherings, according to Dwyer. “We’ve got enough authors for about 10 months. We’ve actually stopped asking [for authors to read] because we want to see how [the series] goes and where it goes.”

In the coming months, authors will include Phoebe Reeves, a poet and professor at the University of Cincinnati’s Clermont College; Don Peteroy, a Ph.D. candidate at UC; and Jacinda Townsend, who teaches at Indiana University.

The 1215 venue is open to patrons of all ages. The InkTank Reading Series will feature prose, poetry, creative nonfiction and plays from published authors, as well as book signings and question-and-answer sessions, on the last Tuesday of every other month.

Do Good:
• Ask a question about the series by emailing InkTank.

• Attend the first reading on Nov. 27 at 8 p.m. at 1215 Wine Bar and Coffee Lab.

• Learn more about upcoming, featured authors from INKTank.
 
By Robin Donovan

Starfire aims to remove disability conversation

Like many 25-year-old men, Michael Makin loves comedy, beer and hanging out with friends at the bar.
 
And like many of his peers, he has spent this fall beginning to plan a capstone project necessary for his post-secondary graduation. Makin’s project is a local beer-tasting festival set for early summer where a specially brewed beer will be unveiled in his name. 
 
“Michael is great--his personality is infectious--the guy is a riot,’’ says Gabe Saba, also a 25-year-old guy who has been known to drink a few beers and who is working with Makin on the project. “We have so many things in common. I see traits of him in me.”
 
Folks like Saba talk about Makin’s project, his personality and his passion for beer, but the fact that Makin has Down’s Syndrome never really enters the conversation. 
 
That’s exactly the mission of Starfire.
 
The Oakley-based nonprofit, which works to build inclusive communities for people with disabilities and their families, has been connecting people based on their interests and passions for years. Instead of segregating those with disabilities into groups, Starfire intentionally works to introduce them with others of like interests and passions, such as connecting Saba with Makin.
 
“We want you to see the gifts they bring to the table before you see the disability,’’ says Lauren Amos, Starfire’s development director. “It’s not always easy, but it is so worth it.”
 
Makin is a fourth-year participant of Starfire U, which is designed for young people with disabilities to continue their social and personal development beyond high school. The four-day a week program, which runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily, is funded by Hamilton County Developmental Disabilities Services. There is a five to one teacher-student ratio as students learn about safety, budgeting, nutrition and social etiquette. 
 
“We work one person at a time with person-centered planning,” Amos says.
 
Last year, 18 students graduated from Starfire U. This year, Makin is one of about 100 students in the four-year program. Graduates also participate in a fifth year as a follow-up, Amos says.
 
Community participation is key and integrated into all seminars.
 
Enter Makin and Saba and a group of other community members, including the men behind the not-yet-launched Madtree Brewery. Saba is referred to as Makin’s connector and the two meet weekly for about three hours. At first, they devised the project and now they are meeting to further plan and coordinate the event. 
 
All the while Makin, and Saba, too, are meeting new folks who will work with them on the project and hopefully will become resources for Makin in the future.
 
Lana Makin, Michael’s mom, can’t say enough good about Starfire and the changes she has seen in her son. 
 
“He is so much better socially; he is more independent,’’ she says. “I have seen a lot of maturity come out of this. It’s wonderful to see him with people who share his interests. He doesn’t need mom or dad to take him to the bar or out to karaoke.”
 
Makin has not been the only one helped.
 
“It does a lot for me, too,” Saba says. “I’m getting to know people, and it expands my network as well. There is no downside to this when you look at it."

Saba adds: "I really admire the work they are doing. It is amazing.”
 
Do Good
 
• Buy a unique piece of art at Starfire’s fifth annual ArtAbility fundraiser on Dec. 7. Tickets are $100 each with a $25 credit going to an art purchase. 
 
Donate to Starfire.
 
• Share your talent or passion and volunteer your time. 
 
• Check out photos of the capstone project planning and like them on Facebook.
 
By Chris Graves
Chris Graves is assistant vice president of digital and social media at Powers Agency

Matthews uses poetry to spark sociopolitical conversations

Tonya Matthews, PhD, is not only the vice president of museums at Cincinnati Museum Center, she is also Ja Hipster, a talented poet and spoken word performer. It is for her work as Ja Hipster that she received a $6,000 Cincinnati Arts Ambassador Fellowship grant.

Just five years ago, Matthews moved to downtown Cincinnati from Maryland to work at the Museum Center. She wrote a book of poetry,“Still Swinging’ These Hips,” and made a spoken-word CD, “The Legend of Afrodite.”

With the new grant money, she plans to create her second book of poetry as well as her second CD. Currently, she is deciding whether she wants the CD to accompany the book, or if she wants to keep the mediums separate.

Matthews hopes that the artists’ grants and their projects will open up the conversation about the arts and help open doors for other artists.

“I think poetry is a very different kind of conversation,” Matthews says. “People hear things that poets say that they don’t hear in general conversations or in speeches.

“What I have noticed, particularly since I do a lot of sociopolitical stuff, is that I can have conversations with people that normally make them uncomfortable. But because I’m a poet, I get away with bringing up the subject. And not only do I get away with the subject, but people are comfortable to have that conversation.”

Her poetry is observational and sociopolitical, tending to focus on women and young people. “I think at the end of the day, like a lot of people, I’m just trying to save the world,” Matthews laughs. “You know—one line of poetry at a time.”

At Duke University, she wrote for the student newspaper and the university journal, which featured student artwork and writing. As a graduate student at John Hopkins University, she started reading her poetry in public. Now, whenever she speaks or performs at specific events, she says she likes to write one new poem to perform. Because of this, she is mostly working on editing for her new poetry book.

Last year, Matthews collaborated with the Cincinnati Ballet for New Works, which received rave reviews and sparked conversation. With her work, Matthews hopes to have an impact on the city.

“Artists do tend to be heavily influenced by their environment,” Matthews says. “It’s not just how our art is influencing Cincinnati, but it’s also how Cincinnati is affecting our art.”

Do Good:

Contribute to a visit to the Cincinnati Museum Center.

Donate to the Cincinnati Museum Center.

Purchase Matthew’s cd or book.

By Stephanie Kitchens

'Shark Girl' artist uses her work to ease fears

Born and raised in Cincinnati, Casey Millard is one of seven artists named an inaugural Cincinnati Arts Ambassador and receive a $6,000 fellowship to go along with it.

The grant will support Millard’s creation of a fiberglass sculpture of “Shark Girl,” a character based on irrational fears. As a child, Millard had panic attacks related to fears that there were sharks in her swimming pool. As she neared 40, the panic attacks returned, this time focused on mortality. Both fears inspired her to create “Shark Girl.”

Her plan for the sculpture is to have “Shark Girl” sitting on a rock overlooking the Ohio River. Extra space on the rock will allow visitors to join her perch. Since art affected her as a child, Millard hopes her work will do the same for others.

“For a kid to sit with her, I think would be much more of an interactive experience,” Millard says. “And something very real.”

Millard plans to work on this project throughout winter and have the piece ready for public installation in the spring, though the location for the sculpture is still to be determined.

Currently, Millard has an exhibit called “Come Follow Me” at the UnMuseum in the Contemporary Arts Center. The exhibit features sculptures of “Shark Girl” and other characters based on an animated short film that Millard created, which is also featured in this show.

Do Good:

Learn more about Millard’s artwork.

• Find out how you can get involved with the Contemporary Arts Center.

Donate to the Contemporary Arts Center.

By Stephanie Kitchens

Pop-up restaurant fundraiser first is golden

It's a pop-up restaurant. A fundraiser. A crowd-funded themed dinner. All organized in less than a month and sold out in less than 33 hours, thanks to the work and creativity of local blogger Laura Arnold and Over-the-Rhine restaurateur Josh Campbell.
 
Just 25 tickets were available for the Golden Lawn Chair dinner, which, at $80 a couple, entitle diners to a five-course dinner themed around the idea of Uptown Americana: Trashy to Classy at Campbell’s Mayberry restaurant, at 1211 Main St., Nov. 18. The dinner will be followed by an after party, chances to win numerous raffle items, drink specials and live music.  
 
And every dime made after their costs are covered will go directly to the Free Store Food Bank. At this writing, they have raised more than $2,000 from ticket sales, with at least $1,000 of that slated for the food pantry. Arnold remains hopeful they will raise at least another $2,000 in raffles, auctions and one-of-a-kind events.
 
Think you are too late to get your tickets? Think again. A pair of golden tickets will be auctioned off for the last two seats at the dinner. The auction will run until the dinner, which will kick off with the awarding of the ceremonial golden tickets. After-party tickets, at $15 each, can be purchased at the door on Nov. 18.
 
“It’s been a blast," says Arnold, who writes the Cincinnati Nomerati blog. "We just kept adding things as we went: the dinner, an auction, the after party, raffle prizes. It was just and-and-and-and-and. Everyone has been so supportive.
 
“Josh has just been great to work with. We are going to have so many things going on: rounds of raffle bingo between courses, a kiddie pool filled with Hudy Delight … There’s been a lot of moving parts. I am pretty confident it will be fun.”
 
Followers of Arnold’s blog will recognize the theme and will understand the impetus for the creation of the pop-up restaurant.

Arnold started creating themed welcome-home dinners for her husband, David, who traveled monthly to Michigan for his job. She documented those dinners – the ideas, the menu and the preparation – on the blog. As David continued traveling, she continued to push herself to create more and more interesting and more intricate fare. 
 
“With David traveling, I had time to myself, so I started creating these fake menus with themed glassware, table layout and decorations," Arnold says. "It was really just a way to say: ‘glad you are home.' Things just progressed and I continued to push myself to experiment and make new things.’’
 
About a month or so ago, Arnold took the experimentation to a new level. She and Campbell started chatting about continuing the idea in a restaurant setting. He would shut down the restaurant for an evening; they would invite some friends and have a fun evening. It would be a one-night pop-up restaurant. And then they thought, why not make the event a fundraiser, given the dinner is the Sunday before Thanksgiving? The Free Store Food Bank was a natural fit. 
 
“They were all for it,’’ Arnold says.
 
Arnold says everyone she has contacted for gift cards has given. “I’ve been astonished and amazed and grateful at how generous everyone has been.’’
 
Several OTR chefs and personalities have donated their time and talent for special perk packages that folks can still purchase for varying amounts. In each case, one package is available, with 100 percent of the purchase price going to the Free Store Food Bank. Packages include:

· A Limoncella-making class for two at Nicola’s Restaurant for $100. 
 
· A cocktail-making class for up to four at Japps Since 1879 Bar, taught by perhaps Cincinnati’s most recognizable and best known bartender, Molly Wellman, for $200. ·

· A private pizza-making lesson for two at A Tavola, for $250.
 
· A private gelato-making lesson, during which a new flavor will be created and named, with the owner of Dojo Gelato, for $250.
 
While neither Arnold nor Campbell invented the pop-up idea, which is a restaurant or dining experience that opens and closes in just a few hours or days, coupling it with fundraising may be a first for Cincinnati.
 
“To my knowledge, nothing like this has been done before,’’ Arnold says. “But honestly, I really haven’t had time to look into that.”
 
Do Good
 
· Find them on Facebook.
 
· Follow them on Twitter.
 
· Follow Arnold’s blog.

Chris Graves is the assistant vice president of digital and social media at the Powers Agency

Godoy plans documentary of historic Music Hall organ

Melissa Godoy of Mt. Airy is one of seven recipients of $6,000 grant from the Cincinnati Arts Ambassador Fellowship. She plans to use her award to fund a short documentary about the restoration process of the art-carved wood panels from the 1878 Hook and Hastings organ that is currently in the orchestra pit of Music Hall.

“These panels have been stored there for about 40 years after this huge, classic organ was dismantled in the 70s,” Godoy says. “In its time, this organ was one of the largest organs in the country, and the art-carved panels were the opus of the art carved movement, which was centered in Cincinnati."

The panels, carved by more than 108 women students, inspired Gody, who decided to employ two students from Cincinnati State Technical and Community College, where she is a professor, to help her create the cinema vérité style film.

There have been numerous delays in the restoration of Music Hall, so the Society for the Preservation of Music Hall (SPMH) decided to restore these panels while waiting for negotiations to conclude.

Godoy plans to show her film at Music Hall in conjunction with the display of the panels. She also plans to put the project online, supplemented with background information and links.

“Years ago, when the Cincinnati Wing of the Art Museum opened, I was the coordinating producer of the HD videos that are screening now,” Godoy says. “And I was very much involved in the art-carved furniture research and shooting, so I got really interested in the history of it and fascinated by the movement.

“The aesthetic movement (which encompasses the art-carved movement) is so appropriate for Cincinnati because of the natural beauty of the city. So that’s what I’m striving for also stylistically, is something just really natural.”

Godoy has been involved with filmmaking since her playwright studies at Northwestern University. Born in D.C., Godoy grew up in Wisconsin, went to school in Chicago and finally settled in Cincinnati in 1994 because her husband was getting his master’s degree. Godoy enjoys the pace of life in Cincinnati and is energized by the revitalization of the city. 

Since 2008, she has worked on a documentary about the revitalization of OTR, which she says taught her many lessons about her craft. Godoy also worked on several national productions directed by Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert. Her own documentary, “Do Not Go Gently,” with Walter Cronkite as the narrator, is on American Public Television and has won numerous awards. “Until Sadie Blotz” is her most recent completed work, which was shown in the Cincinnati Film Festival. 

Do Good:

• Learn more about SPMH.

• Donate to SPMH.

• Find out about Godoy’s documentary on the revitalization of OTR.

By Stephanie Kitchens

Chaitkin shares music, appreciation through rec center concerts

Nathanial Chaitkin, 42, wants to spread his love for classical music with the $6,000 grant awarded to him by the Cincinnati Arts Ambassador Fellowship. 

At age 11, he started playing cello. He continued his studies at the Juilliard School, the University of Michigan and at University of Maryland, where he received his doctoral degree. Chaitkin worked as a freelancer for a few years after college and then played with the orchestra of the United States Marine Band in Washington D.C. for eight years. After teaching at Michigan State, he and his wife moved to Cincinnati, where he currently teaches at CCM prep and privately.

With the grant money from the City, Chaitkin plans to hold concerts at Cincinnati Recreation Commission centers in underserved neighborhoods in Cincinnati. Specific locations have yet to be determined.

Chaitkin says he has wanted to stage these kinds of performances for about 20 years now. When he was in college, unlike many of his music school peers, he spent time with students involved in other disciplines. It helped that he lived in a dormitory with football players and was also a history major. Most of the music students, he says, were segregated from the rest of the school, and he wanted to bridge that gap. Therein evolved his idea to show people who have not been exposed to classical music that they can enjoy it, too.

He wants his new concerts to be interactive so that he can engage the audience in a discussion about music. Chaitkin plans to incorporate a piece composed by his college roommate, Evan Hause, who wrote several original songs for Chaitkin. 
In addition to traditional classical pieces, like Bach and Hindemith, he will play songs that most people won’t expect a celloist to play, like something by The Beastie Boys or “Impossible” by Shontelle. 

“I don’t think that everybody feels comfortable getting past those assumptions they have about it [classical music],” says Chaitkin. “For me, the goal is to sweep that aside and put the music in a place and a context where they feel comfortable.”

The artist also hopes that the concerts will spark the appreciation of classical music and encourage people to become active members of the performing arts community. The benefits are many, including to the city’s economic status. Chaitkin’s other goal is for his project is to inspire people to create art programs in underserved neighborhoods, like MyCincinnati in Price Hill.

Currently, Chaitkin is also considering creating a string quartet to accompany him at one of these concerts.

Do Good:

• Donate to MyCincinnati, an after school arts program for children, which shares the power of music with children in underserved schools.

• Learn more about the CRC centers in Cincinnati. 

• Find out about art programs and events going on in Cincinnati. 

By Stephanie Kitchens


Rinto's life a testimony to advocacy, support for women

Barbara Rinto has made supporting women’s health issues her lifetime mission. The 61-year-old advocate’s inspiring story is a highlight of the latest issue of The Women’s Book, an annual collection of women-focused news and information.

As a child of the 50s and 60s, Rinto traces her activist roots to her college days, when supporting women’s reproductive rights opened her eyes to a wide range of related issues.

“I think I was always a feminist,” says Rinto, who has been director of the Women’s Center at the University of Cincinnati since 2002.

As an undergraduate at Kent State, she volunteered at a local health clinic to talk with women and girls about their contraceptive options. After getting her master’s degree in public administration, she began a long career of working with Planned Parenthood before moving into a leadership role in academia.

She spent 28 years at Planned Parenthood, including an eight-year stint as the Cincinnati office director. Today, she remains at the forefront of women’s issues in the Cincinnati region. She chairs the Women’s Fund, an offshoot of the philanthropic Greater Cincinnati Foundation that is focused on helping women achieve economic self-sufficiency.

At UC, her mission is to ensure that all women have a safe and equitable environment, particularly by preventing sexual violence and supporting the victims of violence. Working first-hand with survivors, developing programs to support understanding and share knowledge and supporting those around her have become hallmarks of Rinto’s leadership style.

For Rinto, though, it’s all about empowering women to use their voices to spark change and growth.

“It really has informed my life and my work,” she says.

Do Good:
• Like the UC Women’s Center on Facebook.

• Learn more about the Women’s Book.

• Find out how you can get involved with The Women’s Fund.

By Stephanie Kitchens
 
 

Pendleton artist wins city grant to serve as Arts Ambassador

Terri Kern, ceramic artist, is one of seven artists to receive a $6,000 grant from the Cincinnati Arts Ambassador Fellowship.

Kern specializes in brightly colored, highly glazed ceramics, but her plan for the grant is to take a “mini-sabbatical” from her everyday artwork to explore new ideas and techniques in a body of sculptural work. The concept of her proposed artwork is the idea of balance.

“To make my work accessible to the public, I will open up my studio at the Pendleton Art Center on Final Friday,” Kern wrote in her grant application. She will also feature her work during Second Look Saturdays.

“My studio building is in the Pendleton neighborhood, which was selected to participate in the Neighborhood Enhancement Program (NEP) in August of this year,” Kern wrote. “That puts me in the unique position of being able to capitalize on the increased public awareness of the arts in the Pendleton neighborhood and the potential upsurge in community involvement.”

This grant’s potential impact on the city is significant, she says.

“One of the things that draw people to any city is things that are happening,” says Kern. “Even though it is very important to have the arts, there is also an economic impact from these grants.”

Kern says that the Final Friday attendees often dine out in the city, get drinks or go shopping—all within city limits. She hopes seeing her work will inspire patrons to return and explore what else Cincinnati has to offer. In addition, Kern’s artwork is also open for Second Look Saturday.

Kern is actively involved in the community and created the Joyce Clancy Legacy Fund, which works to provide seed money for ceramics programming for non-profit organizations.

Kern’s artwork will be displayed at the sculpture show at the Carnegie Visual and Performing Arts Center, Friday, Nov. 16, and at the 18th annual Studio Collection Holiday Sale, which features 12 women artists, on Saturday, Nov. 17.

Do Good:
• Take a virtual tour of the Pendleton Arts Center.

• Find out more about the city’s Arts Ambassors.

• Keep up with Kern and her peers on Facebook.

By Stephanie Kitchens

Volunteers support Cincinnati Music Hall

When you print your tickets to the next Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra performance, remember the Society for the Preservation of Music Hall.
 
As you walk through the beautifully and newly refurbished wooden doors that face Elm Street and into the majestic Cincinnati Music Hall, thank the Society. The society decided to give the doors a facelift to coincide with the re-opening of Washington Park. 
 
And when you sip from the water fountains or flush the toilets at the Hall, you can again thank the all-volunteer group that celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. The nonprofit's mission has not changed since it was formed: To help preserve, enhance and support one of the city’s iconic masterpieces.
 
The group may be best known and recognized for its work in bringing the Albee Mighty Wurlitzer Organ to the Hall, where is was permanently installed and dedicated in 2009. An anonymous donor gave the society $1.4 million to move the organ from the Emery Theatre to Music Hall’s ballroom. 
 
But Society president Don Siekmann points to the sum of seemingly small accomplishments, such as the new ticketing system, refurbishing the front doors and upgrading the plumping, that stack up to ensure that the Hall continues to inspire artists and awe audiences. 
 
“Music Hall is really the great musical icon of Cincinnati,’’ he says. “It’s our job to get that word out and provide support. We are the guys who really keep it going.” 
 
Siekmann says he is confident that only a fraction of the region’s 1.5 million residents have ever been inside the Hall, which was built in 1878 with private money raised from what is believed to be the nation’s first matching-grant fund drive and is still judged to be one of the most majestic theaters in the world. The Springer Auditorium, which can seat more than 3,500, is home to the CSO, Cincinnati OperaCincinnati Ballet and the May Festival
 
Many believe the Hall is also home to ghosts, in large part because it was built on former graveyards. In addition to regular tours hosted by Society volunteers, there are also guided ghost tours of the Hall. 
 
Seikmann says the group’s greatest opportunity and challenge is to ensure two things: Introducing more residents and visitors to the Hall and to continue to attract new members. 
 
“We want to continue to get people involved so they tell the stories of Music Hall,’’ he says.
 
Do Good:
 
• Check out the Hall's new web site.
 
• Buy tickets to the annual Wurlitzer Organ show slated for 10:30 a.m. and 7 p.m. Dec. 13. The event sells out every year. 
 
• Take a tour and learn about the Hall's storied history -- there’s even guided ghosts tours.
 
• Donate to the Society for the Preservation of Music Hall. 
 
• Volunteer to be a tour guide by calling 513-744-3293.

By Chris Graves
Chris Graves is the assistant vice president of digital and social media at the Powers Agency.
 


COR Music Project offers access, seeks diversity in classical music

“We believe that the arts signify and represent the health of the community. Vibrancy in the arts makes a community a more desirable place to live and to work.”

That’s the mindset prompted Louisa Shepherd to help found the COR (Cincinnati Out Reach) Music Project in December 2011, a free, after-school orchestra program that provides innovative access to classical music to youth who are typically underserved when it comes to arts programming.

The group also wants to give those same students opportunities and inspiration to attend college. COR Executive Director Deron Hall is a French horn player for the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music, and Shepherd herself was able to attend college thanks to a music scholarship. 

“We have a passion for music, and it’s taken us from one circumstance to another,” Shepherd says. “We’re very much about giving back and revitalizing the arts in our community.”

The approach is two-pronged: COR’s teaching artists lead piano, voice/choir, guitar and electronic music courses at schools that lack arts programs. At the same time, COR works year-round with local communities to form orchestras for youth in grades three and up. The first such effort will launch in Avondale this January.
 
Purcell Marian High School is currently COR’s sole institutional partner; the goal is to secure partnerships with at least three more area schools next year. 

“We like to say we work in the community and not for the community,” says Shepherd. “We’re making it something the community stands behind and sees as valuable. It’s about showing the community the tools we have and finding out what we can do together.”

COR’s “all play, none pay” philosophy is supported by ArtsWave grants, outside donations and nominal commitments from partner schools, as well as the group’s organized fundraising efforts. 

Do Good:

• Watch COR in action online.

• Make a tax-deductible donation to support COR

• Keep up with COR news and events on Facebook

By Hannah Purnell
Follow Hannah on Twitter

Shakespeare comes alive at Cincinnati Library

Why would the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company decide to stage the Bard’s bloodiest and most violent tragedy, Titus Andronicus, in the retro-futuristic look and feel of steampunk? 
 
Jeremy Dubin, an artistic associate at the downtown-based company, isn’t saying just yet.
 
Dubin says if folks want to know, they should stop by the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County’s main branch later this month to get the backstage scoop on how the company decides to stage Shakespeare’s plays. 
 
“We figured we were just down the street, so why not?” says Dubin. “I think we will see how these first ones go, and likely we will stick with it throughout the season.” 
 
Actors, set and costume designers, and directors will visit the Library's main branch twice in October to chat about their work and how they prepare for the complex productions.
 
Sara Clark, who plays Juliet in the company’s modern-day interpretation of perhaps the most popular of Shakespeare’s 37 plays, Romeo and Juliet, will discuss how she prepared for the role.

The company's take of Shakespeare's story of star-crossed lovers is staged in modern-day Italy and starts at a crime scene and features - of course - the warring Capulets and the Montagues.
 
Dubin says he is planning on attending the second discussion at 7 p.m. on Oct. 23 to talk about Titus Andronicus. That conversation will be in the Huenefeld Tower Room, which is on the library’s third floor of its south building. 
 
Thought to be Shakespeare’s first tragedy, Titus is so bloody and violent that Dubin says he studied crime books to help in its interpretation. 
 
The company turned to Cincinnati’s 150-member League of Cincinnati Steampunks for research as well. The steampunk look is distinctive – a kind of Victorian-meets-technology – and as such, Dubin says it is unlikely the company will use the costumes and sets again. So, they chose to auction the pieces off on Oct 24. 
 
Dubin says he hopes school groups and others attend the conversations to learn more about Shakespeare. 
 
“I think if we got 50 people or so, it would be a huge success,’’ he says.
 
Do Good:
 
• Buy tickets to Romeo and Juliet or Titus Andronicus, which opens Oct. 20. Both performances run through Nov. 11. 
 
• Support the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company. 

• Like the Cincinnati Public Library on Facebook.
 
• Follow the Library on Twitter.

By Chris Graves
Chris Graves is the assistant vice president of digital and social media at the Powers Agency.
 
 

Groundbreaking vision center opens at Oyler School

Even before it publicly opened last week at Oyler School, doctors at the nation’s first school-based, self-sustaining vision center discovered a fifth-grade boy who has been living virtually blind.
 
Doctors detected the boy’s acute vision problem while testing equipment to prepare for the public opening and dedication of the OneSight Vision Center inside the Lower Price Hill school last week. The self-sustaining vision center also outfitted the boy with glasses, as it is expected to do for hundreds more children.
 
“If you grow up in a world where you don’t know any different, you think this is the way it is,’’ says Craig Hockenberry, Oyler's principal. “You can imagine the impact on learning when a child cannot see the board or a read a book. The vision center will help us get these kids the vision care they so desperately need.”
 
The full-service vision center will provide comprehensive eye exams, glasses, fittings, adjustments, medical eye care and vision therapy with an onsite optometrist, ophthalmic technician and optician. It is expected to serve about 2,000 students per year.
 
A group of public and private partners spent the last two years working to open the center:
 
• Oyler School, at 2121 Hatmaker St., donated the space and will provide for its ongoing maintenance.

• The Cincinnati Health Department will operate the center. 

• The Ohio Optometric Association and American Optometric Association provided expertise, guidance and funding.

OneSight, which is a leading global vision care charity sponsored by Luxottica, provided all exam equipment, eyewear, operational expertise and $300,000 in start-up funding to support the staff.
 
Dr. Marilyn Crumpton, director of the Cincinnati Health Department’s School and Adolescent Health Division, says that the year-round center will be completely self-sustaining through insurance payments, primarily through Medicaid. 
 
The issue for many children who need vision services is a barrier to access – not a lack of insurance, she says. About 90 percent of Oyler students are Medicaid recipients. The center now will provide that access and will handle all the insurance filings. In addition, Dr. Crumpton says, the center will provide transportation to other students who do not attend Oyler but are in need of services. They will also deliver glasses to students so they don’t lose learning time in their home schools. 
 
Hockenberry says the center fits into the holistic approach to education at Oyler, which is one of the leading community learning centers in the city. Oyler provides medical and psychological services in the school, which is open from about 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. year-round. 
 
“We never stop. The whole concept is that we want to be the central hub of activity in our community,’’ says Hockenberry. “The vision center fits perfectly into that.”
 
Hockenberry says that at the same time the center was being dedicated, a team of about 70 educators, politicians and others from New York City were visiting Oyler to see what they're doing and model it back in New York.
 
“I can’t be more proud of what we are doing,’’ he says. 
 
Crumpton agrees: “This shows the kids that the community – the whole community – is investing in them to succeed. They are our future. It really makes me proud to call Cincinnati home.”
 
Do Good:
 
• Like Oyler School on Facebook

• Read more about OneSight and its mission. 

• Read and listen to National Public Radio’s ongoing series “One School One Year” series, which focuses on Oyler.

By Chris Graves
Chris Graves is the assistant vice president of digital and social media at the Powers Agency.
 

New leader hopes to expand reach of Adopt-A-Class

Born and raised in Cincinnati, Katie Burroughs now devotes her life to making her hometown a better place in a new role as director of the nonprofit Adopt-A-Class. She learned about community involvement through Walnut Hills High School’s community service program as well as her parents’ dedication to volunteer work.

Burroughs left home to study English at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, NC, and then received her law degree at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. After practicing in northern Virginia, though, Burroughs returned to Cincinnati.

She worked as a prosecutor for the City of Cincinnati and Hamilton County and was exposed to children living in horrifying conditions. The experience fueled her passion for mentoring children living in poverty. 

Then last year, she served as co-president of the PTA at Pleasant Ridge Montessori, where her two children attend school (her twins attend preschool). She realized the impact education has not only on children’s lives, but also the life of a community.

Burroughs had attained her professional goals as a prosecutor, so she felt ready to transition into a different, more proactive role in changing children’s lives. 

“By getting involved in education, my hope and desire is that we will touch lives and in the end there will be fewer people at the back end, where I always saw them [as a prosecutor],” Burroughs says. “If you can direct a kid in the right direction, or just give them that glimmer of hope, or show that someone believes in them and that there is a life outside of poverty and the environment that they’re in, then just may be my former coworkers won’t see them on the back end.”

Burroughs is settling into her new role at Adopt-A-Class, a local nonprofit that connects under-resourced students with professional mentors. Founded by Bill Burwinkel, Adopt-A-Class currently works with 24 schools, reaching about 8,000 students. 

The mentors, typically groups of professionals, form pen pal relationships with the students throughout the school year. Weekly, mentors who are available go to classrooms for activities.

Burroughs hopes to increase the number of classrooms adopted. Although there is a waiting list for new schools to get involved, Adopt-A-Class wants to finish meeting the needs of the schools that they are already committed to.

“You can’t solve every problem; you’re not going to save every child—I’m not naïve—but you can touch lives,” Burroughs says.

Do Good:

• Refer a friend to Adopt-A-Class

• Donate to Adopt-A-Class. 

• Attend the Rusty Ball and choose Adopt-A-Class as your charity. 

By Stephanie Kitchens


Our City, Our Story book builds on storytelling project

Lyndsey Barnett grew up in Toledo and had her first exposure to Cincinnatians when she attended Miami University in Oxford.

She noticed that while her classmates knew their “sides” of Cincinnati well—east, west, north, central—few were familiar with neighborhoods outside of their own.

Flash forward to this year, when as a member of the leadership development program C-Change, the Graydon, Head & Ritchey attorney found herself in a group of eight classmates charged with raising the profile of the positive stories in and around Cincinnati.

“We started brainstorming what things were important to us,” says Barnett, 33. Children, education and literacy topped their list.

The next step seemed basic. “Why don’t we try to develop a children’s book to get Cincinnati’s message across?” they asked. Their approach? Create a book written by a professional and illustrated by the children of Cincinnati.

“We wanted to donate these books to organizations that had a literacy theme and get them to children who may not otherwise have access to books,” she says.

There was just one problem. No one in the group had any experience in publishing, and it was March. They had just a couple of months to gather illustrations and create the book in time to highlight at the Books by the Banks festival in October.

“We all started reaching out to anyone we knew to start this network,” she says. “The process has been very intense. We’ve all had to learn on the fly.”

One key collaborator eased many of the group’s concerns. John Hutton, owner of Blue Manatee bookstore and Blue Manatee Press, offered insights and support. “He has been invaluable,” Barnett says.

Hundreds of students from around the region, from Price Hill to Indian Hill, submitted their illustrations for potential inclusion in the book. “The artwork that we received was just amazing,” Barnett says.

A team of children’s librarian judges made the final decisions. Soon after, “Cincinnati: Our City, Our Story” became a reality.

Accomplished children’s book author and part-time Cincinnati Louise Borden penned the text. “The book is a story about Cincinnati’s history involving the cool places in the city,” Barnett says.

Her C-Change team got so excited about the project, they raised enough money to surpass their initial goal of printing 3,000 soft-cover books to be donated to local nonprofits; now 4,000 books will be donated.

In addition, more than 5,000 hardcover editions have been printed and will be for sale at Books by the Banks, at Blue Manatee and, Barnett hopes, other local retailers. About $10 from the sale of each book will be donated back to support the literacy programming of Every Child Succeeds.

Barnett sees the impact stretching well beyond this year and her C-Change tenure. “I think it will spark a dialogue for families, and help parents share their favorite places with their kids.”

Do Good:

• Attend the “Cincinnati: Our City, Our Story” kick-off celebration at Blue Manatee bookstore in Oakley.

• Stop by Books by the Banks and buy your hardcover copy.

• Add your donation to the important work being done by Every Child Succeeds .

By Elissa Yancey
Follow Elissa on Twitter



Team dedication rebuilds Price Hill's Arts Center at Dunham

Many hands make light work.

The Arts Center at Dunham knows the meaning of that old saying well. Last Saturday, 60 volunteers from Procter & Gamble, GE Aviation, and Sunset Players descended upon the structure with paint and polish.  Now, the Art Deco building is ready for its re-opening as a community art center after it was closed for repairs several years ago.

The building has a deep and personal history within the Price Hill community. 

Once, it was part of the large Dunham Tuberculosis Hospital, the first municipally-owned tuberculosis sanatorium in the country. Opened in 1897, it was renamed after its long-time medical director, Dr. Henry Kennon Dunham, who served the hospital, without pay, from 1909-1940.

Samuel Hannaford and Sons, the preeminent architectural firm in Cincinnati during the 1920s known for the design of Music Hall and City Hall, designed the Art Deco building for occupational and entertainment needs, including a movie theatre for residents confined to the grounds.  

After the hospital closed in the early 1970s, Cincinnati reopened the complex as a recreational center. Most of the hospital buildings were torn down, but this building was kept as a center for arts programming. 

Beth Andriacco is community engagement coordinator for Price Hill Will, one of the groups behind the effort to reclaim the building for community arts.  

“Most of us who grew up in the area took classes there, like pottery and cooking,” she recalls.

The Sunset Players, a community theater group, made the Dunham Art Center its home, so when a leaky roof closed the building, the Players kept performing in other venues while raising money to fix its structural problems and work towards a long-term lease of the building.  

Partnering with the City of Cincinnati, the Cincinnati Recreation Center, the West Price Hill Civic Club, Price Hill Will and the Dunham Advisory Board, the Sunset Players were joined by volunteers from local industry for this last push to re-open the building.  When the center opens, it will offer art programming and studio space, as well as theater productions.    

“P&G and GE Aviation wanted to do a large volunteer project…and contacted Price Hill Will,” says Andriacco.  This project was the perfect fit.  

Do Good:

• Attend: the first Sunset Players production in the new center, a Playhouse in the Park “Off the Hill” production for families called Accidental Friends, Sept. 29 at 7pm.

• Visit: the Sunset Players online, as the company celebrates its 30 years of community performances and offers a link to join the group or help with the art center.

• Like: the Arts Center at Dunham on Facebook to stay current on the landmark's latest news.

By Becky Johnson

Neighborhood advocates help build Covington urban street fair

Jim Guthrie and his wife Deanna Heil, a dynamic duo of architects, met while college students. Since their graduation some 20 years ago, they have made Northern Kentucky their home and taken every opportunity possible to bloom where they were planted.

Guthrie, who is also an artist, took over as chair of Art Off Pike this year. In anticipation of this year's festival Sept. 30, Soapbox asked him to share his thoughts about the event and its latest incarnation.

Q: How did you get interested in Art Off Pike in Covington--I mean, you're a Newport guy, right?

A. I attended AOP a few years ago for the first time. The second time I participated as an artist—I dabble as an inner-demon catharsis.

I volunteered on the committee last year. And this year, I was thrust into the Chair position because I stood still when someone asked, "Who wants to be Chair?" Everyone else took one step backwards. 

Q: Explain what it is for readers who haven't experienced it before. 

A: Art Off Pike is an urban street festival celebrating artists and downtown Covington. It was created by the Westside Action Coalition (a neighborhood coalition) eight years ago as an event (an ice cream social) capitalizing on local artists living and working in Covington and has grown from there.

This year, we'll have more than 70 artists displaying their wares for sale, between $10 to $400 generally.

We'll also have an area for kids art activities called "Picasso's Playground" which will be run by area arts organizations. You'll find coloring, water color, collage, doll making, bubbles, ice cube painting, hooping, finger painting and ceramics.

Q: What's new about the celebration this year?  

A.    This year there will be coffee!!! And lots of food. Both of which were painfully absent last year. We've signed up Deeper Roots CoffeeC'est CheeseCafe de WheelsLimeYankee Doodle Pretzels and streetpops.

Q: What role have you played in the festival?

A: I'm the chair ... so I do everything that I can't get anyone else to do. But mostly organizing and occasionally begging. We have a great committee of folks - Natalie Bowers with the City of Covington, Jean St. Jean with My Nose Turns Red, Joan C. Lee (community leader), William Dickson with Haney, Chris Henry (community leader) and Chris Meyer.??

Q: Can you talk about the AOP posters a bit? 

A: The posters, and all the collateral material really, grew out of an effort to distinguish Art Off Pike from other art festivals. 

We wanted to recognize the urbanity of Covington instead of apologize for it. We wanted to recognize the beauty in the grit. So, we made an effort to make every piece of collateral material as authentic and real. 

We started out mailing "save the date" baggies to 100 of our best friends which contained hand stamped and numbered cards. We handed out business cards that were the same (stamped, signed and numbered). We walked around Pike and Seventh Streets in Covington (where the event is held) and took pictures of the cool things we noticed. We printed these images on corrugated cardboard. 

Each poster is individually spray painted, signed and numbered. There are eight copies of five versions for a total of 40 (41 actually).  These were distributed to the area businesses and supporters that love us. I'm particularly proud of the posters and have to thank William Dickson and his firm Haney for helping us out.??

Q: When was the first time you heard about/went to Art Off Pike? What was your impression? 

A: It was like a yard sale for artists. And there's a certain amount of cool to that. It wasn't pretentious. It was a community. We want to grow ... but we don't want to lose that.??

Q: Describe Covington's art scene and how Art Off Pike fits in with it.
 
A: Art and Culture are so important to cities - particularly the urban cores. You may have read recently that the Covington Arts District as a city designated zone no longer exists, but the arts initiative is absolutely alive ... just evolving, unrestricted by boundaries. Covington has recently been recognized by the governor's arts and cultural district certification.

Covington's Mayor and Commission fully support the arts both personally (with their wallets) and politically. It's a recognition that Arts and culture do impact the bottom line economy. Covington is unique in that it has a city supported and staffed Gallery at AEC, but also many other arts organizations including Baker Hunt, Carnegie, Behringer Crawford, Madison Theater, Madison Event Center, concerts at the Basillica, the Ascent, public sculpture; and private groups like Bldg Gallery who regularly bring in international artists for shows and public art projects.

AOP is the original arts event that Covington's Full Spectrum was based on. Capitalizing on all the artists - ceramists, painters, playwrights, musicians, singers, performers, living and working in Covington. 

Q: Anything you think people should know about the art scene in Northern Kentucky that they don't know already? 

A: It's there. I think the different incarnations, designations and zones and the disintegration of those zoning designations can confuse people. I think it's not where it needs to be; not where it will be. It has to come from within, and there are some energetic people working on fostering the artist community and it's going to happen (inside Covington joke).??

Do Good:

• Show AOP some love on Facebook.

• Make a day of it. Attend the festival Sept. 30.

• Check out more Covington neighborhood action at the Center for Great Neighborhoods.
 
Compiled by Elissa Yancey
 Follow Elissa on Twitter

At NKU, smart is new cool

Kimberly Clayton-Code, Director of the Institute for Talent Development and Gifted Studies at Northern Kentucky University, would like to reach 6,000 students a year, doubling her five-year-old program's current rolls, witth programming that supports their academic gifts and allows them to meet like-minded peers and to flourish.

"These children’s needs are just as diverse as children across the spectrum," says Clayton-Code, who helped launch the institute at NKU five years ago. "They’re a group of students whose needs aren’t always attended to."

She notes that having high-profile "nerds" making news--people like Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates--helps make some paths easier, but that the typical white-male image can make it more challenging for females and minorities to relate. 

That's why NKU hosts the ExploreMore Program for students in grades K-8, the Dreamfest Conference for grades 4-8 and the Young Women LEAD Conference, which welcomes 700 young women to the campus in October.

"Working with these children, seeing what they can do and where they can go – I’m just amazed at their level of knowledge and interest and thirst for learning," Clayton-Code says.

Do Good:

• Check out the ExploreMore brochure for fall 2012. 

• Like NKU on Facebook.

• Find out the latest offerings at the Institute on its Facebook page.

By Chris Graves

CCO adds innovation to 'chamber' definition

Start with some Beethoven, add in a free performance at a local acoustic gem and a newly commissioned concerto for saxophone and chamber orchestra played by a local jazz legend. All together, it's a recipe for the 39th Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra season, dedicated to celebrating the Queen City in different locales, starring new and returning favorites.

CCO, directed by Mischa Santora, is known for innovative collaborations with arts groups and organizations including the VAE: Cincinnati's Vocal Arts EnsembleMadcap PuppetsCincinnati Ballet and The Mercantile Library

In addition to a performance at the acoustically pitch-perfect St. Catharine of Siena Church in Westwood, this winter, the orchestra launches a new holiday tradition with a production of Menotti’s Amahl and the Night Visitors in partnership with Madcap Puppets. And the group's education program, Footnotes , incorporates subjects like math, geography and poetry into musical presentations.

With a nimble 32-musician base, the CCO ends its 2012-2013 season with a program selected by its members and fans. The orchestra's June performance at the School for Creative and Performing Arts, includes a few pre-programmed pieces, but leaves its finale open, awaiting the selections of audience members.

Do Good:

• Join the CCO mailing list.

• Check out the full season schedule online

• Support the artistic work of the CCO with a donation.


 



In the Know: the American Theatre Wing recognizes Cincinnati theater

The Know Theatre is Cincinnati’s place to be for evocative live entertainment. One-of-a-kind experiences such as the Cincinnati Fringe Festival and cutting edge programs such as the Jackson Street Market and the theatre’s touring educational program Calculus: the Musical! have established the Know as the go-to venue for the type of contemporary theatre more common in larger cities. 

Now in its 15th year of operation, the Know has received some prestigious national recognition. 

In October, Know Theatre Producing Artistic Director Eric Vosmeier will travel to the Big Apple to accept a $10,000 grant from the American Theatre Wing (founder of the Tony Awards). One of only 10 theatres nationally to receive the honor, the Know will use the grant to support programming and help attract and retain artists. 

“This grant is a huge boon to Know Theatre’s model, focus and programming,” Vosmeier says.
 
The prestigious award validates the Know’s commitment to innovation and the advancement of contemporary theatre, and provides important support for the theatre’s sustainability. “Know Theatre is at a crucial stage of our development and new funding such as this will be crucial for us to continue to move the organization forward,” Vosmeier says. 

In order to receive the 2012 National Theatre Company Grant, the Know had to articulate its mission, demonstrate the cultivation of an audience and show how artists are nurtured in a way that strengthens the quality, diversity and dynamism of American theatre. 

“It seemed to me that they were looking for a company that takes a diverse approach to what they do,” says Vosmeier. 

He says that the strength of the grant application was based on the Know’s unique approach to programming and the fact that it is producing almost entirely new work. For example, the Cincinnati Fringe Festival brings hundreds of local and national artists together each year to entertain, collaborate and network while artist programs like the Jackson Street Market and educational programs like Calculus: The Musical! play more active roles in education. 

In addition to its innovative programs, the Know continues to look for new ways to fund itself. The institution of the Club of Jacksons, initially a crowdfunding effort aimed at supporting the Know’s production of Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson earlier this spring, was a first for the Know and resulted in funding almost the entire production. 

Building on the success of that endeavor, Vosmeier says that the Club of Jacksons will return this year, allowing the community to play an active role in sponsoring a live show by donating one Jackson or several. 

The Know is also working with Brandery 2012 class member Socstock, an innovative funding model that allows individuals to invest in a local small business and receive a return through goods and services. Details are still in the works, but Vosmeier says that returns on investment through Socstock could include anything from tickets, to Fringe passes, improv and acting classes and more. 

Perhaps more than anything, the company’s sustainability is based on its ability to cultivate high-caliber talent that keeps people buying tickets. With a continued focus on original programming, artistic development and sustainable funding, the Know Theatre is on an upward trajectory.

“We want to keep artists here in Cincinnati,” says Vosmeier. “We want them to be able to make a living here and continue to advance contemporary theatre.” 

The grant from the American Theatre Wing boosts that mission by providing the resources that allow the Know to provide health care benefits for the first time to staff, add a few positions and provide a pay raises. 

Expect great things to keep coming from the Know, including several Fringe Encore performances throughout the month of September, the True Theatre series returning in October and special events like the Know Theatre CityBeat Speakeasy NYE party. 

Do Good:

• Purchase tickets to an upcoming show. 

• Donate to the Know. 

• Promote Know productions through your social network and like the Know on Facebook.

By Deidra Wiley Necco

'Handsome' at Emery shines light on Fotofocus

The Requiem Project, the nonprofit arts organization that makes its home at the Emery Theatre in Over the Rhine, continues to build this fall with a five-event series called "Art Moves Here," which debuts with the Sept. 20 opening of a FotoFocus-affiliated exhibit called "Handsome" by Chris Hoeting.

Hoeting built "Handsome" specific to the Emery's nooks and crannies, knowing that his show would run in tandem with Midpoint Music Festival performances at the site as well as a showing of Mike Disfarmer's beautiful and sometimes unsettling portraits, set to be on display starting .

Like so many other endeavors over the past year, "Handsome" reflects the power and the potential of the Emery to occupy an emerging space in the local arts scene—to bring together art forms, artists and neighbors and together, to build a stronger, vibrant and diverse community.

As part of Fotofocus, "Handsome" uses prints and mixed media to explain culture, in this case the culture illustrated by Western movie director John Ford, who became fascinated with the story of lawman Wyatt Earp and his stories. Hoeting's work plays with the archetypes of Ford's day, deconstructing them and analyzing their meaning and cultural relevance.

In an Emery season that includes showcasing pieces by Andy Warhol and hosting dance and music performances, the theater's co-founder and artistic-executive director, Tara Lindsey Gordon, sees "Handsome" as a highlight.

Do Good:

• Attend the "Handsome" opening reception, Thursday, Sept. 20, from 6-9 pm.

• Mark your calendars for FotoFocus events over the next month.

• Visit the Emery's new website for more information.

By Elissa Yancey
Follow Elissa on Twitter

Poet Hansel shares stories, love of words to create, heal

Her words are precise, deliberate. Her pace is slow and measured. In her voice remains a slight sweet drawl of her native Eastern Kentucky.

As her spoken words unfold, it becomes evident that Pauletta Hansel has spent a lifetime surrounded by the lyricism of language, a language heavily influenced by the storytellers of the Appalachian Mountains, her father and communities of other writers, poets and artists.

But hers is far from the life of the solitary poet.

The award-winning author of four collections of poetry is spending this fall – as she has for years - leading community-based workshops for writers as part of the Urban Appalachian Council and through Thomas More College and the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County.

On Sept. 24, she and three other authors will present “Our Beloved Community,’’ a collaborative performance of story, poetry and song created by the authors and residents of Over-The-Rhine. Each author interviewed Over-The-Rhine residents, wrote from those experiences and then came together to craft the performance, which gives voice to the residents.

“This was really an opportunity to create something bigger than myself,’’ she says.  

Hansel, 53, of Paddock Hills, is also co-editor of Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel, the literary journal of the Southern Appalachian Writers Cooperative, and was the co-director of the Grailville Retreat in Loveland, where she continues to lead writing workshops.

Most recently, Hansel was named the first Writer-in Residence at Thomas More College in Crestview Hills.

Community and teaching have always been important to Hansel’s writing and her work is now part of repaying all those who supported – and continue to support – her work.

Her first mentor was her father, a college professor and not a writer.

“In my father’s eyes, books were more important than food,’’ she says. “It was a part of my nature and my nurture.”

She started writing poetry while a young teen as a mechanism to help her deal with the intensity and emotions of her pre-teen years. But it quickly evolved into who she was.

“I suppose it started as a verb and not as a noun; the writing started as a need to communicate to myself,” she says. “But I was a writer as opposed to the aspirational.”

Two things helped catapult her writing: She grew up during the 1970s’ resurgence of the rich tradition of Appalachian writing and storytelling; and a poet – who was part of school Poet in the Schools program - lived with her family.

“I really connected with her. Here was someone who made a living at writing and was a poet throughout her life,’’ she says.

While Hansel finds that she must set aside time by herself to write, various writing communities sustain her.

“I cannot talk enough about the value of a writing community … writing is a solitary act, but it is the act supported on the context of community.”

She recommends that writers find havens of support and places where they will be able to “drop down into that psychological space” necessary to write. For her that is an annual trip to the Sisters of Loretto Motherhouse, in Nerinx, Ky., about 60 miles from Louisville. She has been going there since 1996.

Hansel finds her retreats and communities in other places as well, including in teaching.

“I love to teach. For me, writing and teaching are interconnected. It’s really good work,’’ she says. “I am so grateful for those who taught me. In the days of yore when arts and crafts were handed down through journeymen and apprentices … it’s like that to me.

“It’s like my way of passing it on.”

Do Good:
•    Attend Our Beloved Community performance at 7 p.m., Sept. 24, at the Main Library, 800 Vine St.

•    Find a writing program or retreat at grailville.org.

•    Attend an “Eat and Create” brownbag lunch with Hansel at Thomas More College from noon to 12:50 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 12. The series is offered the second Wednesday of each month through December.

By Chris Graves

70-plus artists converge for Art Off Pike

Jim Guthrie and his wife Deanna Heil have lived in Newport for about 20 years. The dynamic duo of architects met while studying at UC’s DAAP. While they planned a life far west of the town of their alma mater, a poor job economy left them little choice but to bloom where they were planted.

Now Guthrie, who works for Hub + Weber Architects, and Heil, who started City Studios Architecture in OTR, are in their second home and raising three kids, aged 16 to 10. Guthrie took over as chair of Art Off Pike this year. In anticipation of this year's festival Sept. 30, Soapbox asked him to share his thoughts about the event and its latest incarnation.

Q: How did you get interested in Art Off Pike in Covington--I mean, you're a Newport guy, right?

A. I attended AOP a few years ago for the first time. The second time I participated as an artist—I dabble as an inner-demon catharsis.

I volunteered on the committee last year. And this year, I was thrust into the Chair position because I stood still when someone asked, "Who wants to be Chair?" Everyone else took one step backwards. 

Q: Explain what it is for readers who haven't experienced it before. 

A: Art Off Pike is an urban street festival celebrating artists and downtown Covington. It was created by the Westside Action Coalition (a neighborhood coalition) eight years ago as an event (an ice cream social) capitalizing on local artists living and working in Covington and has grown from there.

This year, we'll have more than 70 artists displaying their wares for sale, between $10 to $400 generally.

We'll also have an area for kids art activities called "Picasso's Playground" which will be run by area arts organizations. You'll find coloring, water color, collage, doll making, bubbles, ice cube painting, hooping, finger painting and ceramics.

Q: What's new about the celebration this year?  

A.    This year there will be coffee!!! And lots of food. Both of which were painfully absent last year. We've signed up Deeper Roots Coffee, C'est Cheese, Cafe de Wheels, Lime, Yankee Doodle Pretzels and streetpops.

Q: What role have you played in the festival?

A: I'm the chair ... so I do everything that I can't get anyone else to do. But mostly organizing and occasionally begging. We have a great committee of folks - Natalie Bowers with the City of Covington, Jean St. Jean with My Nose Turns Red, Joan C. Lee (community leader), William Dickson with Haney, Chris Henry (community leader) and Chris Meyer.??

Q: Can you talk about the AOP posters a bit? 

A: The posters, and all the collateral material really, grew out of an effort to distinguish Art Off Pike from other art festivals. 

We wanted to recognize the urbanity of Covington instead of apologize for it. We wanted to recognize the beauty in the grit. So, we made an effort to make every piece of collateral material as authentic and real. 

We started out mailing "save the date" baggies to 100 of our best friends which contained hand stamped and numbered cards. We handed out business cards that were the same (stamped, signed and numbered). We walked around Pike and Seventh Streets in Covington (where the event is held) and took pictures of the cool things we noticed. We printed these images on corrugated cardboard. 

Each poster is individually spray painted, signed and numbered. There are eight copies of five versions for a total of 40 (41 actually).  These were distributed to the area businesses and supporters that love us. I'm particularly proud of the posters and have to thank William Dickson and his firm Haney for helping us out.??

Q: When was the first time you heard about/went to Art Off Pike? What was your impression? 

A: It was like a yard sale for artists. And there's a certain amount of cool to that. It wasn't pretentious. It was a community. We want to grow ... but we don't want to lose that.??

Q: Describe Covington's art scene and how Art Off Pike fits in with it.
 
A: Art and Culture are so important to cities - particularly the urban cores. You may have read recently that the Covington Arts District as a city designated zone no longer exists, but the arts initiative is absolutely alive ... just evolving, unrestricted by boundaries. Covington has recently been recognized by the governor's arts and cultural district certification.

Covington's Mayor and Commission fully support the arts both personally (with their wallets) and politically. It's a recognition that Arts and culture do impact the bottom line economy. Covington is unique in that it has a city supported and staffed Gallery at AEC, but also many other arts organizations including Baker Hunt, Carnegie, Behringer Crawford, Madison Theater, Madison Event Center, concerts at the Basillica, the Ascent, public sculpture; and private groups like Bldg Gallery who regularly bring in international artists for shows and public art projects.

AOP is the original arts event that Covington's Full Spectrum was based on. Capitalizing on all the artists - ceramists, painters, playwrights, musicians, singers, performers, living and working in Covington. 

?Q: Anything you think people should know about the art scene in Northern Kentucky that they don't know already? 

A: It's there. I think the different incarnations, designations and zones and the disintegration of those zoning designations can confuse people. I think it's not where it needs to be; not where it will be. It has to come from within, and there are some energetic people working on fostering the artist community and it's going to happen (inside Covington joke).??

Do Good:

• Show AOP some love on Facebook.

• Make a day of it. Attend the festival Sept. 30.

• Check out more Covington neighborhood action at the Center for Great Neighborhoods.
 
Compiled by Elissa Yancey
 Follow Elissa on Twitter


NKU Women LEAD program offers inspiration, opportunities

Teen girls face a range of challenges—emotional, physical and psychological—as they navigate the sometimes choppy waters of adolescence. Hearing from young female leaders who have made it through those tough years and followed their own paths to success can offer insights and inspiration.

That's the idea behind the Leadership, Education And Development Conference for High School Girls, this year hosted at Northern Kentucky University Oct. 16. (Registration for the free conference closes Sept. 14.)

At the one-day conference, attendees will hear from Olympian Dominique Dawes as well as local female business and community leaders, who will share their stories on success, finding meaning and happiness in life and developing relationships.

Do Good:

Register for the conference before Sept. 14.

• Find out more about the NKU Institute for Talent Development and Gifted Studies.

• Like the Mean Stinks campaign on Facebook.

WordPlay opens Urban Legend Institute in Northside

Got your zombie apocalypse survival kit yet? What about that alligator repellant? Better yet, how about some much-coveted, impossible-to-find water from the Fountain of Youth? 

Look no further. 

Those are the kind of items that will be available when the Urban Legend Institute, at 4011 Hamilton Ave., officially opens its doors Sept. 8. The family-friendly grand opening, from 5 to 10 pm, coincides with Northside’s Second Saturday celebration and will offer treats, music, word games and other surprises, promises Libby Hunter.

But behind the tongue-in-cheek retail storefront is Northside’s newest and very serious nonprofit: WordPlay, a collaborative literacy group aimed at helping kids learn how to read, write and express themselves. It will offer free tutoring from 3 to 6 pm Mondays through Thursdays and from noon to 4 pm Saturdays.

“It’s not just a store, the Urban Legend Institute will become our street-front personality, our interface with the community,” says Hunter, Wordplay’s executive director. “We want it to be a destination.  People will wander in not knowing about WordPlay, they'll enjoy the engaging experience they have at the Urban Legend Institute, learn about WordPlay, spread the word, come back to volunteer, enroll their kids or be inspired to donate.”

WordPlay takes a page from the National 826 program based in San Francisco, with eight chapters across the United States. Each chapter offers free writing and literacy services to underserved children. Each are also fronted by whimsical retail outlets, including the Bigfoot Research Institute in Boston, which sells unofficial Yeti Hairballs;  The Boring Store in Chicago, which offers up all types of disguises; and the Museum of Unnatural History, which may be the only store in the world to sell unicorn tears.

Hunter says she is encouraged about WordPlay after a highly successful pilot this summer, when WordPlay volunteers teamed up with Cincinnati Public  School’s Fifth Quarter to work with students from Chase Elementary School.

“The biggest surprise is how well Fifth Quarter went; how quickly the kids become engaged,’’ she says, adding that two retired professionals also become just as committed. “I knew we were onto something.”

One of those volunteers was Tom Callinan, retired editor and vice president of The Enquirer. Callinan, a WordPlay board member, was going to just drop by one or two days to observe. Instead, Hunter says he showed up every day for five weeks to work with the students.

“It was rewarding this summer to watch students transform from reluctant learners to proud ‘authors’ of their work,’’ Callinan says, noting the approach of using fun and creativity to teach certainly enlivens the experience.

The Urban Legend Institute follows the same path: “It’s an excellent example of a nonprofit using social enterprise to support its mission,” he says.

Hunter says the store will also feature locally produced and sourced t-shirts, funky items of lore and crazy bits of Cincinnati history.

And while the Institute began with a wholly quirky theme, Hunter says it has evolved so much that she hopes it will eventually become an archive of local lore.

“We find that legitimate history is becoming a central piece to it,” she says. “We want it to serve as a sort of mini-children's museum, with fun, odd, curious things from the past for kids to explore—objects that might not be for sale but they can work with them, ponder them, use them for writing prompts.”

Imagine a place, she says, where electronics are turned off. Instead, kids are turned on to actual hand writing, the art of letter writing, creating pieces of tactile art that is not crafted from tapping on a screen or moving a mouse. 

“Funny enough, as we talk to people and gather information on local legends and history, we find we are becoming something of a repository for local lore and unusual objects,” Hunter says. “How cool to get to share all this with the kids.”

Do Good: 
• Volunteer.  Share your passion for the written word and creativeness. Teens and adults can both volunteer their time and talents.

• Donate. As a 501c(3), donations are tax deductible.

• Follow news and happenings on their Facebook or Twitter.

Chris Graves is the vice president of digital and social media at the Powers Agency. 

Editor's Note: Soapbox Managing Editor Elissa Yancey serves as vice chair of the board for WordPlay.
 

CCM Prep hosts first adult chamber program

Learning isn’t just for children. In fact, says Amy Dennison, assistant dean for CCM’s Preparatory Department, adults sometimes have an easier time learning than children do because of their enthusiasm and free will.

“Our prep department serves performers anywhere from ages three to 84,” Dennison says. “And most of our faculty love working with adults because they’re excited and want to be there.”

This September, the staff from CCM Prep and musicians from the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra (CSO) plan to give amateur adult musicians opportunities to work with one another, work with professionals and share their music with the community by organizing CCM Prep’s first Adult Chamber Music Weekend. 

The weekend, which is designed to expose amateur musicians to professional coaching, will include group rehearsals, guidance from Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra musicians, breakfast, lunch and a final performance in the CCM village.

The staff from CCM is now accepting online applications for the program. The form asks applicants to detail their musical capabilities as well as what instruments they play. Applications for the program, which costs $125 per person, will be accepted until Sept. 8. 

Then, based on their musical capabilities, the musicians will be put into groups of three to four.  

Participants will practice and perform within their chamber groups for the duration of the weekend. Staff at the CCM Prep Department will choose music for the final performances, and professionals from the CSO will coach the players along the way. 

The final performance, which will be free and open to the public, is scheduled for Sept. 29.

Dennison says that the weekend will be a wonderful way for the community to engage in the arts. The small, intimate groups will give musicians the chance to share their passions with like-minded people.

“Our main goal is to provide opportunities for people of all ages and abilities,” Dennison says. “I strongly believe that everyone in the community should have access to the arts, regardless of their talents or abilities. It just gives people a sense of fulfillment and joy.”

Do Good:

• View CCM Prep Department’s class offerings.

• Attend the final performance Sept. 29.

• Check out the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra’s fall schedule.


By Jen Saltsman
Follow Jen on Twitter 



 

National recognition puts Museum Center among nation's elite

Sarah Evans can’t imagine how other high school students figure out what they want to study in college.

Evans has Cincinnati Museum Center to thank for the ease of her choice. The 2012 Madeira High School graduate will study archeology when she start classes this fall at the University of Cincinnati. 

Evan has been involved in the Museum Center’s Youth Program since was 13 years old, logging an incredible 6,000 or so hours working in each of the center’s three museums. The program is intended to teach teens about museum work and prepare them for college. 

“I’m what they call a regular,’’ she says. “I just love our staff. It’s really a place of opportunity and friendship. It’s become a huge part of my life. It has definitely influenced 100 percent of what I want to study in college.”

The youth program was one of two programs specifically lauded as a national model by the American Association of Museums in its recent accreditation of the Museum Center at the historic Union Terminal in the West End. The Learning Through Play annual conference that brings parents and teachers to the museum to discuss the importance of play in education was also singled out as a model of excellence. 

The recognition puts the center in elite company. Just 4.5 percent of the nation’s 17,000 have won accreditation, which is voluntary and is the highest recognition for a museum. The three-year process examined every facet of the Museum Center’s operation, including finances, governance, programs and programming, stewardship of its vast collection as well as its professional standards. 

“It’s really the best news for us. It’s a validation of our peers that we are doing things right,’’ says Elizabeth Pierce, museum vice president of marketing and communications. “We are delighted.”

The Museum Center had to wait to apply for accreditation after the merger of the Museum of Natural History and Science, which had been accredited. And while accreditation is on a five-year cycle, the Museum Center will be reviewed in 2014 due to the merger with the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, she says. 

“Accreditation assures the people of Cincinnati that their museum is among the finest in the nation,’’ says Ford W. Bell, president of the AAM. “Citizens can take considerable pride in their homegrown institution, for its commitment to excellence and for the value it brings to the community.”

The distinction comes just three years after the Museum Center was awarded the National Medal for Museum and Library Service, making it only one of 16 organizations in the United States to have both.

“We really are in good company,” Pierce says. “I hope this reinforces to the community that we are an organization of quality; that we are doing our job well, and we are respectful of donations and we invest in this organization.”

Evans, who is also the outgoing president of the center’s youth advisory council, hopes the accreditation will mean continued success for the Youth Program. 

“I would say to youth: The more you give to the program, the more the museum can give back to you,” she says. “You will be repaid far more in your future.”

Do Good:

• Watch a video of teens involved in the Youth Program.

• Join or renew your membership.

• Plan a visit.

• Follow them on Facebook.

Chris Graves
 is the assistant vice president of digital and social media at the Powers Agency.
 

Caracole's new space in Northside offers room to grow

It only seems fitting, David White says, that Caracole Inc.’s offices are now at the former Charles Miller Funeral Home in Northside.

The funeral home was one of only two in the entire Greater Cincinnati area that would accept the bodies of AIDS victims in the 1980s.

“Back in the day, people thought you could catch it from a sneeze,” says White, Caracole’s Community Investment Coordinator. “But the folks at the Miller funeral home were not scared. You have to remember, this was back in the days when AIDS was a death sentence.”

Caracole, the non-profit that that provides safe, affordable housing and supportive services for individuals and families living with HIV/AIDS, moved into the former funeral home at the corner of Hamilton Avenue and Knowlton Street June 29. 

The move was necessitated after Caracole assumed the caseload from fellow local nonprofit Stop AIDS in April 2011. The shift increased Caracole’s clients from 200 in Hamilton County to nearly 1,000 clients served in eight counties, White says.

“The best thing, my favorite thing, has been the community of Northside. They have been so welcoming,’’ he says. “The neighborhood is so excited a social services agency is here, let alone an AIDS group. It’s been amazing, really.”

The move more than doubles their space to 9,400 square feet, centralizes their location and puts them directly on Metro routes. It is also close to hospitals and provides private offices for staff.

The new location houses the group’s administrative and case management offices. Two transitional homes, each with 11 beds, did not move. Those homes provide housing and services for homeless residents who are HIV positive or suffering from AIDS.

White is excited because the increased space means many like services are now under one roof. Caracole’s HIV/AIDS support groups can meet regularly, which was not the case at their former Roselawn location. 

A local GLBT group will also hold meetings at the offices, and two employees from Planned Parenthood of southwest Ohio will administer anonymous HIV tests there.

“We would not have been able to move without the donations—from paint, furnishing and the majority of the carpeting,’’ says White, who estimated that donations were worth tens of thousands of dollars. “This helps us save money on rent and is money we can put toward client services.”

Two foundations provided more than $30,000 to move the group’s offices as well as for data installation.

Matt Kotlarczyk, who bought the 15,000-square-foot building with a partner in late 2011 for $260,000, says redeveloping it with Caracole has gone extraordinarily well. Caracole signed a 10-year lease for first-floor offices.

“It gives them a new home and us a good, solid investment,” says Kotlarczyk, a local sculptor who owns Refined Sugar Studio.

Future Life Now LLC is leasing about 2,500 square feet on the second floor of the building. Another 3,500-square-foot space on the second floor and the 3,500-square-foot hearse garage, which is fully insulated, remain vacant, he says.

Kotlarczyk has been told the building, originally built in 1875 and added onto numerous times, was the longest continuously operated funeral home in Cincinnati.

And at least one woman thought it still was.

The woman walked into Caracole’s offices a couple weeks ago, White says, and asked who she might talk to about funeral services.

That wouldn’t be Caracole. They are too busy working on living.

Do Good:

• Attend Caracole’s open house celebration from 4 to 9 pm, Sept. 13, 4138 Hamilton Ave. There will be music, a photo booth and tours. It is not a fundraiser.

• Call 513-679-4455 to schedule an anonymous HIV test, administered at Caracole through Planned Parenthood, Monday-Thursday from 9 am to 5 pm, and Friday from 9 am to 1 pm.

• Email oracle@caracole.org to volunteer your time.


• Donate cleaning supplies or toiletries to Caracole’s pantry to help residents.

• Use your Kroger Plus card to give a percentage of your total spend to Caracole.

By Chris Graves
Chris Graves is assistant vice president of digital and social media at the Powers Agency.
 

4C steps up efforts to improve childcare quality

Think Ohio day care providers have to have a degree to care for children?

Think that cozy, home-based, daycare center just down the street, has to be licensed by the state of Ohio in order to operate?

If you answered no to both of those questions, you are right. And that’s just wrong, according to 4C for Children.

The mission of the Cincinnati-based nonprofit, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, is to improve the quality and accessibility of childcare in a 33-c