Jamey Ponte had it all -- he owned his own small business and was doing really well. He had nice cars, nice clothes. There was little to worry about.
In the past several years, Ponte, 45, has left all of that. He makes about $3,000 a year, doesn't surround himself with new products, and he's never been happier.
"My quailty of life is perfect," he says.
He ditched his small marketing company for missionary work and a shot at building a better Cincinnati, giving back wherever and whenever he can.
He's an artist who now spends six months of the year living in Africa, where he has a hospital and is building schools -- which take shape in the form of mud huts, he says.
But before all of that, he was a marketing man, working with clients and managing a small staff. After awhile he saw his marketing business changing, and not for the better. There was more greed, less loyalty. The independent work was starting to feel more like corporate grind.
"Is this what I have to look forward to for the rest of my life?" he recalls thinking at the time.
It was time for a change. He told his employees that, within two years, the company would close. Ponte sought a new direction in his life.
Ponte saw friends with a special-needs child struggle and face frustrating challenges. He wanted to do something to help.
"I saw how families are thrown into hell overnight," Ponte says.
Then he saw the impact directly when one of his sister's children developed a terminal illness.
"I thought, 'Wow, this is what I'm supposed to do,' " he says.
In 2003, a project he had been working on, Child Wellness Fair
, became an official non-profit -- what is now called the Child Wellness Fund. It started as a campaign to bring awareness to programs in the community that were already doing good.
The organization's evolution was "organic," Ponte says.
He and the people he worked with were helping others who had great ideas. They worked with individuals who wanted to make positive impacts on the community -- but maybe didn't know how to get started or what to do -- and set them in the right direction.
"Most of what we do now comes from other people," Ponte says. "We're not working on any projects I started."
One of the funds major projects is Second Home. The organization collects gently used, mostly pediatric, medical equipment -- like wheelchairs -- and finds families who need the equipment but cannot afford it on their own. In the first six months of the project it placed $150,000 worth of gear with families who needed it.
To raise money for Child Wellness Fund, Ponte is spearheading this year's Cincinnati Holiday Arts Show
. The show will feature artwork, available for sale, from 30 local artists. (More than 60 applied to be a part of the event, says Ponte, who will have his photography on display.) The artwork at the show is priced to sell -- from $10 to $175.
Ponte's photography focuses on animals and landscapes -- as well as some people -- that he sees while he's in Africa, where he lives for about six months of the year. While he's there, he lives with the people he's helping, who are also helping him, he says.
Sponsor the show
: Any little bit helps both the artists and the Child Wellness Fund.
: Promote the show's Facebook page and get your friends in on the action.
Buy artwork: Show up at the show, Saturday, Dec. 10, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the North Presbyterian Church, 4222 Hamilton Ave., Northside. Admission is free.
By Taylor Dungjen