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NCH City Center in need of funding for air conditioner, roof to allow for summer programming

Two nonprofits have joined together in an effort to fundraise for the North College Hill City Center, which serves as a venue for everything from children’s programming to a meeting and support spot for disabled veterans .
 
The Pro Foundation, which manages and operates the NCH City Center, is partnering with CenterStage Players, the oldest community theater group in Ohio, for The Awesome 80s Prom, an interactive performance and dance party Feb. 6-7.
 
“It’s a unique fundraiser,” says Kathy Harward, director of community outreach for The Pro Foundation. “We’ll have a whole prom court, and they’re all actors. They’ll be interacting with the guests and campaigning for them to vote for prom king and queen. People can dress up or come as they are.”
 
Proceeds will support rehabilitation of the city center, as its current infrastructure doesn't allow for year-round programming and is in need of a new roof and air conditioning unit.
 
According to Harward, more than 50 percent of NCH school district families are low income and 80 percent of the students participate in the free and reduced lunch program.
 
“The families can’t always afford good childcare, so you’ve got young children being left home babysitting the other children, and to be putting a 10-year old in charge of a 3-year old isn’t the best option,” Harward says. “It’s also important to keep the kids off the street. If they’re bored and have no structure, no activities and no one’s supervising them, it’s setting them up for trouble.”
 
Year-round programming would allow children and other community members to engage in intramural sports, fitness classes, summer camps, tutoring and daycare.
 
“We have an accredited dance teacher who scholarships dance students,” Harward says. “And there are just a lot of really good groups there who keep getting displaced, and I don’t want to see them getting displaced because we can’t continue to fund this. I want this to be a thriving community center.”

Do Good:

•    Purchase tickets for The Awesome 80s Prom Feb. 6-7 at 7:30 p.m. at North College Hill City Center, 1500 W. Galbraith Road. Tickets are $25 for singles and $40 for couples.

•    Support The Pro Foundation by mailing a check or money order to 812 Russell St., Covington, KY 41011 (the nonprofit's website is currently under construction). 

•    Contact Kathy Harward if you're a handyman or handy-woman who can volunteer services for the building's repair or if you're interested in volunteering with NCH City Center programming. 
 

Bacchanalian Society, CSO Encore gather YPs together to support Cincinnati Symphony


The Bacchanalian Society, which gathers young professionals (YPs) together to integrate “social and professional networking with philanthropy,” hosted its first 2015 wine tasting last week to benefit the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.
 
CSO Encore, which is the CSO’s volunteer committee of YPs raising awareness of and drawing young audience members to the symphony, partnered with The Bacchanalian Society for its Winter Gathering. Jordan Weidner, co-president of the Bacchanalian Society, says the Jan. 29 event had near record-breaking attendance, a testament to the power of Cincinnati’s YP community.
 
“Cincinnati is a very easy town to find opportunities to get involved or be a part of something bigger,” Weidner says. “I believe charitable giving and support is part of the backbone of what makes Cincinnati great, and we believe that The Bacchanalian Society’s biggest accomplishment is not only in the money that has been raised but the awareness it has created for the beneficiaries.”
 
YPs, according to Weidner, “are a dynamic group,” and for the past 10 years the Bacchanalian Society has been able to attract an audience that's philanthropic, active and engaged.
 
Weidner, a Cincinnati native, says he’s more excited than ever to live in the area, and many of the other YPs coming out to support community-rooted organizations like the CSO share similar sentiments.
 
“There is something big happening in Cincinnati, and there a lot of people and organizations to thank for that,” Weidner says. “The Bacchanalian Society is about introducing YPs to new things and supporting the institutions that make Cincinnati a great city, so it was a no-brainer to have CSO at Music Hall for our Winter Gathering.” 

Do Good: 

•    Contact the Bacchanalian Society if you're a nonprofit that would like to connect with the organization and benefit from a future event. The organization usually hosts four wine tasting events a year.

•    Connect with the Bacchanalian Society on Facebook to keep up with future happenings. The next wine tasting is in May to benefit Cancer Family Care.

•    Contact the organization to volunteer at future events.
 

OTR's Our Daily Bread celebrates 30 years


Our Daily Bread marked its 30th birthday recently by celebrating with community members, volunteers, staff and the organization’s founder, Ruth “Cookie” Vogelpohl, who was inspired to open the facility in 1985 after seeing a man digging through the trash to find a bag of half-eaten hamburgers for his next meal.
 
Since the launch of Our Daily Bread, the organization has served as a place of stability in the Over-the-Rhine community by welcoming visitors each weekday morning with coffee and baked goods, followed by a three-course meal and time for fellowship.
 
“By noon, the meal service has ended, and from 12-2:30 p.m. it’s mostly just an open time for people to hang out,” says Melissa Shaver, director of communications for Our Daily Bread. “So people play cards or chess or just talk a lot. Two times a month we do a Bingo game that’s totally volunteer-run, with prizes — dish soap, toilet paper, the occasional clothing item — that have been donated.”
 
The organization serves 400-500 meals each week and totaled 99,255 meals served for 2014. And through its Lunch on Legs delivery service, Our Daily Bread also serves those in the community who are unable to make it to the facility but who are still in need of a meal.
 
It’s ultimately the sense of community, however, that Our Daily Bread provides to individuals that keeps them coming back, Shaver says.
 
The nonprofit offers Kid’s Club programming and even engages volunteers in its Birthday Angels program, in which birthday cakes are baked for and given to community members who might not otherwise have the means of attaining a cake and celebrating with others.
 
“A couple days ago, our furnace went out, generating a lot of questions like ‘Where will they go?’ because there are other places people can get free meals pretty much any day a week, but a lot aren’t necessarily open after the mealtime,” Shaver says. “Some don’t have indoor space for people, and in the cold it reminds you, ‘Oh, some people really don’t have somewhere to go.’ Even people who have apartments, they’re usually isolated one-bedroom apartments, so a sense of community is important.

“Regardless of your economic status, you should have some place where you’re not considered loitering or considered a blight on the community. I think that’s what Our Daily Bread tries to do for people.” 

Do Good: 

•    If you have a skill or talent you're able to share with the organization, reach out to Our Daily Bread and consider volunteering

•    Organize a canned food drive for Our Daily Bread.

•    Become a mentor, reading buddy or dedicated volunteer for the Kid's Club. Contact the Kid's Club if you're interested in helping.
 

Urban mushroom farming project launches on Kickstarter


For Alan Susarret, owner and operator of Probasco Farm on West McMicken Avenue, urban farming is officially underway. He's been growing oyster mushrooms for two urban farmers markets and some local restaurants for the past couple of years, and now he’s ready to expand production.
 
Susarret is passionate about his work and deeply rooted in sharing his passions with the community. In October he provided a free workshop at the Village Green Foundation in Northside, and in April he’ll share his knowledge about growing mushrooms on straw at Garden Station in Dayton.
 
He’s now asking for the community’s help in an effort to jumpstart his endeavor. Susarret recently launched his urban agriculture project on Kickstarter, and in just nine days he reached his $719 goal — yet the project is ongoing, as costs from farming continuously add up.
 
“A promo I’m doing for the Kickstarter will involve donating mushrooms to Cincinnati Food Not Bombs,” Susarret says. “They get together, cook vegan dishes and share the food at Piatt Park on Saturday afternoons.”
 
Susarret has volunteered with the organization in years past and says the mushrooms — which differ from conventional farmed mushrooms in that they're both preservative- and pesticide-free — will most likely be used in a casserole or stir-fry dish for sharing.
 
“The greatest part about the sharing, being across the street from the downtown library, is we'll get a few suits, some down-and-out folks that may or may not know to look for us, and everyone in between,” Susarret says. “Lots of people stop to ask, ‘What is this?’ We respond, and regardless of class or ethnic origin some will turn up their nose and keep walking, while others will stop for food and/or conversation.

“That's the ultimate goal, community building, and providing a safe public space for meaningful interaction.”

Do Good:

•    Check out the promos and consider pledging to support Susarret's urban agriculture project.

•    Connect with Probasco Farm on Facebook. Beginning Feb. 4, if you "share" the project an added basket will be donated. 

•    If you're interested in volunteering with or learning more about Cincinnati Food Not Bombs, contact the organization. 
 

VAE closes season, celebrates 35 years


For 25-year old Matthew Swanson, joining Cincinnati’s Vocal Arts Ensemble during its 35th anniversary season has been a thrill.
 
Swanson, the youngest member of the ensemble, is a Cincinnati transplant — originally from Iowa — who first became aware of the VAE as a graduate student at the University of Cincinnati’s College Conservatory of Music. He regularly attended concerts and rehearsals at the time, and when the opportunity to join the ensemble as an artist arose he seized the moment.
 
This weekend the ensemble closes its 35th anniversary season with the regional premier of Rodion Shchedrin’s The Sealed Angel, which is a musical interpretation and tribute to the Christian conversion of Russia.
 
“VAE's 35th season is a chance to celebrate consistency and creativity,” Swanson says. “The music is both firmly historical and decidedly contemporary. Shchedrin's sound world is spacious, but the intent of the music is human as it traverses a wide range of emotions.”
 
It’s the emotional appeal that Swanson says the VAE understands and is able to communicate in a way that reaches and moves audience members.
 
“The ensemble's repertoire includes a long list of choral masterworks … and VAE brings those works to life with energy and passion,” Swanson says. “Critical to the ensemble's identity, however, is a long-time commitment to new and inventive works — pieces new to us, to our audiences or that take a fresh look at long-held cultural conventions. It is the co-existence of these identities for over three decades that makes VAE a critical component of the region's cultural scene.”

Do Good: 

•    Check out the regional premier of The Sealed Angel at two performances: 7:30 p.m. Jan. 31 at St. Boniface Church in Northside and 4 p.m. Feb. 1 at Mother of God Church in Covington.

•    Chat with Swanson and other VAE singers after the show. The ensemble wants to connect with you.

•    Support the Vocal Arts Ensemble.
 

My Furry Valentine provides venue to adopt rather than shop


The fourth-annual My Furry Valentine adoption event is just a couple weeks away, and more than 550 animals — including dogs, cats and other furry friends — are in need of a home.
 
It’s a way for individuals to collectively come together to help mitigate the Tristate’s euthanasia rates by advocating for adoption as the preferred choice when searching for a pet.
 
For individuals like MFV board member Robin Tackett, the event is a reminder of the love a new addition to the family can provide. She volunteered with MFV for its inaugural event in 2011 and was introduced to Adore-A-Bull Rescue.
 
“They had the sweetest girl, April, that I fell in love with and started following her story on Facebook,” Tackett says. “By September of that year, I was fostering for AABR.”
 
According to Tackett, more than 1 million pit bulls die in shelters every year, and only 1-in-600 pit bulls find a home to call one’s own.
 
“Those statistics are staggering,” Tackett says. “It’s heartbreaking when a rescue goes into a shelter knowing they have three foster homes available and can only pull three dogs. You know the fate of the other 20-30 in the shelter.”
 
Tackett wants to “see an end to those needless deaths,” she says, so she’s doing her part to help. She’s regularly fostered dogs, and last year she adopted Smith, a pit bull who was four months old when she met him and who weighed only 3.6 pounds.
 
He, along with the other pups in his litter, was flea- and worm-infested and diagnosed by veterinarians at UCAN with a low body temperature, ocular discharge, enlarged lymph nodes and an upper respiratory infection.
 
Tackett says she was in tears.
 
“I had three puppies at my house that we had just pulled from another case, and no one else was open to take these six and I had to convince AABR that we had to take this case, even though it was out of our normal guidelines,” she says. “After many phone calls and getting the pups from UCAN to the hospital, we were able to find three homes to take the three puppies I had, and I took these six home to nurse them back to health.”
 
MFV was quickly approaching, and the six puppies were all healthy enough to attend. Still, Tackett says, Smith was meant to be hers.
 
“He was the runt of the litter and so sick that the vets didn’t think he was going to live,” Tackett says. “He had a special place in my heart, and I knew I could not let anyone walk out my door with him in their arms. He is the love of my life.”

Do Good:

•    To honor Smith and encourage others to spay or neuter their pit bulls, the Smith fund at UCAN was established. Call UCAN and mention this flyer for a free spay or neuter procedure for your pit bull. 

•    Visit My Furry Valentine 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Feb. 14-15 at the Sharonville Convention Center.

•    Support My Furry Valentine, and encourage friends to adopt. 
 

Bouquet Restaurant launches monthly wine dinner series to benefit nonprofits


Covington’s Bouquet Restaurant & Wine Bar kicks off its Charity Wine Dinner Series this week to benefit The Carnegie. The five-course meal with wine pairings will become a regular event on the last Tuesday of each month to benefit a local nonprofit.
 
“It's about sustaining the community and shining light on other local businesses and charities,” says Chef Stephen Williams, who owns Bouquet. “Not only does it benefit them, but us as well as a part of that community. Hopefully the idea of helping others will become contagious.”
 
The idea for the dinner series came about because the restaurant wanted to resume its monthly wine dinners, which it had taken a break from during construction. It transformed into a charity event, however, after Bouquet employee James Reynolds, who Williams says “has a very philanthropic soul,” pitched the theme.
 
“He brought the idea to us, and we loved it,” Williams says. “It makes them even more fun.”

As a small business owner, Williams says he’s happy to support the community because “it all comes full circle.”

“Owning and running a business is not easy,” he says. “People put their whole lives into these small endeavors. I think it's important that we all help each other out. The more people that come to our area, the more we all benefit. Someone may come to The Carnegie dinner this month who has never dined in MainStrasse, then they see Otto’s and think ‘We need to try them too!’ We love the sense of community in this area and really enjoy the people around us.” 

Do Good:

•    If you're a nonprofit that would like to partner with Bouquet Restaurant & Wine Bar, contact owner Stephen Williams to explain how your organization could benefit from being a recipient of the monthly event. Bouquet is currently searching for next month's beneficiary.

•    Call the restaurant at 859-491-7777 to reserve your spot at the Jan. 27 dinner. Individual tickets cost $125, and $40 will be donated directly to The Carnegie. 

•    Connect with Bouquet on Facebook.
 

Ingage Partners passionate to "B" the change


For Markku Koistila, business analyst at Ingage Partners, there’s much more to life than making money.
 
“Ingage values (the) people and (the) planet, in addition to simply focusing on profit,” Koistila says.
 
Ingage Partners is a Hyde Park-based management and technology consulting firm organized as a Certified B Corporation, which is a company using the power of business to solve social and environmental problems. Ingage cares about its employees, its customers and its community in a way that Koistila says he’s never experienced at previous workplaces.
 
“The B Corp concept of ‘being best for the world’ inspires you to always do your best as a professional since you know that your efforts will result in good for the community,” Koistila says.
 
To model that concept, Koistila organized an event last fall he termed “The Most Interesting Fundraiser in the World: Hot Latin Nights Edition,” supported by Ingage and Pay It Forward Cincinnati and resulting in $2,700 donated to ProKids.
 
“ProKids works to free foster children from abuse and helps them to achieve a safe and secure living environment — something that most of us take for granted — but this is not something that is guaranteed to many of the children in the foster care system,” Koistila says. “The people who work at ProKids really give everything they've got to these children, and it was truly an honor to raise money for this tremendously important organization.”
 
With the help of family, friends, a planning committee, community volunteers and organizations, Koistila was able to make the event a success, in which individuals came together to listen to live music, learn to salsa and enjoy fellowship with one another while supporting a cause.
 
“I'd never created nor chaired a fundraising event before this one, but I would certainly do it again,” Koistila says. “Not only did I receive a lot of support from my friends and family, but I also received a tremendous amount of support from Ingage and all of my colleagues.  There's nothing better than having a great time while raising money for a great cause.” 

Do Good: 

•    Learn more about B Corporations, and consider joining the movement.

•    Support ProKids by helping a child.

•    Use business for good. It begins with the individual. 
 

Cincinnati Youth Collaborative honors outstanding mentors


Cincinnati Youth Collaborative recognized Trinitii Brewer last week on National Thank Your Mentor Day with its 2015 Outstanding Mentor Award.
 
Brewer has served as a mentor for the past 10 years — ever since she started working at Luxottica, where employees engage in a collaborative program with CYC and Cincinnati Public’s Withrow University High School in which students travel to Luxottica once a month to have lunch with their mentors.
 
She’s worked with five mentees thus far and maintained what she says are “very different” yet “fun” and impactful relationships.
 
“Some I’ve helped with homework, helped with projects. Others, it’s been helping her get ready for prom, it’s all across the board,” Brewer says. “There have been some I wouldn’t see super often, but she’d call all the time just needing advice on everyday life things. You just don’t know what kind of relationship you’re going to have with your mentee.”
 
For Brewer, the most important aspect of the mentor/mentee relationship is the different perspective each has to offer.
 
“I can’t say it’s just a matter of teaching them stuff — schoolwork — some are smart on their own and don’t necessarily need assistance in that type of thing,” Brewer says. “It might be a life experience you’re offering them that they’ve never seen before, or when they come to Luxottica and see people coming to work every day they get that sort of insight like, ‘Oh, OK, this is what it looks like to be dressed for work.’”
 
Do Good:

•    Encourage your workplace to engage in mentorship.

•    Support Cincinnati Youth Collaborative by donating.

•    Become a mentor.
 

Lauren Hill exceeds fundraising goal, enables more collaborative research


Lauren Hill met and exceeded her fundraising goal of $1 million for The Cure Starts Now Foundation by raising nearly $1.3 million for diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG) research.
 
“Lauren has truly captured the nation’s heart with her dedication and persistence in the face of adversity,” says Brooke Desserich, executive director of The Cure Starts Now. “The fact that she has decided to spend her precious few months left on this earth to make sure that no other children face the same fate is incredible.”
 
With DIPG, which makes up 10-15 percent of all brain tumors in children, comes a grim outlook.
 
According to Desserich, fewer than 10 percent of children with DIPG survive two years from diagnosis, and, unlike other pediatric cancers, little progress has occurred in improving treatments and cure rates throughout the past few decades.
 
“Currently, The Cure Starts Now has been responsible for funding over $2.8 million in (DIPG) research,” Desserich says. “Much of this research is cutting-edge research that isn’t being funded.”
 
And it’s all going toward doctors who, Desserich says, “have the heart to leave their egos at the door” and share their findings with others. 
 
“(They) share their data and outcomes and set forth to work with other institutions not because it will further their career but because it furthers the odds of survival for these kids and finding a cure,” Desserich says. “At the end of the day, the tools and gadgets will only supplement what truly advances science — and that is heart. Our funding is not exclusive to the latest strategy, hospital or researcher. Instead, it's about these children and about the cure.”

Do Good: 

•    Support The Cure Starts Now Foundation by donating.

•    If you and your family or someone you know is in need of support, reach out.

•    Connect with The Cure Starts Now Foundation on Facebook.
 

NKCAC serves as community resource to empower individuals and families


For individuals like James who face adverse conditions in life but still prevail, the Northern Kentucky Community Action Commission serves as a resource — and has been for the past 47 years.
 
James, like many 16-year-olds, had made a decision that he later regretted, and he ended up in jail as a result. So he enrolled in the nonprofit’s YouthBuild program, which services young adults between the ages of 16 and 24 by assisting them with education and career-based goals and preparations.
 
“We were able to help him get his GED and get job skills for him, and now he is working in the food service industry, where before he couldn’t keep a job for more than a few weeks at a time and was couch-surfing,” says Florence Tandy, NKCAC’s executive director. “He credits YouthBuild with making that transformation, but I credit him for being ready for that transformation, because he’s just the neatest young man you’ll ever meet and he’s going to go far once he gets behind his convictions.”
 
According to Tandy, the nonprofit sees about 10,000 families in a year’s time, which translates to about 25,000 individuals.
 
Whether it’s through the organization’s early childhood education, financial assistance or career preparation services, the mission is to help “hard-working families realize and reinvest in their future.”
 
“We have neighborhood centers in each of our eight counties to provide crisis assistance for families who find themselves struggling to pay all their bills,” Tandy says, “and we have a former client of one of those centers who applied for a job when we had an opening and who had struggled with drug addiction in the past but was clean and sober when she came to us.
 
“So we gave her a temporary position during our busiest season, and that temporary position turned into a permanent position and now she’s a manager of that center and has just shown remarkable promise and resiliency and dedication to her clients and her staff that she now supervises. I don’t know if there’s too many businesses or organizations that would have given her a chance, but we did.” 

Do Good: 

•    NKCAC is looking for AmeriCorps members to join its team. The nonprofit is currently accepting applications.

•    Contact NKCAC if you're interested in employing its clients who go through career readiness preparations.

•    If you're interested in mentoring a student in the YouthBuild program, volunteer.
 

Healthy Visions delivers powerful, impactful program to teens by sharing stories


It’s not often that a high school student is sick but begs her mother to allow her to go to school anyway, so she doesn't miss out. But with Healthy Visions, a nonprofit that partners with local high schools to empower students with the tools needed to navigate tricky situations but still come out on top, it actually happens.
 
“It’s because we use young, relatable people that are cool,” says the nonprofit’s director, Carole Adlard, who founded the organization 29 years ago because she says she “saw the emptiness” in youth and “wanted to give them grounding and focus so they’d want to get up in the morning and do things.”
 
It’s through individuals like Drà — short for Ladrà — who go into high school classrooms and connect with students by employing humor to teach about relevant topics like relationships, sex, drugs and alcohol prevention, self harm, self esteem and acceptance. But it’s ultimately through Healthy Visions representatives’ openness and honesty that they’re able to connect.
 
Drà and his cousin, for example, were raised in the same household, Drà by his dad and his cousin by his aunt. They came from the same situation — one that was less than desirable, involving drugs, poverty and roaches — but took different paths.
 
“There’s no preaching going on with this,” Adlard says. “It’s very much discussion-based, so that’s the key aspect there, so that the kids don’t feel like they’ve been lectured. They feel like it’s a peer who’s had a little more experience than them, sharing.”
 
And it’s effective. In a survey conducted in May 2014, after having completed Healthy Visions’ programming 72 percent said they had stopped bullying, 52 percent said they had stopped using or selling drugs, 62 percent got out of an unhealthy relationship and 81 percent said they felt better about themselves.
 
“There isn’t anybody else that reaches people exactly where they are, with someone with their exact situation, and says, ‘We’re going to give you the critical thinking skills and the tools to do exactly what you want to do,'” Adlard says. “It’s the only program I’ve ever known to have lifelong changes for students, and it truly does change lives. I’m absolutely in awe of it.” 

Do Good:

•    Healthy Visions is seeking volunteer mentors. Contact the nonprofit if you or your business is interested in helping.

•    Healthy Visions is launching online programming so course content can reach teens outside of the Tristate. If you have skills to offer with regard to IT, marketing or crowdsourcing, contact Carole Adlard.

•    Connect with Healthy Visions on Facebook.
 

Cincy ReelAbilities to showcase individuals, films that inspire


When Stephen Wampler was 42, he completed the 7,569-foot vertical climb to the top of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park.
 
Wampler has cerebral palsy and used his upper body strength and sheer will power to complete the six-day climb in an effort to show children with physical disabilities that they're capable of anything.
 
“In 2002, I had this nagging urge to give back to kids that needed the same experience I had as a child,” Wampler says.
 
So he founded the Wampler Foundation to enable other children to attend wilderness camps, which he says were “life changing” experiences for him as a child.
 
“To get them away from their mom and dad for the first time and to watch them experience the first day and realize, ‘Wow, I’m really out of my comfort zone, I’m really out there,’ changes them forever,” Wampler says. “They experience something that they never thought was possible.”
 
The foundation was at a crossroad in terms of growth in 2008, however, so Wampler wanted to do something big — he chose El Capitan. 
 
“That was my first real climb in my entire life,” Wampler says. “You go from euphoria to sadness to being really, really mad and irritated to happy to wondering why I was there. Every emotion goes through your brain all the time, and it was just really exhausting.”
 
But it was worth it, Wampler says, as his foundation has become more recognized, enabling more children to be inspired and attend camp.
 
It’s these inspiring stories that will be showcased on the big screen at the 2015 Cincinnati ReelAbilities Film Festival.
 
Wampler, among other notable individuals like Oscar and Golden Globe winning actress Marlee Matlin, will be in attendance for the region’s largest film festival, which is organized by Living Arrangements for the Developmentally Disabled and benefits local nonprofits.
 
Wampler’s Ascent, which draws viewers in to his drive to inspire and show others that nothing is impossible, will be shown March 4 and followed up with a question-and-answer session.
 
“Racing down the stereotype is the bigger picture of why I did it,” Wampler says. “And I think that once people get to know other people, that barrier comes down for them.”

Do Good:

•    Purchase tickets to view Wampler's Ascent on March 4.

•   Check out trailers for other films to be showcased at the festival Feb. 27-March 7 and purchase tickets.   

•    If you're interested in getting involved, sign up to volunteer at the festival.
 

SVP Fast Pitch semifinalists prep for February competition


Twenty semifinalists have been chosen for Social Venture Partners Cincinnati’s 2015 Fast Pitch competition, and the nonprofits selected are hard at work honing their presentations. The Feb. 11 finals at Memorial Hall are intended to help nonprofits inform the public about their work via three-minute pitches.
 
Eight finalists will ultimately compete, but before the cutdown the 20 semifinalists attended a training session Jan. 10 on the essence of storytelling, led by Liz Knuppel, managing partner of Skystone Partners.

“The Saturday morning session helped us to re-focus on our most basic, compelling story,” says Florence Tandy, executive director of the Northern Kentucky Community Action Commission, one of the semifinalists selected. “We know what we do, why we do it, of course. But the process we went through at the workshop helped us break our mission and services down in a different way.”
 
Dean Kirker of Healthy Visions, also a semifinalist, shared similar sentiments.
 
“We work with junior high and high school students in an effort to equip them with the critical thinking skills and resiliency necessary to make better choices and have stronger, healthier relationships in the future,” Kirker says. “Trying to take an entire organization and whittle our mission, our impact, our needs and our vision into 180 seconds seems like a monumental task, but the men and women of SVP and Skystone made it all possible.”
 
For SVP, being able to successfully make that quick delivery is key.
 
“It’s important that nonprofits tell their story in a clear and compelling way that inspires individuals and foundations to want to financially support them and their mission,” says Melisse May, Social Venture Partners member and Chair of Fast Pitch 2015.
 
More than $30,000 in awards will be given out at this year’s competition, and a single nonprofit will have the opportunity to win the public’s vote and potentially take away $10,000. Yet the training itself is a valuable investment for the organizations regardless of whether or not they win the competition.
 
“The coaching provided was extremely beneficial,” says Angela Laman of Adopt a Book, also a semifinalist. “Hearing the responses and suggestions from the other semifinalists was also helpful. I felt like SVP and the other organizations that came to present, such as Flywheel and Giveunity, are really invested in wanting to see the organizations succeed.” 

Do Good:

•    Attend SVP's Fast Pitch on Feb. 11 at Memorial Hall, Over-the-Rhine.

•    Contact SVP's Joan Kaup if you're interested in getting involved and sponsoring the event. 

•    Connect with SVP Cincinnati on Facebook.
 

May We Help volunteers change lives with custom-built devices for individuals with disabilities


May We Help has been serving individuals with disabilities for the past 12 years, helping clients fulfill their passions and accomplish tasks that aren't considered necessities while also dispelling myths about impossibility.
 
“We’re changing lives on a very individual basis, but I want to see May We Help push the bar and continue to be legitimately disruptive,” says Chris Kubik, the nonprofit’s project director. "There are currently more organizations doing more good than ever, but at the same exact time, there are still massive mountains in the disability scene that make life financially, socially, and emotionally an endless uphill struggle.”

But according to Kubik nothing should be assumed and nothing should be considered outside the realm of possibility.
 
The organization assists clients by tapping into its network of volunteers to create custom-made assistance devices — everything from an adjustable harmonica holder mounted on a wheelchair so clients like Justin can switch harmonicas easily and keep up with the other members of his blues band — to physical therapy scooters.
 
“One I thought was pretty amazing we did this last year was Logan’s walker,” Kubik says. "He’s a young boy adopted from Ukraine, and he was born missing some limbs — not entirely — but with limb differences, so he had two different leg prostheses, one longer than the other, and he was learning to walk for the first time."
 
May We Help worked with Logan’s physical therapist so volunteers working on Logan’s design would have a contact point, because the goal, Kubik says, is to always work do something that’s a net positive.
 
“We realized that Logan was in a strange in-between place — rolling around on the ground successfully and getting where he needed to be, but crawling — and that was the entirety of his mobility and what he was, what he knew,” Kubik says. “And it was a constant moving target, because his parents were determined to push Logan to the limits of his ability, and he was able to dish it right back and was progressing.”
 
So May We Help volunteers started by taking a donated reverse-K walker and created an area Kubik says looked like arm rests but was actually a place for Logan to hang his shoulders. Volunteers cut holes so he could steer and balance with his residual limbs, which allowed for his posture to start becoming more erect.
 
“We then moved to a socket approach where we were using end caps from PVC fittings — putting them in there like sockets — and he’d steer with that,” Kubik says. “Then his posture became so good we got a phone call about three months after starting development, which was basically, ‘Hey, we don’t need the walker anymore. Logan’s walking independently.’”
 
According to Kubik, no one thought Logan could walk period.
 
“The parents usually are the first ones who don't believe, and challenge that kind of limiting diagnosis,” Kubik says. “Kids don’t know what they can’t do or what’s off limits. We’ve seen raw determination, and we get to be their hands and feet.” 

Do Good: 

•    If you or someone you know of is in need of a device from May We Help, request one here.

•    Support May We Help by donating.

•    If you have skills to offer and want to get involved, volunteer with May We Help, whose office is in Mariemont.
 
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