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Local club teaches gardening to elementary school children

Fairy gardens, shade gardens, gnome gardens—they all make up the backyard of Joyce Mohaupt, who’s served as president of the Monfort Heights Garden Club for the past two years.
 
The club, which will celebrate its 85th anniversary March 28, works to beautify Greater Cincinnati by doing things like maintaining landscapes and engaging in community plantings.
 
“At Montfort Heights Elementary, for example, we have two gardens—one is more of a vegetable garden, and the other one grows more flowers and things like that,” Mohaupt says. “But our club does a program in connection with third-grade students, and we have quite a few of our members that come in to the school, and the students really and truly love it—they’re learning about gardening, and it’s hands-on.”
 
The garden club members plant corn in the elementary school’s vegetable garden, for example; so students learn how to plant seeds. They later gather the corn, and a popcorn party eventually transpires.
 
“It’s usually a monthly thing,” Mohaupt says. “They’ll work with potting soil. They have planters they take home—they might do something special for Mother’s Day—things like that.”
 
For Mohaupt and other garden club members, gardening is more than a love or a passion. It’s a duty to enhance the various communities that make up our city and its surrounding areas.
 
“Our projects don’t just deal with the Monfort Heights area,” Mohaupt says. “We don’t just stay local—we move around.” 

Do Good:

• Support the club in its fundraising efforts.

Contact the Monfort Heights/White Oak Community Association if you're interested in becoming a member of the garden club, or if you'd like to volunteer to help maintain community landscapes.

• Maintain your gardens so you can provide homes for our birds and bees. 

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. 

 

Family Nurturing Center works to raise awareness, prevent child abuse

One in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before the age of 18.
 
“That’s a national statistic, but if you just simply stand at the mall and count kids or stand at the playground or be out at a festival or something and just count one, two, three, four—or one, two, three, four, five, six—it’s amazing to think one of those children is going to be impacted or victimized by the time they reach 18,” says Tracy Fuchs, director of marketing and special events for The Family Nurturing Center.
 
“And what’s sad is that childhood abuse and sexual abuse are completely preventable—it’s not like cancer—but it’s only preventable when adults take the responsible role and are able to confront it and prevent it from happening.”
 
The Family Nurturing Center is a nonprofit that’s mission is to promote well being for individuals and healthy relationships for families; and it works to achieve that mission through programming aimed at education, prevention and treatment for both children and adults.
 
“Ultimately, it’s an adult’s responsibility,” Fuchs says. “We tell children to go find a trusted adult, but what if that adult doesn’t believe you?”
 
Stewards of Children, which is a one-time, two-hour program for adults, is one of the FNC’s efforts to reach the community and prevent abuse and neglect. 
 
“If you suspect something is happening, a lot of times, people will say, ‘Well, if I call, are they going to ask me my name? What if I report it, and it’s wrong, or I don’t want to get involved because it’s not in my household?’” Fuchs says. “But you have to get over yourself and make that call.”
 
Fuchs says one of FNC’s goals in promoting the program is to work toward changing the culture because so often, it’s difficult to get people engaged because they think discussing the topic is “uncomfortable” or “icky.”
 
“But if you say to someone, ‘Would you give two hours just to protect children?,’” Fuchs says she hopes more adults will respond.
 
“Some insurance companies now are encouraging their clients to have this training done for their employees—honest to God—because insurance companies now have childhood sexual abuse training credit, where if you have this training, you get a discount on your insurance,” Fuchs says. “It’s a good thing—but it’s amazing that our society has come to that point.” 

Do Good:

• Pre-register for the Blue Ribbon 5K Race to join others in a Race to End Child Abuse.  

• Schedule a free training session through the Stewards of Children program. 

• Engage in Child Abuse Prevention month Awareness Activities.

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. 


Zipline on down the road or dance in public with Join the Fun

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that adults engage in 20 minutes of vigorous exercise at least three times a week, or 30 minutes of moderate exercise at least five times a week.
 
But only 47 percent of adults in our region are attaining either of those amounts, according to the 2010 Greater Cincinnati Community Health Status Survey.
 
So Interact for Health, formerly The Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati, in partnership with ArtsWave—supporter of more than 100 Greater Cincinnati arts organizations—have joined together to launch Join the Fun.
 
“The whole premise is about having social engagement and interaction so people can go out with family, with friends, or even just to a location where they know there will be a group of people doing some sort of activity they can join in,” says Jaime Love, program officer for healthy eating and active living at Interact for Health. 
 
The Join the Fun initiative funds 21 total grantees and will enable community members across the region to do things like dance in public, relax while practicing yoga and even zipline down a two-mile closed-off area of a public roadway.
 
“A lot of times, people just get used to their same routine and being inside, or being at home and not getting out with people,” Love says. “So this is an opportunity where they can say they’re not by themselves—there’s a group they can engage with—and they can do something for fun.” 

Do Good:

• Engage in Join the Fun activities. 

• Connect with Interact for Health and ArtsWave on Facebook.

Support ArtsWave.

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. 

Step Forward promotes recovery with goal setting, physical fitness

For 35-year-old Aaron Sinica, crossing the finish line at last year’s Flying Pig Marathon signified more than the sense of accomplishment one feels after completing a 26.2-mile race.
 
It signified completing something—anything—for the first time in years.
 
“I was known for starting a lot of things in my addiction, but I had never really finished anything,” Sinica says. “I'd just get bored with it or would get discouraged and quit before I saw it all the way through.”
 
Sinica is a graduate of City Gospel Mission’s Exodus men’s recovery program and the first participant of Step Forward to ever complete an entire marathon.
 
Step Forward, which is a training program for men and women in City Gospel’s recovery programs, is designed to incorporate physical fitness and nutrition into participants’ lives, as those are integral parts of the recovery process.
 
“Since I’ve gotten involved with the Step Forward program, I don’t smoke or anything anymore,” Sinica says. “And to not feel tired all the time—I was always dragging before—but now there’s just that level of energy.”
 
Setting and reaching goals is now an important aspect of Sinica’s life, and it all started with going outside his comfort zone—running had never really been a part of his life.
 
“If nothing changes, nothing changes; so if you’re comfortable doing something, then you’re not really where you need to be,” Sinica says. “You need to step out of yourself and try these things that you never tried or never wanted to try. That’s been a big thing in helping me get through some hurdles in my life.” 

Do Good:

Volunteer with City Gospel Mission.

Support City Gospel Mission by donating.

• If you or someone you know needs help, learn about City Gospel Mission's offerings.

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. 

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