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Crossroads' Beans and Rice week raises nearly $259,000 for 8 organizations


Crossroads members recently committed to collectively give nearly $89 million throughout the next three years as a part of the “I’m In” campaign, so when its annual Beans and Rice week approached last month the church was hesitant to ask for added contributions.

“We wondered whether Beans and Rice was too big of an ‘ask’ this year coming out of the campaign,” says Jennifer Sperry, Crossroads’ manager of client services and media relations. 

The goal of Beans and Rice is to eat cheaply for one week, save the money one would have spent at the grocery store or restaurants and instead put it toward a cause — in this case, toward a few different causes — to benefit organizations outside of the church.

In spite of initial hesitation, Crossroads decided to proceed with Beans and Rice for the fourth year. The result was nearly $259,000 raised for eight organizations both locally and across the world. 

The Cincinnati Recreation Foundation and Talawanda Recreation Incorporated will receive $50,000 to provide free swim lessons to 2,500 kids this summer at 25 local pools. According to Crossroads, it’s important — particularly among minority communities — as 30 percent of Caucasians don’t know how to swim while 60 percent of Hispanics and more than 70 percent of African Americans are also without the skills needed to stay afloat.

Other local organizations to benefit from the funds include those working to address the heroin epidemic: Teen Challenge Cincinnati, Teen Challenge KY, Prospect House and Heroin HopeLine

“We tend to choose organizations and funds each year based on what we're passionate about and what we know will make the biggest impact,” Sperry says. 

Nationally, the Flint Child Health and Development Fund, which supports both short- and long-term needs of children exposed to lead, is the recipient of $30,000, while internationally the church’s partner Amigos for Christ will receive more than $58,000 to bring clean water to children in Nicaragua. 

“The money going to fund a water system in Nicaragua is already at work, as we broke ground on the project last Monday. Talk about return on investment,” Sperry says. “We are so encouraged not only by the campaign and the fulfillment we've seen thus far, but that people stepped up to do Beans and Rice in the midst of so much sacrifice already happening. There is power when thousands of us come together to commit and focus on one goal.”

Do Good: 

• Even though Beans and Rice week has culminated, it's never too late to practice sacrificial giving on your own. Even if you don't normally have time to prepare food on your own, a meal of beans and rice at Chipotle costs $1.80. 

• Support organizations working to make our city, nation and world a better place. 

Learn more about Crossroads.
 

Sherbro Foundation to host free program about community building in Sierra Leone


When Arlene Golembiewski met Chief Charles Caulker in Sierra Leone four decades ago, she was a Peace Corps volunteer. She revisited the country in 2011 for a second time and reconnected with Caulker, who had established a secondary school for young girls whose parents couldn't afford to pay the $20 a year for them to attend.

Seeing a need in the community, Golembiewski created a scholarship fund for families to send their daughters to school. 

She returned to Sierra Leone many times after and then, in an attempt to give the Bumpeh Chiefdom a volunteer presence in the U.S., founded Sherbro Foundation in 2013. 

Golembiewski, a Columbia-Tusculum resident and Procter & Gamble retiree, and Caulker will be at the Hyde Park Methodist Church on April 6 at 7 p.m. to discuss Sherbro Foundation and its partnership with Chief Caulker. Their programs include advancing girls' education, adult literacy and computer literacy to help the Bumpeh Chiefdom people overcome poverty.

"The program is meant to be a unique opportunity for people not to just hear from someone in Sierra Leone but from a traditional leader in Sierra Leone," Golembiewski says. "This is one of the things that makes our work different — if not unique — in that we're working with the local community and their leader down to the village level."

Chief Caulker has lead Bumpeh Chiefdom for three decades, including an 11-year long civil war and 2014 Ebola outbreak. The chiefdom is one of Sierra Leone's most rural and poor chiefdoms; most residents live on $1 a day. 

But disaster didn't stop Caulker from feeling defeated. 

In collaboration with Sherbro Foundation, Caulker created the first Community Computer Center. And most recently, the chiefdom is trying to introduce village fruit orchards that will empower residents to generate a sustainable income to fund their children's education and community development. 

Golembiewski encourages anyone who is interested in learning about Sierra Leone and helping the country rebuild to attend the free program. 

"Everyone here can make a difference," she says. "People think it's difficult to tackle something like poverty in one of the poorest countries on the other side of the world, but it's not impossible."

Do Good:

• Attend the program at 7 p.m. April 6 at Hyde Park Methodist Church, 1342 Grace Ave., Hyde Park.

Donate to help support Sherbro Foundation's programs and mission.

Contact Arlene Golembiewski for more information on how you can help.
 

Envision Children "Lighting the Way" for youth educational success


If you want to experience an afternoon on the town while supporting a local nonprofit that invests in children and their education, then add “Lighting the Way” at Prime 47 downtown to your calendar for April 10.
 
“This is our 11th annual Lighting the Way Scholarship Fundraiser & Gala,” says Sheryl McClung McConney, founder and president of Envision Children. “And we’re especially excited this year about the wonderful food our guests will enjoy at this year’s venue … a buffet supper with scrumptious selections like steak, oysters, asparagus, macaroni and cheese and much more.”
 
The event will also feature a cash bar, live music, auction opportunities and an awards ceremony to honor the nonprofit’s volunteers and supporters.
 
“We’ve added some exciting new things too this year: sideline games like ‘Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader’ and four ‘Program Stations’ with a student who will answer questions about each of Envision Children’s four main programs – Summer Academic Enrichment, ACT Boot Camps, Tutoring and Power Saturdays,” McClung McConney says.
 
It’s tutoring programs like these that comprise the foundation for Envision Children’s work within the community, and with your support at events like “Lighting the Way” you’ll help fund scholarships for underserved students living in poverty.
 
“What sets Envision Children apart from other organizations is our focus on making a long-term impact on the lives of the students we serve,” McClung McConney says. “We also help students make their education their top priority and to lay a foundation for them to go on to excel in life.” 
 
Do Good: 

Attend "Lighting the Way" 2-5 p.m. April 10 at Prime 47, 580 Walnut St., downtown. 

• If you can't attend, consider making a tax-deductible donation to support the organization. Make checks payable to Envision Children and mail to P.O. Box 37040, Cincinnati, OH 45222.

Contact Envision Children if you know of a child in need of services or if you are interested in volunteering as a tutor. 
 

Kendra Scott shop hosting fundraiser to benefit Patty Brisben Foundation


The Liberty Center location of Kendra Scott jewelry boutique is hosting a shop-for-a-cause fundraiser April 28 to help support the Patty Brisben Foundation for Women’s Sexual Health. Approximately 20 percent of all sales from 6 to 8 p.m. will benefit the foundation’s research and projects. 

Patty Brisben launched the foundation in 2006 as the nonprofit arm of Pure Romance to help organizations serving women seeking relief and counsel for issues impacting their sexual well-being. The foundation has raised more than $3 million for research, education and community involvement since then and donated nearly $2 million in grants to local and national organizations.
 
“I am so excited that more and more businesses continue to open their doors to support women’s sexual health through the foundation,” Brisben says. “I absolutely love Kendra Scott’s pieces, and I can’t say enough about the excitement of a fun night out to support a wonderful cause.”
 
Funds will go directly to the foundation’s work in its four primary focus areas: vulvovaginal pain disorders, intimacy-related sexual dysfunction after cancer treatments, the impact of perimenopause and menopause on sexual health and libido & desire. 
 
Do Good:

• Shop Kendra Scott while giving to a great cause 6-8 p.m. April 28, 7560 Gibson St., Liberty Township.

• Can’t attend but still want to support the Patty Brisben Foundation for Women’s Sexual Health? You can place an order over the phone at 937-889-6291.

• For more information on how you can help the Patty Brisben Foundation for Women’s Sexual Health, visit its website.
 

Cincinnati Gorilla Run to raise funds for Mountain Gorilla Conservation Fund


The Cincinnati Gorilla Run returns April 3 for its fifth year to help raise funds for the Mountain Gorilla Conservation Fund (MGCF), the Denver-based organization protecting mountain gorillas and habitats in Africa where they’re highly endangered.
 
“We’re helping protect the estimated 880 remaining mountain gorillas, which is all that’s alive in the world,” MGCF Development Director Debbie Wright says. “Run like a gorilla to save a gorilla.”
 
The 5k run will start and finish at Montgomery Inn Boathouse, taking gorilla- and banana-dressed runners through downtown, across the bridge to Newport and then back into Cincinnati.
 
Everyone is encouraged to run, and groups are suggested. There will be awards for first, second and third place in both the male and female categories as well as the most creative costume.

Funds raised from the marathon will go toward the Ruth Keesling Wildlife Health and Research Center, a veterinary facility in Uganda where local students are trained to become veterinarians and take care of gorillas in the field, Wright says.
 
Do Good:

Register to participate in the Cincinnati Gorilla Run 2016, starting at 11 a.m. April 3 at the Montgomery Inn Boathouse downtown.

• Can’t run/walk in the 5k? Donate to help support the Mountain Gorilla Conservation Fund’s mission.

• For more information on how you can help, visit the Mountain Gorilla Conservation Fund’s website.
 

Girls on the Run celebrates 20 years of empowerment


Girls on the Run (GOTR) International is celebrating 20 years of empowering young females, and the organization is calling on the public to help celebrate. By using the hashtag #GOTRBorntoRun and sharing what one believes she was born to do, joining the festivities is made simple. 

Girls in grades 3-8 make strides toward self-discovery throughout the program, as they train with coaches who incorporate physical activity, along with confidence and character building to prompt self-love. 

The nonprofit began in Charlotte, N.C. with 13 eager participants, but throughout the past 20 years it’s expanded to include 225 councils serving more than 1 million girls.

GOTR Cincinnati, which launched in 2005, served 3,000 girls last year alone, 50 percent of whom received financial support to make their journeys possible. 

“Thanks to dedicated coaches, volunteers, sponsors, partners and SoleMates, we are able to continue to reach more girls every year and provide scholarships to reach every girl with interest,” says Mary Gaertner, GOTR Cincinnati’s executive director.

And the organization hopes to continue to do so in the years to come. 

Girls enrolled in this year’s spring session are currently training for their program culmination: a 5k that takes place at Paul Brown Stadium. 

Share what you were born to do and help girls celebrate locally by cheering them on or even joining in their 5k as they realize their potential while experiencing a sense of accomplishment May 7.

Do Good: 

• What were you born to do? Share your passion on social media, and use the hashtag #GOTRBorntoRun.

Register for the GOTR Cincinnati 5k on May 7 (beginning at Paul Brown Stadium downtown) and help the girls celebrate in-person. 

• Become a SoleMate and help fundraise for GOTR Cincinnati so the nonprofit can reach even more girls in years to come. 
 

Great American Cleanup seeking volunteers for April event


Hundreds of volunteers help beautify various spots throughout Covington every Spring during Great American Cleanup, and more are needed for this year’s event April 30.

The Great American Cleanup — hosted by Center for Great Neighborhoods, Keep Covington Beautiful and the City of Covington — is Covington’s largest annual volunteer event, garnering more than 800 helpers each year.

“I think it’s a really great opportunity for people to come out and join with their neighbors to give back to their community,” says Shannon Ratterman, the Center’s community manager of community development. “This is a big collective effort to make our community a more beautiful place.”

Attendees who sign up will be assigned to specific sites around Covington to pick up litter, place trees, spread mulch and plant flowers. Rumpke is this year’s event title sponsor.

Anyone interested in learning more information about Great American Cleanup can attend an informational session Saturday, April 2, from 9:30-10:30 a.m. at Braxton Brewing Company in Covington.

An after-party will take place at Goebel Park to celebrate, Ratterman says.

Do Good:

Register as a volunteer for Great American Cleanup on Saturday, April 30 from 9 a.m. to 12:00 noon. 

• Attend the informational session Saturday, April 2, from 9:30-10:30 a.m. at Braxton Brewing Company, 27 W. Seventh St., Covington.

• For more information on how you can get involved, contact Shannon Ratterman
 

Opening Day Diamond seat raffle to benefit UpSpring's Summer 360 program


UpSpring is raffling off Opening Day Diamond seats to raise money to support Summer 360°, its education and enrichment summer program that serves Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky children experiencing homelessness. 

The organization, formerly named Faces Without Places, has been established for almost two decades. The summer program gives children the chance to hone their math and reading skills with the help of licensed teachers while also participating in fitness and other activities. Transportation and meals are provided free of charge each day.
 
UpSpring found that more than 85 percent of kids increase or retain their skills through the program, and all of them show an increase in hope, stability, comfort and well-being.
 
“This is simultaneously one of the most heartwarming jobs and horrifically depressing at the same time,” UpSpring Executive Director Mike Moroski says. “When kids come to the program, you see them make friends and do well, and it’s beautiful. But it’s depressing when at the end of the day the kids are going back to the couch, shelter or wherever they are staying.”
 
The Opening Day Diamond seat tickets were donated by John Burns, CEO of Encore Technologies and friend of UpSpring. Burns donated tickets for UpSpring’s raffle last year as well.  
 
Funds from the raffle will continue to support children living in poverty and experiencing homeless by giving them access to education and enrichment-based programs like Summer 360°.
 
“Cincinnati has the second-highest child poverty rate in the country,” Moroski says. “We’re striving harder to reverse the nasty trend of poverty in our town.”
 
Do Good:

* Purchase raffle tickets for a chance to win Opening Day Diamond seats. Raffle ends March 31. 

• Learn more about UpSpring’s Summer 360° program

• For more information on how you can help, contact UpSpring
 

Art Museum's Rosenthal Education Center celebrates successful first year


More than 26,000 people have walked through the doors of the Rosenthal Education Center (REC) at the Cincinnati Art Museum since it opened last March.
 
The 2,300-square-foot space is designed to give children and their parents a hands-on experience inside the museum with interactive exhibitions that rotate based on permanent and special collections. Interactive installations are usually hard to find in most art museums.
 
“When people come to an art museum, they’re are usually told not to touch anything,” says Jill Dunne, Cincinnati Art Museum Director of Marketing and Communications. “In REC, kids can come in and not only see art but create art of their own. It takes (museum visits) to a whole new level.”
 
Rosenthal Education Center is also home to family programs like Summer Camp, Wee Wednesday, Art in the Making, Connect, Creative Encounters and Evenings for Educators. When it comes to the future, the REC — and the Art Museum itself — has plans to become more accessible and more open to the community.
 
“We’ve always been a museum of the people for the people,” Dunne says. “We want to add more interactive and hands-on experiences within our galleries for an overall positive experience for adults and their children.”
 
Do Good:

• Stop by the Cincinnati Art Museum and visit the Rosenthal Education Center, 953 Eden Park Dr., Mt. Adams. Hours are 11 a.m.-5 p.m. daily except Mondays; admission is free.

Make a donation to help support the museum’s programs, including the REC.

• For more information, visit the Cincinnati Art Museum website.
 

Fourth round of Covington Creative Community Grants now open


The Center for Great Neighborhoods is seeking applicants for its fourth round of Creative Community Grants intended to engage and impact Covington for the better. 

In its most recent grant cycle, the focus was on building an inclusive community for all. A total of $30,000 was awarded to grantees creating unique opportunities for togetherness “from incorporating personal possessions into a mosaic mural to highlighting the collective artistic talents of an entire neighborhood to learning culinary techniques in a new way alongside the blind and visually impaired,” says Shannon Ratterman, the Center's Program Manager of Community Development. 

In the new round of grants, the focus is on health. 

“We believe that the health of the community is dependent upon the health of its residents,” Ratterman says. “When residents have access to physical activity, healthy foods and good medical care, they are more likely to succeed in other aspects of their lives.” 

Anyone who identifies as an artist and who has some connection to Covington is encouraged to apply. Finding creative approaches to addressing health-related topics like smoking cessation, food security and physical activity is ideal.

The grant deadline is May 2, and the Center will notify recipients after it reaches a decision June 15.

Do Good: 

• Check out previously highlighted projects and consider applying for a grant.

• Learn how you can help support the Center for Greater Neighborhoods.

• Like the Center on Facebook so you can keep up to date with the projects and other related events.
 

Handbags for Hope generates $47,000 for literacy programs


The Literacy Network of Greater Cincinnati (LNGC) netted $47,000 at its annual Handbags for Hope fundraiser last month, when about 400 people came together to honor those working to make Greater Cincinnati a more educated and empowered community. 

Highlights of the evening included recognition of key contributors, Chair Couples Ralph and Janelle Lee and Stan Williams and Kristi Clement-Williams, who raised more than $54,000 for Cincinnati youth in the past five years. Specifically, the couples named LNGC as the nonprofit recipient for the Fore Kids Golf Outing in 2015, pulling in $14,000 for programs like the Winners Read tutoring initiative, Winners Walk Tall (focusing on character building and children’s self esteem) and the Children’s Basic Reading Program. 

LNGC works closely with local schools but also makes it a point to focus on adult populations as well. Perhaps the most inspiring element of the night took place when Victoria Mitchell — a student in the Adult Basic Reading Program — took the stage to share her story and receive her 2016 Hope Award. 

Mitchell, who raises her twin grandsons, volunteers at their school and works at a local soup kitchen and food pantry, loves to sing and wanted nothing more than to join her church choir. Because of reading limitations, however, she worked to memorize the words to every song in the choir’s repertoire. 

“God gives you the gifts to make up for what you don’t have,” Mitchell said. 

As she continues to improve reading skills, Mitchell’s memory can take a breather, as she’s gaining both knowledge and confidence in her reading program. 

“No one is more deserving of the Hope Award than Victoria,” LNGC President Michelle Guenther said. “She is doing a wonderful job in class and is dedicated to learning to read. Her selflessness and perseverance in life serves as an example to all of us.”

Do Good: 

Support the Literacy Network of Greater Cincinnati.

Volunteer with the Literacy Network.

Like the Literacy Network on Facebook.
 

My Furry Valentine event in February found homes for 780 animals


More than 13,000 people attended the fifth annual My Furry Valentine event last month, resulting in 780 animals finding forever homes during the two-day event.
 
Since the event’s inception five years ago, 2,600 dogs, cats and other small animals have been adopted from various Greater Cincinnati area rescue and shelters groups. Carolyn Evans, founder and local pet photographer, created My Furry Valentine with the goal of educating people on adoptions and dispelling common myths about shelter animals.
 
“There are always thousands of wonderful animals looking for a great home,” Evans says. “Many people would be surprised to learn just how many great family pets they see in their neighborhoods that are actually rescue animals.”
 
Event attendees came from all over the region, traveling from as far as Minnesota, West Virginia, Tennessee and even Canada.
 
Even if attendees didn’t go home with an adopted pet, it provided them with the opportunity to see and meet local shelters. But the annual event is more than just two days in February — it’s about saving animals from being euthanized.
 
“There are so many opportunities to save the lives of these animals,” Evans says. “It’s great to pull everyone together and work as a united force at an event like this. My Furry Valentine is one of many solutions. … We’re all coming together to solve the bigger problem.”
 
Do Good:
 
• For more information on how you can help My Furry Valentine, contact Carolyn Evans.
 
• Learn more about the groups that participated in My Furry Valentine.
 
• Find a shelter animal online at PetFinder.
 

Center for Great Neighborhoods offering free tax preparation in Covington


The Center for Great Neighborhoods offers free tax preparation every year for low-to-moderate income households in Covington to help them make sense of their tax forms.
 
Last year, 940 families received help from the Center with their taxes, and more than $1.2 million was refunded to those families.
 
The Center sponsors an IRS-certified Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) site as part of a collaboration with the United Way of Greater Cincinnati, which is also leading efforts to educate local taxpayers about the Earned Income Tax Credit and offering free assistance to low-income residents who want to file taxes online.
 
The Center for Great Neighborhoods opened a Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic this year to help clients with IRS-related questions and problems. The clinic also provides seminars for English as a Second Language clients with the help of translators to educate Spanish speakers with tax questions.
 
The Center offers a variety of financial education services, including budgeting and credit management workshops, that reached more than 300 individuals last year.
 
Do Good:

• Tax preparation sessions are offered 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturdays, 4-7 p.m. Tuesdays and 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Thursdays through April 16 at the Center for Great Neighborhoods, 1650 Russell St., Covington (map here).

• Learn more about Volunteer Income Tax Assistance.

• For more information about the Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic, contact Mary Leppor.
 

COMTO to award transportation, planning, engineering students $10,000 in scholarships


Prospective high school or current college students studying engineering, management, planning, mechanics or any other transportation-related field are eligible to apply for a Cincinnati Chapter of the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials (COMTO) scholarship.

COMTO will work to further its mission of ensuring “a level playing field and maximum participation in the transportation industry for all individuals, businesses and communities through information sharing, training, educational and professional development” at its April 21 scholarship luncheon.

Scholarships ranging from $750-$2,500 will be awarded to eligible and deserving students. 

According to Brandy Jones, Cincinnati COMTO president, pursuing a career in the transportation industry presents opportunities with much potential both now and for years to come.

“The transportation sector is thriving and can be a very rewarding career choice,” says Jones, who serves as public relations manager for Metro. 

Students can apply for the Mallory Humanitarian Scholarship, the First Transit Achievement Scholarship and the MV Achievement Scholarship, while current COMTO members are also eligible to apply for the Will Scott Scholarship if interested in career development. Nearly $10,000 will be awarded at the scholarship luncheon. 

“Through our scholarship program, we hope to inspire interest in the transportation industry and help develop its future leaders,” Jones says.

Applicants must complete and submit required information by the March 31 deadline. 

Do Good: 

• If you are a current or prospective student interested in the transportation industry, apply for a Cincinnati COMTO scholarship.

• Learn more about COMTO, and consider becoming a member.

• Like Cincinnati COMTO on Facebook.
 

National Industries for the Blind recognizes Clovernook Center as 2015 Growth Award recipient


National Industries for the Blind, the nation’s largest employment resource for individuals affected by blindness, has recognized Clovernook Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired with the 2015 Growth Award. 

As a recipient of the award, Clovernook Center will receive funding enabling it to sustain employment while focusing on upward mobility and to continue growth by facilitating more employment opportunities for its clients. 

“We are incredibly proud of this recognition from NIB,” Clovernook Center President and CEO Christopher Faust says. “We have worked hard to provide sustainable employment opportunities for individuals who are blind and visually impaired in Cincinnati and Memphis.” 

According to the NIB, 70 percent of Americans who are blind and of working age are unemployed.

Clovernook Center’s Community Employment Services department works to change that statistic, providing coaching and job opportunities for individuals on and off campus through Clovernook’s own social enterprises and also through local employers who collaborate with the organization. 

“Our employees are hardworking and dedicated and have truly earned this honor,” Faust says. 

And for the NIB, awarding the Clovernook Center with a Growth Award is an honor.
 
"Clovernook Center continues to lead the way in creating employment and high-growth career opportunities for people who are blind,” NIB President and CEO Kevin Lynch says. 

Do Good: 

Support Clovernook Center by donating.

Connect with Clovernook Center on Facebook.

• Clovernook Center offers a multitude of volunteer opportunities, so get involved.
 
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