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Cincinnati : For Good

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Eight schools and nonprofits receive 6k in books to enhance promotion of literacy

The Literacy Network of Greater Cincinnati recently distributed about 6,000 books to eight local schools and nonprofits as a result of its annual partnership with Our Lady of the Visitation and its annual Read-a-Thon.
The Read-a-Thon originated when Visitation’s Parent Teacher Organization launched a fundraiser aimed at promoting literacy.
Tasked with reading as many minutes possible per day, logging their hours and then finding sponsors from the community willing to invest in the students is just part of the initiative, as a “giving back” component was added as well.
For the past four years, students and their parents have been encouraged to bring new or gently used books in during the Read-a-Thon, and their efforts have proven significant.
“Throughout the last four years, Visitation has donated a total of 18,571 books to children in need,” said the school’s Curriculum Director, Terry Chapman. “The students enjoy the friendly competition and giving back to others.”
This year’s recipients included The Boys and Girls Club of Cincinnati, Mt. Airy Elementary School, Cheviot School, Oyler Elementary School, Rees E. Price Elementary School, Hays-Porter Elementary School, Resurrection School and St. William School.
According to LNGC President Michelle Otten Guenther, distributing the books was a “great day for our community.”  
“Due to the generosity of the students, families and staff at Our Lady of the Visitation, we were able to distribute thousands of wonderful books to schools and students in need,” she said. “Thank you for being so enthusiastic about reading and enabling others to succeed.” 

Do Good: 

•    Become an LNGC volunteer.

•    Support the LNGC's efforts by donating.

•    Check out LNGC's upcoming events, and plan to attend one.

LaRosa's helping to reduce food insecurity via holiday Buddy Card sales

For Michael LaRosa, hunger as a perennial issue in Greater Cincinnati is devastating.
“It’s heartbreaking to see Cincinnati consistently ranked high on the list for the number of residents facing food insecurity,” LaRosa said.
As CEO of a popular and local restaurant, he says it’s empowering and important for him to be able to do his part in helping to make a change.
“It’s important for those who have the opportunity to help fight hunger in our community to do so because of the scope of the issue,” LaRosa said. “One in six people in the Tri-State are hungry, and more than 94,000 of them are children.”

To help remedy hunger, particularly around the holidays when families are even more strapped for cash, LaRosa’s Pizzeria launched its annual Feed Our Neighbors in Need program, during which it sells $10 Buddy Cards and donates $5 from each sale to the Freestore Foodbank.

Last year alone, LaRosa's donated nearly $40,000, enabling the Freestore Foodbank to provide 120,000 meals to those in need. 
“Hunger is not some distant issue that can be ignored; it’s pertinent in our own communities, from the child your daughter plays with at recess to the elderly man down the street,” LaRosa said.
Since November, the restaurant has been collecting half of its Buddy Card profits to donate at the culmination of the program on Dec. 31.
“Most of us would not hesitate to help a neighbor who we knew fell upon hard times,” LaRosa said. “But it’s often difficult for people to speak up and ask for help. By providing support this holiday season, we’re giving hope and nourishment to our neighbors who are silently struggling.” 

Do Good:

•    Purchase a Buddy Card at your local LaRosa's. You'll receive 14 buy one, get one free coupons for a large pizza and benefit the Freestore Foodbank in the process. 

•    Learn about other opportunities LaRosa's offers to the community with regard to giving back.

•    Support the Freestore Foodbank by donating today.

Tom + Chee to host gift drive for local children with autism

Tom + Chee’s downtown and Newport on the Levee locations will help make the lives of local children a bit brighter this holiday season.
The two restaurant locations are hosting a gift drive for Autism 4 Families and Puzzling Panthers, which are support and resource groups for local families of children with autism.
“We think this gift drive will be a huge success,” said Jenn Quackenbush and Jenny Rachford, Tom+Chee co-founders. “And we are so excited to be able to work with both of these amazing organizations.”
The grilled cheese connoisseurs have hung gift tags at both store locations; inspired customers can claim a tag and return the wish-listed item to Tom + Chee by Dec. 9.
In return, customers will receive a gift card for a free classic grilled cheese.
It’s just one way the restaurants, which will distribute the toys on Dec. 17, say they can share their appreciation for customers who are willing to give back.
“Autism 4 Families and Puzzling Panthers do a lot of good for the community,” Quackenbush and Rachford said. “And we want to be able to give back in whatever way we can.” 

Do Good: 

•    Grab a gift tag, purchase a gift and return it — unwrapped — to Tom + Chee's downtown or Newport on the Levee locations by Dec. 9.

•    Like Tom + Chee on Facebook.

•    Know of a family in need of resources or support? Let them know about the groups available to them. 

Celebrate the holidays at new Mt. Healthy maker space

If you’re looking for a day of unique activities and holiday cheer, Mt. Healthy businesses and community members are teaming up to make your Saturday a bit merrier.
Here is what the community has in store for Dec. 10:“We see that not only does Mt. Healthy have a lot of potential, but the neighborhood already has a lot to offer,” said Karen Arnett, Mt. Healthy Renaissance Project’s board president. “We see the community evolving by drawing new residents as more folks learn about the charms of the neighborhood and the values in housing.”
Some of that neighborhood charm comes from longstanding businesses like Hilltop Glass & Mirror, which hosted an open house this past October for its new maker space, Hilltop Glass Creations. The new space allows community members and visitors alike the opportunity to gather together, take classes, learn something new and be creative.
“It’s a bright spot of light in our business district — hopefully one of many to come,” Arnett said.
For Cindy Jurcenko, store and maker space owner, Hilltop Glass Creations allows her the chance to meet diverse groups of individuals.
“People from all walks of life have visited,” Jurcenko said. “I have met several different senior center stained glass members, local school teachers, a Girl Scouts’ leader, a dentist, contractors and remodelers and other small business owners.”
And she plans to meet even more individuals Saturday, as “Painting on Glass,” “Fused Glass” and “Stained Glass” opportunities for ornament-making will bring the crafty and the curious together.
“Everyone who stops in is thrilled to see a new storefront in town,” Jurcenko said. “We are going to be a great new community gathering spot. I couldn't be happier.” 

Do Good: 

•    Share the Christmas in Mt. Healthy! Facebook event with your friends, and plan to attend.

•    Like Hilltop Glass Creations' page on Facebook, and plan to check out the new maker space. You can view a schedule of classes and events here.

•    Like Mt. Healthy Renaissance Project's page on Facebook, and become part of the city's revitalization.

Take time to pay it forward on #GivingTuesday

Happy #GivingTuesday!
Now in its fifth year, #GivingTuesday is the global day of giving that follows Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday. It is intended to kick-start the charitable season by encouraging collective impact and generosity.
And according to research, giving has an impact not just on the recipient, but also on the one who gives.
The Social Capital Community Benchmark Survey reports that people who give to charity are 43 percent more likely than those who do not to say they are “very happy” about their lives.
Curious about how you can make an impact?
More than 40,000 organizations in 71 countries are involved, but there are many local participants — some of which you can find on the #GivingTuesday database.
“The beauty of this campaign is that it has no boundaries,” said Marian Salzman, Havas PR CEO. “Even as it grows more massive, it remains easy to make it your own.”
Check out your favorite nonprofit’s website or social media page to see how they’ve put their own unique spin on #GivingTuesday, and make it a point to give today. 

Do Good: 

•    Take an #UNselfie after you've donated to show your generosity and prompt others to engage in #GivingTuesday as well. 

•    Even the smallest donation goes a long way. Tell your friends about #GivingTuesday, and encourage them to give. 

•    Check out what's happening near you. Learn more about what local organizations are doing, and lend them a helping hand. 

Career Online High School graduates 14 adults, furthers opportunity for advancement

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, high school graduates consistently earn more on average than do individuals with GEDs.
For those who perhaps did not finish high school but always wished they had, it’s still possible through the Career Online High School, which is offered by the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County.
Initiated in 2011 and accredited in 2012, the program has served 819 students with a retention rate of 73 percent. On Nov. 16, the Library recognized its most recent graduating class composed of 14 students.
“We applaud the hard work and dedication shown by the graduates of the program,” said Kimber Fender, the Eva Jane Romaine Coombe Director of the Library.
In addition to a high school diploma, graduates receive career certification in one of eight focus areas, including food service and customer service, homeland security and childcare. And, graduates are ready to apply to college, a tech or trade school — the most significant hang-up for those who possess a GED rather than a diploma.
“The Library is proud to be able to offer this educational opportunity for adults in the community," Fender said.

Do Good: 

•    Interested in the Career Online High School? The first step is to complete a self-assessment

•    Learn more about Career Online High School and how it works here.

•    Support the Library by donating today, and help Cincinnati avenge the Bengals' most recent loss by out-giving Baltimore's Pratt Library in a friendly #GivingTuesday challenge.

ChangingGears to receive $60k, SVP expertise over next three years

Social Venture Partners Cincinnati has invested in seven local nonprofits since 2007, providing professional consulting and funding to enable them to enhance their impact.
This year’s recipient, ChangingGears, will receive $60,000 over the next three years, as the nonprofit continues to further its mission of providing affordable vehicles to those working their way out of poverty.
According to Sandy Hughes, chair of SVP Cincinnati, it was ChangingGears’ vision and potential that piqued the interest of the engaged philanthropists.
“Innovation was our focus area this year, and ChangingGears’ approach to poverty in the Greater Cincinnati region is ambitious and necessary,” Hughes said. “We want to help ChangingGears bring its ideas to reality and scale.”
ChangingGears recognizes the difficulties that accompany a reliance on public transportation and believes that owning a car becomes empowering and helps individuals save time and money. For example, one can drop one’s child off at childcare, easily access the grocery store and make it out to a job that is not accessible by bus.
Therefore, the nonprofit restores cars and then sells them to clients at half-price with a zero-interest loan.
With leadership from SVP members who are experts in everything from marketing and finance to governance and management, ChangingGears will build the capacity to change more lives.
“ChangingGears is truly honored to be selected as the 2017 investee partner by Social Venture Partners,” said Joel Bokelman, ChangingGears’ president. “Both of our organizations focus on the betterment of our community and transforming the quality of lives in our region. We are ready to expand our impact with the support and expertise of SVP partners.”

Do Good: 

•    Connect with ChangingGears by liking its page on Facebook.

•    Connect with SVP Cincinnati on Facebook.

•    Learn more about how you can become a part of SVP Cincinnati.


Best Buy awards GCSC grant to continue operations of local 3D printer clubs

Two 3-d printer clubs received a $5,000 grant from Best Buy to fund students who are eager to design, create, and problem-solve.
Corryville Catholic Elementary School students like Aleia Samuels from Avondale, for example, will gain exposure to technology.
“I’d never done anything like this before,” Samuels said. “Now I see so many possibilities and how to use technology in different ways.” Samuels’ favorite creation to-date is an egg-rabbit-chicken keychain.
According to Brian Stevens of Best Buy, the Best Buy Community Grant initiative provides teens with places and opportunities to develop 21st century technology skills to inspire their educational and career choices.  
“In a nutshell, the clubs are teens and technology,” Stevens said. “The opportunity for students to design, create, see problems and fix them is tremendous. They are getting the best STEM learning from the Greater Cincinnati STEM Collaborative (GCSC).”
The GCSC, a nonprofit whose vision is to create a “technologically rich, vibrant community with the most talented STEM workforce in the country that is representative of the region’s population,” applied for the grant and continues to find ways to fund the clubs — currently there's more interest than funding available.  Twenty-eight schools have applied, and three existing clubs are still waiting to see if funding will allow for another year of the club’s implementation.
“It’s an awesome opportunity to support something really cool that’s good for kids and our community,” said Mary Adams, GCSC Project Manager. “You can be part of making that happen for elementary and middle schools.” 

Do Good: 

•    Help fund the work of the GCSC. For example, $700 funds one 3-d printer. 

•    Support the GCSC in other ways — perhaps through volunteering.

•    Learn more about Best Buy Community Grants, including how to apply for one in the future.


Reduce food insecurity at free Farm to School Workshop

Nationwide, 12.7 percent of households face food insecurity, but for those living in Ohio, the number is even higher.
Tony Staubach, program manager of 4-H Youth Development at Pleasant Hill Academy, aims to reduce the number of households within the local community by offering a Farm to School Workshop Thursday, Nov. 10.
“Youth spend much of their time in school, so there has become a duty for schools to provide adequate facilities and instruments necessary to meet the social, emotional, educational, nutritional, and psychological needs of the students.
Educators, administrators, food producers, community members, and families will join together for Thursday’s three-hour workshop, which is made possible by the College of Food, Agriculture, and Environmental Sciences within The Ohio State University Extension program.
It’s a way to network, learn from one another, see what’s already being done, and brainstorm ideas for future initiatives.
“School districts have done amazing work stepping up to the challenges of producing 21st century learners who are ready to take on a plethora of challenges that are yet to be seen or understood,” Staubach said. “Ohio State University Extension has been an ally, helping school districts achieve these unforeseen challenges. Through the 4-H [Agri-Science in the City] program, thousands of children have experienced the power of self-directed exploration and project-based learning.” 

Do Good: 

•    Attend Thursday's free workshop from 3-6 p.m. at Pleasant Hill Academy. 

•    Learn more about the OSU Extension program.

•    Can't make Thursday's workshop? Check out Staubach's 4-H Agri-Science in the City blog to learn more about the activities in which students engage.


Local creatives raise nearly $10K for Make-A-Wish

Halloween has come and gone, but the impacts of the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) Cincinnati chapter’s latest fundraiser are long lasting.  The group hosted GUTS: Creatives Carving for Kids at Washington Park last month and raised nearly $10,000 for Make-A-Wish Southern Ohio. The “pipeline of eligible children” continues to grow with the proximity of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.
“We raised more than enough for one wish,” said Jay Shifman of Make-A-Wish Shifman said noting that they work to grant the wish of every child facing a life threatening illness in our community.
AIGA to surpassed fundraising goal of $8,000 (the average cost of one wish) by $1,200.
The winning Team LPK carved “Haunted OTR"  four pumpkins, side-by-side, depicting the local streetscape.  
“GUTS is a part of AIGA Cincinnati’s larger ‘Design for Good’ initiative,” said Phil Rowland, architect and AIGA member. “We believe design can make a difference in our community.”

Do Good: 

•    It's not too late to donate. Contribute here.

•    Sign up to be a sponsor for next year's GUTS. It's never too early.

•    There are many ways to help grant wishes. Learn about them here.

Library Foundation announces newest Writer-in-Residence

The Library Foundation has a new Writer-in-Residence, local high school English teacher Kurt Dinan.
Dinan teaches 10th grade English and creative writing at William Mason High School. He also serves as the advisor for the school’s yearbook.
Dinan will make his first appearance in his new position at 7 p.m. on Nov. 15 in the Main Library’s Popular Library Lounge, where he’ll read from his first published young adult novel, Don’t Get Caught. The reading will be followed by a question-and-answer session.
“I started writing at 30, and I think when you find your passion, you want to be able to share it with people,” Dinan said.
He’ll have the opportunity to do just that, as he’ll share his talents through a variety of modes and mediums from now through next September.
Conducting writers’ workshops, hosting podcasts and blogging are just a few items on his agenda.

“I’m just really thrilled,” Dinan said. "I’ll have the opportunity to help other writers in the community and support the Library.”

Do Good: 

•    Support The Library Foundation in its quest to better the community through literacy, activity, enrichment and other support services.

•    Keep up with the Library and its upcoming events on Facebook.

•    Mark your calendar for Dinan's first appearance as Writer-in-Residence, which is at 7 p.m. on Nov. 15.

Local employer teams up with Starfire, builds inclusive workplace environment

Catherine Bennett and Craig Ihlendorf have worked closely with one another since September 2015, which is when Ihlendorf started working at Kinetic Vision.

Prior to his work at the engineering consulting firm in Evendale, Ihlendorf was unfulfilled by his job.

“It was okay,” Ihlendorf said. “But I didn't really care about what I did. I didn't get to work on anything that was important to me.”

Now that’s all changed, and the impact can be seen in a variety of capacities. 

On Oct. 18, Kinetic Vision received the 2016 Ohio Employer of the Year Award from the Governor’s Council on People with Disabilities, and Ihlendorf feels valued. The organization was recognized for its inclusive workplace environment for people with disabilities.

“When I go to work, I get to be around other people who like the same things I do,” Ihlendorf said. “When I suggest something, they really listen and encourage me.”

The pairing was made possible by Starfire — a local nonprofit that helps individuals with disabilities discover their talents through relationship building, then places them in communities where they can thrive. Working with one person and their family at a time, Starfire connects people to relationships and uncovers a person's talents and passions so they can thrive in their communities alongside their neighbors.

Kinetic Vision wasn’t concerned with Ihlendorf’s disability. Instead, they saw his passion and ability to work with computers, and as a result, both the company and the individual are seeing positive results.

Do Good: 

•    Want to help Starfire build a more inclusive community? Connect with the nonprofit.

•    Like Starfire on Facebook.

•    Learn more about Kinetic Vision, and connect on LinkedIn.

United Way raises $62.1 million

“You turned my life around,” said Debbie Williams, a young mom who said she’d “battled for her life” fighting stage three cancer. Williams was the keynote speaker at Friday’s Oct. 28 United Way campaign finale at the Duke Energy Convention Center, which raised $62.1 million. Williams thanked the crowd of 650 for supporting the Northern Kentucky Scholar House where she lives with her two-year-old daughter while she attends Cincinnati State Community and Technical College.

“I was working two jobs and never saw my baby,” said Williams. “I am greatly appreciative.” The Scholar House provides low cost housing, on-site child care and support programs for full time parent students.

Helping young moms succeed was a theme of not only the United Way campaign finale on Friday, but also the Child Poverty Summit on Saturday, underscoring that Williams’ story of the working impoverished is not unusual.

Of the 33,069 Cincinnati children living in poverty, 67 percent live in a home headed by working single mothers. Nearly 40 percent of Cincinnati’s children live in poverty — Cincinnati has the sixth highest rate of childhood poverty in the nation (in households with incomes of $19, 073 or less).

“You turned a whole family’s life around,” Williams concluded, noting that the low-cost housing for student parents with support programs for parenting and academic coaching had made all the difference in her educational success.

Cheryl Rose, senior vice president of Hawthorn Family Wealth, underscored the need for quality child care for all as she presented the award for leadership in education to Randy Dunham. “Twenty years ago I was a desperate, young, single mom trying to find quality preschool for my child,” she said. “Issue 44 is a moral imperative that pays off,” she urged, championing the property tax levy to fund greater access to preschool.  

Dunham, a retired district manager for Northwest airlines who worked to ensure all children succeed in achieving academic excellence. He raised more than $50,000 to support scholarships and academic success programs Rose explained to the crowd of 650 at the Duke Convention Center.

Campaign chair Ted Torbeck, CEO of Cincinnati Bell, announced that giving was up this year by over $1 million at Cincinnati Bell, which pledged $1.8 million, while Procter & Gamble held onto its top spot at $10 million pledged.

Community Child Poverty Summit Saturday

Nearly half of all children living in the city of Cincinnati live in impoverished families. Over 33,000 children in Cincinnati and nearly 55,000 children in Hamilton County live in households with income below the federal poverty line.
On Saturday, Oct. 29 Cincinnatians will gather for the Child Poverty Collaborative's second community summit to better understand poverty in the community and co-create community commitments for action.

All members of the community are invited to the free event from 8:30am to noon at the Duke Energy Center in downtown Cincinnati.
The Child Poverty Collaborative has held more than 75 conversations across the city, in places of worship, around picnic tables and in board rooms.  In addition local data collected by Rand, the Urban League, Community Action Agency, Partners for a Competi
tive workforce and others have been studied.

Surprising study findings

At the October summit, key learnings from the community conversations and the data studies will be shared with all. Some of the data, including some unique challenges faced by Cincinnati families, may be a surprise.
"We promised to listen to the community and we have,” said Lynn Marmer, CPC Executive Director, "Now it is time to gather together again, to learn and to co-create some pathways forward."
A combination of commitments by the Child Poverty Collaborative and recommendations for community action will be shared. "Poverty is a complex system and families in poverty have to navigate many challenges, including inadequate transportation, inflexible and expensive child care, and jobs that do not provide upward mobility in wages," explained Marmer. "It will take everyone inthe community, working together to break down the barriers that hold back families.
The doors open at 8:15 a.m.. Free breakfast and child care will be provided and parking will be validated in designated garages adjacent to the Convention Center. The Child Poverty Collaborative website has a map.
Register free  online.

About the Child Poverty Collaborative:
The Child Poverty Collaborative is broad based community effort by leaders from government, business, civil society, faith-based organizations, and concerned citizens who are committed to co-creating solutions that significantly reduce the number of children living in poverty in our community. The Collaborative’s goal is to move 5,000 families and 10,000 children out of poverty in five years.


Clovernook Center: 113 years of creating jobs for disabled Cincinnatians

For 113 years Clovernook Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired has created jobs both on-site and within the community. Last year, the Clovernook Center placed 65 blind or visually impaired persons in competitive jobs and 45 individuals in positions on Clovernook’s campus. Some of their work includes the production of Braille materials, in addition to biodegradable cups for the United States Navy. 
“Sales of our products and services allow us to employ people who are blind, increasing their financial and social independence,” said Chris Faust, Clovernook Center CEO. “Our employees are committed to continually delivering high quality products and services. The success of our agency demonstrates the value they bring to the workplace.”

Diversifying the workplace not only allows individuals with visual impairments to engage in meaningful tasks that provide a sense of purpose and fulfillment, but it also allows those without disabilities to recognize and remember the various abilities and unique talents we all possess.

October marks National Disability Employment Awareness Month. "National Disability Employment Awareness Month recognizes one of the most important issues faced by people who are blind or visually impaired,” Faust said. “Clovernook Center is dedicated to helping people find and retain jobs and to helping employers recognize the outstanding potential of individuals with disabilities.”

Do Good: 

•    Support the work of Clovernook Center employees by purchasing their products

•    Celebrate difference, and take a moment to appreciate and recognize diversity in the workplace. 

•    Connect with Clovernook Center on Facebook.
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