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Findlay Market's incubator kitchen nearing completion


Findlay Market’s new kitchen incubator is still under construction but already has a solid group of members ready to open the doors.

The 8,000-square-foot shared-use kitchen space will support aspiring food entrepreneurs, whether they’re just starting out or looking to expand to their business, by providing affordable access to a licensed kitchen facility. Members will pay a $75 annual membership fee to use kitchen equipment and storage space for their businesses. 

“There are so many barriers to not only starting a business but a food business,” says Marianne Hamilton, director of Findlay Kitchen. “This gives people an opportunity to start small without having to invest in a brick-and-mortar space.”

There are 10 available kitchens within the facility and most can be rented by the hour, though some will be leased by the month for members who are dedicated to mass production. Members will have 24-hour access to come and go as they please.

The facility will also feature a space in the front to be used for cooking classes and demonstrations for the general public.

Greater Cincinnati is seeing a wave of entrepreneurial support for food and drink startups — including a new mini-incubator kitchen in Newport, The Hatchery — though the idea of implementing an incubator kitchen within Findlay Market has been discussed for 20 years.

“The timing is right from many different perspectives,” Hamilton says. “There’s a renewed interest in handmade and artisan foods and a trend toward people seeking out unique and different foods. It fits very well within the ecosystem of Findlay Market.”

Findlay Kitchen is also partnering with local organizations to provide business support services for its members, such as accounting, legal, marketing and branding advice.

Findlay Kitchen will open at the end of February if all goes as anticipated, Hamilton says.

Do Good:

• Apply to become a Findlay Kitchen member.

• To learn more about Findlay Kitchen and its mission, visit its website.

• For more information on Findlay Kitchen and how you can get involved, contact Marianne Hamilton.
 

Local group celebrates one year of random acts of kindness


Local group Random Acts of Kindness is celebrating its one-year anniversary by repeating a citywide clothing drive and hosting two fundraisers.
 
Rivertown Stomp will take place Jan. 22, while RAOK the Casbah will take place Jan. 30. Both will be hosted at Leapin Lizard Lounge in Covington.
 
Random Acts of Kindness started when Liz Wu saw a photo of scarves wrapped around trees circulating on the Internet after last year’s big snowstorm left the region hovering in single-digit temperatures. The scarves were not lost but a random act of kindness for strangers to take if they were cold.
 
Wu didn’t act on it right away, but the second time she saw the same photo she was inspired and wanted to pay it forward in the Greater Cincinnati area. She created a Facebook event for a citywide clothing drive, hoping a few friends would help her gather gloves, scarves, hats and other warm items.
 
Little by little, more than 100 people began showing their interest in the event, and within a span of 10 days more than 2,000 items were bagged and distributed throughout 35 Greater Cincinnati neighborhoods.
 
Since then, the group has continued to pay it forward through monthly community outreach projects, #Kindflash.
 
“One of the important integral assets to any of our monthly events is the interactive part,” Wu says. “We don’t just take donations and leave them. Our intention is to create a quality moment where people feel there is a one-on-one connection being made.”
 
And for a lot of volunteers, the relationships go beyond the visits. Many of them stay connected and have created lasting friendships with people they’ve met. For example, a volunteer is pen pals with a Brighton Center member. 
 
Wu hopes the Random Act of Kindness model will be replicated by others in their own lives and will help feed groups or initiatives who are interested in paying it forward.
 
Do Good:

• Join the Random Act of Kindness clothing drive.

• Attend Rivertown Stomp, 6 p.m.-12 m. Jan. 22 at Leapin Lizard Lounge, 726 Main St., Covington.

• Attend RAOK the Casbah 5 p.m.-12 m. Jan. 30 at Leapin Lizard. 
 

Stepping Stones expands reach to west side


Stepping Stones increased its reach to children and adults with disabilities by expanding to the west side at the beginning of January. The expansion is a result of an integration with BeauVita, a local organization that provides services and transportation for adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities.

The plan to move west began five years ago, but the timing wasn’t right until now. Stepping Stones wasn’t ready to get involved with another project at the time, says Executive Director Chris Adams.

The organization saw a need for expansion, though, when full buses came in from the west side for its summer day camp. Stepping Stones and BeauVita provide similar programming, so the integration made perfect sense. 

“This seemed to fit really well with what we do as an organization,” Adams says. “It will help us continue to grow our program and offer more additional services that are needed on the west side of town."
 
When it comes to plans for the future, Adams says any plans to expand will be neighborhood-based.
 
This expansion is Stepping Stones’ second in two years. The organization merged with United Cerebral Palsy of Greater Cincinnati in 2014 at the Norwood campus. Stepping Stones also has campuses in Indian Hill and Batavia.
 
Do Good:

• To learn more about Stepping Stones, visit its website.

Donate to help support Stepping Stones’ mission.

• For more information, call 513-965-5109.
 

Tri-State Trails preps launch of Opening Day on the Trails Challenge


With temperatures currently below freezing, it can sometimes be difficult to envision Spring.

Green Umbrella's Tri-State Trails, however, is already gearing up for the region’s first Opening Day on the Trails Challenge, set for April 16.
 
The Trails Challenge — part of a national welcoming of Spring organized by Rails-to-Trails Conservancy — will take place over seven weeks and encourage families and individuals alike to explore trails and collect prizes upon completion.
 
“We believe the Opening Day on the Trails Challenge will motivate people to explore our region’s trails and incorporate more physical activity into their daily lives,” says Megan Folkerth, program officer of physical activity environments at Interact for Health, which is making the Trails Challenge a financial possibility thanks to a $25,000 grant for implementation. “Interact’s vision is to make Cincinnati the healthiest region in the country.”
 
The Trails Challenge extends through May, National Bike Month, and allows the region to continue gathering momentum when it comes to bicycling, says Frank Henson, chair of Tri-State Trails and president of Queen City Bike.
 
“In addition to current trail users, we’re using this challenge as an opportunity to engage new users for trails,” Henson says.
 
Tri-State Trails will publish details regarding the Challenge as well as an online interactive trail finder map this spring.

Do Good:

• Check Meet Me Outdoors! for details as the Trails Challenge approaches, but in the meantime allow the website to serve as a resource for your current outdoor recreational needs.

• Connect with Tri-State Trails on Facebook

• Become a Tri-State Trails member.
 

Friends of the Pops to host informational lecture series at Mercantile Library


The all-volunteer Friends of the Pops group affiliated with Cincinnati Pops Orchestra is hosting a new lecture series beginning in March. The series will be hosted in the Mercantile Library throughout spring and provide information for those who are interested in getting a sneak peek of what it’s like to play as part of the orchestra.

“We’re really excited that Friends of the Pops has taken on this initiative to offer the public to experience the orchestra in a new way,” says Meghan Berneking, Director of Communications for the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra and Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. “This lecture series gets to the heart of giving Pops fans the opportunity to see what goes on behind the scenes by engaging a little deeper with artists they see on stage already while also opening doors for those who haven’t been to a concert.”

Friends of the Pops was formed in 1991 by its late conductor Erich Kunzel and is committed to increasing awareness and pride for the Cincinnati Pops and provides opportunities for Pops fans to get together. 

Lectures are free and open to the public, although donations are suggested.

Do Good:

• Attend one of the lectures to learn more about Cincinnati Pops: March 30, April 19 and May 17. All lectures will be hosted in the Mercantile Library, 414 Walnut St., downtown.

• For more information, contact Meghan Berneking.

• Learn more about Cincinnati Pops at its website
 

Boone County volunteers prepare to get their hands dirty at Reforest NKY 2016


More than 2,200 volunteers have planted 33 acres of trees over the past nine years in an effort to restore Northern Kentucky’s woodlands. Reforest NKY will travel to England-Idlewild Park in Boone County April 2 to continue its effort in expanding Kentucky’s landscape.

The volunteer-based reforestation event is headed by the Northern Kentucky Urban and Community Forestry Council (NKUCFC) and relies on help from local organizations and commissions to keep going.

Reforest partnered with The Boone Conservancy, Boone County Parks, Boone County Arboretum, Boone County Urban Forest Commission and Newport Aquarium for this year’s event, says Tara Sturgill, Reforest NKY secretary and public relations subcommittee chair.

Volunteers who attend will break into groups of 10 people with an accompanying Reforest leader, who will demonstrate proper planting technique and answer relevant questions from the group. But the event is more than just about planting trees.

Reforest is also about education and outreach. Reforest wants to educate the community on how planting trees provides benefits not only the environment but our quality of life. A focus is also placed on why trees are planted and the importance of planting a tree in the right place.

“I’m really proud of the work we do,” Sturgill says. “Even if you plant one tree, that tree will make a difference.”

Do Good:

• Register as a volunteer for Reforest NKY 2016, which is scheduled for 9:30 a.m.-12:30p.m. April 2 at England-Idlewild Park, 5550 Idlewild Road, Burlington, Ky.

• Watch a video from the Reforest NKY 2014 event, sponsored by Mad Tree Brewery.

• For more information on the event and how you can help, contact Tara Sturgill at 859-409-0791 or reforestnky@gmail.com.
 

Red Boot Coalition founder to speak on building genuine human interaction


Charlotte native and coalition leader Molly Barker believes in one thing: compassionate listening. She intends to share that vision when she visits Cincinnati Jan. 20.

It all began when Barker retired from Girls on the Run and went on a cross-country trip from Charlotte to Las Vegas and back, interviewing hundreds of people from all walks of life along the way about our nation’s conversations on hot topics like race, politics and gender. After finding that many people felt unheard and ignored, she founded Red Boot Coalition.

“Red Boot is simply about providing a place for people to share their journey and perspectives on being human,” Barker says. “People really need to be heard. We are all yelling, and no one is listening.”

Red Boot, which is just a little more than one year old, focuses on engaging people in a guided process of sharing and listening. No matter the topic, Red Boot provides a simple approach: providing a safe place for human conversation.

Barker will be lead a model Red Boot session when she visits Cincinnati to help attendees unravel negative stereotypes and inspire genuine human interaction.

Do Good:

• Attend the Jan. 20 Red Boot model session at Mercy Neighborhood Ministries, 1602 Madison Road, Walnut Hills.

• Learn more about Red Boot and the 11 Steps at its website.

Find a local meeting in your neighborhood. 
 

Main Public Library downtown hosts "Envelope" mail artwork exhibit


The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County is hosting "Envelope," an exhibit of mail artwork from international artists all around the world, including work from local Visionaries + Voices artists.
 
Visionaries + Voices gives support to more than 125 artists with disabilities by providing studio space, supplies and support in a creative environment.
 
Visionaries + Voices first began looking for artwork for the exhibition during fall 2013, asking for submissions to have a focus on a neighborhood theme with no limitations on medium or size. Artists were asked to describe their neighborhood and the things that make it interesting while considering all of the different parts that could make up a correspondence.

The exhibit runs through March 10.
 
Do Good:

• Stop by to see mail art from Cincinnati and all around the world at the “Envelope” exhibit, Main Public Library Branch, 800 Vine St., Downtown.

Take a look at some the “Envelope” exhibit submissions.

• Find more information about Visionaries + Voices at its website.
 

Poetry in the Garden Contest looking for talented local poets


The Poetry in the Garden series is returning for its fifth year, and the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County is looking for new and talented poets to enter its contest.

The contest is a partnership between the library system and Greater Cincinnati Writers League and runs through Feb. 29. Adults who are at least 18 years old can submit a piece of poetry.

Winners will have the chance to read their work on the opening night of the series, April 5. Winners will also have their work published on the library’s website.

“We wanted to create new excitement about this poetry series and further engage our community,” says David Siders, Popular Library Manager. “The openness of the contest has really given people creative license to follow their own voice.”

Although the contest has a couple hundred entries on average, most writers are not stirred by the amount of competition.

“It’s always a welcoming and creative environment,” Siders says. “Writers support each other and the diversity of thought. We have people from very different backgrounds and where they are with their poetry.

Submissions come from all walks of life, from brief haikus to personal narrative poems on a wide range of subjects. The judging panel is a committee of literary professionals, including the Library Foundation’s writer-in-residence, Jeffrey Hillard.

Do Good:

• Take a stab at writing your own poetry and make sure to submit your entry by Feb. 29.

• Attend one of the Poetry in the Garden Poetry contest “write-ins”: Jan. 16 at 1 p.m. at the Sharonville branch; Jan. 30 at 2 p.m. at the main branch downtown; and Feb. 16 at 7 p.m. at the Delhi Township branch.

• For information and the contest rules, visit the website
 

West African student receives funding for final residency at Union Institute


Edward Fiawoo, a West African attorney and Brigadier General in the Ghana Armed Forces, will begin his final required residency this week at Union Institute & University prior to completing his Ph.D. in Public Policy and Social Change. As an international student, Fiawoo is ineligible for federal financial aid and was unsure of how he was going to raise the $2,500 expense for his flight this year.
 
“Each January and July, about 100 or more doctoral candidates come together to participate in very valuable face-to-face time with their faculty and fellow students," says Carolyn Krause, UI&U’s Vice President for Advancement. “Edward had attended all his required residencies for the past two years, borrowing from friends and relatives and scrimping and saving.”
 
This time around, however, the financial burden was going to be too much for Fiawoo to bear. When UI&U’s International Alumni Association heard the news, they joined together to produce the needed funds.
 
“This is not something Edward or his faculty wanted to miss,” Krause says. “It is a testament to both Edward’s success as a doctoral student and the passion and loyalty that our Union alumni feel. Union is all about service and social responsibility, and this exchange brought our mission to life.”
 
For Fiawoo, the assistance makes all the difference.
 
“It is normally a tall order for me,” he says. “That is why I am most grateful to the alumni association.” 

Do Good: 

• Learn ways to give at Union Institute & University. 

• Consider UI&U as an option for your future studies.

• Connect with UI&U on Facebook.
 

Fighting Chance mentors young men through boxing


When Megan Schmittauer began boxing at the Punch House in Norwood last year, she had no idea three young boys would soon change her life.

Schmittauer, 28 at the time, was just starting her boxing career and was fascinated with their persistent workouts. Her friendship with AJ, EJ and Tyrik began with a trade — for every workout tip and trick the boys gave her, she gave each of them a piece of gum.

When the boys left Punch House and relocated to Real Deal Boxing Club in Mt. Healthy, Schmittauer followed. She began to mentor them and developed the idea for Fighting Chance by combining the boys’ love of boxing with a program that helps them build self-confidence and discipline. Fighting Chance opened earlier this year and has reached as many as 60 boys.

“It’s definitely been a humbling process,” Schmittauer says. “I never saw myself doing something like this. I moved down here when I was going through a transitional place in my life. These kids brought feeling back into my heart and my life.”

While boxing grabs the kids’ attention and gets them in the door, it’s the academic piece that slowly begins to change the way they view themselves. Between mentoring and tutoring, school grades start to pick up and self-confidence grows.

Fighting Chance is opening another program in Roselawn this month and hopes to expand to other neighborhoods in need of a mentoring program. The organization also has plans to offer a social development leadership program to provide exposure to opportunities to give back to the community.  

“You always wish you could do more,” Schmittauer says. “It’s hard to know a kid doesn’t have a bed … or clothes. That’s the kind of stuff that keeps me up at night.”

Do Good:

• Make a donation to support Fighting Chance. 

• Fighting Chance is 100 percent volunteer-based, so become a mentor.

• For more information on Fighting Chance and how you can help, call 513-444-0683.
 

CHRC, Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center partner for "Rethinking Racism"


The Cincinnati Human Relations Commission (CHRC) and the Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center (IJPC) are partnering in an initiative to address racism in the Cincinnati community, “Rethinking Racism.”

The event will take place Jan. 14 at Father Rivers Hall at St. Joseph in the West End and is meant to challenge organizations and individuals to make a commitment to not only addressing racism but ending it.  

CHRC and IJPC work independently to educate the community on social issues, specifically racial equality. Event organizers hope it will begin a dialogue on the long-lasting racism issue in Cincinnati.

Attendees with have the opportunity to address what they see as modern-day racism and participate in discussing strategies on how to combat the issue. 

Do Good:

• Register to attend “Rethinking Racism” at 6:30-8:30 p.m. Jan. 14 at Father Rivers Hall at St. Joseph Parish, 745 Ezzard Charles Drive, West End.

• For more information, contact IJPC at 513-579-8547.

• Find your own ways to start conversations about racism in your community. 
 

$40,000 grant helps launch Healthy Homes program in Price Hill


What began as a capstone project for Lisa Marie Watkins is now permanently helping many women and their families who live in Price Hill.
 
While Watkins was a student in the Master of Public Administration (MPA) program at Northern Kentucky University, she developed an innovative program, Healthy Homes, to improve the health and safety of at-risk families.
 
Watkins used her connection at Santa Maria Community Services to launch the program within the neighborhoods of Price Hill. Months after she co-authored a grant application submitted to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Healthy Homes received a $40,000 grant to help fund the program. The grant will cover the cost to pay staff but mostly will help the program provide much-needed items to the families, Watkins says.
 
Foster care played a large part in why Watkins wanted to build a program like Healthy Homes. She was 7 years old when she entered the system and traveled between foster homes until she was 18.
 
“I had a lot of people who loved me and showed me how to maneuver this world,” Watkins says. “It’s not easy. I was fortunate to be with foster parents who dedicated their time to show me love and also show me how to not let the past shelter my future.”
 
Watkins currently coordinates and oversees the program, which recruits and trains block captains who identify families with children under 6 years old and/or a pregnancy. 
 
Block captains reach out to families by going door to door and coordinating services. They distribute information and materials to help families connect to a pediatrician or prenatal care provider as well as provide baby safety items and books for children to improve literacy and help prepare them for kindergarten.
 
There are other social service agencies that want to replicate Healthy Homes’ model, says Chellie McLellan, Santa Maria’s Income Impact Director.
 
The program is successful now and has impacted the lives of more than 100 families, but building the program from the ground up wasn’t an easy task.
 
“We’re working to build an ecosystem,” McLellan says. “How do you build a boat out at sea? It was really groundbreaking for us. There was no manual or go-to guide for how to do this. It started with one block and one block captain and grew from there.”
 
Do Good:

• Help support Healthy Homes’ mission by donating.

• Learn more about the Healthy Homes by contacting Chellie McLellan

• For more information on Santa Maria, visit its website
 

Kicks for Kids annual Christmas party to benefit local kids in need


Kicks for Kids hosts its annual Christmas party Dec. 15 at Paul Brown Stadium to help local kids in need have a special Christmas.

Aiming to “level the playing field for local children at risk,” Kicks for Kids collaborated with 14 various local organizations that selected a number of children to participate in the event. The children did a service project last week that allowed them to have a chance to not only meet their chaperone but also to give back and help others.

“The purpose of the party is to provide an incredible experience for kids who would otherwise have a limited Christmas,” says Ted Kluemper, Kicks for Kids board member. “The volunteers are there to try to help kids enjoy their night, feel loved and make it a memorable Christmas for them.”

After eating dinner on Dec. 15, the kids will separate into two groups. One group will meet with Santa to read a Christmas story and receive gifts, then they’ll have the opportunity to pick out and wrap gifts for their own family members.

Meanwhile, the other group will go downstairs to tour the Bengals and visitor’s locker rooms, where each child will have their own locker. They’ll receive a new winter coat, school supplies and a bible, then have the opportunity to go out on the field and play until the groups switch.

Covington-based Kicks for Kids has received tremendous feedback about the event over the last 21 years. Many kids have stayed in touch with their chaperones over time and have developed a big brother/big sister-like relationship, Kleumper says.

Do Good:

• Learn more about Kicks for Kids at its website.

• Make a donation to help support Kicks for Kids’ mission.

• Connect with Kicks for Kids on Facebook
 

Crossroads Church raises $87 million with "I'm In" campaign


Just a few months short of celebrating its 20th anniversary, Oakley-based Crossroads Church has raised $87.8 million from its “I'm In” campaign.
 
The campaign is an opportunity for Crossroads members to make sacrificial commitment beyond what they regularly give over a period of three years to help fund initiatives in four core “battlefronts”: friends, city, country and world. It’s the fourth campaign since Crossroads’ inception and has garnered commitments from more than 7,000 families.
 
“It’s really amazing what can happen when a group of people who want to make a difference in their city and world choose to come together,” says Tim Senff, Director of Central Services Ministries. “We have really seen a lot of powerful change through this.”
 
While some of the campaign’s focus is on enhancing current sites to make space for multi-functional use, expanding and creating new sites and connecting to people all across the country, Crossroads’ biggest work involves the fourth component: world.
 
Crossroads does substantial work outside the U.S., from creating better infrastructure in Nicaragua and helping women escape sex trafficking in India to helping people living in poverty and oppression in South Africa. 
 
In partnership with Grace Bible Church, one of the largest churches in South Africa, the Crossroads campaign will help fund the construction of a program modeled after Cincinnati’s CityLink.

CityLink SA will help people living in poverty by providing job and vocational training as well as entrepreneurial development, much like CityLink does here in Cincinnati’s West End. Construction will begin in 2016, Senff says.
 
Do Good:

• Make an online donation to help support Crossroads’ “I’m In” campaign.

• Visit the campaign website for more information on “I’m In.”

• For questions about “I’m In,” contact Crossroads.
 
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