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Help OTR Brewery District put Cincy on map with heritage trail

Nonprofits, small business owners and residents all came together two weekends ago in Over-the-Rhine to make Bockfest successful in its 23rd year, but there's more to look forward to given what Cincinnati’s Brewery District has in store.
“Bockfest is a celebration of beer, the coming of spring, but also a celebration of the neighborhood and a particular place,” says Steven Hampton, executive director of the Brewery District Community Urban Redevelopment Corporation. “This neighborhood is the key.”
And it’s that notion of “neighborhood” and a sense of place that's driving the nonprofit’s mission to make the Brewery District “the place to live, work and play.” Through festivals like Bockfest, the OTR Biergarten, historic brewery tours and most recently its work to create the Cincinnati Brewing Heritage Trail, the Brewery District is making strides in putting historic OTR on the map.
“We get a lot of folks that say, ‘I’m not a museum folk or wouldn’t normally come down here, but beer history, I’m all aboard,’” Hampton says. “We joke we can tell anybody’s story in history and intertwine it with beer. There are so many facts about how much we drank and produced, but how it was intertwined with stories of how this city grew, that’s the fun thing.”
To share those stories and to create interactive ways for neighbors and visitors to grow the city further, the Cincinnati Brewing Heritage Trail — a project Hampton says will come completely to fruition in the next four years or so — will showcase Cincinnati’s unique history while revitalizing the northern Over-the-Rhine district and generating tourism.
“It really has the potential to be a world class neighborhood,” Hampton says. “Boston is known worldwide for the Freedom Trail, Kentucky for the Bourbon Trail. Cincinnati’s going to be known for this.

“Most cities would kill to have this amazing collection of history and architecture, all these different cultural assets in one amazing, walkable neighborhood. So we’re going to capitalize on and focus on what we have — these amazing assets left to us — and continue to build those and share them with folks locally and the world to make this a better place.”

Do Good 

Learn about the Cincinnati Brewing Heritage Trail.

• Take a tour and experience Cincinnati's brewing history for yourself. 

• Help build the trail by donating

Pedaling 4 Paddy to generate support, awareness for Wasson Way

Pedaling 4 Paddy has become an annual tradition since it kicked off in 2011 when bike enthusiast Maggie Brennan told a group of friends they should initiate a community ride in March to celebrate community, cycling and one of her favorite holidays,  St. Patrick’s Day.
“I wanted to keep it grassroots,” Brennan says. “Ride your bike and have drinks and food after.”

The 2015 event happens Saturday, March 21, starting at Fifty West Brewing Company and offers trail options for cyclists and non-cyclists alike — hop-on and hop-off options for the leisurely in addition to a 52-mile trek to Morrow and back for the more avid riders.
The event is free, though participants are encouraged to donate $20 to benefit Wasson Way, a project Brennan learned about just prior to the inaugural Pedaling 4 Paddy.
“I had just learned of their volunteer efforts to build a bike trail connecting several neighborhoods in the city,” Brennan says “It’s a 7.6-mile trail starting at Victory Parkway near Walnut Hills High School and eventually connecting to the Little Miami Bike Trail in Mariemont and is going to be a huge asset for the community — especially students from Xavier, UC, Withrow and Walnut Hills.”
A dedicated team of volunteers, like Brennan, hope to take their vision for Wasson Way and make it a reality, but they need support to make it happen.
“We're looking forward to the day when we can have Pedaling 4 Paddy on the Wasson Way,” Brennan says. “It’s a fun event, bringing together cyclists and non-cyclists to raise money for it.”  

Do Good:

• Learn about how you can get involved with Wasson Way.

• Support Wasson Way by donating.

• Join the fun by participating in Pedaling 4 Paddy on Saturday, March 21.

• Read about Wasson Way as one of Soapbox's top 10 transportation stories to follow in 2015.

Talbert House celebrates 50 years, honors top employees

The Talbert House has worked to “improve social behavior and enhance personal recovery and growth” for its clients since 1965. Now, in its 50th anniversary year, the organization is looking ahead to see how it can continue delivering quality care and support to the tens of thousands of adults and children it reaches in a given year.
One thing is certain: Quality employees lead to quality services. And to celebrate 50 years in the community, the nonprofit recently honored the key players who work day-in and day-out to uphold standards of excellence.
Michael Allen, resident of Westwood and clinical supervisor for the Talbert House, was honored as Employee of the Year.
“I am privileged to work for Talbert House, where I can do what I love every day,” Allen says. “I am passionate about my work because I want to be a part of a team making an impact in a person’s life.”
Allen says he arrives at work each day with the mindset that he can positively impact someone’s quality of life through his words and his actions. As an individual who works with a population of adults with severe mental illness, his optimism is key.
“I want the clients I work with to feel valued and to know their needs are important to me and our staff,” Allen says. “It’s important for clients to know someone is listening.”
And his clients appreciate that approach, like one whom he was working with biweekly for the purpose of addressing appropriate forms of social interaction within the community.
“He would repeatedly introduce me to complete strangers as his case manager when we were in the community together, and he would plan his entire week around those two scheduled weekly appointments,” Allen says. “And over a period of time he became more confident in his ability to live independently and reconnect with family and friends. I genuinely care about the clients I connect with on a daily basis and want to see them win in a very tangible way.” 

Do Good: 

Volunteer with the Talbert House.

• Support the Talbert House by making a gift.

• Connect with the Talbert House on Facebook.

OSU Extension seeks community input from "future leaders"

If you’re between the ages of 14 and 30, Ohio State University Extension of Hamilton County wants your input on the concept of a perfect community and what that might look like. 

As a land-grant university, OSU Extension aims to bring “the knowledge of the university” to all Ohioans by “engaging people to strengthen their lives and communities.” 

“OSU Extension works with people of all ages and all walks of life. We hear from professionals and adults on a regular basis,” says Anthony Staubach, Interim County Extension Director. “But it’s important to hear from the 14- to 30-year-old population because they are our emerging leaders and will make key decisions in the future.” 

OSU Extension will conduct the “Community Reconsidered" focus group Saturday, driven by these questions: “What will be the most challenging trends and issues for Ohioans by the year 2035, and what are the best opportunities to leverage the strengths of the University and the OSU Extension to address those issues?”

It’s part of a national dialogue called “Extension Reconsidered.” 

For the past 100 years, OSU Extension has worked to better the lives of individuals all across the state, and Staubach says the goal is to now look 20 years into the future to figure out “what assets our generation will bring to the community, what opportunities exist for building a stronger community” and, finally, what role Extension will fulfill in a changing culture and a changing community. 

“We would like to hear from 30-60 residents in Hamilton County,” Staubach says. “We would like to get their honest and open opinion of the future and start to identify how OSU Extension can fit into that future.”

Do Good: 

• Share a meal and your ideas with other community members at Saturday's focus group, which begins at 6 p.m. March 14 at 5093 Colerain Ave. Register here.

• Join the Facebook event and share it with your friends. 

• Connect with Hamilton County Extension on Facebook.

National Kidney Foundation to offer free screenings March 12

More than 26 million Americans have kidney disease and many are completely unaware, which is why Perry Malloy, community outreach manager for the National Kidney Foundation, says it’s a “silent killer.”
In an effort to promote awareness and prevention, the NKF’s KEEP Healthy Program is offering free screenings throughout the month of March — National Kidney Month — one of which takes place 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Thursday, March 12 at Tri-County Mall.
“One in three people is at risk for kidney disease,” Malloy says. “Risk factors include but aren't limited to diabetes, high blood pressure, (being) over the age of 60, African American, Pacific Islander or (having a) family history of chronic kidney disease. But you can slow the progression of kidney disease if you find out early.”
Anyone and everyone is welcome and encouraged to attend the free screening, in which health professionals will measure participants’ Body Mass Index and blood pressure levels and evaluate samples from ACR tests which can identify protein present in the urine — often the first sign of kidney disease.
Malloy says participants should not be fearful, as there are no needles involved. Instead, it’s a way to engage in free preventative care and consult with medical professionals who can address any questions participants may have.
“With the statistics the way they are today, chances are you know someone with kidney disease,” Malloy says. “It affects more people than breast cancer and prostate cancer. It's the ninth leading cause of death in the U.S. Awareness is key, and if people will spend 15 minutes getting their kidneys screened they would learn how to prevent or slow the progression.” 

Do Good: 

•    Contact the National Kidney Foundation at 513-961-8105 to pre-register for Thursday's event. Walk-ins are also welcome. 

•    Spread the word to your friends and encourage them to get screened. 

•    Support the NKF by donating.

Local artist explores relationship among creativity, art, science with "Discover"

Local artist Susan Byrnes’ latest exhibition Discover debuts Friday evening at Brazee Street StudiosC-LINK Gallery with a free reception and artist talk.
Byrnes’ work showcases a variety of mediums — everything from glass, sound and scientific research — to bring together the interdisciplinary connections between art and science. For the past few years she's explored communities and their connections to art, and in a sense her work with molecular biologists from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center is a continuation of that work, she says.
“I am married to a molecular biologist and have always been struck by the similarities in our work habits, work environments, and creative approaches to problem solving,” Byrnes says. “I was interested in further exploring the practical similarities with the work process and perspectives on creativity that scientists have.”
So Byrnes, a Cincinnati Arts Ambassador Fellow, looked at research, textbooks and images and interviewed molecular biologists to produce audio samples of what it means to be creative in their line of work. The specialized language utilized by the molecular biologists, for example, fascinates her.
“It is incredibly dense and specific and about life and curiosity but expressed in a way you or I — writers, artists, poets, observers — wouldn’t usually use to describe it,” she says. “The scientific culture possesses a view of the world that I wanted to reveal through themes of wonder, failure and epiphany.”
The language, laboratory equipment — most things the general public thinks of when considering science — are more often than not, formulaic, Byrnes says, so the goal is to humanize the subject matter.
“I’m not sure how often the general public gets to experience things that have to do with science in any setting that is not sterile or clinical, which I find to be a somewhat intimidating environment,” she says. “I hope in this exhibit they will gain another perspective from an artist exploring the creativity of science.” 

Do Good: 

•    Check out the opening reception of Discover at 6-8 p.m. Friday, March 6, with the artist talk beginning at 7 p.m. The event is free. 

•    If you miss Friday evening's opening, the exhibition runs through April 3 with regular gallery hours.

•    Connect with the Cincinnati Arts Ambassador Fellowships' Facebook page.

Melodic Connections musicians gain on-the-job skills through CSO partnership

Three musicians from Melodic Connections are participating in a pilot program with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra in which they'll volunteer once a week in the CSO offices at Music Hall to gain job readiness and social skills.
Melodic Connections aims to empower and build self-confidence in individuals with disabilities by providing music therapy and opportunities for lessons, group instruction and performance. The organization was recently a finalist in Cincinnati Social Venture Partners' 2015 Fast Pitch competition for local nonprofits.
“Volunteers will organize marketing materials and re-stock brochures around the offices, restock CDs in the gift shop, distribute materials to staff members, reset stanchions at the box office, greet visitors, and help with the preparation of mailings,” says Lynn Migliara, Melodic Connections’ communications manager.
While at Music Hall, the three will also have the opportunity to go behind the scenes, meet and interact with musicians and listen in on rehearsals.
For individuals like Joseph, one of the pilot program participants, it’s a chance to immerse himself even more fully in music.
Prior to finding out about Melodic Connections, Joseph spent most of his time alone in his apartment, socializing little and yearning for a more fulfilling day-to-day existence. But he’s now rediscovered a high school passion and talent: drums. In addition to making friends, performing for the public and attending weekly classes, half of each Monday will now be spent in an environment that should foster his growth even further.
"The opportunity for our students to volunteer at Music Hall for the symphony orchestra allows them to work on job-readiness skills and be integrated into the community,” says Christina McCracken, Melodic Connections’ board certified music therapist. “The students are already expressing a sense of pride and responsibility in their work for the symphony."

Do Good: 

•    Support Melodic Connections by donating.

•    If you have musical talent, other skills or just want to show your support, sign up to volunteer with Melodic Connections.

•    Connect with Melodic Connections on Facebook.

CWPC reaches out to young professionals with "Beer and Beethoven"

For 26-year old Laura Bock, who serves as Cincinnati World Piano Competition’s assistant to the executive director, world-class piano is part of her everyday being. For other young professionals, though, that exposure is less pronounced.
To engage more YPs with the talent of young artists who are locally and even internationally renowned while promoting the mission of the CWPC to “inspire and positively impact” the local community with classical piano music, the nonprofit is hosting Beer and Beethoven at 6 p.m. Thursday, March 5 at Rhinegeist Brewery in Over-the-Rhine.
“I think what will be cool about the event is the juxtaposition between the environment and the auditory experience — the one being very hard and industrial and the other being somewhat light and soothing,” Bock says.
Featuring CWPC competitor Julan Wang, the evening will merge world-class talent with familiarity and friendship.
“It blends something very common — grabbing a drink after work — and pairs it with something most likely quite uncommon for the attendees — the opportunity to hear a world-class pianist perform a solo recital,” Bock says. “This type of event is beneficial because it encourages the Cincinnati YP community to engage in a cultural experience that may be somewhat unfamiliar.” 

Do Good: 

•    Call 513-744-3501 or e-mail the Cincinnati World Piano Competition to reserve your $10 tickets for "Beer and Beethoven," which includes the performance and one beer.

•    Check out other upcoming events and the talent that CWPC showcases.

•    Support CWPC by donating.

Devou Park to gain 2,700 trees in reforestation effort

The Northern Kentucky Urban & Community Forestry Council’s annual Reforest Northern Kentucky program seeks volunteers who can assist in planting about 2,700 native tree seedlings across 2.8 acres of land in Covington’s Devou Park.

Over the past eight years, more than 2,000 volunteers have joined together to cover 30 acres worth of previously mowed property in an effort to restore Kentucky’s native woodlands.

According to Tara Sturgill, Reforest NKY secretary and chair of public relations subcommittee, the greatest impact of the event — aside from the planting of thousands of native trees — is the knowledge gained by those dedicating their time. 

“Volunteers learn proper planting of a tree, the multiple benefits to our communities of healthy native forests, selecting the most appropriate tree species for a specific location, and current impacts effecting our native forests,” Sturgill says. “And (they also gain) a general appreciation and yearning to be a steward of our natural woodland areas.”

In addition to planting trees at the event itself, 900 “take home” seedlings will be distributed to volunteers who can then apply their knowledge following the morning’s activity. 

For Sturgill, it’s important to cultivate “a spirit of stewardship for our native forests,” as the benefits of reforestation stretch far into the future. 

“Native woodlands provide improved air quality, storm water reduction, a habitat for various types of wildlife, increased property value, and natural spaces for education and recreation,” Sturgill says. “Reforestation is more than just planting trees and recreating a natural forested landscape. The value added by a woodland has advantages that cannot be measured by monetary means to our communities, and to us as individuals." 

Do Good: 

•    Register for Reforest Northern Kentucky on Saturday, March 28 from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

•    Plant a tree at home or in your community and empower yourself with the knowledge of proper planting and care of your selected tree.

•    Support organizations and businesses that recognize the importance and value of trees.

Junior League of Cincinnati celebrates 95 years, honors women making a difference

It’s not too late to purchase your tickets to The Junior League of Cincinnati’s annual Cinsation gala, which will take place Saturday in celebration of the nonprofit’s 95th year as “an accelerator for good” in the community. 

“The Junior League has made an impact in almost every major area of our community, from the arts to social services,” says Susan Shelton, president of the JLC. “We have nurtured or accelerated over 120 projects.” 

Shelton has been a member of the JLC for more than 15 years and is proud to back the organization’s mission, which is “to promote voluntarism, develop the potential of women and improve communities through the effective action and leadership of trained volunteers.” 

And since 1920, the nonprofit has done just that. 

“The Junior League of Cincinnati has been advocating on behalf of families in our community throughout our 95-year history, whether it has been focused on the juvenile justice system or mental health services for children,” Shelton says. 

Currently the organization is working on two projects: GrinUp! and RefugeeConnect. 

The members’ work with GrinUp!, a pediatric health campaign, is intended to promote dental health and awareness among children, while their work with RefugeeConnect consists of bringing communities together to improve the lives of refugees seeking a sense of place and belonging. 

“We are so passionate about this work and excited about the potential to continue to impact our community with these projects,” Shelton says. “No matter what the project or effort has been throughout our 95 years, when our members come together they can and have truly initiated change in our community.”

Do Good: 

•    Support the JLC by purchasing tickets to Cinsation Saturday, Feb. 28 at the Cincinnati Masonic Center downtown. Dinner is at 6:30 p.m., followed by the gala at 8:30 p.m.

•    Apply for JLC membership and join the more than 1,000 women working toward bettering the Greater Cincinnati community.

•    Support the JLC by donating.

Project 38 focused on helping local students overcome "Shakesfear"

“Shakesfear” is a condition that Jay Woffington, executive director of the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, says affects maybe 1 in 3 Americans and needs to be promptly eradicated. So Cincy Shakes is doing its part to introduce students to Shakespeare in a way that honors the playwright and his works while engaging youth through live performance.
“We do a great disservice by pretending he was a novelist, and by doing so we teach our students his stories are unintelligible, dense, boring — and none of this is true,” Woffington says. “But there is a solution. In the same way we don't get our appreciation of Bach and Beethoven by reading the sheet music, we shouldn't limit our appreciation of reading the works in school. They’re not books. They’re plays.”
Woffington says actors, costumes, scenery and audience are key elements that “make theater,” so live performance is necessary when sharing Shakespeare with audiences who aren't already familiar with or appreciative of The Bard.
Project 38 is an educational initiative the company has launched to connect its teaching artists with more than 1,000 students and faculty from 38 local schools to bring Shakespeare’s 38 recognized works to life.
The project will culminate with a festival April 15-22 at Memorial Hall, where students will have the opportunity to showcase and share their work with a live audience.
“We do 250 performances every year of classic plays that have stood the test of time … and kids come,” Woffington says. “Twenty percent of our audience is students, kids under the age of 18. We see over 30,000 kids a year in Cincinnati, and it works. Student comprehension improves 30-40 percent more than reading the play alone.”
Do Good:
• Support the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company by donating.

• Learn about the CSC’s educational opportunities and consider getting your school or student involved.

Buy tickets to an upcoming performance and enjoy an extraordinary live theater performance. The current production of Little Women runs through March 21, followed by Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew April 3-25.

Jewish Federation of Cincinnati supports tolerance as global issue

After the Jan. 9 attack at a kosher supermarket in Paris and following the recent acts of vandalism on Jewish graves, France’s Jewish population is fearful and uneasy. 

Outside of Israel, France’s Jewish community is the largest in the world after America’s, and according to Shepard (Shep) Englander, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati, it’s important that we support those in need. He recently traveled to France as part of a Solidarity Mission Trip with other Jewish Federations from across North America. 

“In one sense, they are our little brother,” Englander says. “In another sense, they are our older brother, because Jews have been living in France for centuries, serving in positions as senior at Prime Minister twice. Throughout history, Jews have only survived because we have supported and cared for each other. It’s wonderful to see that tradition living on in Cincinnati.”

Cincinnati has a direct connection with France in that Cincinnati’s Sister City is Netanya, Israel, which is the No. 1 destination for French Jews “making aliyah” — or a new life in Israel. Cincinnati also had the largest delegation per capita of any U.S. city in France. 

For Englander, the ongoing shock that recent attacks have created stands out. 

“France has traditionally been a highly secular or non-religious society,” Englander says. “However, many among France’s growing Muslim population sees the place of religion in society very differently. What has become clear is that the traditional French view of the limits of these freedom is being rejected by some segment of this growing immigrant population. National reconciliation will require a deep and long rethinking of how freedom of speech and freedom of religion work there.” 

And it’s partially on us, Englander says, to help.

“One way we can help is to highlight the strengths of the American approach to accommodating difference,” he says. “Traditionally, the French have recognized only one national French community and have managed diversity with a ‘color-blind’ approach. Minorities are expected to identify just as French and to keep their religious identities out of the public sphere, like public schools.  

“America’s approach to diversity is to seek a ‘pluralist’ society. An American is not less American because they are Jewish-American, Chinese-American or Muslim-American. Multiple identities are recognized and welcomed.”

Do Good: 

• Broaden your own efforts to promote tolerance.

• Learn to distinguish reasonable political debate from hate-driven rejection of a nation or people. 

• Welcome and embrace individuals who are different culturally, religiously, racially and socio-economically.

VISIONS Early Learning Center celebrates 25 years of service, opportunity

VISIONS Early Learning Center, the childcare program offered through Children Inc., celebrates its 25th anniversary Thursday. 

For Teresa Smith, assistant teacher at VISIONS, it’s a celebration of a community resource that provides children with high quality childcare, but it’s also a celebration for the opportunities presented to young mothers like herself who have sought out assistance from VISIONS while trying to improve their lives through education. 

“I became pregnant at the age of 24 and had my daughter Angelia May 1, 2012 at the age of 25,” Smith says. “I stayed with my mom during my pregnancy, because my daughter was gaining weight too fast, and I was in a lot of pain. So I was labeled ‘high risk’ and couldn’t work.” 

After her daughter was born, Smith moved into her first apartment and began searching for a job, but the process was accompanied by a variety of barriers. 

“I came across the Cincinnati Cooks! program and I was eager to enroll, but I didn’t have childcare or transportation,” Smith says. 

Then she came across VISIONS, a 4 STAR-rated center according to Ohio’s Step Up to Quality program, and her life changed. 

“I went and checked it out, and it was a very welcoming place located across the street from my school,” Smith says. 

After completing Cincinnati Cooks!, Smith began volunteering at VISIONS, where she could spend time with her daughter and put her prior childcare experience and newfound cooking knowledge to use. 

“Then an opportunity to be a ‘nap-aid’ opened up,” Smith says. “I got the position part-time for about six months, then the summer program opened up and they needed a full-time seasonal assistant teacher, and I agreed to fill the position.”

Opportunities continued to arise, and Smith found herself with a full-time position as Assistant Teacher in the toddler room. When she’s not at work she’s working — just as other VISIONS mothers are — to pursue higher education. 

“Here I am a year and a half later going to school part-time for my Associate’s Degree in Early Childhood Education,” Smith says. “I thank VISIONS for opening up their doors to my daughter and me and for giving me a great opportunity to do what I love. 

“I feel honored to work for a 4-STAR center who has helped the community for 25 years, and it is really a big family. I cannot speak for all young mothers, but from my experience it is hard. But with someone to reach out to and let you know that they can help — even if it’s just a listening ear — means a lot.”

Do Good: 

•    Support Children Inc. by donating

•    Check out volunteer opportunities with the nonprofit.

•    Connect with Children Inc. on Facebook.

ReelAbilities Film Festival kicks off Friday with "Meet the Stars" event

When Kathleen Cail watched her daughter excel in her first-ever live theater performance of Fiddler on the Roof this past weekend, she felt a sense of pride and an immediate recognition of the ability her daughter possessed.

Cail’s daughter has a form of Muscular Dystrophy called Myotonic Dystrophy, “but that does not define who she is as a person,” Cail says.

As chair for the Cincinnati ReelAbilities Film Festival, Cail is accustomed to seeing individuals from diverse backgrounds come together to celebrate and explore their differences while recognizing the shared humanity we all possess.

Her daughter’s school musical was a precursor to the excitement Cail will soon get to share with so many others, as Cincy ReelAbilities kicks off Friday morning with its Meet the Stars event, which is free and open to the public.

“It is fantastic to see celebrities from across our country who want to be a part of what we are doing here in Cincinnati,” Cail says. “They are talking about us and the great work we are doing to celebrate our diversity.”

Stars include Academy Award-winner Marlee Matlin, Seinfeld and Bones’ Danny Woodburn and Sons of Anarchy’s Kurt Yaeger, among others.

“We want everyone to see our Greater Cincinnati region as a place that welcomes everyone, where people want to come, stay, work and raise a family,” Cail says.

Twenty film screenings will occur throughout the community from Feb. 27 to March 7 — including Wampler's Ascent, previewed here — with 2,500 individuals expected to attend. For Cail, it’s an opportunity for the Greater Cincinnati community to develop dialogue while educating and celebrating ourselves and others.

“The fact that Cincinnati and a local nonprofit, Living Arrangements for the Developmentally Disabled (LADD), host the national ReelAbilities program and that our festival is one of the largest in the nation is so fitting,” Cail says. “We really are an accepting and diverse community, and our community is truly so connected. The nonprofit, academic and business communities have really united around this festival, and that makes sense — this city supports its arts — and because we are so supportive of each other, we are able to unite so many sectors of our region behind this.”
Do Good:

Attend the ReelAbilities’ Meet the Stars event 9:30 a.m. Friday,  Feb. 27, at the Hyatt Regency Cincinnati downtown.
• Check out the films and events and purchase tickets here.
• Support Cincy ReelAbilities by donating.

ChangingGears, LawnLife win big at SVP Fast Pitch

Social Venture Partners' Fast Pitch 2015 was a rousing success last week, presenting 11 different awards and seeing four of the eight finalists — ChangingGears, LawnLife, the Higher Education Mentoring Initiative (HEMI) and Healthy Visions — each coming away with at least $5,000. Just in its second year, Fast Pitch hosted 537 attendees to celebrate the awarding of $30,000 in unrestricted grants, scholarship and marketing support to local nonprofits.
ChangingGears won the $10,000 Innovation That Matters Grand Award and will use the funds to purchase tools and equipment needed to add a third service bay to its garage, which will allow the nonprofit to enable more individuals to take advantage of interest-free loans to become vehicle owners.
"It will increase our capacity to process donated cars, so we will be able to get more cars ready for clients," says Joel Bokelman, ChangingGears president. "Our capacity will also be increased to perform maintenance and repairs for clients that have purchased vehicles."
For Joan Kaup, executive director of SVP Cincinnati, the event's success shows how much interest there is in nonprofit innovation in Cincinnati.
"Our attendance and awards more than tripled this year over last year," Kaup says. "But we won't stop here. We are already thinking about how to make Fast Pitch even bigger and better in 2016."
LawnLife, whose mission is to "provide disconnected youth with an opportunity to gain real world experience and transferable skills," came away with $8,500 and the chance to represent Greater Cincinnati at the Philanthropitch International Competition in Austin, Tex., where more than $100,000 will be awarded.
"Tim Arnold, executive director of LawnLife, is a passionate, persuasive speaker. His story is personal and compelling," Kaup says. "LawnLife will be a good choice for Philanthropitch International, because the issue of homelessness and hopelessness of young men is pervasive. LawnLife is a innovative solution for this critical social problem that is transferable. Any city can adopt the model."

See the full list of Fast Pitch 2015 winners from Feb. 11 event at Memorial Hall.
Do Good:

Support Social Venture Partners Cincinnati by donating.

• Become a Social Venture Partner yourself.

• Connect with SVP Cincinnati on Facebook.
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