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Local man leads nation in library service advancements for blind

Clovernook Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired’s Chris Mundy joins the ranks of individuals like text-to-speech innovator Ray Kurzweil as the 48th recipient of the Francis Joseph Campbell Award.
The award recognizes institutions or individuals who have made “an outstanding contribution to the advancement of library service for the blind and physically handicapped.”
Mundy serves as quality assurance specialist for network-produced recordings at Mutlistate Center East, a division of Clovernook, as he works to improve the quality of—and expand upon the availability of—audio materials available to library patrons who cannot read print.
“My position’s unique, and it’s the only one in the U.S. that works directly with volunteer programs to get the material to a particular quality level,” Mundy says. “And what’s really cool is all the people that get involved—a lot of them are retirees with a background in dramatic arts or broadcasting and are capable of handling really difficult material.”
As Mundy travels around the country to the National Library Service volunteer studios, he assists in the behind-the-scenes production that allows for continuity of sound and quality for the various materials available.
“There’s a revolving door of volunteers—maybe 10 narrators involved in a typical issue of Smithsonian magazine, for example—and the whole key is, over time, the staff and volunteers involved with it are constantly changing,” Mundy says. “Plus, the technology changes. I learn it and impart some of that knowledge to them.”
Mundy says he’s humbled to be a recipient of the award, but he’d like for more individuals to take advantage of the resources he helps make available.
“At any given moment, 900,000-1 million people are currently using it (the Braille and Audio Reading service), but there are 3 million who are eligible for it,” Mundy says. “So roughly 2 million don’t know they can access it with a doctor’s note. There’s just so many people in everyday life who might really benefit from knowing about it.”

Do Good: 

•    Connect with Clovernook Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired on Facebook.

•    If you know someone who could benefit from services offered through the BARD, help them apply.

•    Support Clovernook Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

CYC grad shows fortitude through adverse situations

Withrow International High School graduate Niyubahwe Dieudonne is familiar with transitions.
He’ll begin his studies at the University of Cincinnati in August, and in early October, at the Cincinnati Youth Collaborative’s 11th annual Dream Makers Celebration, he’ll find out whether or not he’s the recipient of the Outstanding Student Award and a $1,000 scholarship.
Dieudonne was nominated for the award because of his success and perseverance through a time in his life that was by no means easy.
“I moved from East Africa from a small country called Burundi in 2007,” Dieudonne says. “It was really hard for me, because I didn’t know any English when I came, so it was really hard going to school here.”
In the sixth grade, Dieudonne enrolled at the Academy of World Languages, where he participated in English as a Second Language classes; and during his freshman year of high school, he became involved with the CYC.
“It was good because it gave me the experience of having a mentor,” Dieudonne says. “And the mentor would always stay in touch with us, help us with our school work—whatever we needed, they were there for us—they’d always make sure we were doing the best we can.”
Coming to a new country that he knew nothing about and essentially having to “start over” was the hardest thing Dieudonne says he’s ever experienced. And though he’s overcome that obstacle, he says he still struggles.
“Especially when I’m starting college right now,” Dieudonne says. “But I’m planning on going to UC to study biology. But moving here has inspired me to do my best and to not be afraid of challenges that life gives me.” 

Do Good:

•    Connect with CYC on Facebook, and attend the Dream Makers Celebration October 2 at Music Hall

•    Volunteer as a CYC mentor.

•    Support the CYC by making a gift.

NKY veteran to receive free home repairs

For 75-year old veteran Raymond Muench, climbing a ladder to engage in activities like painting and caulking around the outside windows is not as simple of a task as it once was.
He says he’s grateful for those in his life—like the individuals at People Working Cooperatively and the volunteers from Home Depot’s Repair Affair—who are able to provide him help when it’s needed.
Muench was born in Cincinnati and grew up in Northern Kentucky before spending four years in active duty with the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam War.
Though never stationed in Asia, the whole time he was gone, Muench says he was eagerly anticipating his return to his hometown that he had come to appreciate for its cultural diversity and attitude of goodwill toward others.
“What was really a shock and an eye opener for me was they sent me to Donaldson Air Force Base for the first year I was in the service in late 1961, and I remember when I got off the airplane down there and went into the local airport terminal, I saw where there were signs at water fountains for ‘colored only’ or ‘white only,’” Muench says. “And I couldn’t believe what in the world I was looking at.”
Serving others and approaching all individuals as equally important is just second nature for Muench.
So when PWC approached him with the news that his home would be one of 11 projects this summer serviced by Home Depot employees taking the day to volunteer with the Repair Affair program, he was nothing but gracious.
“I mentioned to the fellow who was here from PWC, that the way I look at this—my perspective on the matter—it’s that the turnabout’s fair play, so to speak,” Muench says. “And when they come here, it’s not a case of people just thanking me for my service. I will definitely be thanking them wholeheartedly as well for their service.”

Do Good:

•    Help others like Muench by volunteering with PWC.

•    If you or someone you know might qualify for PWC's services, apply.

•    Support PWC by donating.

Price Hill sports painter assists nonprofits by donating artwork

It was around the age of 7 that local artist Chris Felix says he drew a picture of his dog that impressed his mother and others.
“This sparked my interest in drawing more,” Felix says. “And I started taking some lessons from a cousin of mine who was an art teacher.”
Felix’s work has evolved over the years, and a primary area of focus for him now is sports paintings—everything from portraits of Reds players to landscapes of golf courses.
“As projects arise, I research my subjects by scouring books in the library, images on Google, and asking around at memorabilia shops for pertinent material relating to my subject,” Felix says.
He photographs his subjects and backgrounds for points of reference then gets to work, but the process doesn’t stop there.
Felix, who grew up in Price Hill and who has lived in Cincinnati his entire life, has a passion not only for art, but also for his city and those who inhabit it.
So he makes it a point to use his paintings and prints to give back.
Since the late '90s, Felix has donated an original and more than 20 prints per year, on average, to organizations like the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, the Reid Rizzo Foundation, the Bethany House Shelter and others, to assist with nonprofits’ missions of propelling the community forward.
“Helping others is something I love to do,” Felix says. “The impact is nothing but positive. I believe that we get back more than what we ever give.” 

Do Good:

•    Support Felix by checking out his art and sharing it with others. 

•    Connect with Felix on Facebook.

•    Look for Felix's art around town at places like the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame & Muesum, Art on the Levee, the Cincinnati Mueseum Center and Heirloom Framing Co.


Bengals tailgating sparks idea for new nonprofit

Jason Chapman says he remembers tailgating at the Bengals-Steelers Monday Night Football matchup last September like it was yesterday—and not just because it was a Cincinnati win against a top-rival.
He remembers it because it was the start of something bigger and more meaningful than he says he’d ever imagined.
“It just so happened that all day that day, I wound up helping people in small ways—giving money here and there— and I didn’t put two and two together,” Chapman says.
“But before the game, as we were tailgating, we saw onlookers outside the gate, and some people looked like they could have been less fortunate than myself and some of the other partygoers.”
So Chapman and his friends offered food to those who stood outside, and his act of kindness soon became contagious.
The desire to help others spread not only to the other tailgaters that evening, but also to Chapman’s friends and followers across social networks and across the country.
“We had enormous support from friends and followers who were willing to donate the next time we were downtown tailgating—or just anything we were willing to do—they were ready and willing to give,” Chapman says.
So The Midwest Project, a nonprofit for which Chapman is president and co-founder, was born.
The organization works by utilizing social media to raise awareness and funds for things like education, health and wellness, and nonviolence.
“It made me think about how I have a tremendous support team and some influence in my city and community,” Chapman says. “So why don’t we start a nonprofit so we can build on that, and that’s kind of how it started.” 

Do Good:

•    Check out The Midwest Project's website, and tell your friends.

•    Connect with the organization on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for updates.

•    Support The Midwest Project by donating or volunteering.


Unique shopping model benefits nonprofits

Six local nonprofits will benefit from purchases made at Treasures 4 Charity, an upscale resale shop located in East Walnut Hills.
Store owner Valerie Duplain, a retiree who says she’s always been involved with charities, operates the shop five days a week on a completely volunteer basis so that 70 percent of an item’s selling price goes directly toward funds for the the six partners: Caracole, Faces Without Places, Mercy Neighborhood Ministries, Prospect House, Freestore Foodbank and the Walnut Hills Kitchen.
“The theory kind of is, if you go to Caracole and say you have a chair, they can’t do anything with it, but if you bring it here, I can sell it,” Duplain says. “Even if you get $100 dollars a month to some of these charities, it’s a huge thing for them.”
Duplain, who lives in the neighborhood, says she opened the shop because she saw it as the perfect opportunity to not only do something fun, but to also give back to small nonprofits who she says are having a difficult time, particularly now.

Her goal for 2015 is to provide each nonprofit with $5,000 dollars. 
“In this economy, it really is a good thing if you can help,” Duplain says. “And it’s a fun shop—95 percent of people who come in are repeat customers—and you don’t find something every time you come in, but you can look around and really see some unique things.” 

Do Good:

•    Support one of the six nonprofits on your own. 

•    Donate items to the shop, and go check out what's available. 

•    Contact Valerie if you're interested in volunteering.

Leadership training program grooms nonprofit leaders

Executive Service Corps of Cincinnati (ESCC) and Talbert House are continuing their partnership this year in offering a nine-month leadership and skills development training program, The Executive Curriculum for Emerging Leaders (EXCEL).

EXCEL provides local nonprofit organizations access to affordable leadership education and professional development. The program is targeted at executive directors and senior staff management of nonprofit organizations in the Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky area.

The full-day workshops this year, which run October 2014 through May 2015, focus on networking, board development, fundraising, branding and marketing, as well as one-on-one coaching for each individual, says Darlyne Koretos, director of public relations.

The total cost for the program, including required reference materials, is $1,100. Funding comes from the United Way of Greater Cincinnati, Duke Energy Foundation and the Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile, Jr./U.S. Bank Foundation

The EXCEL program aims to help nonprofit leaders to become more efficient and develop the skills needed to focus on fulfilling their mission.

“It’s gratifying to be able to help organizations that don’t have the money or resources,” Koretos says. “They have a passion for their mission and what they do, but they don’t have the business skills to do it.”

Do Good:

Smart Greater Cincinnati teaches financial literacy

Fidelity Investments recently launched Smart Greater Cincinnati, a financial education program for elementary and middle school teachers, through a partnership with the University of Cincinnati Economics Center and Northern Kentucky University’s Center for Economic Education
Smart Greater Cincinnati is part of a nationwide movement to bring financial literacy to every grade level and help close the education gap. The program already exists in Texas and Tennessee; a pilot was brought to Ohio in 2013. The impact of Smart Greater Cincinnati reached 2,700 students in the classroom just this year.
“This is so invaluable for our teachers,” says Nicole Gordon, Fidelity Investments community relations manager. “It’s one thing to teach content, but how do you relate it to the future of your students?”
Fidelity Investments volunteers trained 60 local teachers, focusing on professional development and best practices for teaching personal finance education to their students.
Much of the program is activity-based, just like they would be in the classrooms, and focus on good decision-making; the heart of the lessons target savings, spending, money management and credit.
“This training is crucial,” Gordon says. “Making a budget and understanding credit cards is part of making smart financial decisions. Instilling this is so important.”

Do Good:
  • Spread the word about financial literacy.
  • For more information, contact Nicole Gordon
  • Follow Fidelity Investments on Twitter.

Bridges Job Readiness program receives $1,500 grant

The Women’s Fund of The Greater Cincinnati Foundation recently bestowed a $1,500 grant to the Bridges Job Readiness Program at Mercy Health-St. John.
The Bridges program helps those who are struggling with long-term unemployment by teaching them how to use common computer applications and develop professional correspondence skills. Whether it was an illness or family emergency that caused them to leave their jobs, many of them don’t have the marketable skills or experience when they go back to reapply.
“This program gives [students] the skills they need to re-enter the workforce and succeed in landing a job,” says Nannette Bentley, director of public relations. Students will learn based on real-world assignments and master much-needed skills.
But the program doesn’t stop at job readiness and professional development. Students are provided with referrals to the St. John’s medical clinic, vision exams, mental health counseling, food, personal care items, interview-appropriate clothing and transportation.
The 12-week job readiness program is flexible—students can attend classes that work best for them during mornings, afternoons and evenings throughout the spring, summer and winter.
Every student who graduates participates in an internship at a local nonprofit, giving back to the community and giving them some experience back on their resume at the same time. More than 70 percent of Bridges students land work, Bentley says. 

NKCAC establishes new Head Start location

The Northern Kentucky Community Action Commission recently received a $75,000 grant from The Greater Cincinnati Foundation (GCF). The grant, which came from GCF’s Northern Kentucky Fund, will be used to remodel a former medical building at Scott Boulevard and Tenth Street in Covington into the new Eastside Child Development Center.
NKCAC serves all eight counties of Northern Kentucky, offering support to low-income families as well as individuals. The Eastside Child Development Center will be the home to a Head Start program, a pre-school program for young learners (ages three and four) that prepares them for transition into kindergarten. 
“Every child we can reach before kindergarten is a child who is more likely to be ready for school and more likely to become a life-long learner,” says Laurie Wolsing, NKCAC’s Head Start Director, “and to offer that service in places where working mothers and fathers can easily drop off their child on their way to work, like the new center in Covington, makes me very proud.”
The building will house Head Start classrooms as well as a daycare center. The program will also provide snacks and meals, health screenings, social services and many opportunities for parent involvement.
“This center, like all of our early childhood programs, is about creating community for the whole family,” says Florence Tandy, NKCAC Executive Director.  “We encourage parents to volunteer at our centers and to take an active role in their child’s education. We are proud to be partnering with the Greater Cincinnati Foundation toward this end.”
The development center is expected to be completed by the start of August enrollment.
Do Good:
  • Become NKCAC’s friend on Facebook.
  • Volunteer with NKCAC.
  • Donate money for a child's meal or transportation. 

Macy's Kids, Cultures, Critters and Crafts Festival offers $1 zoo admission

Local residents can enjoy the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden for just $1 during the Macy’s Kids, Cultures, Critters and Crafts Festival this Wednesday. 

The summer festival, hosted by Learning Through Art (LTA), is returning for the ninth year in a row. LTA is an organization committed to increasing community participation in the arts and humanities as well as encouraging multicultural awareness and understanding. 

“We’re celebrating the mosaic beauty of those living in Cincinnati all day long,” says Kathy Wade, LTA co-founder and CEO. “We want to encourage people to meet their neighbors.” 

Performers this year range from DJ Pillo to Jesse Mooney-Bullock (puppeteer), Bing Yang Chinese Performing Arts Center, Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati and Robin Lacy and DeZydeco. Some performers, such as the Cincinnati Circus, Anaya Belly Dancing and Mariachi Band Zelaya, will be roaming and not on the main stage. 

LTA also has a new partner this year: Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center will introduce the Cincinnati Children’s Wellness Zone. The zone will feature hands-on activities and encourage children to experience the importance of health habits. 

Metro is offering 50 cents for a one-way bus trip or $1 round-trip bus fare from anywhere on Route 46, Wade says. 

Do Good:

•    Attend the festival and meet your neighbors. 

•    Check out the all-day event schedule

•    Follow LTA on Twitter for updates. 

Rothenberg rooftop garden will give OTR students new growth opportunities

Rothenberg Preparatory Academy will see the completion of its 8,500-square-foot rooftop teaching garden this year, thanks to many donations and supporters in the local community. 

Edwin “Pope” Coleman, rooftop project manager, has worked with the Over-The-Rhine Foundation for the past eight years to bring the rooftop garden to life

When Rothenberg was vacant and facing demolition, Coleman, as well as many residents of the community, approached Cincinnati Public Schools and asked for a renovation instead of a replacement.  

“[Rothenberg] was a flagship and point of pride for the neighborhood,” says Bryna Bass, full-time teacher and garden manager. “The community fought hard to prevent it from being torn down.” 

With the understanding that CPS wouldn’t be responsible for providing anything more than the space, the OTR Foundation took on fiscal responsibility and began restoring Rothenberg through Coleman’s vision. 

Fundraising for the rooftop garden began in late 2008, and more than $300,000 has been raised since then. The recent Midsummer Night’s Gala raised additional funding also need for construction and operation.

The teaching garden, which was once a playground, will allow students to explore science and nature. The developed curriculum uses garden-based lessons to deepen students' educational experience through hands-on problem-solving activities, Bass says.

The rooftop teaching garden educational program will launch at the beginning of the 2014-15 academic year. 

Do Good:
  • Visit Rothenberg and go on a tour of the garden. 
  • “Like” the rooftop garden progress on Facebook. 
  • Make a donation to the OTR Foundation

Taking Root offers $5 trees to home and land owners

The Hamilton County Soil and Water Conservation District (HCSWCD) has sold more than 43,000 trees to Hamilton County residents as a result of joining a local campaign, Taking Root.

Taking Root, which kicked off in September 2013, is a collaborative effort of eight counties in the tri-state area working to raise citizens’ awareness of our region’s tree canopy crisis. The campaign is educating the public on the value and need for trees and how to care for them with a goal of planting 2 million trees by 2020—one tree for each resident in the tri-state region. 

The program allows homeowners and landowners to purchase a tree for $5 in an effort to reduce the threat of the emerald ash borer, Asian longhorned beetle and bush honeysuckle as well as many other tree-destroying culprits. American Elm, Ohio Buckeye, Allegheny Serviceberry, Hardy Pecan, Black Gum and Swamp White Oak are the trees available to be purchased and planted.

The deadline to order trees is Sept. 25, 2014; trees will be available for pick-up in October. The district is also asking residents to send in a photo to make sure the trees are planted correctly and maintained. 

But it doesn’t stop with just buying and planting trees. John Nelson, HCSWCD public relations specialist, says there are also ways citizens can protect and maintain existing trees.

“It’s very important to make sure you’re not a victim of these invasive species,” Nelson says. “Inspecting your existing trees is a great way to prevent and control the problem before it worsens.”

Do Good:

•    Buy a tree from the Hamilton County Soil and Water Conservation District.

•    Sign the Taking Root pledge

•    Maintain existing trees in the community. 

Cincinnati Youth 2 Work recruits local teens

More than 600 local teens have been recruited and employed in various organizations throughout the city as part of the Youth 2 Work (Y2WK) program. Y2WK provides City departments and the local business community with an ongoing talent pool and improves workforce resources in our region.  

The program, which runs from June through August, employs youths between the ages of 14 and 18 (and up to 21) in part-time and full-time jobs for eight weeks throughout the summer. 

Seven partners in the area provide opportunities for participants to gain job experience as well as a paycheck. The paid positions start out at $7.85/hour and fall in a variety of roles, ranging from lifeguarding to lawn service.  

The program identifies and works with children who need jobs the most, based on income requirements. Most applicants come from situations where their families are asset poor. Nearly half of them are at the lowest level of poverty, with a total family income of $21,000 or less, says Yvette Simpson, Cincinnati City councilmember.

“It breaks your heart when you hear a 15-year-old say he is the only one in his family who is working,” Simpson says. “But what we do is meaningful. We’re watching these kids blossom, grow up and out of those situations.” 

The program doesn’t just provide a paycheck. Teens also receive training in financial literacy and college preparation. In addition to life skills training, Y2WK teaches teens about needs versus wants and how to save an emergency fund by encouraging them to sign a savings pledge.

“These kids have critical needs. They start to understand that if you want to eat, you work,” Simpson says. “And they feel the pride of when you work, you get paid.”

Graduation and an annual celebration of this summer’s program will take place July 24. 

Construction and design professionals go to camp

Construction and design firm professionals recently left their job sites for a day to join Stepping Stones’ day camp for children, teens and young adults with disabilities, as part of Construction Come Together Day.

Stepping Stones’ summer day camps serve more than 425 children, teens and young adults. On average, more than 175 are served on a daily basis. Stepping Stones, a United Way partner agency, runs programs at its locations in Indian Hill, Batavia and Norwood.

More than 30 volunteers came from six different companies: Jostin Construction in Walnut Hills, Dugan & Myers Construction in Blue Ash, Messer Construction in Bond Hill, Danis in Dayton, Ohio, and Valley Interior Systems and Turner Construction, both in downtown Cincinnati. 

“Whether it’s lending a steadying hand or helping engage in craft projects,” says Peggy Kreimer, communication and grants director, “our volunteers are an extra friend—a camp buddy—who make camp more safe and fun.”

Volunteers went boating and fishing with campers, danced, kicked and tossed huge balls, and created “monsters” with paint, glitter and colored paper.

Construction Come Together Day was sponsored by Jostin Construction as a result of Whitney Eckert, Jostin vice president of finance. Eckert was inspired by last summer’s impact when health care workers volunteered at United Way agencies in the Greater Cincinnati area.

“We are very much indebted to every volunteer who comes and helps the children,” Kreimer says. “We want to give each child a personal camp experience.”

Do Good:

•    Interested in volunteering? Call volunteer coordinator Beverly Fenton at 513-831-4660.

•    Donate to support Stepping Stones’ ongoing programs. 

•    Donate a much-needed item from Stepping Stones’ Wish List.
725 Articles | Page: | Show All
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