Facebook has so dramatically altered the way we communicate, and sometimes meet.. It has introduced me to people I would never have come in contact with. It is a source of support, of sharing good news and bad, of laughing at each other’s stories, of connecting, really connecting.
It was on that platform where the lives of Cheryl Beardslee and I first intersected. You can tell a lot about a person’s character by his or her Facebook content. It is in the Home Feed where I have come to see Cheryl as an uplifting figure who sees the best in others and sees life through a glass half full. Often, her name is beside feedback to others giving praise, encouragement, or joy.
Now having met her several times at parties, I can say, she is just as warm in person. Cheryl is someone who finds great joy in her life. Conversation with her comes easily as she is both an interested listener and speaker. If you ask her about the people who matter to her, her tone brightens and she opens up to story upon story of their impact.
One of those people is Courttney Cooper, one of Visionaries and Voices top selling artists known for his vividly detailed maps of Cincinnati. The two came to know each other when Cheryl was a special education teacher. Now he is her Godson, and they see each other as often as possible. This picture was taken last month at his birthday party. “He is one of the hardest working students I had,” she said. “From him, I learned about the importance of perseverance, hard work, kindness and making the most of the gifts you are born with,” she told me.
Cheryl also credits her parents, both past army officers, for teaching her about good character.
Talk about not giving up. Her dad, Charles, was 17 when he decided he was going to run away from home to join the army. He donned his only suit, dress shoes and a tie and began his 30-mile journey, trekking through the night to arrive by 3:00 am. He took his shoes off (because they were his good shoes after all), put them behind his head, and laid down on the cement to wait. The recruiter showed up three hours later and wasted no time in signing up this young man who clearly had an undaunting determination that would be of value to the military.
Charles was soon commissioned by the President of the United States to become a Lieutenant Colonel before going after his next question. There was this beautiful woman who was an army nurse…and so of course, Charles suddenly became ill (or so he told people).
They eventually eloped to Jeffersonville, Indiana and were together the rest of their lives imparting their work ethic and values onto their children and others.
Later, they settled in Cincinnati where Cheryl’s dad became the manager of the Regency (apartments) and the entire family lived in a unit and helped. Charles’ staff were like family. “One man told us, ‘the Colonel was like his dad,’” Cheryl said. “That is how people felt about him (her dad). He could inspire people.
“If he asked you to do something, if you would not jump up immediately, then he would say, ‘I wouldn’t pay you a million dollars for your help’ until you would jump up. And then he would say, ‘I only want your help if you will help me with a giving heart.’”
To Lt. Colonel Beardslee, I want to thank you for that legacy. Clearly that giving heart has been passed down to your daughter.
Just along the southern bank of the Ohio River sits the small rural town of Melbourne, Kentucky, spotted with rustic farms and quaint resting spots. The 2010 Census counted 401 people residing in its neighborhoods.
It is also the home of the Freestore Foodbank’s The Giving Fields, an expansive 10 acre community farm that provides fresh produce for Northern Kentucky food pantries, soup kitchens and other agencies. During 2016 growing season alone, some 2,400 volunteers helped plant, weed, harvest, and glean enough vegetables to supplement nearly 120,000 meals.
Dan is among those volunteers. Most days for the past six years he can be seen navigating the rows, fence lines and pretty much the entire length of the farm driving a lawn mower. As a neighbor, it is a job he enjoys doing in his retirement. “It is something simple that I can do to contribute to our community,” he said.
Interested in helping out? The Freestore Foodbank is always looking for new volunteers. For more information about volunteering at The Giving Fields or for questions about donating gardening items or supplies, please email our Volunteer Services Department at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (513) 482-7550.
I have often said I am so fortunate that my work has introduced me to some pretty incredible people. Carol Stevie is among them. We came to know each other through my work on the Greater Cincinnati Planned Giving Council’s Voices of Giving Awards. A committee member, Carol had been my main point of contact for numerous years. Always appreciative, upbeat and welcoming, she was one of the reasons I looked forward to that project.
Carol was involved through her work with a Cincinnati nonprofit organization, Catholic Inner-City Schools Education (CISE), which supports the education of about 2000 urban students at eight Catholic elementary schools and several Catholic high schools. The CISE schools welcome all children, regardless of their religious backgrounds and economic circumstances. (Around 75% of the students at CISE are not Catholic, 83% are minorities and 93% are poor.) Carol worked there almost twenty years before her retirement, 8.5 years as its part-time associate director and 11 years as its first full-time director.
CISE was, and probably still is, her passion; although now, in her retirement she is enjoying spending quality time with her family – husband Richard, two adult daughters & spouses – Beth Walker (Tom), Laura Ash (Joe) and our four grandchildren Nathan, Evan, Ava and Eli. Retirement also gives me more time to pursue my love of travel and to plan our upcoming adventures. In the fall, she will be doing more volunteering.
Lisa: Tell me about some of what you are most proud of in life.
Carol: One of things of which I am most proud – in addition to my family – is having had the opportunity to work with CISE and have a positive influence on the lives of so many young people. The growth of community support of the CISE program over the past 20 years has been amazing. It was a privilege to work with the dedicated, hardworking CISE Board and staff, as well as with the principals, staff and faculties of the CISE schools. They are all so mission-driven and inspiring. In addition, I am in awe of the extremely generous donors who have done so much for the students at the CISE schools over the years because they feel committed to giving children the same opportunities that they have receive. Everyone involved with CISE shares the belief that education is the key to overcoming poverty.
Lisa: Where does that drive and passion come from?
Carol: My personal belief in the power of education was shaped by my mother. I grew up in East Price Hill and attended St. Lawrence School, now a CISE school. Neither of my parents had the opportunity to attend college and worked hard to provide for our family. My mother was insistent that my sister and I go to college because she wanted us to have more opportunities than she had. Mom went to work full time to pay for our tuition at Seton High School and to put us both through the University of Cincinnati. I am so grateful to her and have been inspired by her selflessness and by the great value she placed on education.
Lisa: Tell me a little about your philosophy on life.
Carol: I believe the reason that I was drawn to CISE is that we are all connected through our humanity. I love the following quote by Dr. Martin Luther King: “Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be.”
It was over six years ago when Don and Cindy Reilly’s lives changed forever. Tears swelled in their eyes as the credits rolled to the movie, the Blind Side. And, the next thing they knew, they signed up for CPR and first aid classes and began talking about fostering.
Their first set of five kids were African American, two of them were babies. They stayed with the Reilly’s for about 3 ½ weeks, and were followed by two girls and a boy who were with them about 4 ½ months. The next set of kids were teenage brothers, one with cognitive disabilities, who lived with Don and Cindy for over nine months.
Through these relationships, the Reilly’s learned two things: opening your heart up to young vulnerable kids one of life’s most rewarding experiences. The other lesson – it is VERY difficult to say good bye to temporary foster children who you have grown to love.
“We took a deep breath, wrote a letter and met with a social worker to say we wanted to foster to adopt the next time around,” Don told me.
Their next call was about a ‘unique situation’. There were six children and three of them had already been placed. Cindy actually knew the foster parent. Don and Cindy agreed to take the other three girls.
Ariel (8), Marissa (9), and Katelyn (11) met their new parents to be at Ault Park, the site where Don and Cindy were married years back. Two meet and greets, and a weekend stay later, the girls were asked if they wanted to stay. And, 4 ½ years later, Ariel, Marissa, and Katelyn became Reilly girls.
It was about four months after the adoption was finalized that Cindy became pregnant and Adrianna brought the family to six.
Lisa: What have your daughters brought to your life?
Don: Many think they know how to love but they don’t. I was raised by single mom who had many bad things happen to her and so she never really knew how to love. She would pat you on the back and say I love you. I grew up thinking that was what love was. My daughters have taught me how to love, and that you can love someone unconditionally.
Lisa: What do you hope to impart on your daughters?
Don: Cindy’s and my goal is that we want our girls to be good people, grow up, do what they want to do in life, and be people who have their hands out for those who need help. That is how I lead my life. One of the reasons I have started my own business what so that it could be a place where people can come to work and have a boss who cares about them, encourages them, and brings jo to their life. I want my girls to live that way.
The first 20 years of my life were all about me but I look at that as a good thing, and that is how I overcame a lot of my insecurities. Until I met my wife, I always was a worker. I began working when 14 years old. I think I kept busy so I didn’t have to deal with my life. I thought I was different because I didn’t have dad. I always thought it’d be neat to have a dad. Then I met my mentor who talked to me about just looking forward. He drove me to stay focused not on my past but what I want from my life. I try to teach my kids that they too can keep going forward and not look back. You can get caught up too much looking at the past and it can hurt you.
Last summer, Kathleen Cail and Nestor Melnyk were awarded a grant by People’s Liberty from the Carol Ann & Ralph V. Haile Foundation to create Access Cincinnati, an online resource providing accessibility information on restaurants and bars to families with strollers, veterans, seniors and other individuals with mobility issues.
After many, many hours of research, they are launching AccessCincinnati.org, and are marking the occasion with a party TONIGHT at 6 pm at Taft’s Ale House (1429 Race Street; Cincinnati, Ohio 45202). The party will include free appetizers, information about the reviews and website, and a presentation of the first official Access Cincinnati window cling.
For Kathleen and Nestor this project is of personal significance as they are both parents who have children with developmental disabilities and aging parents. “We created the site to make it easier for anyone with children in strollers or with mobility issues to find an accessible venue, feel welcome and confident they can patronize a restaurant or bar without problems entering or being seated,” said Kathleen. “We hope the site encourages restaurants and bars to consider accessibility beyond ADA requirements because it’s not just the right thing to do, it’s good for business.”
Approximately 13% of Cincinnati residents are senior citizens and just over 12% of Hamilton County’s population has a disability. Cincinnati also hosts large conventions with Veterans, seniors and people with disabilities such as the National Veterans’ Wheelchair Games with 600 athletes visiting our city in July.
More than 65 citizens helped crowd source the information. Currently, there are approximately 150 reviews out of about 225 potential bars and restaurants, most in Downtown, OTR, and The Banks. To keep this information up-to-date, more crowd sourcing is needed. Cincinnatians are asked to visit www.accesscincinnati.org and sign up to receive their mobile survey to crowd source additional venues around the city, including other neighborhoods like Walnut Hills, Price Hill, Clifton, Avondale and Northside.
The Access Cincinnati mobile site provides information on Entrance, Space, and Restrooms. Restaurant and bar owners, that have been reviewed, will receive the Access Cincinnati window cling, providing potential customers passing by, with the information they need to decide whether a location meets their unique needs, before trying to enter.
“We want everyone to feel welcomed in our city and we want to provide information that can help individuals make their own decisions about where to spend their money and have a good time,” said Nestor.