Voices Of Giving Awards Honor Greater Cincinnati Philanthropists


In our region, we are fortunate to have so very many diverse causes that are each enriching neighborhoods and lives in unique ways. Their important work would not be possible without a team of dedicated staff, volunteers, and donors.

For the past five years, it has been such a privilege to work with the Greater Cincinnati Planned Giving Council committee helping to spread awareness of very generous people who are helping to ensure our community’s valuable nonprofit organizations can be sustainable in the future. They recently honored 27 philanthropists including Jim Huizenga, as a professional advisor, with Voices of Giving Awards. (You’ll be seeing more information in local news print over the next few months.) All philanthropists honored have made a bequest or planned gift to their favorite charity.

Mike and Marilyn Kremzar are examples of our humanitarian leaders who have committed years to empowering people who have been down on their luck

Mike Van Oflen, Tony Lavatori, Tonya Lavatori, Mike Kremzar, Marilyn Kremzar, Kurt Reiber and Mindy Hammer

Mike Van Oflen, Tony Lavatori, Tonya Lavatori, Mike Kremzar, Marilyn Kremzar, Kurt Reiber and Mindy Hammer photo credit: Paula Norton

through the Freestore Foodbank. Since joining its Board in 1984, Mike helped create the hugely successful Cincinnati COOKS!, a culinary job training program that not only provides nutritious afterschool meals to children at risk of hunger but also has seen more than 1,200 adult graduates move on to gainful employment. The Kremzars named the Freestore Foodbank as a beneficiary of their IRA.

There are so many wonderful stories like theirs of why charitable giving is such an important part of their lives. Please click the link to read more about all of the honorees. 2015 Voices of Giving Honoree backgrounds


Other honorees include:

Deacon David A. Klingshirn on behalf of The Athenaeum of Ohio;
Alan and Dianne Thomas on behalf of the Brighton Center;
Marjorie and Roger Santor (posthumously) on behalf of CET – Greater Cincinnati Television Educational Foundation;
Robert Buechner on behalf of The Children’s Home of Cincinnati;
John H. White, Jr. on behalf of Cincinnati Museum Center;
Albert W. Vontz III on behalf of Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park;
Barb and Mort Nicholson on behalf of Cincinnati Public Radio;
Norita Aplin and Stanley Ragle on behalf of Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestra;
Jack Kirby on behalf of Episcopal Retirement Homes;
Mike and Marilyn Kremzar on behalf of Freestore Foodbank;
John Isidor and Sandy Kaltman on behalf of the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati;
Burke Neville on behalf of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation;
Peggy Kite on behalf of Life Enriching Communities Foundation – Twin Lakes;
Dr. George Rieveschl, Jr. (posthumously) on behalf of the Lloyd Library and Museum;
Mona Morrow on behalf of The Salvation Army;
Emily Pan on behalf of Saint Joseph Home;
Mary Kay Pastura Hauser on behalf of St. Ursula Academy;
The Calonge Family on behalf of the United Way of Greater Cincinnati.
Note: one of the honorees did not want to be recognized in Event promotion.

Jim Huizenga, senior program officer at The Greater Cincinnati Foundation,
honored as a professional advisor, was nominated by Saint Joseph Home

Platinum Presenting Sponsors of the 17th annual Voices of Giving Awards are The John A. Schroth Family Charitable Trust, PNC Bank Trustee, and The Salvation Army.  Silver Sponsors include Graydon, Head and Ritchey LLP, the Johnson Charitable Gift Fund, Life Enriching Communities, Smith Beers Yunker & Company, Inc., and Xavier University.  The Event was hosted by CET and emceed by Local 12’s John Lomax.

“Our Voices of Giving honorees represent the true spirit of philanthropy and their gifts are enhancing the quality of life for our community, now and in the future,” said Sue Ellen Stuebing, vice president of the board of The Greater Cincinnati Planned Giving Council. “We thank them not only for their generosity but also for allowing us to recognize them.  By doing so, they are inspiring others in our community to demonstrate that everyone can make a lasting impact by leaving a legacy.

Voices of Giving honorees photo credit: Paula Norton

Voices of Giving honorees
photo credit: Paula Norton

The 2015 event was co-chaired by Telly McGaha and Molly Talbot. Committee members included Lori Asmus, Carol Derkson, Bruce Favret, Misty Griesinger, Doug Heeston, Anna Hehman, Bill Hitch, Mary Alice Koch, Michelle Mancini, Tracy Monroe, Carol Serrone, Carol Stevie, Sue Ellen Stuebing and Dan Virzi.

The Greater Cincinnati Planned Giving Council is a professional association for people whose work includes developing, marketing, and administering charitable planned gifts for non-profit institutions and a variety of other legal and financial settings.




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Michelle Beckham Stays Inspired With Gratitude Journal


When I posted my image asking, “When was the last time you stopped to smell the flowers?” on LinkedIn, Michelle Beckham shared that she keeps a Gratitude Journal. Michelle is such a positive person, and this is such a great idea, that I wanted to ask her some questions about it. Learn more about her Gratitude Journal below.

Michelle BeckhamGTGA: How long have you been writing your Journal?
Michelle: I have kept a Gratitude Journal for over 10 years.  In fact, at this point I have quite a few filled books.  I begin each morning by making a list of 5 things that I am grateful for each day.  Some days, the list reads more like a journal or diary entry- full of paragraphs for each item.  Other days consist of a simple list of 5 bulleted items.  Despite my profession in digital media, I still keep an old fashioned hand-written journal.

GTGA:  What inspired you to begin?
Michelle: I am a writer and have belonged to local writing group, Women Writing for (a) Change for many years.  One of the women in my writing circle mentioned her practice of keeping a gratitude journal and I was hooked.  I have kept diaries/journals since I was ten years old, so the art of writing daily was not a problem for me.

GTGA: What are some things for which you are grateful?
Michelle: Here are a few random entries from this year.

I am grateful for:
Gorgeous weekend weather
A chance to FaceTime with my college freshman while she is away at school
Listening to beautiful music from a Chinese Zither
The falling rain, so I don’t have to water my garden

GTGA: How has keeping a Gratitude List made an impact on your life?
Michelle: Keeping the journal allows me to start my day in meditation and to take the time to notice the people, places, things, and circumstances that affect my very existence. I am more aware of the world around me and am so thankful for the experiences of each day. We are never guaranteed tomorrow, so taking the time to notice today makes all the difference in my life.


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Through Magnified Giving, Greater Cincinnati Students Learn Philanthropy

Wyoming High School students learned about philanthropy from Magnified Giving, a Cincinnati nonprofit organization

Students from Wyoming High School presented their grant check of $1500 to their chose charity, Childhood Food Solutions.

It is one of the most unique and broad reaching efforts to inspire lifelong wise and generous philanthropists. In its seventh year, nonprofit Magnified Giving kicked off the 2014-2015 school year by giving money to groups of students from a record 52 regional schools, with the charge of extensively researching, debating, discussing, and ultimately investing it wisely into causes of value to them. It all culminated with those more than 2,500 students collectively granting nearly $100,000 to 70 diverse charities in a series of awards ceremonies.

This is the second year that I have helped Magnified Giving spread the word about its impact. (You will probably be reading about it in a community paper near you soon.)

Four students were also recognized with Roger Grein Spirit of Philanthropy Award, nominated by teachers and selected for exemplifying the meaning of philanthropy as expressed through essays. Honorees included: Julie Gyure from Perry High School, Alex Deters from St. Xavier High School, Becca Faeth from Holy Cross High School and Katie Perry from Roger Bacon High School.

Cincinnati student Katie Perry received the Roger Grein Philanthropy Award from Magnified Giving

Katie Perry and Roger Grein

To truly understand the power of this organization is to read what these honorees had to say about how participating has changed their outlook, changed their life. Below are excerpts from their essays.

“This program has shown me that philanthropy is all about fixing our society’s problem of inequality from its roots, not just with monetary donations, but with time. Volunteering at organizations and taking your own time to get to know them and make personal connections. Using your talents, finding what you personally do well and then applying that to an organization, such as using an eye for fashion at Dress for Success, or culinary skills at a soup kitchen. A quote that my dad always says is ‘If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.’ The meaning of philanthropy is use your time, talent, and treasures to do something you love that the common good can benefit from. Magnified Giving taught me that philanthropy isn’t just a definition written in my notebook, but it is a feeling that you demonstrate through giving back to the community.” – Katie Perry

Cincinnati student Alex Deters receives Roger Grein Philanthropy Award from Magnified Giving

Roger Grein and Alex Deters

“Mr. Grein came to speak to my service class at St. X, and I paid close attention to every word of his life’s story, especially the parts concerning his service and work for the common good. He was describing a particular moment in his life, in which he came to realize his love of service and the call he felt to serve, and realizing it or not, Mr. Grein articulated the exact conversion that was taking place in my heart….Deep within my heart, I began to feel a call to selflessness, a call to help my fellow man, but more than anything, a call to service. This call has changed my life irreversibly. I will never be able to see the world the way I did before, and I have decided I will live out this call to service wherever it may take me in my life, following Mr. Grein’s example.” – Alex Deters

Becca Faeth received the Roger Grein Philanthropy Award from Magnified Giving

Roger Grein and Becca Faeth

“Roger (Grein)’s story touched my heart and I want to do something good for the world just like Roger did! The Magnified Giving program is just my first step! The program gives me the opportunity to go out in the world and lend a helping hand to those who need it. I can give my time, support, and love to people who struggle every day. Magnified giving has raised my confidence in becoming a better person. The program has helped me to see how easy it is just to help someone out whether by money, time, etc. I feel like I am an important part in this world because of this program. It helped me see that I want to help people and have a passion for helping others. The program has brought me closer to the outside world, it has brought my school community closer, and it even brought my family together.” – Becca Faeth

“By participating in civic and volunteer activities, I found my niche. I absolutely love working with people, especially when it is for the betterment of society. This has led me to an undergraduate degree at the University of Cincinnati in organizational leadership with a minor in human resources and nonprofit work. Now I believe that as long as one follows their passion; the size of a paycheck does not seem so important. Fast forward ten years. I plan to be working at a nonprofit such as Ronald McDonald House, St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, or Make-a-Wish. I’ll be working alongside individuals who are all there for the same reason; to address an issue occurring in the community, working for justice. My team should consist of human resource gurus that not only focus on community needs, but the needs of their fellow co-workers. Together we will be able to apply our skills and talents to create a positive environment in the workplace and for the people we serve. Magnified Giving has set the path for my future and I will forever be indebted to this amazing organization for doing so.” – Julie Gyure

2014-2015 Participating Schools:

Participating Schools include Aiken High School, Anderson High School, Aurora, Badin High School, Bellevue High School, Bethel-Tate High School, Bishop Brossart High School, Bishop Fenwick High School, Catholic Central High School, Chaminade Julienne High School, Cincinnati Country Day High School, Colerain High School, Covington Catholic High School, Dater high School, Deer Park High School, DePaul Cristo Rey, East Clinton high School, Elder High School, Highlands High School, Holmes High School, Holy Cross High School, Indian Hill High School, Lakota East Freshman School, LaSalle High School, Loveland High School, Madeira Middle School, McAuley High School, McNicholas High School, Mother of Mercy High School, Milford High School, Mt. Notre Dame High School, Moeller High School, New Bremen High School, Notre Dame Academy, Perry High School, Purcell Marian High School, Reading High School, Roger Bacon high School, School for Creative & Performing Arts, Seton High School, Seven Hills High School, Shroder High School, Springer School, St. Henry High School, St. Xavier High School, Summit Country Day, Taft Information Technology High School, Taylor High School, Villa Madonna high School and Wyoming High School.

Cincinnati Bell, a partner of Taft Information Technology High School, donated the seed money for Taft’s grant funding.

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Sara Bitter Uses Storytelling To Educate About Disabilities


Story written by GTGA Intern Katie Reinstatler.


“I wanted to create a film for more than just my own kid. I wanted to find a way to do it on a larger scale, to utilize storytelling so more people would Sara Bitter of Cincinnati talks about Ethan the Brave connect with him, identify with him and root for him.”

 This is the purpose and the passion behind Ethan the Brave, a short educational film on developmental disability driven by Sara Bitter, mother, and community educator on developmental disability, and created with the help of many, whose names will be mentioned later in this article. She has spent the start of every school year for the last several years teaching teachers, students, and fellow parents about Fragile X Syndrome, the syndrome with which her son lives. Fragile X Syndrome is a genetic condition that causes a variety of developmental problems, including learning disabilities and cognitive impairment. Males are more likely to be affected by this syndrome than females.

As the mother of a son living with developmental disability, her passion and drive in educating her community and the overall public about the ways that these disabilities affect those living with them, is evident. It is in the way she speaks about the work she does, how her movement suddenly becomes animated, and in the careful attention she pays to every detail. Sara is not only passionate about this work, and the film she has created, but she is absolutely committed to her work not only as the mother of a child living with developmental disability, but with the opportunities she has been afforded to be an educator to her community, to teachers, fellow parents, and students, who may not otherwise have access to such educational resources, if it weren’t for the film which Sara set out to create.

In speaking with her on why she wanted to do this, she told me, “I tried to focus on developmental disability because I feel like there’s not a lot of focus on it. I wanted to help students that aren’t getting a fair shake. That was my motivation in all of this, was the kids. So I really wanted Ethan to be a composite character of all these different people, to represent a wide variety of disabilities.”

Ethan the Brave came to Sara one afternoon. She sat at her kitchen table and spent an hour working on the story. Immediately, she knew she had to make it something bigger, that this was something that could be a real tool in spreading awareness about disability in schools, and more specifically, developmental disability. In her quest to make this a reality, she partnered with Reelabilities, a local film festival that focuses on disability, and created both an education committee dedicated to educating the Cincinnati public, and the film. With their collaboration, Sara was able to partner with Thunder-Sky, an art studio in Cincinnati for unconventional artists, many of whom are disabled themselves, to create the film, which features stop motion painting, drawing etc. of Ethan’s life, while a young boy narrates his story.

This is Ethan the Brave, a short 10 minute video that lets the audience know kids with disabilities are really not that much different from kids who don’t have disabilities. Ethan can run, and swim, and feel all the same emotions as the other kids. When Sara described the way she framed the story, she mentioned how “I wanted it to be fun, positive, and uplifting. I didn’t want it to be negative at all.” Too often, it seems,  people focus on what those with disabilities can’t do, not what they can. Ethan at one point even says, “I don’t want people to be afraid of me.” He is just like everyone else, and this is how he wants to be treated.

Ultimately, that is the goal of Ethan the Brave, and it accomplishes that goal. Sara’s tenacity, dedication, pride, and absolute passion and compassion in her work and what she has accomplished with this radiates outward to everyone around her. For her, the most rewarding thing is knowing or at least hoping that there is a kid in the classes that watch this that will benefit from this film and the support they receive as a result of it.

Side Note:  Ethan the Brave was recently also published as a book. You can purchase it on Amazon.comEthan the Brave book about kids with disabilities by Sara Bitter





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