Can a village feed a city? Absolutely! And the entire student body at Indian Hill High School has been working with Suzy DeYoung and La Soupe, Julie Richardson, and Sugarcreek (a co-packer) to prove it can happen.
For two days, they have surrounded tables in their school cafeteria, slicing and dicing well over 5,000 quarts of vegetables that will go into at least 500 gallons of soup base made by Suzy’s team at La Soupe, put into containers with labels, and delivered to Master Provision food distributor for storage. Ultimately that soup will be given to local schools to feed hungry students.
“We did more today than we ever imagined we would. We thought 5,000 quarts was a pretty lofty goal before we began but we already surpassed it,” Cathy Levalley, director of Indian Hill High School’s PPO, told me when I stopped by Thursday morning. “Our kids are loving this and have asked if they can do more of these types of projects.”
As many in Cincinnati know, Suzy has a talent for creating savory recipes and a heart for helping others. Her La Soupe is a nonprofit organization that rescues otherwise wasted food and transforms it into delicious and nutritious soup for customers, and given away to charitable causes and those in need. Partners including Kroger, Jungle Jims, various local organic farms, and now Sugarcreek co-packer make it possible (as well as donations).
You could say that food has always been in her blood. Suzy’s father was head chef at the Maisonette, and her grandparents were chefs in New York. She and her sister ran La Petite Pierre in Madeira before she found her calling. “I didn’t understand how people can be hungry when all I saw was food. I came to realize that my most joyful time in that career was when I was looking for ways to give out the food that we would have waste.”
These days La Soupe gives out thousands of pounds of soup each year, and now that will be even more. Sugarcreek, Suzy told me, found a way to divert and average of about 20,000 edible products from their co-packers monthly. That will help to feed a lot of Tri-State families.
Suzy’s next project is raising money for a new annex and a second shift to up production. If you would like to help, please contact them at.
hese Mason High School students get an A+ in my book for their creativity, effort, leadership and caring. They just released this video to raise awareness for their annual Pasta for Pennies Campaign benefiting the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s mission is to cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and myeloma and to improve the quality of life of patients and their families.
Their goal is to reach $40,000, and so far, in less than one week (the video debuted at 1:00 pm on January 29, 2016), they have reached more than 91,000 views and collected over $14,000 in online donations.
Let’s help them reach that goal!
When I think about Kathy Davis, I am reminded of her smile that so often shines from her face. I think about her giving heart and all that she does for others.
Kathy is the private dining manager for Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse. She also volunteers a huge amount of time to help others, mainly through Women Helping Women, a Cincinnati nonprofit organization that empowers survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence and stalking; and educates the community about these issues. Kathy is a former crisis team coordinator and Board member of Women Helping Women, who continues to stay involved through fundraising, leadership and other volunteer work.
Whether formerly serving some type of volunteer capacity or just reaching out a helping hand to someone in need, Kathy finds ways to make a difference.
Lisa: You are so passionate about Women Helping Women. Where does that drive come from?
Kathy: I really discovered them when I was on the receiving end, looking for information on domestic violence because I didn’t know how to help my own daughter when she was in abusive situations. The organization was terrific, not only with information but with other things like helping my daughter to get protective orders and referring her to a shelter.
They provide a very much needed service in our community. It is about empowering women who have had so much taken away from them. Many still are not aware of their services, and are scared and not knowing where to go.
Lisa: How have you grown personally as a result of being involved with the organization?
Kathy: I grew up always thinking that, as a woman, when something would happen that I could always fix it or it was my fault. After going through Women Helping Women’s volunteer program, I realize I need to always trust my gut. I do not take responsibility for someone else’s behavior.
Lisa: How are you currently involved with the organization?
Kathy: My largest role is as serving as the Chair for its Light Up The Night Gala fundraiser. It is an event that I began overseeing in 2007. They had been doing a dinner on a smaller scale and I wanted to make it something really big. I asked a couple of friends to join me for coffee and brainstorm ideas about a new spring fundraiser, and it was at that meeting, Light Up the Night was born.We netted $52,000 that first year and it has grown ever since. It is my baby. Last year we hosted 500 people.
This year will be the event’s 10th anniversary themed ‘A Decade of Peace, Love and Understanding’. It will be April 28 from 5:30 to 9 pm. at the Horseshoe Casino. The Gala includes dinner by the bite with tastings from some of Cincinnati’s best restaurants providing tastes, a silent auction, raffle and more.
Lisa: Outside of that, what are some of your simple pleasures in life?
Kathy: I enjoy working in my yard and garden, and having quiet time at night. I also love beaches. Anytime I go on vacation it is always someplace warm and sunny.
Lisa: Tell us about someone who has influenced your life.
Kathy: I grew up in the 60s, the oldest girl in my family. I questioned alot why my older brother was allowed to do things that I wasn’t. The answer was always, ‘because he is a boy’. Gloria Steinem opened my eyes to equal rights. My mother was a stay at home mom, and I wanted to do more. Gloria helped me realize I could do it all – stay at home, work and volunteer.
Lisa: Tell us about an act of kindness that has touched you.
Kathy: In 2006, our house caught on fire with more than $100,000 in damage. That night, I called a friend who used to work at Crossroads Community Church, where I attend. She dropped everything and said, ‘What do you need?’ She called others she knew who worked in the construction business and they left their Friday activities to come over. They measured my windows, went to purchase what they needed and boarded up my house. Others from my church, many people who I didn’t even know, were donating things to help us with our immediate needs. I went to church one day and someone told me to go to the Information Center where there were huge bins of donations. And people who went with me on an earlier mission trip to South Africa also showered me with donations. We needed to move temporarily, and Upspring, formerly Faces without Faces, provided us with tokens for the bus and gas cards so that my granddaughter) who was staying with Kathy) could continue to go to school. It was a very humbling experience. It is difficult for me to reach out to others and ask for help when I need it but this taught me it is okay to ask.
Lisa: What would you tell other people about giving back?
Kathy: I always get more when I give. It comes back to you ten times over.
Simcha Kackley is a loving mother and wife, a marketing professional and president of the Cincinnati American Marketing Association. She is also the organizer of a big fundraiser this Saturday (January 23) to raise money for the National Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Society. Her story is so inspiring to me that I wanted to share it.
Behind every great effort is a deeply rooted passion. Simcha’s passion for collecting money toward MS research dates back to February, 2008. After a three year relationship, she and Matthew knew theirs was a lasting love. Engaged to be married, they were so focused on their future.
As can happen sometimes, their lives took an unexpected change. Matt awoke one morning with the right side of his body numb. A few days later they found themselves in a hospital where Matt spent the next two days undergoing a myriad of tests trying to figure out the mystery origin of his symptoms. Simcha was by his side every minute.
Finally, he was sent home and told to follow up with his primary care doctor…who told him he needed to see a neurologist.
At age 28, Matt was diagnosed with an Abnormal MRI from lesions on his brain and spine. While neurologists were 99% confident he had MS, they could not officially diagnose him until he experienced a second episode. It was a month later, one week before their wedding, when Matt’s numbness finally began to subside.
On March 29, 2008 Simcha and Matt married their soul mates.
And after their honeymoon, Matt was able to return to work. However, almost like clockwork, he has had an episode every February since then for about a month. Thankfully each new episode has been of lower severity than the first, allowing him to continue serving our community as a police officer.
“The entire situation opened our eyes to how important living life each and every day to the fullest is. We were brought so much closer together than we had ever been before,” Simcha wrote on a website. “Matt is my inspiration for continuing to trudge ahead and he makes me a better person. I am grateful and blessed to have him in my life.”
Simcha’s Rock n Aspire Event benefitting the National MS Society grows each year. This year’s concert will include appetizers, a cash bar, and these popular bands:
Freekbass (Funk / Rock)
Elementree Livity Project (Reggae / Jam / Rock)
The Magic Lightning Boys (Blues / Rock)
SOUSE (Jazz / Funk / Fusion
It is this Saturday, January 23 at 7 pm at the 20th Century Theater in Oakely (3021 Madison Road; 45209). Tickets are $30 each if bought in advance and can be purchased here; or $40 if purchased at the door. To volunteer, donate or become a sponsore, please email Simcha at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We have many reasons to be proud of living in Greater Cincinnati. Among us we have so many neighbors who care, destinations to visit, workplaces achieving great significance, educational institutions helping to raise future leaders, and organizations whose efforts are making a positive impact on lives and neighborhoods.
Yet, did you know, on average, there are an estimated 7,000 children in our region each year who know what it is like to be called ‘homeless’?
That is a really tough statistic to grasp.
Not only are these young, impressionable minds working through whatever intense circumstance they are facing with or without their family, necessities such as food, adequate clothing, supplies, transportation, mental preparedness to focus, and even positive adult role models are more often than not lacking too.
Good for them, and for our community, that a unique (and wonderful) nonprofit organization charged with helping these young people to grow. UpSpring (formerly Faces Without Places) is our region’s only nonprofit that exclusively serves homeless youth and children, providing them with consistency to achieve educational success in and out of the classroom. Each year UpSpring empowers about 3,000 children who are experiencing homelessness in Greater Cincinnati.
And, at its helm is a leader so driven by a passion to change the world – or at least the region – that his drive to stand up for what he believes in got him fired and landed him in national news. (Mike Moroski was terminated from his role as dean of student life at Purcell Marian high School for writing a post on his personal blog in support of same-sex marriage.) His deep rooted capacity to be an activist for those needing a voice found him embedded in the community of Over-the-Rhine as a rehabber, volunteer, friend and investor; and took him on a journey of running for Cincinnati City Council. Ultimately his path led him to UpSpring.
To meet Mike is to meet an immediate connection. On his website, he wrote, “Without relationships, nothing worthwhile or long-lasting can be accomplished.”
Mike also shared, “I’ve learned that picking yourself up off the ground when you’re down is the only way to succeed in this life. I have the relationships to be able to do this. Too many in our City do not. I have received numerous accolades for taking a stand in February and losing my job. My ability to take that stand is a blessing and one for which I am truly grateful. My ability to fight for those without a voice is a gift; a gift that I take very seriously. You see, those in poverty could not take the same stand that I took in February. They could not afford to lose their job & their health insurance. Thanks to my family (my safety net), I was able to take that stand – a stand I would have wanted to take even if I had not been in a position to do so, but one that, ultimately, I would not have been able to take. I’ve re-learned why I am running for Council this year – I am running so that those who have long felt their power stripped away from them can begin making moves to regain some of that power. When one is blessed with the ability to fight for what’s right, one should. I feel an overwhelming calling to do just that – and I have for many, many years.”
I have so much admiration and respect for Mike. He is a role model to me in so many ways. Please spend a few minutes to learn a little bit more about him.
Lisa: From where do you get your passion?
Mike: I think my passion definitely comes from a place of empathy. I grew up with every kind of opportunity I could ever want but by the time I was in high school, I realized how fortunate I was. My parents did not grow up with those same resources. Their families were poor, but they often didn’t realize it.
As I grew, what was instilled in me was a serious distaste for bullies. I’ll never forget fighting the kids who made fun of a friend who was different.
The way I see it, the systems in place today that promote the statistics are structural bullying or structural child abuse. These kids are not unequal but never given the opportunity to be equal. There is a difference.
Lisa: Tell us about someone who has influenced you and your life.
Mike: Mike Rogers, definitely. Mike had experienced homelessness and is a graduate of the Men’s Recovery Program of the Drop Inn Center. He has been like a brother to me. I was in my 20s when we met and I was not very confident. Mike is the first person to have told me not to apologize for my thoughts, and that they were good and valid. I always had a distaste for poverty and Mike introduced me to his community in Over-the-Rhine that has been pushed down. He worked with me on a rehab project and one day we began talking about the fact there was no place for people in his neighborhood to just hang out. Before I knew it, we were talking about opening this coffee shop. We called it Choices Café.
(Note: Choices Café was more than a coffee shop. It was a gathering place for people of different backgrounds with a shared outlook. Partnering with 3CDC, the Drop Inn Center, Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless, and others, it embodied the motto, ‘We are one.’)
Lisa: What is the best advice you have received?
Mike: My father was always a salesman and he used to tell me that in everything I do, I am selling. I think about that in my work as an advocate and activist, and how education is a sales process. Many people have not had my life experiences. Without having had the opportunity to get to know a Mike Rogers or have homeless friends, they will not be able to relate the way I do and they may have already formed inaccurate associations. Every day I am selling the cause of homelessness, the reality of life for those who are impacted by it, and the need for support.
Another piece of advice that has stuck with me came from one of my professors. He told us, ‘your students will likely never remember anything you taught them but they will always remember who you were.’ That applies to most everything and everyone.
Lisa: You also talk about learning the difference between optimism and hope. Can you explain?
Mike: I learned that from someone who I never met, Vaclav Havel, who led the velvet revolution in the Czech Republic from his prison cell. In one of his letters, he wrote about how you need to clearly understand that difference if you are to fight injustice. OPTIMISM, he taught me, means you believe something will work. However, if you do your work filled with HOPE because you know deep down that it is the right thing to do no matter the outcome, only then is your work is sustainable. Reading that really changed how I do what I do.
Lisa: What is your hope when it comes to leading Upspring into the future?
Mike: I want to see the numbers of homelessness of young people go down. Organizationally speaking, I want Upspring to be able to provide more summer programs and serve more kids. This coming summer we will serve 210 students. I would also like to see what our role can be in early education. To expand, we will need more resources and more staff. It is going to take massive efforts and we cannot do this alone.
Lisa: What are some things on your own gratitude list?
Mike: Definitely my wife, Katie, all my friends and family, my pets and my music. All of them are what keep me level. This work is very intense, and it is not always easy turning it off. Hanging out with Katie and playing my guitar keeps me sane. I tell others they need to identify what that is for them because if you have the juice, your whole life can quickly be consumed. It is hard for me to NOT see the world as a mission. I am here to DO something.
Lisa: What other advice do you give people?
Mike: You’ve got to pursue your dreams, and also know that if you don’t change the world, that you have not failed. You have got to be patient. That is something I have to work on every day.
It is something I think a lot of us have to work on every day too. Yet, one more lesson I have come to learn from Mike.