Cincinnati nonprofit organization
Today I want to introduce you to a couple I got to know through my work on the ReelAbilities Film Festival. Jenny McCloy co-chaired the 2017 ReelAbilities, and the more I get to know about her and her husband, Bill, the more impressed I become. Jenny and Bill were recently honored by the Community Foundation West Chester/Liberty with its Patricia F. Alderson Philanthropist of the Year Award. It is a befitting award for two people whose passion is making a difference for so many.
Quietly, without need or want of recognition they give generously with their time and their resources to causes close to their hearts. Jenny is president of the board of Melodic Connections, a Cincinnati nonprofit organization that brings out creative expression in people with disabilities. It is a place where their 22 year old son, Sam, who has Down syndrome and is mostly nonverbal has found a voice. Bill has been very involved with the Down Syndrome Association of Greater Cincinnati, having served on its Board and as chairman of its golf outing for many years, a role he continues. He is also vice president of the Board of the Ken Anderson Alliance, a nonprofit organization committed to building live, work, and play options for adults with disabilities.
The McCloys have four children. Sam is their second. “One of the things Sam does for us is that he brings to the forefront the importance of supporting those in need. We both have come from very humble beginnings and lived paycheck to paycheck until 1998. We have been very fortunate to be able to do all that we do for others,” Bill told me.
When it comes to giving, Bill was very clear, they do what they do not for any kind of recognition, in fact, they would prefer to keep everything they do between themselves and the organizations and lives they touch. While they are very appreciative, accepting this award was not something that came easy for them or something they took lightly but they realized that their example may impact the decisions of others.
“We have never used the word philanthropist (to define themselves) but we knew we had a responsibility to give back and to influence our children and others. If our giving encourages one other person to give then it is worth putting our name out there,” Bill said.
Bill’s advice to others? “Give in any way, shape and form you can and it will come back many fold.”
When I first heard about the Greater Cincinnati World Affairs Council, it brought me back to my earliest experience of learning about people whose cultures are different from my own. (You can read about it here.) What an important cause, now more than ever.
As an adult, if you are looking for an opportunity to get to know and understand people from other countries, getting involved with the Greater Cincinnati World Affairs Council is a great way to start. The nonprofit organization builds global understanding and promotes international awareness through education, information and exchange of people and ideas.
Awarded the 2012 Best of the City Award from Cincinnati Magazine, its more than 1,600 supporters include individuals, corporate, civic and academic members, and community volunteers who host visitors in their homes. It has welcomed visitors to our Greater Cincinnati region from over 100 countries; about 300 visitors annually. And about 9000 students have increased their global skills through its programs. It is affiliated with the National Council for International Visitors.
To learn more about volunteer opportunities, please click here.
“Just” Dinner with international guests through the US Department of State premier exchange program, The International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) with Greater Cincinnati volunteer host family. It is a wonderful two-way exchange of politics, similarities and differences, culture, family, professions, & more! Hosting is one of the most beneficial ways for Americans and visitors to put a true face to countries.
Gene Armentrout was surrounded by family when his heart beat its last pulse March 10, 2015. He was an avid tennis player, an amateur bridge partner, sometimes golfer and passionate runner for 25+ years. He was the guy running in Eden Park or on bridges across the Ohio River at lunchtime – in a Santa suit during December. Gene was also a respected businessman and philanthropist. A graduate of the first class of Leadership Cincinnati, his last position before retiring in 2012 was as president of Gradison Financial Services (later acquired by McDonald & Co. Securities, then Key Bank; currently owned by UBS). He was president of the Good Samaritan Hospital Foundation, and served on the Boards of the Urban League of Cincinnati, the Northern Kentucky University Foundation, the Business Advisory Council at Xavier University, and many other arts, humanitarian and educational organizations.
But more than that, Gene was a family man. He met Rita, the woman of his dreams, in first grade, and 58 of his 78 years were spent married to her. Together they enjoyed five children and eight grandchildren, and many lifelong friends.
It took just a few short months for Lewy Body Dementia (LBD) to rob friends, family, and a community of a man whose brain helped him achieve great accomplishments, who lived with passion and heart, who loved and gave love generously.
Gene’s daughter, Tish Hevel, had been living in Columbus for 20 years when her father became ill and she became a caregiver. It was during her search for more information that she learned of the critical need for brain donations to study the growing and vast number of neurological diseases and disorders. The decision was made to give that piece of her dad to benefit others.
Only it was a decision that came with far too many complications. In his final four hours, a time when Tish would have liked to have spent holding his hand, she researching how to ensure her dad’s final gift would be carried out.
More than 50 million Americans are estimated to have some form of neurological disorder, among them Parkinson’s, autism, dementia, schizophrenia, and CPE from concussions. In other words, about one in six of us will experience or know someone who is experiencing one of these disorders in our lifetime. Research has come a long way but human tissue is necessary in the quest for answers, and there simply is not enough of it being donated. Part of that reason is due to the complication of the donation process, part of the reason is a lack of knowledge and misunderstandings.
A New Chapter
Less than a year later, the Brain Donor Project, was an official 501C3 with a mission of raising awareness of the need while simplifying the process for human brain donation for research. Tish is its founder and president.
In just about seven months, already the Brain Donor Project has had almost 500 brains committed from 46 states and the District of Columbia, representing some 45 categories of brain disorders.
Brain Donations Simplified: How the Brain Donor Project Works
Arranging to donate your brain for research may be the most valuable legacy you can leave to improve the health and wellbeing of future generations. The first step is visiting http://www.braindonorproject.org to have your questions answered. In one stop you can register to donate your brain when you die, receive authorization and consent forms, and tell your friends
The Truths About Brain Donation
Registering as an organ donor IS NOT the same thing, and just because you have registered to donate your organs to science does mean you have also registered to give your brain. There is a different consent process for donating a brain.
You DO NOT need to have a brain disease in order to donate your brain. In fact, ‘control’ brains are in just as much demand and are just as valuable for research.
There is no additional cost to your family for donating your brain.
Bodies are not disfigured when brains are donated. Families can still plan for open casket funerals.
Hear Tish’s Story at TEDxCincinnati
And on June 17, she will be sharing her story at TEDxCincinnati.
This year, for the first time ever, TEDxCincinnati will be on a Saturday with new times and more ways to connect and learn. The Main Stage Event will be Saturday, June 17 at Memorial Hall, 1225 Elm St. Cincinnati, OH 45202 and will feature the same show at two convenient times:
Pre-Dinner Show at 5:00 pm (registration opens at 4:00 pm)
Post-Dinner Show at 8:30 pm (registration opens at 7:15 pm)
All guests are encouraged to attend the networking cocktail hour from 7:00 pm – 8:15 pm. Food trucks and entertainment will be on site while guests network with the evening’s speakers and performers.
Children living in poverty, or in need of tutoring or mentoring, are not relegated to certain neighborhoods. They are all around us. They could be our neighbors or someone living down the street. They could be a classmate to your child. Let’s face it, on any given day, any one of us could find ourselves in a situation of needing assistance of some kind.
I learned about a program in my neighborhood this weekend when I went to my local Kroger store. There in the parking lot was a group of youth and adults, including a Blue Ash police officer with a van that had its back end open. It was stuffed with bags of food, and I gave them one more.
They were collecting food as part of a Sycamore Township nonprofit organization called Operation Give Back that provides programs and services specifically to neighborhood students whose families are having financial hardship.
OGB’s signature program is its After-School Tutoring and Mentoring Program, working closely with the Sycamore Community Schools to identify students in 2nd – 8th grades who would benefit from academic support or assistance with other skills. Approximately 35 students per year are transported by Sycamore District Buses for 2½ hours of after-school tutoring, three days per week.
Additionally, OGB provides has a School Supply Drive and supplies over 350 students with a backpack, along with items from their specific school supply lists. The organization also has a food pantry, summer camps, health awareness programs, and a holiday store.
It is a dream of most girls, to step out in a gorgeous evening gown, a flower corsage on her wrist and a young man on her side as she enters the darkened space. Her peers crowd the floor, watching her enter in awe. Her smile illuminates the room.
But, if not for a local nonprofit organization, Kenzie’s Closet, that dream would not come true for hundreds of teens every year. Kathy Smith knows. She has seen them transform from forlorn, hopeless girls into bundles of joy and laughter when they see themselves in a mirror, just as their dream had pictured them.
At no cost to them, Kenzie’s Closet provides prom attire to juniors and seniors at accredited Tri-State high schools who otherwise would not be able to afford dressing up for their important occasion. Even more than that, the organization provides a shopping experience for each young lady to shop in a boutique with a volunteer personal shopper there to help select the perfect dress.
Kathy was executive director of Kenzie’s Closet for four years, retiring just before our ReelAbilities Film Festival, for which she served as our volunteer chair.
Lisa: Why is this a cause for which you are so passionate?
Kathy: When I was interviewed for my position, I remember being asked a very similar question. They wanted to know why I wanted the job. My answer was that, if Kenzie’s Closet had existed in 1968, I would have been a Kenzie’s Girl. The only reason I was able to go to my prom was because a neighbor bough me my dress. All of Kenzie’s Girls are at or below the poverty level. They don’t have the resources available to buy or rent fancy dresses. Prom should be the highlight of their life. It was important to me to make sure that each girl have the opportunity to get the dress of their dreams. They get brand new shoes, a purse, a wrap, two pieces of jewelry and free alterations; and they keep everything, although we have had many donate back their dresses so that another girl can have the same experience. We are planting the seeds of philanthropy early.
Lisa: Can you share any moments that really touched you?
Kathy: There are so many of them. I felt like we were in many ways like being Fairy Godmothers. Coming to Kenzie’s Closet for these teenagers is their time to shine. Often, they arrive expecting to find a sort of thrift shop but they quickly realize it is very different. They may be scared when they walk through the door and by the time they are finished, they are hugging their personal shopper.
I remember one young woman who came in with a group. She was very tall and large. She kept giving me this look out of the corner of her eyes. She told me with a hardness in her voice that she didn’t think we would have anything for her. I looked at her and said, “Guess what? You are totally wrong.”
After going through her shopping, I went up to her and asked what happened that day. She asked if I wanted the truth. Tears began streaming down her face. She told me that her entire life she had been given torn or tattered clothing and been expected to give thanks. I asked her again what had happened. This time she put her chin out and told me, “Not only did you have a dress to fit me, I got to pick my own prom dress. And there is nothing smack about it.”
Lisa: What are some of your take-aways from your time leading Kenzie’s Closet?
Kathy: I knew all along that we were making dreams come true for over 400 young ladies each year. But I also had my dream come true working there. Our founder was my boss and she was so supportive and believed in me – not everyone has that. I worked with two incredible women that made going to work a pleasure – again not everyone has that. We had about 120 volunteers each year; they were always so joyful and happy to be there — again this helped me have an incredible career. My time at Kenzie’s Closet was a dream come true for me!