Cincinnati nonprofit organization

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My Furry Valentine Volunteer Has Heart For Pets


For hundreds of Greater Cincinnati families and individuals each year, Valentine’s Day has become a holiday to treasure…as it represents the day their lives joined with a life of a furry (and even feathered) looking for a forever home. It happens because of what has grown to be the largest mega adoption event in the region, My Furry Valentine, that attracts over 1400 visitors and has more than 700 animals (dogs, cats, birds and some other species) from dozens of rescues. If you are looking to add a non-human friend to your household, you just may find your new companion Valentine’s Day weekend!

(More information on My Furry Valentine is below.)

Melanie Corwin, executive director of UCAN - Cincinnati nonprofit spay/neuter clinic, shares why she is passionate about her job and volunteering with My Furry ValentineEach year I like to profile a volunteer who helps make the event possible. This year I spoke with Melanie Corwin, My Furry Valentine’s rescue shelter coordinator.

Hers is a very important role that includes writing the application and vaccine requirements, communicating with the rescues, helping them set up on Friday, and coordinating the team of veterinarians and vet techs who check in every animal before opening the doors to the public.

The role is a perfect fit for Melanie, who, as executive director of UCAN (nonprofit spay and neuter clinic), already has a relationship with many area shelter and rescues. AND the heart for this cause. She herself shares a home with her son and five rescues – two dogs (Peanut and Blackie) and three cats (Katniss, Grayson and Calypso).

Melanie came into this line of work because it is her passion. Prior to joining the staff team at UCAN, she was a private practice attorney for 25 years working with nonprofit organizations. She and her son began volunteering at a no-kill shelter as a way of her teaching him the importance of giving back. It was a fateful activity that would change the course of her career – and he life.

“It got to be so depressing,” she told me. “We’d see the animals all get adopted and then the next week, all of the cages would be full again.”

She saw spay/neuter as a solution and began supporting UCAN financially. Then she joined the Board, having served as director, then vice-chair, and then chair of the Board before ultimately joining UCAN’s staff as executive director in 2012.

“People love their pets. Some say you should not adopt one if you can not afford the care but I don’t believe it. There should be community resources to allow them to have that animal,” she said. “There are so many benefits. Everyone deserves the love of a pet.

“Almost every day someone comes in and I have never had to say no. I enjoy getting grants to enable us to do free spay/neuter to help people who can not afford it,” she said.

UCAN was founded in 2001, to stop the endless cycle of unwanted births and euthanasia. The two main reasons people do not sterilize their pets are cost and lack of access to spay/neuter services. UCAN solves both of these issues. It provides low-cost spay/neuter services and free transports to its Colerain Ave clinic from several locations in Southwest Ohio, Northern Kentucky and Southeast Indiana. The nonprofit clinic performs over 13,000 surgeries each year and this past year began offering low cost vaccinations also.

Melanie and the rest of the My Furry Valentine team will be very busy February 10 and 11, doing their part to help hundreds of animals find their forever homes.

Looking for a dog or cat (or other small animal)? Plan on being there!

My Furry Valentine Facts:

Where:  Sharonville Convention Center (11355 Chester Road; 45246)
When (and cost):
Early Bird Entry Saturday, February 10th       10am – 12pm: $25

Saturday, February 10th                                       12pm – 5pm: $5 ages 5 & up

Sunday, February 11th                                           10am – 5pm: $5 ages 5 & up

For a list of participating rescues and to see pictures of many of the adoptable animals, please visit


From Teen Parenthood To Blossom


It was before the holidays last year when I was in a room filled with men and women – some of whom began their journey toward adulthood as teenage parents. We were there to celebrate a momentous occasion – the one year anniversary for a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting young mothers and fathers through their many hurdles. Rosemary’s Babies is the brainchild of my dear friend Rosemary Ogelsby-Henry, who had her first child while still in high school and who was determined to not let her personal circumstances stand in her way of success. This is a very personal cause for Rosemary. It is why she spends just about every waking moment thinking about the impact she wants to have with her organization.

And, on that evening, we were there to applaud and support her – and all the volunteers who have helped to make that celebration possible.

Robin Nichole, family assistant specialist contractor at Kentucky National Guard Family Programs, was honored that night with the ‘A Rose Who Blossomed Through Concrete Award’. It is a recognition given to a parent who started his/her adult life as a teen parent and blossomed. It goes to someone who encompasses leadership and wears these qualities as a badge of honor: respect, honest, integrity, trustworthiness, and good citizenship.

In her introduction of Nichole, Rosemary shared, “‘At 15, the love of your family is awesome but it is your community that can be awful. Robin was ostracized, labeled, and heart and body beaten from the boy she thought she loved. Through it all her beautiful baby girl kept her. Her family supported her and her faith guided her. Robin has accomplished EVERY goal that she has set for herself. She now advocates for others (veterans) who are broken or who society claims are broken.”

Below is a portion of Robin’s acceptance speech.

In her own words:

Robin Nichole and her daughter Sydnee Tubbs at an anniversary celebration for Cincinnati nonprofit Rosemary's Babies“I was 15 and a sophomore in high school when I found out I was expecting Sydnee who is now engaged. I had two years left in high school and a dream of becoming a police officer when I became pregnant. I was involved in a teen organization, Police Explorers, where teens learn how to be police officers. I was told I was not what they wanted. My parents marched into the police chief’s office and said, ‘no, all these girls are doing it and she is just the one who got pregnant.’ I graduated high school with a two year old and when I was walking down the aisle, I heard my two year old scream, ‘Yay mommy!’ I went to college right away and everyone said I wouldn’t. They said I wouldn’t be a cop. They said I wouldn’t be anything. And I graduated college on the dean’s list. I am working on a double master’s with a 4.0. My daughter Sydnee has broken the cycle. She is marrying a great man who is serving our country. If they tell you you can’t do it, you tell them, watch me. That is the reason I had a child without an epidural -because my mom said I couldn’t do it.  I truthfully could not have overcome everything without my parents. This award is not mine, it is theirs because they let me live at home home, helped with Sydnee so I could work, go to the police academy and serve on the streets. We are all trying to do the best we can. I met my husband when Sydnee was about 8 and he adopted her.  She got her daddy. I am humbled and honored. Thank you to Rosemary for all you do.”


Respect And Value Kathleen


Today I’d like to introduce you to a friend who holds a very special place in my heart. Kathleen Sheil is an incredible example for all the qualities that I look up to another person. She is confident, yet humble. She is open and honest and genuine, and most definitely unafraid to stand up for herself and for others. She has this incredible way of making everyone feel welcome when in her presence. She gives of her time generously as a board member of Cincinnati nonprofit LADD (Living Arrangements for the Developmentally Disabled), where she lives independently, and numerous other disability related organizations. And she also seeks opportunities to encourage and inspire others to be all they can be.

Kathleen Sheil of Cincinnati has Down syndrome and wants people to know she is someone to be respected.I see Kathleen as a leader, not only among her peers, but in the community as well. I consider myself so fortunate to be among her friends. Kathleen inspires me to be a better person.

Over dinner the other night, we got to talking about life. Kathleen’s motto, “Go out with the negative and in with the positive,” was inspired early on by her parents who encouraged her to always be confident in herself.

“My mom has always told me to put my best foot forward and that I need to be learning the whole aspect of being on my own completely. My parents never treated me differently from my siblings. They want me to be independent and a person of energy, a leader. They want me to also do my best with everything I do, if they are with me or not with me,” she told me. “I need to live the moment and to think about what that one thing is that makes me happy. That one thing for me is not just talking, not just my friends or my family, and not just LADD, but just being myself.”

“And who IS Kathleen?,” I asked.

“I am someone who is beautiful, honest, respectful, very positive, outgoing, and a leader who encourages others to be very special. I like to make conversations with different people and get to know who they are.  I am a person with dreams and goals. I like to sing, do art, and plan events. I have always wanted to find that one person. I am very fortunate to have a family and friends who love me for who I am.

“I am someone who wants to be treated with respect,” she said.

A few weeks back, we heard about a CBS News report of how Iceland is eradicating Down syndrome with genetic testing and abortion. Kathleen was moved to action. She shared her thoughts in a letter to the Cincinnati Enquirer that was published. Among her words…”I want you to know that I have Down syndrome and I am important to this world. Yes, I may be different from you because of who I am, but we are all different from each other….Above all else, I am a person, like you, who deserves to be loved and respected. I have a lot of friends who are like me and who deserve to be loved and respected too. If I had not been born, the world would have missed out on getting to know Kathleen Sheil!”

THAT would have been a huge loss to this world because Kathleen, you make this world a better place.

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How Her Family Drives Her Passion For Volunteering


It has been nearly four decades since Judy (and her husband, Dave) Albert first became one of the Spina Bifida Coalition of Cincinnati’s earliest volunteers. Back in the 1980s, when the Coalition was still very much a ‘grass roots’ organization, its address was her home and the phone rang in her house.

Judy Albert volunteers for the Spina Bifida Coalition of Cincinnati“She personally answered every request for help and deeply connected with those she assisted and worked with,” Diane Burns, SBCC program manager told me. “She led our strategic growth to a small, but effective, professionally staffed non-profit situated in an accessible office building, with an active social media and internet presence, successful partnerships with many other local disability groups, and perhaps most importantly, a close relationship with the interdisciplinary Center for Spina Bifida Care at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. Judy is one very significant reason that local support exists for more than 300 babies, children, teenagers, and adults in our community who live with spina bifida.”

Whether she is serving in a Board or committee capacity, volunteering at SBCC activities, recruiting other volunteers, offering ideas for strategic initiatives, or even serving as Mrs. Claus at the annual family holiday party, Judy’s ongoing support is felt in just about every aspect of the organization’s work. Judy even initiated SBCC’s key sustaining fundraiser – the Walk & Roll, an event that was quickly duplicated by the national Spina Bifida Association, and one that has raised around $800,000 since its inception.

Judy’s Story

Behind the passion of many driven volunteers is a deeply rooted relationship with the cause, one stemming from a very personal journey in life. And Judy is among them.

The year was 1979 when Tim came into this world, the second of three Albert sons.  Judy shared her story, “My obstetrician told us he would never break a record in the 100-yard dash but he would walk.  He further added that Tim would never have to go to war which I thought at the time was a strange thing to say to us.  Later while he was in the hospital a doctor told us he might not walk which contradicted what we had previously been told but he proved them wrong.”

The Alberts were given a book about Spina Bifida describing it as a ‘very serious birth defect’, scary words for any parent. “A parent from the organization told us that Tim probably wouldn’t be affected by everything in the book but to just enjoy him like any other baby.  This was the best advice we could have received.  As an infant we treated him like our other son, he just had many more doctor appointments,” Judy told me.

Growing up, Tim attended St. James Grade School and LaSalle High School.  He played soccer in grade school and was on the swim team at LaSalle. He has worked at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center since 2001, currently in the Pathology Department as a histology technician. Tim purchased his own condo in 2005 and has lived on his own since that time.

His seizure disorder and other issues relating to his spina bifida have meant needing occasional assistance from his parents; however, Tim purchased his own condo in 2005 and has lived on his own since that time.  He likes to work out and plays wheelchair football.  He walks with braces and has a wheelchair when he needs to walk long distances.

“He never wanted to be treated differently always determined to make it on his own,” said Judy. “Tim has a great sense of humor always making jokes.  We are very fortunate to have Tim as our son and admire him for all of the challenges he has overcome.”

From Personal Success To Giving Back

“Raising a child with spina bifida involves commitment, patience, and perseverance, as well as a thorough knowledge of orthopedics, neurosurgery, urology, and a full breadth of therapies, a hefty dose of psychology and an understanding of developmental milestones, Judy not only nurtured her son Tim, but also her two other sons, while working full-time as a CPA and actively participating at her church, St. James White Oak and children’s schools. Judy quickly turned her focus to those in our community who needed to understand what she had learned – how to help children born with spina bifida and their families to thrive,” Diane shared.

“My mother is the kindest woman I know, and is willing to selflessly help anyone in need. She has shown me through example that kindness truly goes a long way,”  said Dennis Albert.

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This Dog Rescue Run Is Her Passion


I met Lori Gerring several years back through her work on the Paw Joggers Rescue Run. Billie Mendoza, founder and owner of Paw Joggers, whom I have known for many years had expanded her capacity to help pets by forming a nonprofit organization to organize an annual race that would benefit local rescues. And Lori has been Billie’s ‘right hand woman’ since.

The Paw Joggers Rescue Run is this coming Sunday, October 15th, from  8:30am-12:00pm with the race beginning at 10:00am. At Sharon Woods Park (11450 Lebanon Rd; 45241) Competitive Runners, Recreational Runners, Walkers and Runners/Walkers with (well-behaved) dogs invited to participate!

The Race includes a choice of challenging 5k (chip timed event) and a relatively flat 2k course. Proceeds will go to dozens of Cincinnati area dog and cat rescue organizations.

Paw Joggers Rescue Run now includes a Saturday Expo from Noon to 4 pm with a variety of vendors. It will be held at the MARCH FIRST BREWING (7885 Kemper Rd; 45249).

The Paw Joggers Animal Community Fund (Paw Joggers ACF) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting the local animal welfare community through events, awareness, and monetary donations.  The Paw Joggers ACF and its events are powered solely by Paw Joggers Run volunteers.

Lori shared this story of why this Race is her passion.

“Several years ago, my New Year’s resolution was to “do something outside of my comfort zone” each month.  I haven’t always kept the resolution after that year, but helping with the PJRR was most definitely outside of my comfort zone:  I hate asking for donations and cold-calling and I had no idea what goes into a 5K.  The first year was, to put it mildly, a learning experience.

I am involved with the PJRR because I was there when Billie Mendoza decided to form a nonprofit and organize the 5K, based on the Rusty Ball model of beneficiary participation.  A dedicated race participant; Billie took care of the race details. I was the “Communications Coordinator”, contacting vendors, sponsors, volunteers, and promoting the new 5K/2K, last year I added the EXPO to my duties.

The animal welfare community is important to me.  My first dog, Rocket the Black Lab, was from a backyard breeder.  I didn’t know any better.  Several rescues wouldn’t let us adopt because we hadn’t raised a dog and didn’t have an established relationship with a veterinarian.  We took Rocket to rescue group fundraisers because it was fun to be out with him, where we learned about the work these groups do.  Several years later we adopted another Black Lab, Turbo, from a rescue.  After Rocket passed, we adopted Flash (From Elvis Presley TCB in a Flash), also from a rescue.

My first rescue ‘job’ was with Kyle New Hope Animal Rescue.  Dr. Kyle was such an incredible help with Rocket that it seemed like a good way to thank her.    Other volunteer work has been as a Therapy Dog Team with Turbo (and Rocket) for the Alliance of Therapy Dogs; projects, including grant reviews, for the Grey Muzzle Organization; and minor help with the United Pet Fund.

But the PJRR has a special place in my life.  I’m a huge believer in the importance of walking with your dog (for all sorts of reasons) and the PJRR promotes just that.  It’s also a way to help a variety of rescues.  I’ve met so many people dedicated to helping pets.  I’ve learned that pets help people in return so it’s a worth-while cause.  And selfishly it makes me a better person because I push myself to get things done.”

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