One of the many benefits of working on the ReelAbilities Film Festival for me are the incredible people it has given me the opportunity to get to know. I will be sharing some of their stories in my blog.
Caren Theuring is most definitely among them. Caren was a tireless volunteer with fantastic organization and communication skills, and relentless follow through. Among Caren’s tasks, she took on the huge responsibility of updating our ticketing site and of writing our film screening scripts for our emcees. This was no small feat, going back and forth with our host agencies and sponsors to get the names of panelists/speakers, information, and questions. She did it all always with such a positive attitude and she came through big time. During the Festival, Caren was there each day working at the box office.
I am so inspired by her. She was one very important part of our team who helped us build such an amazing event for the city to be proud.
Everyone has a reason for giving of their time to causes. One of Caren’s connection is her step son who lives at LADD’s Find-A-Way Apartments and has benefited from the opportunity to live independently in the community. It is for that reason that Caren and her husband, Jeff, do their giving to LADD.
Caren’s event planning career came later than most. She had gotten married, had three children and gotten divorced when she was still very young. She was doing administrative work but really wanted to further her education. Financially it was tough. She took out a loan and they did a lot of scrimping; and by the age of 40, she was enrolled in college. It was a part time job for a doctor during her college days that ultimately changed her path. She was offered a full time job after graduation that led to an executive director position (the only employee) of a newly founded professional association for radiologists. It was a role she had for eight years before leaving to figure out what she wanted to do next. Caren organized events locally, then accepted a job in San Francisco, and eventually came home to Cincinnati and worked for the Cincinnati Bar Association. She has been retired since 2012.
Lisa: What was something you enjoyed about being involved with ReelAbilities?
Caren: What was wonderful for me working on the Film Festival was that I felt part of something bigger than myself again and I didn’t worry about getting tired, I just did what I needed to do. That was cool. The accomplishment comes when everyone comes together and I did a small piece of it.
Lisa: You have such a generous spirit about you. Where do you think that comes from?
Caren: In my own life, I have been helped by many along the way. There have been times when I have been down and out and not knowing what would happen the next day. There was always someone who came by and supported me. People need to stop judging people by where they are or where they’ve been, and just hold out their hand to each other and say what can I do for you? I try to do that now for others. I’ve learned the hard way that giving too much free advice is not always helpful. I just try to be there for people.
Lisa: Who is someone who stands out for having made an impact on you?
Caren: There have been so many people. When I was first divorced, I was going to a Catholic church and in that particular Parish, the attitude of divorce was that it was someone’s fault. I was devastated and not getting support. I walked with my kids to the College Hill Presbyterian Church and the leaders at that time were amazing. They ended up offering me a job. They were such stable, loving people. They took me and my three kids and helped us through the next few years. I’ll never forget that.
Also, I have a friend, James, who has been her friend for more than 30 years. I met him when working as an admissions coordinator for a nursing home. He was a nursing assistant and he had been a medic in the air force. He is the most compassionate person you would ever want to meet. He always has a positive attitude toward life. James is a friend who will not let you doubt yourself, and he is believable. I draw from his sweetness. I’ve always been attracted to extraordinarily compassionate people. James had been a big brother to three boys that he raised, he is always there for people. One time I was personally painting the outside of my house and he helped me scrape and paint. And then the city came by and condemned my garage, so James found this guy and the three of them went to Home Depot to get supplies and redid the front of it.
Lisa: What is something to which you are looking forward?
Caren: I want to get back on my bicycle and ride it again. I was reminded by ReelAbilities that I can still keep up, I am not ready to sit in a chair. I also either want to go back to San Francisco, or take a trip that follows the follows the trip that Lewis & Clark took to the west coast.
Lisa: What is one of your favorite quotes and why?
Caren: I spend a lot of time thinking about the spirit of things and really like this quote by Johann Wolfgang Von Gotha. “Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.” To me it means you just have to do things. Don’t wait for an invitation to do what you need to do. If I had waited, I would never have done anything. Every journey starts with the first step. You can’t just sit around and say you will do things. This is what I tell my kids and others. Make the first step, then the second move, then the third move. I do believe there is something greater than ourselves that makes things happen when we start bringing the energy around to ourselves
Derek Hassenpflug, CFP®, ChFC® is a certified financial planner and branch manager for the Kenwood Ameriprise office, but on weekends, you may very likely see him if you look to the sky. Derek earned his private pilot certificate in May of this year and these days thinks of himself as a ‘general aviation weekend warrior’ ….who also happens to have a big heart for dogs and giving of his time.
For those who know him and his volunteer work, it was probably of no surprise that as soon as he got his pilot certification he registered for Pilot N Paws, a nonprofit organization that, through private pilots willing to offer free transportation, connects people and organizations to save the lives of thousands of animals. Derek’s first route first came when he saw a notice of a black lab needing to be taken from a kill shelter in Campbellsville, Kentucky to the Cincinnati Lab Rescue. He brought his friend, Jack Finke along for the ride. Together they had a flight they will never forget. The dog had been abandoned in central Kentucky and ended up in an SPCA for awhile and was on path to being euthanized.
In Derek’s words…
“If I didn’t already have two dogs, he would have gone home with me. He slept the whole way back to Cincinnati. He is such a nice dog.
I don’t understand how people can just abandon dogs. We have a small black lab mix that we found wondering around Newport Aquarium eight years ago. She was chipped so we called the shelter and found her adoptive parents who told us she had run away. They said they had two dogs and asked if we wanted her. We love her so much.
Doing this is not inexpensive. I reserve and rent the airplane and pay all of my own expenses but it is great to be doing two of my passions. That trip to Campbellsville was one of the most rewarding things I have ever done.”
Today I would like to introduce you Liz Johnson, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Computer Science at Xavier University with a big heart for cats. In addition to her busy career, she is the volunteer executive director of Cincinnati nonprofit, Ohio Alleycat Resource (OAR), a position she has held since 2009. Please read more about her below.
Lisa: Please tell us a little about yourself.
Liz: I grew up in Dayton, Ohio with 3 brothers. I graduated from Baylor University with a degree in computer science and worked at various universities in computer user support. During that time, I discovered that I loved teaching so I went back to school at Indiana University and completed a doctorate. I’ve been a faculty member at Xavier University since 1997 in computer science and am currently chair of the Department of Computer Science. One of my passions is increasing the diversity of the computer science field. I’ve been involved in various activities focused on that, including a summer camp for middle school girls to promote interest and confidence in science, technology, and math. I live in East Hyde Park with my husband of 31 years.
Lisa: We would love to learn more about your work with OAR and why it is important to you.
Liz: In 2001, I heard about a cat rescue in O’Bryonville and decided to look into volunteering. I quickly became hooked, joining the board of OAR the next year and becoming its executive director in 2009. I’ve done most of the jobs at OAR at one time or another – cleaning litterboxes, fostering kittens, doing trap-neuter-return (TNR) on feral cats, driving the Neuterville Express van to bring cats to our spay/neuter clinic.
Since 2001, OAR has grown from a small rescue in the basement of a local business to a spay/neuter clinic, adoption center, and community cats resource housed in 2 buildings in Madisonville with about 15 staff members and more than 200 volunteers. We spay/neuter almost 10,000 cats a year and last year we adopted out almost 500 cats. We’re working closely with county shelters in our area, including the Cincinnati SPCA, to save cats who enter the shelter system.
I’ve loved cats since I was a young girl begging for a kitten of my own. My work at OAR is an extension of this love. I’ve recently been working with a woman who has been feeding stray cats in her yard. Even though these cats are too wild to be pets, she loves them. She started with two cats but these multiplied so she asked OAR for help. We’ve trapped and spayed or neutered 11 of these cats and will soon get the rest. 8 of them were female so many litters were prevented. She’s appreciative and her neighbors have also thanked us. This work is important to me not only because cats’ lives are bettered through our efforts, but also because we are helping the people who love the cats.
Lisa: Please share with us an experience during your volunteer work that really touched you.
Liz: One of the reasons I got hooked at OAR was that I helped to socialize a shy kitten who was not adoptable when I started. Each week, I would spend time with her after my cat care shift was finished, slowly winning her over through treats and petting. Eventually she learned that humans were ok and she was adopted. Though I don’t have as much time to do this now as in the early years, I’m still drawn to the shy cats who need reassurance and love in order to come out of their shells.
I try to do the same thing in my teaching – encourage a struggling student to overcome a barrier, convince someone that they can succeed in computer science who may never have considered it as a career. Whether human or cat, we can all use affirmation that we matter in the world.
Lisa: What is something good that has happened to you?
Liz: I just finished a four-year term as chief reader for the Advanced Placement Exam for Computer Science. We score the exams for almost 60,000 students to determine if they should receive college credit for their high school course. My colleagues in this work surprised me with a farewell gift of sponsorship of a cat at OAR in my honor. I was quite touched by their thoughtfulness in honoring me by supporting a cause dear to my heart.
Lisa: What is one of your life lessons?
Liz: I’m a firm believer in the power of kindness to change the world. Every day, especially at OAR, I see this in ways big and small, shown to both animals and people. Practicing kindness rewards us with a warm glow and makes the recipient feel better about the world. Life would be pretty barren without it. I’ve regretted missed opportunities to show kindness but I’ve never been sorry when I made the effort to be kind.
Yes, the Freestore Foodbank – a Cincinnati nonprofit organization – does SO much for helping to ensure those in need don’t have to be without nutrition. But it also does SO much more. Meet Niki, one of the recipients of the more than 700 donated coats and 500 donated handmade scarves and hats. She knows what it is like to hit rock bottom and climb your way back, with some help.
Niki spent two years living with the day-in and day-out fear of the uncertainty that comes from sleeping on the streets, and not being able to find a job. The Freestore Foodbank provided her with food, but also with clothing and referrals to employers. It also got her into her own apartment.
How did that feel to her?
“When I got the keys in my hand, I bent down and kissed the ground. I’m not homeless anymore!,” Niki said.
CINspirational People is a feature of Good Things Going Around profiling diverse people of Greater Cincinnati, what inspires them, and what is inspiring about them. You can read more profiles by clicking on the link at the top of the blog. Do you know someone to suggest? Please reach out. Thanks!
Today I want to introduce you to my friend, Terri Hogan, a Cincinnati volunteer and philanthropist. We met when I was working on the Cincinnati ReelAbilities Film Festival and she was the Premiere Weekend co-chair. If you know Terri, then you no doubt have also been inspired by her. She gives of herself tirelessly to causes and people she holds close to her heart. When knocked down, she bounces right back up with an invigorated determination. She practices her gratitude strength every day.
The mother of a beautiful daughter from a previous marriage, Heidi, Terri was in her 40s when she and her husband Paul decided they wanted to adopt. The couple were in the delivery room when a tiny, four-pound premature baby boy made his entrance into this world. Bailey was perfect in every sense, hitting normal milestones for infants. But then things suddenly changed and at 2 ½, their little boy was given the diagnosis of being on the autism spectrum.
Terri walked out of her doctor’s office asking herself, “Now what?” It was overwhelming, she shared. So much so that she was given a prescription for her depression, and she never cried as much as she did the day she took her first and only pill.
“I just said, ‘no more’,” she told me. And that was her turning point.
She went back to school so she could learn how she could get her son to talk; and, about a month after she began learning about Applied Behavior Analysis, Bailey said his first words, “Mom, green train.”
If you have ever been a parent, you know, you will never forget your child’s first words. For Bailey, that sentence was the door that unlocked an entire world of exploration. And for his mom, it was the driving force for her relentless quest to keep learning, keep teaching, and keep giving.
Seventeen years have passed now since the Hogan’s first took their baby boy home and he spells words to him mom. On Facebook, Terri posts regularly about his progress and about the lessons Bailey teaches her about life. She writes of the people she has impacted and those who have touched her, as a result of his being in her life.
I asked Terri some questions.
GTGA: How has your life been impacted by having Bailey?
Terri: Prior to Bailey, I was self centered. I didn’t know the people I know now and didn’t feel as happy as I do now. Now I wake up and think, ‘What can I do today? Who am I going to help?’, because I feel like a single act of kindness can transform a person’s life forever. I never would have felt that before.
In my world now, I go to a luncheon and I am in awe. I realize there is still so much in this world to learn.
I also don’t worry about silly things.
GTGA: How would you describe Bailey to a stranger?
Terri: Bailey is really smart and he has a cute sense of humor. If he is motivated, he can to the moon and back. His eyes are amazing and he speaks a lot with his eyes. He is really social and high fives the waiters and waitresses. He loves to play ball and swim. He also loves his Reds and Bengals.
GTGA: What has Bailey taught you about life?
Terri: He has taught me to not worry about the small stuff and he has really opened my life to a whole new world and made me happier than ever.
GTGA: Tell us about some of your volunteer work.
Terri: It was about two years after I began learning about Applied Behavior Analysis that I got on the board of the Autism Society of Greater Cincinnati, and now serve on committees. At the time, they had just lost about $100,000 and Paul and I were determined to help them recoup that. We pounded the pavement and organized events. We raised $80,000 for them that year because they do such a great job.
I am involved with so many organizations. Among them are Living Arrangements for the Developmentally Disabled (LADD), Visionaries and Voices, Melody Connections, Impact Autism, Birthright, Hyde Park Senior Center, and Crayons to Computers.
Paul and I like to help the small guys to help them get on track because we feel like the bigger organizations have a lot of support.
GTGA: This year you lost your greatest role model, your dad. Tell us about him.
Terri: My parents raised eight kids. My dad was a self made man who was so giving and sacrificing. What I always loved about him was that he was always into something. I remember as a little girl that I’d follow him around. I’d sit down with him and he’d tell me everything he was involved in. And then when I began getting involved with things, he would help me and write me notes and send things he read in the paper. He’s say, ‘Terri, you need to see this. Your group may benefit from it.’ He was a teacher. I miss him.