Just along the southern bank of the Ohio River sits the small rural town of Melbourne, Kentucky, spotted with rustic farms and quaint resting spots. The 2010 Census counted 401 people residing in its neighborhoods.
It is also the home of the Freestore Foodbank’s The Giving Fields, an expansive 10 acre community farm that provides fresh produce for Northern Kentucky food pantries, soup kitchens and other agencies. During 2016 growing season alone, some 2,400 volunteers helped plant, weed, harvest, and glean enough vegetables to supplement nearly 120,000 meals.
Dan is among those volunteers. Most days for the past six years he can be seen navigating the rows, fence lines and pretty much the entire length of the farm driving a lawn mower. As a neighbor, it is a job he enjoys doing in his retirement. “It is something simple that I can do to contribute to our community,” he said.
Interested in helping out? The Freestore Foodbank is always looking for new volunteers. For more information about volunteering at The Giving Fields or for questions about donating gardening items or supplies, please email our Volunteer Services Department at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (513) 482-7550.
Yesterday I was at the Cincinnati Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired (CABVI) for an event and saw a woman who always has a way of making me smile when I see her. Jennifer Holladay has worked for CABVI for more than nine years. She is the agency’s talking book and One-on-One volunteer coordinator. I first met her when CABVI was one of my public relations clients, and I last ran into her (before today) when our seats were next to each other for the Broadway show, Kinky Boots. For me, I think two of her most distinct qualities are her laugh (which she does a lot of) and her genuineness in listening to what you have to say. She just always brightens my day.
In case you are unfamiliar, CABVI provides counseling, rehabilitation, information and employment services to people of all ages in a nine county area. Through all of its programs and services, it strives to help those who are blind, visually or print impaired lead independent lives. Its One-on-One Program matches volunteers with agency clients to assist with a number of different needs such as writing checks, organizing paperwork, reading mail or other items, and labeling groceries. Jennifer said she currently has close to 200 volunteers she manages in her program.
I asked Jennifer some questions to get to know her better. Please read her answers below.
Lisa: What is the greatest part for you about your job?
Jennifer: One of my favorite parts of my job is bringing out the strengths and talents of volunteers and helping them find an opportunity that fulfills something in their hearts. For me, when volunteers and clients come to me and share stories of attending each other’s weddings or other special events in their lives that is so rewarding. I have a volunteer who comes to mind who began because she wanted to read to someone. Last year when her client passed away, she told me, she never knew that she would meet her best friend in a nursing home.
That is why I love what I do. In the end, what keeps me doing what I do is the relationships that have been built and knowing I helped in some way.
Lisa: What type of impact have you seen from your program to your clients?
Jennifer: I have seen a big impact. If someone has a huge stack of mail that has gotten backed up because it takes that person a long time to go through it all with a magnifier, and a volunteer can come in once a week for an hour, it relieves that person’s stress level. The family too benefits because then they can just be family and not have to worry about whether those tasks are being done.
Lisa: Tell us a little more about Jennifer.
Jennifer: I grew up on a farm in Boone County where we raised sheep and rabbits. I was in 4H for ten years. I have a bachelor’s degree in communications from Thomas More College and last year got my master’s degree in public administration with an emphasis in nonprofit management from Northern Kentucky University. When I am not working, I enjoying reading and getting together with friends.
2015 was an awesome year for me because I graduated from NKU and I bought my first house.
Lisa: Tell us about someone who was a positive influence on your life.
Jennifer: I’d say two of my professors in college, one from Thomas More and one from Northern Kentucky University. At Thomas More, we had a research paper to do and the search technologies were just evolving. My Kentucky history professor would not accept anything less than me doing my own research although he was always there to answer questions that I had. In my master’s program, there was a piece of software that would not work with my screenwriter. Knowing that I needed the class, my professor took the approach, ‘let’s figure this out’ and we ended up using Excel instead as a way for me to complete my work. Both of these professors had a ‘let’s figure this out’ mentality. When one way was not working for me to allow me to complete my task, then they helped to come up with another way. I have always appreciated it when people have gone out of their way to help me succeed.
I have a twin brother, Jason, who is fully sighted. My family too has always expected nothing less from me. My parents always believed there is no reason why my brother and I can’t do the same things.
Lisa: When people think of Jennifer Holladay, how would you like for them to think of you?
Jennifer: I want to be as attentive and understanding as I can be to others. I want people to think of me as someone who always does the best by them that I can.
Carry out a random act of kindness, with no expectation of reward,
safe in the knowledge that one day someone might do the same for you. ~ Princess Diana
Cincinnati, it seems, is a growing hotbed for something truly beautiful. People are gathering to find opportunities to help others, just because they can. These people are part of a movement that is called #KindFlash and their impact is becoming increasingly far reaching.
The group that has grown to more than 1200 volunteers just held its one year anniversary clothing drive. With more than 30 drop off venues, they collected 2666 hats, gloves, scarves and socks (plus 1118 other items such as ear warmers, coats, snacks, etc) for a grand total of 3,784 donations distributed to people in need throughout 51 Greater Cincinnati neighborhoods.
The whole idea is to spread kindness, without any expectations for return (except of course, the warm feeling inside of knowing that you have made a difference in someone else’s life). Volunteers folded donations into clear ziploc bags with a note attached letting people know the items are free, and those bags are placed on park benches or sidewalks, tied to phone poles, or other places of high traffic. Many volunteers have said that no sooner were they walking away, they noticed those bags disappearing.
That Drive is just one act they are doing. Each month they come up with a different idea for impacting a different neighborhood and/or group of people – or non-human animals. Most of the time, they are events where volunteers have an opportunity to get to know the organization and individuals involved. This month they are collecting kitty litter and cat food for Ohio Alleycat Rescue. In March, they will be visiting, getting to know and helping to fundraise for The Cincinnati Dragons, a youth wheelchair basketball team.
#KindFlash, originally known as Random Acts of Kindness, began about a year ago after Liz Wu had seen similar ideas in other cities on the internet. In a February snow storm, as she was huddled by her heater Liz got to thinking about the people who didn’t have a heater to curl up next to. She saw a photo with a news article of people collecting items for the homeless, and decided to strong arm her friends into helping.
There was a post on Facebook, and the next thing Liz new, the Cincinnati movement had begun. Almost overnight it mushroomed with dozens joining in on their event. They organized drop off location and began putting word out that they were collected warm clothing. Donations began pouring in. Within ten days, more than 100 volunteers were involved and pulled together over 2000 items to distribute to more than 35 neighborhoods.
“We want to demonstrate how easy it is to make a difference in your community, and see that it doesn’t take much time or resources. People can do most things on their own,” Liz told me. “With #KindFlash, it is neat to see how a lot of times there is some relationship building between volunteers and an organization we help, or recipients of that organization.”
Everyone of all ages is welcome to join. If you would like to get involved, they have a Facebook group here.
Have you registered for the upcoming A Night of CINspiration, new events of Good Things Going Around? Space is limited, so register today!
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.
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
“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
“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.
Heard about the Assistance League?
The Assistance League is an all volunteer nonprofit organization in Greater Cincinnati and its signature program is Operation School Bell has provided new school uniforms to 1,908 students during the 2014 to 2015 school year. The organization has helped the children in need in 35 public and parochial schools throughout the Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky areas. Each school uniform consists of short and long-sleeved shirts, pants, socks, underwear, a belt, a fleece jacket and a pair of shoes. Individuals and grantors enthusiastically support this program which directly impacts a child by providing an essential need – clothing. Learn more: http://www.assistanceleaguecincinnati.org/