Lily Raphael is program manager for a nonprofit organization that has a soft spot in my heart, UpSpring. If you are unfamiliar, each year UpSpring removes barriers in the way of classroom and life success for more than 3,000 Greater Cincinnati youth experiencing homelessness. The organization recently wrapped up a very successful school supply drive. Being a part of it, getting to see firsthand the impact of so many generous volunteers and donors on young people, and just working everyday around students showing such fortitude in the face of truly difficult circumstances has been life changing for Lily. She shares some of her thoughts below.
“Working with young people is so inspiring and energizing. I love that my work challenges me to create, think quick, and problem solve, and that each day is different. I also love working for an organization that creates environments and experiences for kids to just be kids. Due to the trauma and challenges that children experiencing homelessness face, their living situation often asks of them to act more like adults, causing their childhood to be accelerated in some ways but then unlived in other ways. For me, this work has taught me the importance of consistency and stability, and how easily it is taken for granted by people who have it.”
About the School Supply Campaign
“One of the highlights of our campaign regarding our donors and volunteers is how many people got their children involved in supporting this effort. All in all, around 25 kids assisted with filling backpacks at donor and volunteer backpack stuffing events. When kids learn about the work we are doing and the effects of being homeless as a child, it is so powerful to see their willingness and enthusiasm to help out. After all, some of the kids we serve could very well be their peers, and we feel that is really impactful for kids to realize this.
Since the need was much higher than we anticipated this year, I was initially concerned about being able to fulfill all the requests we had. But we did it, and we certainly have many people to thank for that. Through amazing individuals and groups coming together to lend their support, we were able to make sure that every request we had was met, ultimately serving more than 1,100 children experiencing homelessness this season. It feels really good knowing that we didn’t have to turn anyone away. Delivering the resources was a great opportunity to connect with our partners. I was so happy to hear from them how helpful all these resources are for the families and children they serve. I even had the opportunity to deliver directly to one of the families whose children were in our Summer 360° program. Since we don’t typically meet the families we provide resources to, I appreciated being able to connect personally with the grandmother who shared some of what her family’s experienced with me. As she discussed how important education was to her family, I admired her determination and selflessness in ensuring that her grandchildren could continue to go to school in spite of their living situation being in flux.
For the recipients of these resources, this effort is a huge help. Back-to-school season involves so many expenses, none of which can really be cut out. With extra support for uniforms, transportation, and school supplies, parents are able to meet the requirements for their kids’ schools. And ultimately, this ensures that the children we serve do not have to miss out on (or be singled out during) those critical first days of school because they didn’t have what they needed.”
It is the most wonderful gift when you find a way of mixing your skills with your passion into a career that gives your days purpose. Susan Ingmire has been doing that so well for many years. She is someone who I have admired for a long time, and had an opportunity to get to know more about her recently.
Susan is president of an organization called Ignite Philanthropy Advisors, a philanthropic consulting firm that assists individuals, families, organizations and foundations in achieving their unique grantmaking goals. In 2015, Ignite facilitate 438 grant payments totaling more than $9 million; and 295 of the beneficiary organizations are in Ohio.
For her, it is more than a career. It is her calling. From a young girl it was instilled upon her the value in being there for others. Her parents taught her about humanity and responsibility. They encouraged her to reach for dreams and to pursue goals, always being kinds to others along the way.
Susan was the first in her family to graduate college. In fact, she also earned a master’s degree in speech pathology. And she was the first to travel overseas. The opportunity came when she was 30 years old and a practicing speech pathologist, and saw an announcement in the paper for Rotary Foundation Fellow applications. She interviewed, was accepted, sold her car, and flew to England where she spent the next 10 months as an ‘ambassador of peace’ studying at the University of London and speaking to Rotary Clubs.
“That experience rocked my world,” Susan told me. “It changed me in so many ways. It opened my eyes to the bigger world and gave me the confidence to travel on my own. It also made me realize that I wanted to do something bigger than speech pathology.”
Susan moved to Cincinnati in 1991 and worked for Fifth Third Bank, ArtsWave, and Interact for Health/InterAct for Change. She began Ignite Philanthropy Advisors in 2009.
Lisa: What does philanthropy mean to you?
Susan: For me, it is way to find meaning and bring family together. It is active engagement in making the world better and repairing it. Everyone can be a philanthropist. While money is an important piece, it is also about giving of your time and passion and talents. My job as an advisor is to help people activate their wealth in a way that makes the world better and makes them better.
Lisa: Do you remember your first volunteer experience?
Susan: My first experience beyond church was when I was a big sister in the Big Brothers and Big Sisters program. That was a fantastic experience. I helped someone from a high risk family. I learned a lot about compassion, empathy and poverty; and what it meant to live in a multi-generational poverty home and the barriers those families face. I also learned about patience and to give of yourself – the more you give, the more you receive. I received a lot of love from my mentee. I think I helped change the trajectory of her life and that means a lot to me.
Lisa: What life lessons did you learn from your parents?
Susan: The number one thing I learned from my mother is unconditional love, how important it is to be open with people you care about, and to stand by them through thick and thin. She turns 85 in June. From my dad, I learned to always try hard and never give up. My parents sacrificed and at the time I didn’t realize it. Now I appreciate all they did to help me go to college. To do that, I had two jobs and a work study job. I am forever grateful that I had the drive and determination to pursue higher education and had parents who did what they could for me.
The Mayerson Student Philanthropy Project of Northern Kentucky University provides an opportunity for students to participate in experiential philanthropy through a wide variety of courses each year.
The Mayerson project is designed to use a “learn by giving” approach in the college classroom. Every semester select university courses are named Mayerson courses, are given a sum of money, and are asked to evaluate nonprofits and then invest in those they think will make the most effective use of the funds (typically, $1,000 per nonprofit).
Zai is a senior at Cincinnati Mt. Notre Dame High School and she is someone who inspires me. At a young age, she has a huge heart and understands the power of kindness. She said giving back just does great things for the heart.
“Philanthropy literally means “love of humanity”. In simplest terms it means giving back to your community. This big word has a big punch! Once you understand philanthropy your heart will grow bigger. I know mine did for sure,” she said.
Zai told me her passion for helping others began three years ago when she got involved with her school’s Youth Philanthropy Council (YPC).
“Being a part of helped me push to get my book published. My book is titled Animal Adventurers Book 1: Murder at Thompson Manor which is the first in the series. I wrote this book in order to give animals a second chance for a family and life,” she said.
Over three quarters of the profits goes to nonprofit organization Magnified Giving, towards the Animal Adventurer Grant.
Magnified Giving is a local non-profit that educates youth, mainly high school students about philanthropy through a yearlong program. They research, do presentations, have fundraisers, and at the end of the year give a money grant to a non-profit.
About Zai’s book, Animal Adventures Book 1: Murder at Thompson Manor
Chrissy only knows that she is alone, with no one to turn to. All she has to offer herself is a small amount of hope that her world will go back to normal, whatever normal is.
When Chrissy gets recused her world seems to make a little bit of sense again. She gains a new family composed of Pumpkin, a clumsy black kitten, Lianna, a stubborn know-it-all Dalmatian, and Frosty, an over-excited, talkative Siberian husky. But when a stranger, with an offer, comes to the door, her secure world comes crumbling down around her. Chrissy must leave behind her safehome, and go on a spiraling adventure to save her family.
Of course her adventure isn’t easy, especially when her new billionaire owner is murdered, and her family is left abandoned once again. Things get even more out of control when her rescuer Brad, is accused of being the killer, and is locked up in jail. Will Chrissy and her family be able to prove Brad innocent and catch the real killer?
The Animal Adventurers is a creative blend of non-stop suspense, drama, and mystery. It’s a heartwarming story filled with courageous, abandoned characters that will do anything for family.
For more information on Animal Adventurers please go to www.animaladventurers.com
Have you heard about Bake Me Home? It’s a fabulous Cincinnati nonprofit founded by two twin sisters (Emma and Amy Bushman, now 11) and their mother (Alison Bushman). I wrote a story about them in a previous post. Please click here to read it.
Emma entered the ‘Go Orange for No Kid Hungry’ national essay contest and I was able to get a copy of it. I don’t know about you but I find it so uplifting to read about philanthropy from the minds of youth.
Bake Me Home is a charitable organization dedicated to promoting volunteerism and providing disadvantaged moms and kids with direct services that encourage shared family experiences. It was established in 2008 and is a Better Business Bureau approved charity.
It was Christmas Eve-Eve 2010 at a homeless family shelter. My mom, my sister, and I were reading to the kids there. A girl, older than I was at the time, wanted to read one of the books out loud too. She got up in front of everybody and began to read. She was so determined to read that book, even though the kids around her quickly lost interest as she struggled to pronounce the words. I love to read, and it was clear that she liked to read, but just because I had been given a better opportunity to learn, I was a better reader than she was. It occurred to me that it’s probably hard to learn when your hungry all the time and moving around a lot. I would be absolutely devastated if I couldn’t read.
I left the shelter that night thinking a lot about how my life was different from the kids who live there. I spend quite a bit of time hanging out at shelters because my mom, my sister, and I have our own charity called Bake Me Home that provides services to families from homeless and battered women’s shelters, but this night really brought the differences into perspective. Until then I thought about things like the fact that I have my own room, and get to do extra activities like tennis lessons. That night was the first time I realized what a difference there was in our education too. My mom and I both cried in the car on the way home that night. She said it made her sad to think about what a beautiful reader that determined girl could be if she had all the advantages that we did.
Well, we know that we can’t do everything to help homeless kids, but we can let them know them even strangers care about them, and we can help them buy some food. In our Bake Me Home Tote Bags, we give out a $20 grocery store gift card (among other things!). Just last year we gave out 342 $20 gift cards. That’s $6,840 worth of grocery money to hungry families. If I win this essay contest I will donate the money to my non-profit organization so that we can continue to help these kids.
I still think about that girl, and how hard it must be to learn to read when you are hungry, and this is why ending childhood hunger in America is important to me.
Bake Me Home was recently featured on The List