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Cincinnati World Affairs Council


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.

Miss Junior Teen Ohio, Jessica Waters, Has Can DO Attitude


On May 18, 2008, just days before Jessica Waters was to become 12, got the news that would rock her world. Finally, the trouble she was having with focusing and remembering in school was given a name. Jessica became one of the estimated 2.5 million AmericaJessica Waters - Miss Junior Teen Ohio 2012ns diagnosed with Epilepsy, a disease of the central nervous system.

Suddenly, this young girl who liked to think of herself as the ‘tough kid’ was fighting the battle of her life. In her teenage years she has experienced three kinds of seizures including seven grand mal seizures. And her medicine altered her personality. Jessica was told she could no longer ride her bike and coaches no longer wanted her on their sports teams. She was asked not to attend parties. She was told she would never be able to dance, tumble or cheer again – her great passions. She was harassed and bullied.

It was a summer camp, Camp Flamecatcher for children with epilepsy and other disabilities, where Jessica came to realize she CAN still swim, canoe, run, swing, and do arts and crafts. And, she saw other kids doing those things too.

“It really opened my eyes,” she said. “Kids don’t realize how much they can do. Camp taught me that epilepsy wasn’t a defining factor in my life.”

But that experience wouldn’t have been possible for her without a sponsor. It is a gift that she is paying forward. She founded Cupcake Charity (with support from her mom) to raise scholarship money to send other kids to Camp Flamecatcher whose families otherwise couldn’t afford the cost. Jessica raised enough for two partial and one full scholarship, and she is working hard to raise more this year.

The Camp experience also stirred her to action in another way. “People just don’t listen to young people well and I thought what better way to do something about that then to go for a title,” she said. “I researched the pageant organizations that care about what you do for others and that is what I am all about.”

 Meet Miss Junior Teen Ohio 2012

At 15, Jessica – Miss Junior Teen Ohio 2012 – is a dedicated advocate for the Epilepsy Foundation, a member of her school’s Varsity Dance Team, a cheerleader for Beavercreek City Schools, received an All Team Academic AwMiss Junior Teen Ohio 2012 - Jessica Watersard and varsity letter for playing hockey, and is always looking for volunteer opportunities. Jessica is the youngest TWIG Auxiliary member for Dayton Children’s Hospital and is working with Julie Vann (previous mayor of Beavercreek) to establish a scholarship in honor of students her school has lost. For all that Jessica has accomplished, her list of accolades is simply too long to list.

I asked Jessica what her message is to other young people like herself. “I tell them to not let their disease or disability define them. You can do anything you put your mind to.”

I think that is a great lesson for all of us.

A Mentor Is A Special Gift


Written by Greg, a volunteer mentor with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Butler County

I first met Cody in March of 2009. He was age 9 and I was 32. The Big Brothers Big Sisters of Butler County staff shared that the main reason Cody and his mom were looking for a “Big” was because they wanted a positive male role model in his life. From the beginning, our relationship was easy.

One early moment of importance came as we were driving back from a late-spring afternoon at the Cincinnati Zoo. I asked Cody what his favorite part of the day was. As a self-proclaimed penguin-fan, he told me it was, “…seeing the penguins.” He asked me back & I truthfully answered, “Spending the day with you.” The always talkative Cody was literally speechless. Better still, he had a huge smile on his face and he was genuinely proud. My words had struck a chord with Cody. He does not know it – but his smile struck right back.

Mentoring is a great giftAs time passed, our relationship grew. I began looking for ways where I could help expand Cody’s horizons, while we were spending time together. I travel for work so I always make sure that Cody learns a little bit about each place that I go. We talk about different types of careers and the different things he may be able to do. We frequently talk about college and about the benefits a college education can bring.

In our match, I have tried to find the ‘balance’ between being “an adult” who tells him what to do and being “a friend” he can trust. So, this past summer, when Cody texted to tell me that he had tried to pierce his ear (without permission,)I was happy to know that he felt he could trust his ‘secret’ with me.

Cody is a great kid with a very generous heart and a mom that is a tremendously positive influence in his life. But, as he gets bigger, his decisions get bigger as well. And, like so many other adults out there looking out for teenagers, that reality makes me worry. So, Cody trusting me with his secret was a source of relief because it gives me hope that he may turn to me again down the road when he is in a time of need. And, all of that provides great insight into just how much my little brother has come to mean to me.

Cody lost his “Papaw” (maternal grandfather) about 2 years ago. Papaw was the main male role model in Cody’s life and I got to know him through our visits when I would get Cody at Papaw’s home. Towards the end, Papaw was in a hospice care facility where Cody and I visited him with the family. And during one visit, Papaw took the time to express his sincere thanks to me for being there for Cody. It warmed my heart that my match with Cody could make that much difference to his Papaw. And, his appreciation only strengthened my resolve and commitment to be there for Cody in any way that I could be.

I have volunteered for many different charity-based organizations over the years, but I never found a scenario where I felt I made a true connection with the person(s) that I was helping, so I was always looking for more.   The Big Brothers Big Sisters program has provided me so much more than I knew to be possible. I came into the program because I wanted to give back, but I had no idea how much I would get in return.

How You Can Help

In addition to becoming a mentor yourself, you can help raise money for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Butler County by participating in Bowl for Kids Sake.

How can you get involved?  It is easier than ever…just follow these quick steps:

1.  Organize a team of 4-6 people

2.  Register here:

  • Saturday, March 9, 3:00 PM  Eastern Lanes, Middletown


3.  Raise money – It’s as simple as each team member asking for $10 from 5 people. They hope to see each team raise at least $50 per member (a total of $200-300 depending on how many people are on your team).

4.  Come enjoy the FUN!!  Come  bowl, get a great looking T-shirt, eat pizza, win prizes and celebrate all your hard work!

 Questions?  Contact Molly Jones at molly.jones@bbbsbutler.org

or 867-1227 or 424-3397.







Liberty Mutual Volunteers Lend A Hand At Cancer Support Community


I just wrapped a contest for World Choir Games tickets where people wrote to me about what in Cincinnati makes their hearts ‘sing’. There are so many good things in our region and it was really fun hearing what people had to say. I may have to ask that question more often.

I wanted to share what Amanda Baker of the Cancer Support Community of Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky shared in her submission…

Liberty Mutual celebrated their 100 Year Anniversary with “Serve With Liberty” – a 2-day global service project that took place on June 21 and 22. Cancer Support Community was grateful to be one of the local sites selected by the Fairfield Liberty Mutual office for volunteer projects at CSC’s Lynn Stern Center in Blue Ash. Congratulations on 100 years and thank you, Liberty Mutual!

Despite the heat, a group of 20 Liberty Mutual associates worked outside for nearly 5 hours on June 21 and made an AMAZING impact on the landscaping and grounds at The Lynn Stern Center. Flowers were planted, shrubs trimmed, beds weeded and cleaned out, windows washed, the hillside by the dumpster cleared and seeded, and more.

Then on June 22 another 15 member Liberty Mutual volunteer group came to clean the inside of our facility. They cleaned the office spaces as well as the participant areas, dusted every surface, organized our books and kitchen, washed all of the inside windows and cleaned the blinds.

We couldn’t be happier with all the help we received from the Liberty Mutual volunteers over the 2-day service project. The Lynn Stern Center looks wonderful and we hope their volunteers will come back next year to celebrate 101 years!


Now that’s a great reason to sing!

United Way of Greater Cincinnati Honors Volunteers


The United Way of Greater Cincinnati recently honored local volunteers whose caring, compassion and energy are making our community a better place for all of us.

Leadership Award Honorees

From left, (bottom) Dr. James Votruba, President, Northern Kentucky University; Alfonso Cornejo, President & a Founding Member, Hispanic Chamber, Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber; (top) Donald Bush, Partner, PricewaterhouseCoopers; Victoria Buyniski Gluckman, Founder & Retired CEO, United Medical Resources, Inc.; Michael Grabel, Senior, Walnut Hills High School; Milton Schwartz, Retired, Director of Big Ticket Selling Services, Macy’s


Community Service Award Honorees

From left, (bottom) Jamie Cecil, Vice President, Sibcy Cline Insurance Services; Tonya Matthews, Vice President, Museums, Cincinnati Museum Center; (top) Mike Holmes, Senior, Starfire U; Cheryl Thomas, Engineering Section Head, P&G; Robert Shaffer, Executive Vice President & Director of Audit, Fifth Third Bank; Brenda Kloos, Partner, Frost Brown Todd, LLC


Below are the write-ups on each of the honorees:

Leadership Awards

The Geier Family Award for United Way Leadership
Victoria Buyniski Gluckman, Founder and Retired CEO of United Medical Resources, Inc.

Gluckman, a community volunteer, has served on numerous area nonprofit boards, including the Strive Partnership and United Way Success By 6. She helps ensure that early childhood is well-integrated in the cradle to career education continuum and has been a consistent voice in making the case for kindergarten readiness. Through her philanthropic and hands-on support, she has enhanced the quality of life for our community’s youngest children and, in turn, improving the quality of our future workforce.

Ruth W. and Robert I. Westheimer Award for Continuous Leadership
Milton S. Schwartz, Retired, Director of Big Ticket Selling Services, Macy’s

Schwartz, a community volunteer, has been a dedicated United Way volunteer for more than 30 years, serving in both Community Impact and Resource Development. He is currently on the Program Monitoring Committee, reviewing program investments, and has served on United Way committees that helped identify critical community needs to guide United Way strategies. He has also contributed for nearly 40 years to improving lives through the Isaac M. Wise Temple, United Jewish Cemeteries, Jewish Community Relations Council, and Jewish Federation, and as a founder of the Ronald McDonald House.

Neil H. McElroy Award for United Way Resource Development Leadership
Donald B. Bush, Partner, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP

Bush has chaired United Way of Greater Cincinnati’s Tocqueville Society (for donors of $10,000 or more annually) for two years. During that time, 259 new members joined this nationally-recognized Society. His strategic thinking has led to the development of the Tocqueville Advisory Council, a group thinking long-term about scope and growth. Constantly challenging the status quo, he was the force behind two recent engagement efforts — Tocqueville Riders cycling event and Beyond the Check to help new and veteran members connect.

Joseph A. Hall Award for Promoting Diversity
Alfonso Cornejo, President and a Founding Member, Hispanic Chamber Cincinnati USA

Cornejo has been building collaboratives to promote diversity and inclusion during his 22 years in Cincinnati. This includes founding the group that organizes the Cincy-Cinco Festival celebrating Cinco de Mayo and which has generated more than $170,000 over the past seven years for support of area Hispanic causes. He also facilitated publication of Cincinnati: A City of Immigrants, a history curriculum distributed in local schools and churches, and adapted into a play produced by ArtsWave.

Impact Leadership Award
Dr. James C. Votruba, President, Northern Kentucky University

Dr. Votruba has shown a special dedication to United Way of Greater Cincinnati, indicated by his service as a member of its Board of Directors and through his leadership of United Way’s Research Council. As Research Council chair, Dr. Votruba has been responsible for three editions of United Way’s regional indicators report, The State of the Community. The report and its associated online data portal have become the “go-to” data resources for United Way as it makes its program investment decisions and for additional agencies, foundations and government offices.

Youth Leadership Award
Michael Grabel, Senior, Walnut Hills High School, Volunteer with United Way Youth Engaged in Service (YES)

Grabel makes it a point to serve diverse organizations to help students open their horizons to their communities and the social issues around them. As a Youth Ambassador for the national Tourette Syndrome Association, he joins youth from all over the country in educating peers and encouraging understanding, tolerance and the prevention of bullying. He demonstrates how youth with courage can turn challenges into opportunity.

Community Service Awards

Improving Our Community
Tonya Matthews, Vice president, Museums, Cincinnati Museum Center

For the last three years, Matthews has been an active member of United Way’s Youth Achieve Success in School & Life Impact Council, helping others achieve their potential. Aligning with United Way’s efforts to engage our community around Bold Goals, her efforts are helping children, youth and young adults succeed in school and life.

Developing Resources
Robert P. Shaffer, Executive Vice President and Director of Audit, Fifth Third Bank

Shaffer took an already successful employee campaign to a new level of success in 2011, both in new dollars raised and in the number of committed donors who gave generously because they were inspired by Bob’s leadership and example and believed in the important work of United Way.

Jamie Cecil, Vice President, Sibcy Cline Insurance Services

Cecil is a donor, a volunteer and an advocate for United Way. She been instrumental in raising nearly $100,000 in both 2010 and 2011 as chair of the Sibcy Cline United Way employee campaign. She is also a United Way Emerging Leader and participant in Volunteer 1000.

Strengthening our Region
Cheryl Thomas, Engineering Section Head, The Procter & Gamble Company

Thomas is a United Way of Greater Cincinnati’s Women Investing in the Next Generation (WINGs) member and chair of its Advocacy Committee. Under her leadership, the Committee is growing and energized, having recently returned from a third visit to Washington, D.C., to advocate for early childhood issues.

Communicating Our Message
Mike Holmes, Senior, Starfire U

Holmes is a senior in Starfire U, a four-year program for teens and adults with disabilities. As a speaker for Starfire, he shares the United Way message. He has helped others understand what is it like to live with a disability and demonstrated how much he and others have to offer as we work together to improve our community. He completed an internship at United Way of Greater Cincinnati and is now employed full-time at GBBN Architects.

Improving Our Accountability and Effectiveness
Brenda M. Kloos, Partner, Frost Brown Todd, LLC

Kloos has been a member of the Accountability and Services Cabinet and Building Committee since 2003, chairing the committee over the last six years. Significant projects have included negotiating the sale of the Middletown and Eastern Area buildings and leading the five-year process that resulted in the total renovation of the Regional Center Building.


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