It has been such a privilege to be working with the Greater Cincinnati Planned Giving Council for the 7th year in promoting some of our region’s incredibly generous philanthropists through the Voices of Giving Awards. This year the organization honored donors on behalf of 25 nonprofit organizations whose important work is supported by their decision to give a planned gift (and much more in heart and time). Those Greater Cincinnati philanthropists are strengthening local neighborhoods, families and individual lives through their actions.
“Our Voices of Giving honorees have such diverse interests, often with deep rooted passion from personal experiences. They represent the true spirit of philanthropy and their gifts will touch thousands of lives directly and indirectly in our region, for generations to come. Their donations will help these important causes that are close to their hearts to be sustainable for future generations,” said Voices of Giving Co-Chair Molly Talbot, VP of Advancement at St. Ursula Academy.
Several hundred guests attended the Awards Event that was held at CET and emceed by Local 12’s John Lomax.
2016 Honorees included: (please note that honorees from two organizations asked to be left out of publicity and are not listed) Carson Smith (honored posthumously) on behalf of the American Cancer Society; Fran Cohen on behalf of CET – Greater Cincinnati Television Educational Foundation; Joe and Sandy Dominiak on behalf of The Children’s Home of Cincinnati; Thomas Ernst Huenefeld on behalf of Cincinnati Museum Center; Digi France Schueler on behalf of Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park; Mary Rose J. Zink on behalf of Cincinnati Public Radio; Mace Justice on behalf of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra; Dr. Steve and Diane Dumbauld on behalf of the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden; Patricia Armstrong on behalf of the CISE Foundation; Doug Spitler on behalf of Episcopal Retirement Services; Richard Hildbold (honored posthumously) on behalf of the Freestore Foodbank; Jerome and Suzanne Teller on behalf of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute and Isaac M. Wise Temple; Val Schube on behalf of Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation; Rick and Julie Kantor on behalf of the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati; Rev. Dr. Joseph and Blanch Graham on behalf of Life Enriching Communities Foundation – Twin Towers; Donald L. Neyer on behalf of Life Enriching Communities Foundation – Twin Lakes; Lawrence Klosterkemper on behalf of Mount St. Joseph University and Roger Bacon High School; Jerry W. Warner, Ph.D. on behalf of Northern Kentucky University; Bill and Helene Sedwick on behalf of People Working Cooperatively; Margaret ‘Tuck’ Fraser (honored posthumously) on behalf of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Greater Cincinnati; Ursulines of Cincinnati on behalf of Saint Ursula Academy; Lisa O’Brien on behalf of United Way of Greater Cincinnati; and Dan and Julie Murphy on behalf of Xavier University.
The Greater Cincinnati Planned Giving Council is a professional association for people whose work includes developing, marketing, and administering charitable planned gifts for non-profit institutions and a variety of other legal and financial settings.
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.
Tiny, a beautiful, gentle golden retriever being raised and trained through nonprofit 4 Paws for Ability to give independence to a child with a disability, got some assistance of her own.
The young girl who knows no strangers was born with part of her front, right leg missing which caused some challenges when it came to being able to be of help to someone else. Laurie Maier, Tiny’s foster parent, reached out to Xavier University’s new Center for Innovation and within hours, a solution to Tiny’s mobility challenges was within reach.
Students in the Introduction to Making class (led by Professor Gary Lewandowski) designed, worked with prosthetist Christine Reedey to make a mold, and produced a prosthetic using a 3D printer. It was a huge accomplishment that took several prototypes to find the design that worked.
This is National Volunteer Week, seven days of celebrating the good will of millions across the country who have given of their time, their hearts, and their resources to enhance lives and causes that are meaningful to them.
Locally, large and small nonprofit organizations working to improve neighborhoods, strengthen families, save non-human animals, and lift people up could quite simply not do their very important work without the generosity of others. More than 8000 people give of their time to the FreeStore FoodBank alone. And that is just one of hundreds of causes in our Greater Cincinnati area.
Tonight I am told the staff and board members of nonprofit Cincinnati Youth Collaborative, that has empowered more than 160,000 vulnerable children and young adults since its founding through the mentorship of positive adult role models, will be very busy. They will be calling EVERY active CYC volunteer and thanking each one for his/her time and effort.
Wow, that is a lot of phone calls!
They will be reaching out to people like Harry Blanton, a CYC mentor for 18 years. His first mentee was Patrick, who at nine years old had an incarcerated father and a mother struggling with addiction. Thanks to Blanton’s influence in his life, Patrick attended St. Xavier High School, then Xavier University, and is now a financial counselor pursuing a master’s degree in organizational leadership. He and Harry are still close, and even recently attended CYC’s Trivia Night for Brighter Futures together, playing on the same team. “It is a joy to have Patrick in my life and I can’t imagine it without him,” said Harry.
The feeling is shared by Patrick. “I am an example that even though the cards are stacked against you, you can succeed if you have the right people on your side,” he attested. “CYC provided that person to me: Harry Blanton.”
Success stories like theirs is not uncommon at CYC. Just last fall, former mentee Lamont got married with his mentor Tim Clarke by his side – as none other than his best man. Matched when Lamont was just 13, the resulting relationship was so important to Lamont that instead of wedding favors, he gave a gift to CYC in honor of every wedding guest.
The gesture’s weight was not lost on Tim. “When I saw on the place setting the little card, I was unable to give the regular speech I had prepared,” he said. “I just had to thank him. For him to want a gift to give to CYC for this to happen to someone else—I got emotional. It was a great day.”
Volunteers are everywhere
These are such beautiful stories. And with those two, there are thousands more too of people all around us, and even ourselves, who are making a positive difference.
The dictionary definition of a volunteer is: a person who voluntarily offers himself or herself a service or undertaking. This means that to be a volunteer doesn’t necessarily mean you are going through a social service agency. It is as simple as an act of kindness to a stranger on the street or an extended hand or ear to a friend or loved one who needs someone to be there.
Today, let’s celebrate those wonderful gifts. But also, let’s commit to finding ways of giving those gifts every day.
I have so enjoyed working with the committee of the Greater Cincinnati Planned Giving Council for more than five years in sharing the news of their Voices of Giving Awards. It is a wonderful effort to say thanks to those who have made lasting contributions to causes close to their hearts.
In this year’s 16th annual Voices of Giving Awards presented by PNC Bank, 26 Greater Cincinnati philanthropists were recognized for their selfless generosity and foresight in contributing a bequest or planned gift to their favorite charitable organization. Also honored were two advisors whose pivotal role in cultivating those gifts is helping sustain valuable causes.
“It is our great honor to celebrate so many truly inspirational individuals in our community. Our Voices of Giving Awards honorees have such diverse passions; however, what they have in common is their selfless generosity and foresight. Their bequests and planned gifts are ensuring the sustainability of many very important causes in our community,” said Michelle Mancini, co-chair for the event.
Philanthropist honorees included: Terry Bruck on behalf of the Cancer Support Community Greater Cincinnati – Northern Kentucky; William and Susan Friedlander on behalf of the Cincinnati Ballet; Rosemary and Frank Bloom on behalf of the Cincinnati Museum Center; Marvin Kolodzik on behalf of the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestra & the University of Cincinnati Foundation; T. Brian Brockhoff on behalf of the Catholic Inner-City Schools Education Foundation; Dan Meyer on behalf of Episcopal Retirement Homes: Susan Mustian on behalf of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation; Robert Brant on behalf of the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati; Herb Reller and Bessie Wessel (both honored posthumously) on behalf of Life Enriching Communities – Twin Towers; Jack Wild on behalf of Life Enriching Communities – Twin Lakes; Roger Grein on behalf of Magnified Giving; Gary and Joyce Sallquist on behalf of Miami Valley Christian Academy; Dr. James M. Garvey, Jr. on behalf of People Working Cooperatively; Gary and Joan Thompson (Joan was honored posthumously) on behalf of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Greater Cincinnati; Robert and Rhea Glassmeyer (honored posthumously) on behalf of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur; James J. and Anne McGraw, Jr. on behalf of The Athenaeum of Ohio; Dorothy Meader Martin Kersten (honored posthumously) on behalf of The Greater Cincinnati Television Educational Foundation (CET); and Fred Grove and Nancy Neff on behalf of Xavier University.
Advisors who were honored were Scott Boster on behalf of the American Cancer Society; and Jan Frankel on behalf of the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati.
To read short backgrounds on each of the honorees,
please click the link below:
2014 Voices of Giving Honorees
To see the entire photo album from the event,
please click here.
The 2014 event was co-chaired by Lori Asmus and Michelle Mancini. Committee members included Sally Alspaugh, Diana Collins, Carol Derkson, Bruce Favret, Jim Friedman, Misty Griesinger, Bill Hitch, Mary Alice Koch, Telly McGaha, Tracy Monroe, Carol Stevie, Sue Ellen Stuebing, Dan Virzi, and Molly Talbot.
The Greater Cincinnati Planned Giving Council is a professional association for people whose work includes developing, marketing, and administering charitable planned giftsfor non-profit institutions and a variety of other legal and financial settings.