Monday, July 27, 2015

Volunteer Spotlight: Unicorns can change the world

This year at school I read a book about how to make big impacts in little ways. The book opened and closed with the same line, “talent is universal, but opportunity is not” and delved into the importance of bridging the gap between widespread talent, and often limited opportunity. The Yellow Bus Summer Camp gives opportunity to an incredible amount of untapped talent. They bridge the gap. Getting to experience that firsthand this summer gave me a brand new perspective on my own city and the value of education within it.  

Much of my time this summer was spent coordinating the pre and post testing that was used to measure literacy retention rates over the duration of the camp. I always joked that all the kids were going to hate me because I was the testing lady, but they were surprisingly good sports about it (a couple of our enthusiastic  5 and 6 year olds even asked to do it twice).  On one of the first days of camp I went into a classroom and asked for a 3rd grader to come do his test. He walked out with me very reluctantly, pouting, and almost in tears. We sat down at the testing room desks and I handed him the 3rd grade reading passage, assuming that he was just really not a big fan of reading as his pouting continued.  After I finished explaining the directions I asked him to begin and he just sort of sat there and stared at the paper until he finally muttered, “I can’t”.  As it turns out, he had never learned how to read, or was too nervous to read in front of me for fear of doing poorly. At the closing of camp I retested him. He was by no means the fastest reader in the classroom and he still struggled. But the words “I can’t” never came out of his mouth again. He took on each passage with a considerable amount of new confidence and asked questions along the way. His teachers helped change his attitude this summer, and that changed his outcome.

Another camp afternoon I was helping the younger ones make puppets with Mad Cap Puppets. As I was helping put their puppets together almost all of them wanted to explain to me what it was that their puppet was going to be, all while handing me pipe cleaners and feathers and googly eyes at a mile a minute. Although I don’t know exactly what a “dog-cat” mix would sound like, or what a “blob monster” would be able to do, they used their imaginations and the resources they had to create entirely new worlds and creatures. I think sometimes this kind of talent can get squelched because it isn’t academic, but this kind of talent is so unique and important. Creative people move the world. And I’m not saying creating a unicorn puppet that can “shoot lasers out of its eyes” is a world changing idea, but by giving these kids an outlet to think in an unconfined way, the YBSC is making inventive problem solvers and out of the box thinkers.

Everybody has “smarts”, but sometimes our smarts are in different things. I am truly lucky to have gotten to see these kids’ smarts, whatever they are, used, encouraged, and grown this summer inside and outside of the classroom. It is an experience that I know will always be a part of me, and one I will not soon forget. 

Written by Jill O'Bryan, Volunteer & FwP Summer Marketing Intern

Monday, June 29, 2015

Supporter Spotlight: Girlfriend's Giving Back

The amazing organization, Girlfriend's Giving Back hosted the June Birthday Club at the Interfaith Hospitality Network on Thursday the 25th. Not only did they bring a team of awesome ladies to celebrate the children, they brought the Carnival!!

The leaders of Girlfriend's Giving Back are Chenia Sherman, Natasha Edwards, and Dawanna Lewis. The mission of their organization is to Inspire, Empower and bring Hope to our communities through Charitable Donations , Voluntary Commitment and Generosity. Dawanna reached out to FwP to learn about volunteer opportunities and how they could be apart of our efforts. The Birthday Club resonated with their mission. The Girlfriends did an amazing job of organizing and hosting a fun filled and loving party. They brought all the fun from cotton candy, popcorn, and cupcakes to games, face painting, tattoos and the photo booth. The children had an amazing afternoon and we want to thank the Girlfriends for all of their efforts!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

ZooMate Mentors 2014-15 Survey Results = AWESOMENESS

Faces without Places is always looking for opportunities to improve upon current programming, and surveys are a great tool to provide the data to make decisions on what requires changes and also to highlight what is working.  At the conclusion of the ZooMates program, 100% of the mentors participated in the follow up survey.  As you can see from the sample responses below from the mentors, the data truly shows that the mentor/mentee relationship is symbiotic.  They gain so much learning, relationship building and trust together.  FwP is so pleased with the continued success of the program and looks forward to another rewarding school year in the fall.

What new insights about yourself have you gained by participating in the ZooMates program?

"My partnership with my Zoomates mentee has transformed my volunteer experience. Prior to ZooMates I did lots of service work, but it was with groups, organizations, or summer programs. I have never had the chance to work one on one with a single student. I have learned so much about myself and my partner. He really has opened my eyes to what it means to get to know someone and to be there for someone consistently. He is in a unique situation that most 2nd grade students are usually not in. Through all of this he has an unbelievably positive attitude, is a true friend, a respectful mentee, and always willing to try new activities."

Has participating in ZooMates changed your outlook on future career or volunteer goals?

"Yes, I have always loved volunteering for different organizations, but I never did anything so consistently. So, instead of volunteering for numerous different things for one time, I want to try and volunteer at a few places numerous times so I can not only help them more effectively, but also be able to develop relationships with the people I'm with to make volunteering more effective."

How has your involvement in ZooMates changed or further developed your viewpoint regarding homelessness?

"This experience has definitely changed my outlook on those battling homelessness. I realize now just how hard-working they truly are in order to give their children a good childhood and education. And in the children, though some do not realize their situation, they are spectacular. They inspired me everyday because when I would see their smiling faces each week when we met, I noticed how they each would make the most out of their time with us. They inspired me to not only be a better mentor (because they deserve the best mentors since they are such awesome kids), but also a better friend, daughter, granddaughter, etc."

Friday, March 27, 2015

Supporter Spotlight: Valerie Duplain

At the end of February, Faces without Places had to say goodbye to one of our most ardent supporters, Valerie Duplain.  Valerie was a retired home healthcare professional.  She was very passionate about her community and looked for an innovative way to give back.  In October of 2013, she opened "Treasures 4 Charity" in Walnut Hills.  The resale shop was designed so that 70% of the proceeds were divided out to several recipient agencies, FwP being one of them.  Since November of 2013, FwP received over $2,000 through Valerie's efforts.  Valerie contacted us at the end of 2014 to let us know that she was closing the shop by year end.  It is with heavy hearts that we honor this remarkable friend and give many thanks to the time that we shared with her.

To read an article about Valerie from June 2014, please click here.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Supporter Spotlight: Dynamic Duo: Hue Tran and Grace DiCesare

Faces without Places is extremely proud of all the hard work and passion that Hue Tran and Grace DiCesare have exhibited in starting their Caring with Cookies in 2013.  They bake their delicious and healthy "Enormous Charitable Chip Cookies" and sell them at various events to raise awareness and money for children experiencing homelessness.  They recently raised over $800 directly for FwP. Their efforts were recognized on February 7th at the 7th Annual Difference Makers Award ceremony at the Cincinnati Museum Center.

The business is providing them with not only a rewarding feeling of accomplishment and helping other children, but real business experience.  When they decided to launch their idea, they held several meetings to decide the best product for them to sell.  When asked what was the reason for their passion for helping homeless children, Hue stated that "they realized that homeless children did not have what Grace and I have and we wanted to help them."  Hue's passion has gone beyond just the cookie. Anytime FwP needs a fresh round of stuffed backpacks prepared, she is the first at the office.  She brings her music to get the volunteers in the mood and works with tremendous energy and focus. Grace added, "“We wanted to use our skill at baking to help others, and whenever we heard about a poor family on the news, we were worried and wanted to make sure these kids had good school supplies, and wouldn’t be stuck in a shelter all summer. What motivates us is knowing that these kids will get the life that they deserve  - the life that we take for granted every day.”

FwP is extremely proud of  Hue and Grace, and we are very thankful for all of their hard work. We see a very bright future for these two highly intelligent and dynamic young ladies!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Supporter Spotlight: Holiday WRAP Up!

Going into the holiday season, Faces without Places was flooded with lots of holiday cheer from our awesome network of friends. On a daily basis, the phone rang or emails were sent inquiring into the needs of the children. What do the kids need or want? How can we help? We want to host a holiday party. The inquires started in October! Here are some examples of how our friends stepped up to spread love and cheer.

Marty Karp, Event Coordinator at the Contemporary Art Center (CAC), hosted his annual toy drive in honor of Jonnie Stephenson. On December 5th, Marty hosted a party at the CAC and donated 700 toys to FwP! Marty had all the toys divided per age group, boy vs. girls, so delivery was a snap! Thank you, Marty, for being such a fantastic friend!

FwP Board member Whitney Westrich and several of her friends sponsored two families for the holidays. They shopped for and wrapped amazing presents. They then met with Shelley Werner, Program Director, during the week of December 15th to drop off the gifts. The children and moms were overjoyed with the kindness. It was a wonderful day for these two families.

Michelle Wartman of Fidelity Investments reached out to host a holiday party. FwP connected them with the Interfaith Hospitality Network shelter in Walnut Hills. On December 19th, Michelle and her team provided holiday spirit for seven families, ten adults and fifteen children. Thank you, Michelle and Fidelity Investments, for being such awesome partners!

These are just a few stories detailing the wonderful support and partnerships that took place this holiday season, but we wish to thank everyone who pulled together to make the holidays brighter for so many children​: The Keller Group, Holiday Helpers from Fidelity, Mike Due and his Dollar Bill Ambush, Joe Tekulve, Karen Fessler and Innovative Student Loan Solutions, Jessica Hassloch and KPMG, Tracey Kastelic, Tracey Power, and Bake Me Home.

With all the toys, coats, mittens, hats and scarves donated, Faces without Places was able to assist about 800 children just during the holidays!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Volunteer Spotlight: Cory Curry - Paying It Forward

Cory Curry with Tashiba and her children, Dejarah and Jordan

Being surrounded by a loving family and having access to life's opportunities are the dreams of many children.  Cory Curry is fortunate that he has both and felt that it was his responsibility to pay it forward.  In 2012, Cory was in search of such an opportunity and he was introduced to Faces without Places.  His first volunteer effort was to be a representative at the annual Rusty Ball, where he worked with his mother in the coat check-in.  Shortly thereafter, Cory joined the FwP Board of Trustees. He now serves as Vice President on the board and participates on the Executive and Internal Committees.

As a Portfolio Specialist with Robert W. Baird & Co., Cory was able to raise money over the summer through "Jeans Day" donations.  Part of the funds were donated directly to FwP and the other part were used to host the October Birthday Club party at the Women's Crisis Center in Northern Kentucky.  With help from Mike Bullock and Jennifer Breedwell, Cory served up pizza and salad for dinner, and a Halloween cake and cookies.  Cory brought presents for the little ones and gift cards for the teenagers.  The three year olds were so excited with the Doodle Pads! Dejarah thoroughly loved the bracelet kit that she received, and the mom's appreciated the gift cards to Target.  Overheard from one of the moms, "Wow! I can't believe this party is for us! That is so nice."

On November 23rd, Cory will also be hosting the 7th Annual Crosstown Chili Cook-Off at the new location, Fifty West Brewing Company.  This will be the third year that he will host the event and he is really looking forward to the increased participation of FwP supporters!  What makes this event so much fun is the atmosphere and friendly competitions.  The cooks go all out to bring their best recipe!  This year the Xavier University Cheerleaders and Mascot will be volunteering at this location (whereas University of Cincinnati students will be volunteering at the Northside location), there will be a Bengal's Bus in the parking lot, courtesy of Bryan Vielhauer of Decal Impressions.  Of course there will be some great auction items to win and activities for the kids.  Cory is really dedicated to making this event successful and fun!

"Seeing the smiles on the children when we are creating a positive memory for them and hearing the success stories when one of the kids graduates and is accepted into college...this is why I volunteer for Faces without Places."  - Cory Curry