Friday, July 1, 2011

Action in Bond Hill

This summer I upped my hours with the Butler County Rape Crisis Program to about 25 hours/week. Yesterday, about 3 of those hours were spent at the groundbreaking at St. Aloysius Orphanage in Bond Hill. What does St. Al's have to do with Rape Crisis? Well, last year the Community Counseling and Crisis Center (RCP's parent organization) merged with/was absorbed by St. Aloysius out of Cincinnati. The merger allowed St. Al's to continue to expand into Butler County while keeping the CCCC fiscally afloat. I don't know or understand all of the details of the merger, but I do know that now us folk at Rape Crisis are affiliated with the folk at St. Al's. So there ya go.

In support of our new parent organization (or would it be our grandparent organization?), we attended the ceremonial groundbreaking for a new expansion to St. Aloysius on Reading Road in Bond Hill. It is a BEAUTIFUL building, and they will be adding on an addition (how redundant of me) to include more classrooms, a new cafeteria, and other neat stuff. It's the first major rennovation in the organization's 175-year history. Wowza.

But what fun would it be to just tell you about it. Here's Channel 9 WCPO's take on the day! If you watch the video package you will see an artist's rendering of the new addition, and if you look closely in the "crowd" shot, you'll see me standing in the background (focus on the left side of the screen).

After a few inspiring words from some important people (like Mayor Mark Mallory, as depicted in the video), it was time for the "groundbreaking." Of course, the dirt was already dug up in a little raised bed behind the podium, complete with about 10 golden shovels (I kid you not--they were some good looking shovels!) wedged in the dirt. About 20 people donned white hard hats and took turns posing with their shovels in the dirt. By the third round of photos, my adventurous boss Jane and RCP's board president decided to get down with a golden shovel, too. I wish I had the picture. Boo.

And that concludes my first ever ceremonial groundbreaking. Looking back, I should have gotten in on the shovel action. Oh well. I guess it's best that we didn't linger too long in Bond Hill because apparently the FBI raided the Community Action Agency. Yesterday. The FBI. For real. The search warrant is sealed so there aren't many details yet, but you can check out the story here. I mean, really? What the what?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Dear Future Me,

I just found a really cool website I thought I would share. It's called where you can write a letter to yourself, determine the delivery date, and the creators of the site will send you the email on the day you selected. So in a strange back-to-the-future-electronic-time-capsule kind of way, you can communicate your memories of the past and hopes for the future all in a simple email. For free!

If you're worried that this website won't be around when it comes time to receive your message, they've been in business since 2002, so odds are they'll be around in a year or two when you're looking for an email from yourself. And if you're worried about your privacy or the security of your letter, they don't sell any email addresses or information you provide, so there will be no spam clogging your inbox. You can also set your email to be privately delivered, or you can allow it to be publicly and anonymously posted on their website (and some are pretty interesting to read if you get a chance).

So check it out! I think I might write myself a letter, too. Though in a sense, I guess this blog has loosely served as a letter to myself for a couple of years now. Not bad.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

All the single ladies

Today I did my weekly Meals-on-Wheels route (first mentioned here). Since I began the route in January, 4 people have been added to my route--all women, all single--bringing my total to 9 lovely ladies in Price Hill. During that time, I have really gotten to know the residents on my route, and they seem to enjoy seeing me each Tuesday. I have connected with one woman who always invites me in to "sit down for a minute." She loves showing me pictures, talking about her family, and telling stories about her life. And before I know it, a minute has evolved into an hour and I don't want to leave! Time flies when the conversation is easy.

It's fun to do special little things for the ladies, too. For example, when one woman asked me to help her get a fan for her bedroom, I went back to the Sedamsville, asked around, and uncovered an unused box fan in one of the offices. The following week, I delivered the fan to her house along with her meals. She couldn't believe I had secured a fan for her, let alone remembered her request! Or how about the woman who recently celebrated her 85th birthday. That week, I delivered a bouquet of flowers from me with her meal. The look on her face as she opened the door and realized the flowers were for her was priceless. And for two weeks after that, the flowers stayed in a vase on her coffee table where she showed them off to friends and family, even after they had wilted and died. I felt good that I had made her happy with the flowers, but I felt even better that she had invited me into her life to begin with.

Each of the participants in my program are uniquely different, yet all of them offer comfort and wisdom in the brief moments we share together. It is these interactions and special moments that show me the value of this program. Not only does Meals-on-Wheels provide nutritious food to homebound seniors, it also provides opportunities for invaluable social interaction. And I love being a part of that.

If you ever have a lunch hour free, I would encourage you to connect with your local Meals-on-Wheels program. You'll be surprised how much you find yourself looking forward to your next delivery day.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Back in the saddle?

It's been well over a month since I have posted on here. 36 days to be exact, but who's counting? Of course, I've been one busy gal. In the past 30 days, I have officially wrapped up my first year of graduate school (I got all A's!), completed my internship (to be resumed in Fall 2011), and have certainly been working my tail off at two part-time jobs (Butler County Rape Crisis Program and now officially Women Helping Women--did I forget to mention that?)

Even now that it's summer, I'm still plenty busy, with an increase in program assistant hours in Oxford and a few extra on-call shifts with WHW in Cincinnati, as well as weekly volunteer hours at Santa Maria. Yep--I liked interning at Santa Maria so much that I just couldn't walk away from two weekly activities: my Meals-on-Wheels route to several elderly ladies in Price Hill, and my youth group which I co-facilitate with the Youth Program Manager. Next fall when school and internship resume, I will be fully immersed in my administration specialty track, so I won't be able to devote any time to my kids or ladies. Hopefully this summer I can share more about some of my adventures with all of these activities.

On the homefront, Taylor and I are keeping plenty busy, as well. We've been gardening and landscaping, and making a few house updates (which I'll share), as well. Sadly, our family has experienced some other changes of late, as we recently lost our dear little Louise on May 28th. Her health kept deteriorating to the point where she didn't want to eat or do much of anything anymore, and we knew the time had finally come to say goodbye. It was a tough decision, but the right one, and we miss her all the time. We're lucky to still have our sweet 16-year old Thelma, but it just isn't the same without her other half.

So with the summer underway, I am optimistic I will be able to crank out more than 3 posts/month, which seems to be the going rate right now. Hey, sorry about that. I'm back!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

More changes in Butler County

This past February, the president and CEO of Butler County United Way resigned to take a job in another state. The resignation was sudden, but the county was hopeful something positive could emerge from this situation. For months, we've watched as the search committee interviewed candidates from around the country, and we've been waiting with anticipation to hear who would be selected as the new CEO.

This morning the Hamilton Journal-News reported Bruce Jewett, the county administrator and former director of Job and Family Services, resigned from public service to accept the president/CEO position at Butler County United Way.

I'm not sure what is in store in the coming weeks, months, or even years for this county. No one can be. But I hope that the leader of this organization can strengthen our community through innovative problem-solving skills, creative fundraising, and effective leadership. We need someone who will listen to the leaders of our community, and act with their best interests at heart. We need someone who will act with integrity and wisdom and humility.

I hope Bruce Jewett will be that someone for Butler County.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Deja vu all over again

Last month I mentioned a couple of pending grants we had out to our funders for the Butler County Rape Crisis Program. We've been working really hard to narrow our cash match deficit and keep our federal grants after experiencing last year's devastating cuts from the Butler County United Way (read more about that here). And you know what? We've done a great job! In the last quarter of the year we are only a few grand away from 100% and I have no worries we will make our goal.

But now it's time to think about NEXT fiscal year starting at the end of this summer (at least I think--each funder has its own funding cycle). Anyway, despite being burned last year, we applied for funding again for the upcoming fiscal year, crossed our fingers, and hoped for the best. But wouldn't you know, it's deja vu all over again. Yes, once again, we have been denied funding from Butler County United Way. Which means before we even start the fiscal year, we are down $34,000 toward our cash match needed to secure our big federal grants.

It's a bummer, no doubt. But the silver lining in all of this is that because we experienced this last year (and we're making it through now!) we know we can weather the storm again. So we will pout a little bit (at least I will), lick our wounds, and move on. With a little creativity, a lot more grant-writing, and a little luck, we'll get through. Of course, any tips, ideas, or dollars from the blogosphere peanut gallery would be much appreciated. Just sayin'.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Like mother, like daughter

Happy Mother's Day! Today I took a timeout from work, school, and internship to enjoy some quality time with my mom. I saw her 2 weeks ago for Easter, and this weekend we celebrated my 24th birthday and, of course, Mother's Day. My mom and dad arrived in Cincinnati late this morning, and we were off and running. While my dad played a quick nine holes at a local golf course, my mom and I enjoyed a Chinese food lunch and shopping excursion before rejoining my dad and Taylor at our house. From there we went to my favorite park in Cincinnati--Friendship Park--for a walk along the river. Here's a picture from the park:

For the first time in a loooong while, the sun was shining and the weather was warm and dry, perfect for a walk in the park. Eventually we headed back to our house and out to dinner where we heard some of the stories from this time 24 years ago when my mom took me home from the hospital for the first time on her first Mother's Day in 1987. By 8:30, Taylor was off to work overnight and my parents were on the road.

It was a great day, and I am sad that they can't happen more often. Right now, a 4-hour round trip isn't always feasible with only one day of the week open for visits. I look forward to the end of the school year (and eventually the end of this degree!) when my schedule gets a little less hectic. In the meantime, I need to enjoy the time I get with my family without feeling guilty for not doing homework the whole time!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

These boots were made for walking

Now that the rain has stopped, are you looking for something fun to do outside while also making social change in your community? I thought you might be! Well, you're in luck. Here are a couple of events in Butler and Hamilton Counties that you can enjoy while also raising awareness of sexual violence in our community:

Friday, April 29, 2011: Walk a Mile in Her Shoes. What could be better than men, high-heeled shoes, and a half mile track? Put them all together and you get Walk a Mile--an event emphasizing healthy gender relations in which men "walk a mile in her shoes"--literally. You can attend the mile walk at Cook Field on Miami University's Oxford campus tomorrow at 4 p.m., followed by a high-heeled sprint at 5 p.m. Look for me at Butler County Rape Crisis Program's table!

Friday, April 29, 2011: Take Back the Night. If you live in the Cincinnati/NKY area, then perhaps you would enjoy walking with your sisters in solidarity at the Take Back the Night march. Rally at Sawyer Point at 6:30, then take the march across the Taylor Southgate Bridge to the Millenium Peace Bell in Newport, KY. The event empowers women to take back the night by not walking in fear of sexual violence or victimization. This year marks the 22nd annual TBTN march, hosted by Women Helping Women.

I know what you're thinking--sexual violence isn't really my cup of tea. Well, duh. But if we stay silent and keep pretending it isn't real and doesn't happen in our community, then more women will continue to suffer in silence. So tomorrow, stand up for your sisters, your mother, your friends, your aunt--for yourself! Together we can make social change.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Peer support

A couple of months ago, my boss at the Butler County Rape Crisis Program received word about a grant opportunity through the Ohio Department of Health. As a person who has been directly involved in the grant-seeking/grant-writing process over the past few months, I cringed at the news. I envisioned more late nights staring at a jumble of words, numbers, and dollar signs, and desperately dashing to meet the deadline (at the very last minute, of course). But this grant was different--instead of us jumping through a ton of hoops, all we had to do was express interest, briefly outline how we would spend the money, and wait for confirmation. And by "we," I really mean "not me." I didn't have to do a thing, which made the whole deal even sweeter.

Correction--I did have to do a small thing--I had to agree to help spend the money. Um, score! You would think it would have been a no-brainer--through some money to even the cash match deficit and call it a day. But no--turns out ODH money can be used for pretty much anything BUT leveraging state or federal funds.

(By the way, that cash match deficit has been slowly shrinking after revenue we received from the Vagina Monologues, not to mention anticipated funding from two grants I wrote in March--one to West Chester Community Foundation and one to Butler County United Way (yes-we're trying again for next fiscal year. Fingers crossed!)

Anyway, to spend the money, Jane asked me to help co-facilitate a group with a co-worker, Cindy. Long story short, our schedules didn't coincide, so she and Jane are facilitating one group, and I am co-facilitating a different group with our legal advocate, Jennifer. I've been putting a lot of time into recruitment, preparation, and planning over the past few weeks (which is partly why I've been so silent on here--that and I also got lazy. Hey, I'm honest.) I created a flyer, made calls to recruit for both groups, reviewed group procedures, created confidentiality and evaluation forms, bought a boat-load of snacks and drinks, and sketched out a general outline for the first night. As of Sunday evening, I had a few people confirmed to come to each of our Monday and Tuesday night groups, so imagine our surprise when we had a very low turnout. While many people might be disappointed by this outcome, Jennifer and I ended up feeling very encouraged. In talking with our single group participant on Monday, we realized there is a need for the support group--we just need to do a better job finding and inviting survivors into the group. It's very hard to convince someone to come out to a group on a weeknight for an hour and a half and talk about something you would rather not think about ever again. We get that--but once they get here, they will hopefully find the experience to be very supportive and beneficial. It's a tough obstacle, but we will do better. This week I'll put in more time for more brainstorming and problem-solving, and hopefully we'll double or even triple our turnout next week!

Whatever happens, though, our first week is out of the way, and I am feeling much more confident heading into subsequent group sessions. This has not only been a valuable lesson in group work and co-facilitation, but also in patience and problem-solving. All the makings of a good social worker, I guess! I'm grateful for the opportunity to continue to be part of this project, and I'm hoping it will grow over the next two months.

If you or a woman you know live in the Butler County area, are a survivor of sexual assault or sexual abuse, and are interested in participating in a support group, give us a call--513-523-4149. The groups will be available through the last week of June, and are offered Monday or Tuesday nights from 6-7:30. A support group for Spanish-speaking women will be available soon, too. Check it out!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

In my Easter bonnet

Well, after about a 30-day hiatus, I figure I should post SOMETHING on here. I apologize for the long silence from my end--I think this might be a new record of blog inactivity for me. I let myself get a little too caught up in school/internship/work/house (and just about in that order) to check in with you, my faithful readers. (You are still faithful, right?) So hopefully we'll see an uptick of posts here in the coming weeks. Though, admittedly anything will be better than...nothing.

In the meantime, while I get my act together, I'd like to offer this token of peace and goodwill--a cute baby picture from Easters past:

Yes, that is me wearing a pink frock, white bonnet, and even though you can't see them, lace socks. And white dress shoes. My expression is one of confusion, probably as my dad says off camera, "No Katie, the eggs go in the basket. In the basket. Put them IN the basket." I guess I've just always known it's best not to put all your eggs in one basket. Ha! Zing!

So, Happy Easter! And with that, let my blog, too, be resurrected from the dead on this fine holiday. See what I did there? Oh yeah--I'm back!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Santa Maria's Annual Italian Dinner

If you are in the Cincinnati area, plan on enjoying delicious food with us at Santa Maria's Italian Dinner! The event takes place tomorrow evening, Sunday, March 27th, at St. Simon Church, 825 Pontius Road in Delhi. Arrive any time between 4:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. for a fun-filled evening with Santa Maria.

On the menu: spaghetti and meat sauce/meatballs, salad, bread, desserts, and a range of beverages, all graciously donated by talented chefs from local restaurants.
Disclaimer: No food was harmed in the making of this meal by inexperienced interns.

We will also have an accordion player roaming through the meal, as well as a ton of raffle drawings and prizes that you won't want to miss. Dinner is $10/adult, $5/child (under age 10), and don't forget about those raffle tickets! $3.00 each or 2 for $5.00 could win you half the pot, not to mention a fabulous gift basket of goodies.

So join us for delicious food, fantastic entertainment, and fabulous prizes tomorrow night. I'll see you there!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Year one is done

On Sunday, March 20th, Taylor and I celebrated our 1st wedding anniversary with a weekend getaway! Because I'm a giver, I will share the weekend in pictures:

We arrived in the little town of Leavenworth, Indiana, on Sunday afternoon where we stayed the night at a local Bed & Breakfast appropriately named Leavenworth Inn.

The Inn was comprised of several smaller structures on the grounds. Below is The Cottage where we stayed in the "Sweet William" room. In the evening we sat in the rocking chairs on the porch and watched the barges come up the river.
It was a beautiful weekend, much like it was on our wedding day one year ago. Shortly after we arrived we found a little gazebo where we enjoyed some really pretty scenic river views (like this one) in the hills of southeastern Indiana.

Please note Taylor's recently purchased Aviator sunglasses. He loves them so much he wears them indoors. Fortunately it was warm and sunny, appropriate sunglasses weather.

A little while later we took a walk into the little town where we discovered this old fire truck parked at City Hall. We thought it was so cool we went back to snap more pictures before leaving the next morning.
Later that evening we walked to the Overlook Restaurant, which as you might have guessed, overlooked the Ohio River. Note to self: when ordering catfish, pay close attention to the description of the dish, otherwise you will find a fish with bones, fins, and tail still in tact. After a mild freak out, Taylor filleted the fish for me and I was able to enjoy my dinner.

On Monday morning we awoke refreshed and hungry! Thank goodness for a hearty breakfast of french toast, sausage, fruit, juice, coffee, and tea at the main house (pictured below). We enjoyed meeting two other couples staying at the Inn, one celebrating 41 years of marriage next week!

After breakfast, we journeyed back across the river to Louisville, KY, where we took a self-guided walking tour of historic homes in "Old Louisville." This house was one of my favorites:

Then we used our reciprocal Cincinnati Museum Center membership at the Louisville Science Center. The museum was largely for kids (and wasn't that great, to be honest), but we had a nice walk around the building before taking one last picture in front of a big metallic, mirrored disk thing outside:And there you have it! The perfect way to end our first year of marriage and begin the second one. It's hard to believe it's already been one year, but I guess time flies when you're having fun!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

At the end of the second quarter...

Sounds like a line from an announcer at a football game, but NO--this is about me, me, me!

Just minutes ago, I emailed my last final exam to my professor, marking the end of my second quarter of graduate school. It's a tremendous weight lifted off of my shoulders, and I must say, a big accomplishment. At this point, I have completed one third of my graduate school education! Can you believe it?

Just like last quarter, here's a list of things I learned and did at school:
  • Attended a personal safety seminar; learned how to assess risks and implement techniques to deescalate dangerous situations
  • Wrote two reflections on my experiences with personal safety in the workplace
  • Created a comprehensive genogram outlining relationships, patterns, and history in my family for four generations
  • Researched and wrote an extensive paper on my family of origin, including more than ten sources of information
  • Analyzed the impact of race, class, and gender in colonial and modern families
  • Wrote an in-depth organizational review of my field placement site, Santa Maria Community Services
  • Engaged in exercises surrounding ethical dilemmas in social work
  • Applied the National Association of Social Workers code of ethics to two case studies
  • Created an eco-map showing all of the systems of a case study family
  • Completed a process recording following an in-class role play scenario in which I had to write verbatim what the client and social worker said in a session, including non-verbals, from memory.
  • Created a treatment plan for a case study client
  • Completed a comprehensive assessment, including mental status exam, for a sample client on video
  • Attended an all -day grant-writing workshop; learned how to write clear, realistic goals, objectives, outcomes, and indicators for funders
It's hard to believe I did all of that in ten weeks. No wonder I'm exhausted! Oh and that's just the stuff I did in the classroom--I haven't even touched my activities in my internship! We'll save that for another day.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Tax Breaks and Budget Cuts

I saw this link posted on a friend's Facebook wall, and I couldn't not share it. Unless you've been living under a rock, you've heard a lot of talk of balancing budgets and reducing state and national deficits. You probably have some ideas on how to reduce budget deficits, and depending on your political ideology, they involve cutting spending or utilizing taxes. But what is the best course of action?

Well, the folks over at Center for American Progress decided to compare and contrast making spending cuts vs. reducing tax breaks, as seen here. And it's eye-opening. In the chart you'll see large sums of money that could be eliminated from the budget, depending on what gets cut. For example, low-income housing programs cost the nation $8.9 billion, which is the same cost of allowing mortgage interest deductions on vacation homes over ten years. Or how about $2.5 billion, which could be saved by either eliminating Low Income Home Energy Assistance (LIHEAP) grants for poor families, or ending tax breaks for oil companies. And, one last particularly striking figure: $44 billion. That's how much the government would save by cutting all of the programs on Center for American Progress' list vs. the $42 billion which would be saved by not extending Bush era tax cuts for upper tax brackets in fiscal year 2012.

According to this article, "The Federal Treasury loses twice as much revenue due to tax breaks than Congress appropriates on all nonsecurity discretionary spending." And yet, all of the current budget talks have been focused on cutting spending, not eliminating monstrous tax breaks for the elite few. I believe the reason for this is that spending items have a tangible presence on a budget--tax breaks do not. Psychologically, we feel better slashing the dollar signs we see on the surface, rather than looking at the deeper, wider budget picture.

I have a liberal ideology, and I believe government has a place in our lives to do good. Quality programming and services cost money, and I don't take that lightly. But we certainly need to have an intelligent conversation about just that. I believe these budget crises could be resolved if we evaluate our values and prioritize our spending and saving accordingly.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Cleopatra's in Cincinnati

Today I had the chance to go with my BFF to the Cincinnati Museum Center for a special exhibit on Cleopatra. They didn't allow any photography inside the exhibit, but you can click here to see some images and videos of the display. I highly recommend checking out the exhibit in person, though--it's amazing! You've got until September 5th. Here's a blurb from the website:



The world of Cleopatra VII, which has been lost to the sea and sand for nearly 2,000 years, has surfaced at Cincinnati Museum Center with Cleopatra: The Search for the Last Queen of Egypt. On view through September 5, 2011, the exhibition features nearly 150 artifacts from Cleopatra’s time and will take you inside the present-day search for the elusive queen, which extends from the sands of Egypt to the depths of the Bay of Aboukir near Alexandria. See statuary, jewelry, daily items, coins and religious tokens that archaeologists have uncovered from the time surrounding Cleopatra’s rule, all of which are visiting the U.S. for the first time.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Ten years later

What is the Ten Years Later project?

I heard about this project last night on Channel 9 WCPO News, and I highly recommend it.

Ten years ago this April, Cincinnati experienced serious race riots after a series of police shootings of African American suspects. In fact, here is one of the original stories written at the start of the riots:

This story was originally posted on April 9, 2001: The anger over this latest deadly shooting is at least partially due to the number of African American suspects who have been shot and killed by on-duty Cincinnati police recently.

Since January 1995, Cincinnati Police on duty have killed 15 African American men.

Fourteen of the 15 suspects were shot to death.

No white suspects have been killed during that same timespan.

This is the second deadly shooting by Cincinnati police so far this year.

Now WCPO is investigating the state of the city ten years later. In a 30-day special project, reporters will feature community dialogue on current racial relations in Cincinnati, showing how far we have come as a city and how far we still have to go.

With 52 distinct neighborhoods in Cincinnati, there's bound to be differences in racial relations among each population. It will be interesting to see what people have to say, but more importantly, it will be good to see people talking about such a controversial and often taboo topic.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Police Say Homeless Man Not Beaten To Death

Police Say Homeless Man Not Beaten To Death

I heard about this sad story this morning. Billy Joe Begley was a chronically homeless man from Price Hill who was found unconscious last Wednesday behind Santa Maria's East Price Hill location, next to the Price Hill library. He later died over the weekend, and there are now conflicting reports about his cause of death. Originally, his death was thought to be a homicide due to the severity of the injuries he sustained to his face and chest, in addition to a missing wallet and money. But now police are saying he died from a fall caused by some kind of medical condition.

I don't have any answers. What I do know is what staff members at Santa Maria have told me--that Billy was a frequent, harmless visitor at Santa Maria and his death leaves a sad space for all who knew him. We are all left wondering what, if anything, else we could have done to help him; what else we could have done to prevent this tragedy.

I would like to think the police from District 3 are using the extent of their resources to fully investigate Billy's death. I have to wonder, though, if the fact that Billy was homeless has any bearing on the priority of this case. Regardless of his living conditions, Billy is a human being who deserves to be treated with respect, even in death.

Saturday, February 26, 2011


It's been a [busy] week since my last post, and I find myself charging full steam ahead into my 9th of 10 weeks of my second quarter of graduate school. I'm not particularly gifted in time right now, but I did want to post an interesting article about my neighborhood, more specifically, vacant buildings in my neighborhood.

It's no secret I intern and live in a "rough" part of town with its fair share of problems. And it's important to remember that people aren't solely to blame for all of their problems. Any social worker worth their salt knows the environment plays a leading role in the big picture of poverty. This quote from a city inspector tells the story:

"Here's a prime example of how vacant buildings create a domino effect to ruin a neighborhood," Bohnert said.

Once a house becomes vacant, "kids break out the windows. Then vandals take all of the copper pipes and anything of value. They knock holes in the walls and the roof. Water gets in. Floors buckle. Plaster and drywall fall apart. The interior is ruined. Garbage gets dumped in the yard. No one wants to live there. The house gets boarded up.

"No one wants to live next to a vacant house. So, the process repeats. Neighbors move out. One house after another gets boarded up."

So read the article (and view the slideshow) for a closer look at Price Hill, Sedamsville, Westwood, and Fairmount, to name a few increasingly vacant neighborhoods. It might shed some light on what we're working with here.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Dare I Say?

Tonight concludes Miami University's production of Vagina Monologues, and if you haven't been yet, tonight is your night! I went with the staff ladies from Rape Crisis last night, and we had a blast.

It appeared other audience members had a good time, too. We met a few performance-goers at our display table before and after the show, where we officially launched our newest awareness initiative that I alluded to in this post.

Drum roll, please! It's called Dare I Say? and as our volunteer coordinator Becky eloquently put it, is in the style of the PostSecret books with the message of the Clothesline Project. In other words, we're asking for postcard submissions from the community speaking out about issues of rape, sexual assault, and abuse in our society. If you click here, you can see a few examples. Some are funny, some are hopeful, some are angry, but all are powerful. Once we amass enough cards, we will display them around the county during Sexual Assault Awareness month in April.

The beauty of this project is that it gives all people a voice to speak up about this issue, with the comfort of anonymity. It's an opportunity to use creativity through art, imagery, and words to speak out about an issue that is often taboo in our society.

To submit your own postcard (or two or three or seven), mail us a 4 x 6" postcard with your message to:

Butler County Rape Crisis Program
110 S. College St.
Oxford, OH 45056

Or via email:

Or visit us on Facebook

Remember, anyone can and should speak up about this issue, not just survivors of sexual assault. If you have a thought about this topic, we want to hear it and see it.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Sexual Assault and the U.S. Military

Today I was driving home from a meeting for my internship and I happened to hear this story on NPR:

Sexual Assault and the U.S. Military

It's about a lawsuit seventeen veterans and active-duty service members filed against the Pentagon for permitting a culture conducive to sexual assault in the military. Toward the end of the segment, a male caller from Florida weighed in saying it is important for women in the military to understand that men have more testosterone and naturally need sex more. In other words, women unrealistically expect to be "charmed and seduced" into sex, especially in a male-heavy military environment.

These offensive remarks are the caller's constitutional right to free speech, I'll give him that. But clearly he is uneducated and, well, just plain wrong. Men don't have the right to rape just because they are men. Testosterone or not, people must be accountable for their actions. And the fact that not all men are rapists is evidence of this fact.

My colleagues and I in rape crisis centers around the country have a lot of work to do to educate the public and reform these caveman attitudes. We all have a lot of work to do. When you hear something like this, please speak up and educate those around you. Policy change and legal avenues are important, but if the people don't revise their way of thinking, they will be largely ineffective. That's how we can make social change.

Tonight marks the beginning of the Vagina Monologues performances at Miami University in Oxford. Women stand up in a series of rehearsed monologues to celebrate women's sexuality and strength, while also addressing women's rights, including issues of sexual assault. Proceeds will go to the Butler County Rape Crisis Program, and I would highly encourage you to check it out--consider it homework in your quest to cultivate a more educated public.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

More bandaids for school nurses

In my short time in Cincinnati, I have observed quite a bit of tension between the city council, the mayor, and the constituents of this city. The most recent round of tension? The debate over school nurses.

The City of Cincinnati is facing a $54 million dollar deficit. That's nothing to sneeze at (pardon the pun). So how does Cincinnati reduce the deficit? Cuts. To just about everything.

I don't want to minimize the value of a balanced budget and a city operating in the black. But it's going to be painful getting there, and services are going to suffer. Lots of services, including highly-valued police and fire. For the sake of today's post, I'm only going to focus on school nurses.

In Cincinnati, there are 50 nurses covering 42 elementary schools. They are funded in part by the City Health Department (60%) and in part by Cincinnati Public Schools (40%). This is an unusual set up. Most school nurses throughout the state are paid through the district's school board, but not here. So when the city experiences financial strain, the schools feel it too. The proposed cuts would eliminate 35 of 50 school nurses by June, leaving a majority of the district's 33,000 students without health care.

For many of these students, the school nurse is their only health care provider, which would make for serious implications for the students and their families. Schools will undoubtedly have to call more parents to pick up kids with minor injuries, aches, and pains that the school nurse would previously have handled with no problem. And students with more serious health issues like asthma and diabetes will be less able to manage their health at school. In this way, cutting school nurses hurts the entire community. Kids with chronic conditions won't be routinely screened and monitored, which means absenteeism will go up, academic achievement could drop, and more community resources will be used up to meet the need.

You can read more about this issue here, including information about state mandates for school nurses (there aren't any in Ohio), and recommended nurse-to-student ratios (1:750) that are already not being met as it is.

If you are in the Cincinnati area and feel strongly about this issue, you there is a rally tomorrow to push city leaders to reinstate funding for school nurses. The rally will be held on Wednesday, February 16th at 12:45 p.m. at City Hall located at 801 Plum St., downtown. The public may also address the council at 1:30, before the regular meeting convenes at 2:00.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Statement of Impact

I'm a proud AmeriCorps*VISTA alumna, having spent a year at Shared Harvest Foodbank in national service. So this bit of news I'm about to share was truly saddening. I received an alarming email from Krupa, the current VISTA at Shared Harvest today. Here's an excerpt:

"As you may know, Congress [the House of Representatives] is set to vote on a Continuing Resolution (CR) bill today that would extend federal spending temporarily. The bill that is currently set to be voted on completely de-funds the Corporation for National and Community Service. If this bill passes in its current form [in the House and Senate], all AmeriCorps and AmeriCorps*VISTA projects will stop immediately.

"It is critical now more than ever that we educate our elected officials about the true impact of National Service."

The email goes on to call for brief statements of impact to be sent to Dustin Speakman at Ohio Association for Second Harvest Foodbanks by 4 p.m. today. Even if you were not an AmeriCorps service member, you know the impact this program has not only on our communities, but on the service members themselves. This blog is a testament to that very fact.

I always want to do my civic duty and advocate for things I believe in. So I just sent my statement of impact, and I would encourage you to do the same. I'll leave you with my statement, which combined with other voices, will make social change:

Last year I dedicated a year of my life to national service at Shared Harvest Foodbank in Fairfield, OH, as part of the AmeriCorps*VISTA program. It is, hands down, one of the best experiences of my life to date. I could tell you all sorts of stories about the people I helped--about the elderly woman whose monthly income I helped to increase by signing her up for food stamps, or about the thousands of school-aged kids who received school supplies because of my efforts. It goes without saying that AmeriCorps service members make a difference in the community. But have we ever stopped to think about the effect this program has on its members? Because of my service in AmeriCorps, I have a better handle on tough issues of poverty, racism, and hunger, just to name a few. I confronted my own white, middle class privilege, and learned what compassion really means. I am more engaged in my community and my mindset has shifted from one of selfishness to service. I am truly a better citizen as a result of my national service, and I believe all young people should have the opportunity to serve their communities--to serve their country. Please continue funding the Corporation for National and Community Service. Our nation's future depends on it.

Kaitlyn Baker Wessels,

AmeriCorps*VISTA alumna 2009-2010

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Striking a balance

Tonight will be my last ever shift at the YWCA House of Peace. I decided to quit about two weeks ago when I finally realized I had too many balls in the air. Never mind the fact that my husband, friends, and family have been telling me that for months. But I resisted because I felt like I needed to contribute more to our household, despite Taylor's assurance that I did not. Now after more than a month of late late Sunday nights at the shelter and early Monday mornings at my internship, I'm exhausted and ready to start listening to my pals. I needed to cut something. But seeing as how my classes and internship are pretty much non-negotiable, and my work with Rape Crisis is rewarding, long-standing, and largely federally funded through my financial aid award, the House of Peace was the most logical choice to get the axe.

So there you have it--I'm leaving House of Peace after 7 months of employment (read here about the day I started). The shelter environment is intense, and as glad as I am for this experience, I have a new perspective on shelter work. I'll gladly gain back a second day off each week, not to mention more sleep time, saved driving time, and a little more peace of mind. Still, my leaving is bittersweet as I will miss working with some very resilient shelter residents and some incredible advocates.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

She lives

As I wrote last week at this time, our kitty Louise was in bad shape. In fact, she was so sick, that our veterinarian advised we begin thinking about end of life plans. Louise has been sick before--she has visited the vet's office a handful of times since last May when she came to live with us. But never before have we had to seriously consider losing her.

So when we got the news she was in rapid decline, we trusted it was true and prepared for the worst. I spent last Wednesday and Thursday nights sleeping on the couch with Louise on my lap. It wasn't very comfortable but it felt like the right thing to do.

Slowly over the following few days Louise started regaining her strength. She ate with more vigor, she walked with more assurance, and by Tuesday of this week she was climbing up and down the stairs with ease. She's seemingly back to her old 15-year-old self, and for now, that's a gift. We've been on an emotional roller coaster in the past few days. We don't know if we have days or months or years left, but it's all worth it if we get a little more quality time with her.

If cats really do have nine lives, I'd say Louise is probably on her 12th. But we'll take it.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Acceptance speech

I'd like to thank the Middletown Community Foundation for a $7,000 grant recently awarded to the Butler County Rape Crisis Program!

Last November I wrote the narrative for the grant application (read about that process here), and we just got news this week that a portion of our request will be funded. (Here's a link to other highly worthy award recipients for this funding cycle.)

We're doing everything we can to come up with local support for our program after the Butler County United Way decided to re-prioritize their funding, leaving us with a huge funding gap (read more about that here). Without those funds, we aren't able to provide the cash-match to secure more than $100,000 in federal and state grants. And without that funding, we lose our program.

This month will bring a new round of grant-writing to more local foundations, as well as a refresher grant-seeking workshop at Hamilton County Public Library next weekend. And soon I will announce a new project we are officially launching later this month at the RCP to help raise awareness about sexual assault in our community. Stay tuned!

(P.S.--Taylor tells me Louise had a good day while I was at work today. She still isn't quite herself, but she's a little stronger today and just as sweet as ever. We hate to get our hopes up, but it's nice to see her happy.)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

End of days

A few months ago I shared a brief history and some pictures of how we acquired our two cats, Thelma and Louise. In that post, I commented on how our kitties have made our home so cozy and warm, especially after a long hard day. Spending time with them is always a treat, especially when they're doing quirky, funny things, (like climbing among boxes and wrapping paper from Taylor's birthday celebration, seen here).

But there are times when spending time with them isn't so great. Like now.

About 3 days ago, Louise seemingly lost her appetite. This isn't particularly uncommon for her. When we adopted Louise, we knew she was 15 years old with an enlarged, diseased liver that has been increasingly encroaching on her stomach. Sometimes there just isn't enough room for her food to digest and she has a few days of sickness and finicky eating. After a day or two, she usually bounces back and even ends up taking over Thelma's food bowl in the process. But when she started coughing up bile and becoming more lethargic, we knew something else was wrong.

We called our veterinarian yesterday morning and got an appointment for the afternoon. Louise has been to the vet a few times over the past 8 months, so we're used to the routine. She is so sweet and small that everyone likes to say hello and take turns holding her; she has made fast friends with the doctors and techs who work there, just like everyone else she meets.

During these past visits, the doctor optimistically suggests a manageable treatment regimen, confident she will be just fine. And so far he's been right. But this time after poking around a little and taking a closer look at our kitty, he said the words every pet owner dreads:
"We have some options to keep her comfortable, but I think we need to start thinking about the end for her."

The mass in her liver had grown significantly since our last visit, and there isn't anything we can do to reverse it. The vet took some basic tests, and fortunately they revealed normal kidney functions, normal liver enzyme levels, and a normal body temperature. Still, she is sick and dehydrated, with a poor prognosis for recovery. He decided to have us administer subcutaneous fluids, give her special food if she'll eat it, and keep her comfortable.

If you've ever loved a pet, you know how hard this time is for us. We can't bear the thought of losing our beloved kitty, but we don't want to selfishly prolong her suffering. Most people say that we'll just know when it's time, but right now we're caught in a limbo. Louise has regained her appetite and has voraciously eaten each regular serving of food (and a few extras) that hits her bowl. She has been able to make it to the food bowl and the litter box, and has responded warmly to petting and cuddles just like normal. But she has a bit of a wobble when she walks, no longer climbs the stairs to our bed, and isn't able to fully clean herself after some messy trips to the litter box. She certainly isn't herself, but I don't think she's gone. Not yet.

Our vet agreed to call us every day to check on her and discuss our options. We appreciate that he has been honest and straightforward with us, and that he hasn't suggested any unnecessary, pricey operations or tests at the end of her life. We hope we can keep her happy and comfortable at least through Monday so that our friend (her original owner) can come visit and say good bye.

We're taking it one day at a time, and I'll be the first to admit it hasn't been easy. How do you spend your last few days with a beloved friend? Taylor and I have managed to alternately be home with her at all times so we can keep an eye on her and make sure she is doing okay. There have been a lot of tears (mostly from me), and a lot of desperate hugs and cuddles. Her purrs and meows show us she's still here with us, but we dread the day when she stops responding.

Until then we will keep talking to her, keep petting her, keep loving her, just like always.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Birthday buddies

A quick shout out to two very special January birthday buddies:

Darcy Baker, born January 28th & Duane Baker, born January 23rd

That's right--my parents were born exactly 5 days apart in the same wing of the same hospital. Back then mothers and babies routinely stayed in the hospital for five days after delivery, so it's highly likely that my parents (along with my grandmothers, respectively) passed each other in the nursery hallways long before they would officially meet for the first time in middle school. In a sense, they've known each other all their lives, so I think it's easy to see why they are soulmates. Awwww.

This picture was taken 4 years ago at a particularly momentous birthday milestone, which I will not disclose for the sake of modesty.

But that 30th birthday party sure was fun, right parents? ;-)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


It's week four of my internship at Santa Maria Community Services and so far everything is going swimmingly. Today we finalized my learning contract with University of Cincinnati, and it's packed full of great activities.

One such activity is a weekly Meals-on-Wheels route to six elderly women in a neighborhood in East Price Hill. Today I made my rounds for the first time, delivering meals to these residents and chatting with them on their doorsteps. I was a little nervous about how I would be received at these homes, especially being an unfamiliar face in the neighborhood. But my fears were quickly dispelled when I was warmly greeted and welcomed at each home.

That isn't to say I didn't have any excitement along the way. I listened and empathized as a resident told me about her slumlord's unresponsiveness while their entire apartment complex went without heat this weekend. I hollered "Meals-on-Wheels" at the top of my lungs each time one woman in particular kept asking, "Who is it?" I helped one woman connect to assistance with her rent deposit upon returning to the office. I even helped chase down a little dog that had dashed out an open front door.

And you know what? I loved every minute of it. I look forward to further developing a trustworthy relationship with each of these residents over the next 6 months. After all, this is what social work is all about--getting out in the community and connecting with people in need of services. So who knows? Maybe I will continue to participate with Meals-on-Wheels into the summer and subsequent quarters, long after this portion of my internship has finished. It definitely couldn't hurt.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

On track

I am pleased to announce I am on track with one of my goals mentioned in my 200th post (as seen here): I'm getting active!

Inspired by my former-fellow-VISTA and good friend Alex's Couch to 5K running program (seen here at her blog), I decided to get in gear with a 5K training regime of my own. (Did you know Alex is getting married in October? And that I'm a bridesmaid?! Yippee skippeee!!)

Keep in mind it's only week one, but so far I have been very successful incorporating a few minutes of running into a mostly walking routine. Even though it is difficult at times, I always feel great when I'm finished, and I look forward to the next time around.

Perhaps best of all, I already have noticed a change in my energy level, and I am more motivated to eat right and take care of myself in order to become a stronger runner. I'm beginning to understand how fitness can be "addicting" so to speak.

For me, being active isn't about losing weight (though I can definitely stand to drop a few lbs.). It's about feeling good and accomplishing something. Sure, I've been successful in other areas of my life--I got all As in school, I was first chair in the school band, and so on--but I've never been physically fit. I've never played on a team (unless you count the junior high golf team or marching band), and I've never met a fitness goal. In other words, I've never really been an active person, so it feels good to be increasing my level of activity and taking charge of my health.

The fear of failure has held me back in the past--I've started something, encountered resistance, and given up so as not to fail in embarrassment. Of course, I realize giving up was the real failure. If I can keep at it this time, no matter how fast or slow my progress, I'll stay right on track.

The goal is to actually RUN in the 5K Price Hill Pacer Run/Walk benefiting Santa Maria Community Services this June. Assuming I am not part of the logistics team on race day, I want to cross the finish line. It will be my first 5K as a runner and I am determined to get there!

You heard it here, blogosphere--hold me accountable!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


Last night Taylor and I attended the East Price Hill Improvement Association meeting in...where else?...East Price Hill. There were about 25-30 people in attendance, mostly community council members and a few residents. Even a few non-residents like us.

So why were we there if we aren't residents of that neighborhood? Well, East Price Hill is home to one of Santa Maria's 3 locations and many of the agency's clients live in Price Hill. I thought it would be helpful to attend so that I could get a better idea of the issues specific to the community. Because social workers take a person-in-environment approach in practice, it would definitely help to learn more about the community environment of many of our clients.

The meeting started at 7:30 in a neighborhood Methodist church. This was my first community council meeting in any neighborhood, so I wasn't sure what to expect. Mostly there were a lot of regular agenda items like reports from various standing committees and such. I did notice, though, that regardless of what committee was presenting, the main focus was on crime. It was clear that the incidence of crime in the neighborhood was a major concern for the people who live there. Many residents believe that if we make more arrests and take the bad guys out of the neighborhood, then we can fully eliminate crime and turn Price Hill into a thriving community. I agree with that--to an extent. Not all of Price Hill's problems can be reduced to crime alone. We still need employment opportunities, income enhancement programs, access to affordable health care, reliable transportation, quality childcare, and so on. On the other hand, if the neighborhood is safe it will be more attractive for such growth and development, allowing the community to really prosper. It's definitely all connected.

Lucky for Price Hill residents, Santa Maria (among other local agencies) is working hard to implement programming in many of those areas. Combined with crime reduction, these social services will help Price Hill thrive.

In the meantime, I intend to spend more time in Price Hill patronizing local businesses, attending local events, and getting to know the residents. It's the neighboring community to our Western Hills home and I should get familiar with it!

Monday, January 17, 2011

A day off

Last year on MLK Day I wrote about making your day off a day on in service. But this year I'm not practicing what I preached--I'm taking the day off.

As you might have noticed by the lack of blog posts, I haven't been around here much this past week or so. That's because I've been getting settled at my internship, adjusting to my classes, and juggling both of my jobs. It's been a lot to balance, but I'm hanging on!

At my internship last week, I distributed 2000 flyers for a free tax service, attended a staff meeting, and read through Santa Maria's board manual and employee handbooks. I also finished meeting with 9 of 11 program managers (just two more to go!) to get a better idea of the range of services Santa Maria provides to the community. My next step is to draft my learning contract with UC that will lay out everything I will work on over the next two quarters. It's quite a task--I've got to narrow down all of the program and project opportunities to something that is manageable between now and June. Because I can split my time between direct practice and administration this time, I've got a lot to choose from, which is exciting!

I've now had all of my classes, and I'm getting into the groove of the new quarter. Two of my classes are about working with individuals and families, and I'm already realizing how introspective I'm becoming with each class. In fact, I have two assignments in which I am to specifically reflect on my own family's experience. One is a Genogram, which is like a very detailed family tree. Not only does it show how people are related and the dates of their births, deaths, and marriages, but it also shows the relationships between each relative. Once that is finished, I will use that information to write a detailed paper about my family. I'm realizing that the more insight I have into my own family, the better prepared I will be to help others gain insight into their families, too.

And then there's my jobs. I'm now working regular hours at both Rape Crisis and House of Peace. It's great to have steady income, but the trade off is my down time. I now have one day off a week, if you count doing homework and housework as a a day off! So when you get a holiday like MLK Day, you really cherish it, especially when your life is already all about service.

So today I'm giving back to myself. I'm going to hang out with a friend I don't get to see nearly enough and then enjoy a lovely dinner with my husband. I'm learning that it isn't a bad thing to take time for myself, and I shouldn't feel guilty for taking a day off. Without a day off, it's hard to have good days on!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Right place, right time

Part of the requirements of my new internship is a background check and fingerprint screening so that I can work with various populations and programming. Before the end of the day on Tuesday, I received a slip with instructions to go to the Hamilton County Justice Center any time between 7am and 4pm Monday through Friday, and Santa Maria would be billed for the screenings.

I didn't make it there on Wednesday, so I attempted to go yesterday morning before a meeting in Lower Price Hill. I knew it could take a while to complete, so I left with plenty of time. But when I got downtown I realized I was missing two very important things. Parking money and a plan. I hadn't looked ahead to see where I would park and even if I had, I had no cash on hand for the overpriced garages or lots. I don't know what I was thinking.

I pulled over at a random parking meter at least a half mile down the street and rummaged through my purse for some coins. But as I slipped each coin through the slot, my minutes weren't adding up as much as I would have thought. Suddenly, I found myself out of coins with only 33 minutes on the meter. I wasn't confident I would get down to the building, get through the line, finish the screenings, and get back to the car in that time, and I wasn't willing to risk the ticket, as I had watched several eager parking police guys converge on a car across the street just minutes earlier.

Dejected, I decided to leave the Justice Center for another day. As I drove out of downtown, I recognized the entrance to one of my favorite parks. I still had about 40 minutes before I would need to get to my meeting, so I pulled in and parked for a walk along the river. It was cold, so there weren't many people out, but as I approached the end of the loop, I saw an old woman huddled in a big winter coat on a bench near the path. I said good morning as I passed and we made a bit of small talk about the weather, the ducks in the river, and the new year. I kept walking, but about 5 seconds after I passed, I heard her call out to me and before I knew it, we were walking together back on the loop back towards the parking lot.

We talked for a bit about the day; I disclosed I was killing time between meetings for my social work program and she said she had come down to feed the ducks. A few minutes later she started to share about her volunteer work and some of the depression she had been experiencing. I listened as we strolled, offering an occasional thought, but mostly just listened. As we continued on the loop and passed the parking lot, I knew I should think about getting back to my car so I could make it to the meeting in time. I didn't want to get too far down the trail and take too long to get back. Still, something told me to keep going, so I did.

We made our way down the path, and several minutes later I knew it was time to turn around and go back to the car, so I slowed my pace. And suddenly the woman disclosed that she had been raped more than a decade ago. She said she had never told anyone that before, and wondered if maybe that could be contributing to her depression.

I couldn't believe it--I have a lot of training in this area, and if ever there was a time to put it to use, this was it. Suddenly I didn't care about the clock; I knew I needed to help this woman. I told her this was my area of expertise, and I carefully explained how her feelings could very likely be related to her assault, especially if she hadn't emotionally dealt with what had happened to her all those years ago. As I spoke, tears streamed down her face. She said she believed God had put me in her path today so that she could get help. I told her how glad I was that she trusted me and told me her painful secret, and I suggested that she look into counseling to process everything in more detail in the long term. I referred her to Women Helping Women and she said she would call them when she got home.

As I said good bye, she hugged me twice, thanked me for listening, and encouraged me to keep going in school because I would make a good social worker one day. I was flattered not only by her compliment, but that she remembered my program I mentioned at the beginning of our conversation.

My friend from the park served as a poignant reminder of why I'm doing this in the first place. We all need help sometimes. We all need someone to talk to, someone to help us find our strengths, regain our coping skills, and set us in the right direction. That's what social work is all about.

I don't know what will happen to her. I hope she finds peace and happiness, but I'll never know for sure, unless, of course, I run into her again. And if I do, I'll know it was for a reason.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Keep fighting

Just wanted to post a quick update about the Walmart Fighting Hunger Together grant that I mentioned in this post. If you remember, the metropolitan community that received the most votes on Facebook would receive $1,000,000 and the 5 runners-up would each receive $100,000.

The winners were announced yesterday and the results are as followed:

1. Salt Lake City, Utah with 5,320,392 supporters. They win $1,000,000!
2. Fresno, CA with 4,125,544 supporters.
3. Columbia, SC with 356,020 supporters.
4. Ogden-Clearfield, UT with 305,512 supporters.
5. Charleston-Summerville, SC with 167,684 supporters.
6. Bakersfield, CA with 157,880 supporters.

I'm not sure where the Cincinnati-Middletown community fits on the list of 100 neediest communities, but I saw a lot of my Facebook friends voting in support of our community. Some of those voters don't even live here, but supported the community because they know how deeply I care for this community (and probably to get me to stop talking about it so much!) So I thank you for doing your part and speaking up for our community. I bet Walmart will do another similar competition in the future, and when they do, we'll be ready! In the meantime, you can donate your time or money directly to the agencies working to make a difference here at home. Let me know if you need any suggestions--I'm getting to know plenty of donation-worthy organizations that I would gladly point you to!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Just an intern

I just completed my first two days (read: first week) of my 16-hour internship with Santa Maria Community Services. And after only two days, I know I have made the right decision and I'm in the right place.

My desk is in the administrative office in Sedamsville, just a 15-minute drive from home and about a 5-minute drive from the other two Santa Maria office locations. Staff just moved into the Sedamsville office, so when I arrived on Monday morning, I found the building full of boxes and cleaning supplies as everyone continues to unpack and settle in. It was exciting to be a part of the big move from the beginning, as I also established my own desk space in my own office!

On my first few days with Santa Maria, I spent most of my time meeting with my supervisor (the President and CEO of the agency) and setting up meetings to learn more about all of the programming at the different locations throughout Price Hill. As I meet with each program manager, I find myself growing more and more excited about all of the different opportunities within each area of the organization.

In a couple of weeks I will need to turn in a learning contract to my field liaison from UC that outlines my goals and projects for the next two quarters. As I told my supervisor, the hardest thing will be narrowing down which programs I'll have time to work with! Fortunately, I will be at Santa Maria through June 2012, so there will be plenty of time to explore all the agency has to offer.

First days are never easy--there's so much to learn and it's easy to become overwhelmed. While I still have a LOT to learn, I appreciate the warm welcome I received by the staff of the agency. Everyone was so friendly and patient in explaining various aspects of the organization, which really put me at ease. No one referred to me as "just an intern" and I felt like a valued member of the team from the beginning.

If the first two days of my internship are any indication of the next year and a half, I think I am really going to enjoy my time at Santa Maria.

Monday, January 3, 2011

New resolve

Every January 1st, millions of people make millions of new year's resolutions, abstract statements aimed to drastically change their lives over the next 365 days. And yet by the following December 31st, many people haven't met one single resolution.

But why? Surely people are capable of meeting goals, otherwise no one would ever really accomplish anything. And heck, they have a whole year to do it!

The problem with resolutions, though, is that we set big, lofty, year-long goals and then we get impatient, tired, and discouraged. In a society of instant gratification, a year becomes too long to stick with something so seemingly impossible. And one month into the new year, we've lost steam and pretty much jumped ship. For example, many people resolve to lose weight at the beginning of the year. They say, "This year I'm going to lose 50 lbs. No! 60 lbs! Yeah!" But when February rolls around and they've lost only a couple of pounds, the end seems so far away that they abandon the means and go for that slice of cake after all.

So what if instead of setting grand yearly goals we broke up that goal into monthly, weekly, or even daily goals? Then it wouldn't be one insurmountable mountain, but a much more do-able set of steps. Both lead to the same place, but it's the way we get there that makes the difference. In other words, if we set ourselves up to succeed, we probably will.

That's why this year I'm not going to make a resolution in the traditional sense. But I am going to make some easy changes to my daily routine that should lead to some big changes in my life.

Lately, one of the major themes of my life has been gratitude. I mentioned a bit about that in this post a few months ago when I started a gratitude journal to help me recognize the good things in my life and to help me stay present in good moments. Sadly, my journal efforts fizzled out in the past couple of months or so, and I have found myself complaining more than usual about the little things. So this year, I "resolve" to be more grateful by consciously recognizing the good in my life. Whether that means writing it down in the gratitude journal, saying it out loud, or jotting a quick thank you note, I will be more aware of my gratitude. In fact, I was inspired to share my gratitude with others after reading about a man who wrote one thank you note a day to the people in his life, which you can see here.

The more I think about it, maybe the best way to accomplish a resolution is by not calling it a resolution. How's that for a little reverse psychology?

So what about you all? Any non-resolutions this year? Happy 2011!