News & Event
Celine Quinn was devastated. The elementary school librarian had used a Learning Links grant to build a bird sanctuary at the school. Over spring break, vandals had destroyed the Lincoln Elementary sanctuary.
The outdoor area had become a favorite spot among students and birds. Students were upset and they asked Celine what they could do to help. She suggested they all work together to find a solution.
The next day, a little girl handed Celine the business card of a general contractor – her own grandfather.
“I called him and he said, ‘I graduated from Lincoln Heights and I’ll be there in 10 minutes to help,’” Celine said. “He brought his crew and they fixed the bird house and sanctuary.”
“The seed money [The Greater Cincinnati Foundation] gave us really influenced our school and reinforced a piece that is not always there – community involvement,” she added. “It’s amazing. These kids don’t have access to nature. I just want to say thank you again. You gave the money and good things happened here.”
Learning Links and Summertime Kids grants are made possible by the generosity of donors of the past and present who have entrusted charitable dollars to The Greater Cincinnati Foundation.
In honor of the giving season, we asked our co-workers to share stories of the best gifts they’ve ever received — or given:
“Dancing with the Stars has been my mom’s favorite since its inception. We have watched the show together for the past 28 seasons! The first year that they had a live show that traveled from city to city, I bought my mom and I tickets for her Christmas present. (I’ve since taken her many times.) I put together a whole packet that she opened on Christmas. Pictures of the cast, poem I wrote, a scroll with the announcement. She was overwhelmed. She was crying she was so happy. And when we attended, it was one of the best evenings ever!” — Lori Beiler, Senior Grants Manager
“The best gift I ever got was a metal yardstick. This was back when I was a residence hall director at Miami. Jason and I had been dating a few months at the time. I had gotten a free wooden yard stick from a hardware store but I had left it in Michigan. I mentioned something off-handed while I was talking to Jason on the phone about wishing I had my yard stick so I could measure the paper I needed for the bulletin board. That weekend, Jason showed up with a really nice, metal, cork-backed yardstick. I still have it! I use it all the time. It really is the best gift I ever got, because it showed he was paying attention to me and put some effort into picking out a really nice one.” — Christine Mulvin, HealthPath Senior Program Officer
“The best gift I ever gave was to my dad for his birthday in 2018. My parents finally bought their dream home and my dad got the bar he always wanted in the basement. I bought him a sign that says “Coyt’s Bar” and it was the first thing he hung in the basement. I still hear him tell his friends and our family that I bought the gift for him. My dad isn’t one to rave about gifts and he’s not easy to shop for but I can tell this is something he really liked.” — Paige Goodin, Marketing Coordinator
“The best gift I ever received was my childhood dog, Annabelle. Santa brought her a couple of days before Christmas and left her on my front porch. She was the best dog and throughout my childhood, she was always there when I needed her! She lived for 13 years before she passed away, but she is such a special member of our family.” — Samantha Molony, Women’s Fund Applied Research Manager
“The best gift I received was for my 40th birthday from my wife. She asked people in my life (past and present) to write down one word to describe me. She then created a word cloud and framed it. It’s displayed proudly in my office. The top three words are: Loyal, Genuine and Authentic.” — Phillip P. Lanham, Vice President, Donor and Private Foundation Services
“I received the Barbie Dreamhouse. It had three levels and an elevator that you pulled up and down using strings. Another gift that stands out was my Cricket Doll. She had a cassette tape that went in her back. I played with her and did her hair so much, she was bald by the time I was done with her!!!” — Adrienne Taylor, Women’s Fund Senior Development Officer
“My best gift was a letter from my son, which he hand wrote to me as a Christmas gift a few years ago. In it he talked about how I had influenced him and what he saw of me in himself ... as I read it I realized that he had written me a love letter.” — Ellen M. Katz, President/CEO
“I am an obsessive vacuumer. Last Christmas, my wife finally gifted me a fancy new Dyson that I had wanted (was waiting for my old vacuum cleaners to die but they just wouldn’t). Upon opening the gift box, my eyes watered and I hugged the Dyson like it was a long-lost relative!” — Harold Brown, Vice President, Community Strategies
“The best gift I’ve ever received was my charm bracelet. It is a tradition passed down for generations. My grandmother and my mother both shared their stories with me and when I was 10 years old I received my very own that I have treasured since. It is a representation of the experiences in my life, with charms symbolizing big moments to celebrate and challenging times. It has captured my world travels. I have a charm that represents the moment I became a wife and a mom. What I love most about it is how it creates an intentional focus to find the absolutely perfect charm to capture each experience. I have been blessed with three beautiful daughters and I cannot wait to carry on the tradition with them, create memories together, and keep the tradition alive.” — Jaclyn Sablosky, Director, Marketing
“Flying Lessons! On my 30th birthday my wife put me in the car blindfolded. Drove me somewhere (ended up being the airport), I had my first flying lesson that day! Went on to solo and become a private pilot.” — Eric DeWald, HealthPath Executive Director and President
“The best gift that I ever received was the birth of my daughter two weeks before my mom passed away, so she got to meet her first grandchild.” — Will Woodward, Chief Financial Officer
“My best Christmas gift came on Christmas Eve, and it was her due date (my daughter, Micha).” — Mary R. Pitcairn, Philanthropic Advisor
“My all-time favorite gift was a stuffed Curious George monkey, which I received when I was 8 years old. I was surprised and delighted to receive this monkey – I had never indicated (or even thought) I wanted him, but once I held him — he was a perfect, cuddly friend. Actually, and this is where things get weird, he became my pretend baby. My little sister Maurine received a Honey Bunch doll that year, that became her pretend baby (a whole lot more believable than Curious George, but you work with what you have). Maurine also received a four-foot-tall standing Smokey the Bear, who promptly became her ‘husband,’ who she set outside our bedroom door every morning to go to work. She let him back in our room after ‘work.’ Apparently, I was a single mother. However, Maurine and I and our babies had thousands of hours of fun, while her ‘husband’ worked fighting fires. I still have Curious George.” — Lisa Davis Roberts, Senior Program Officer, Private Foundation Services
“My parents were young and on a tight budget, and my dad was putting himself through night school to get an accounting degree. At 7, I was oblivious to financial pressures, and had asked for a Barbie Dream House (the original cardboard version!). My dad received an unexpected bonus and, without telling my mom, bought the Dream House for me, a battery-operated dog for my little brother and a necklace for my mom — no one was more surprised than she was, and I think he had her half believing in Santa Claus! The best part of that gift was to hear the story of his ‘Secret Santa’ exploit when I was old enough to appreciate it.” — Connie Yeager Winternitz, Copywriter
“My husband isn’t a planner, to say the very least. So when it comes to our day-to-day lives or fun family activities I am usually the one who plans and organizes things. Last year at Christmas it was my turn to open up my present. When I unwrapped it, I was blown away. It was a window box with a picture of the sunset as the background that I took in Clearwater Beach on the Pirate Cruise from a previous vacation. The box had sand laid out like the beach and sea shells scattered along the sand from our trip that year as well. On the back of the window box was a postcard from Clearwater Beach that said, “Can’t wait to see you next year!” with the dates of our next vacation planned. My husband knows this is where I find peace each year and planned the entire trip and made the window box on his own. It was absolutely the most thoughtful gift I have received.” — Angie Williams, Senior HR Manager
“I was given a second chance at life after going into cardiac arrest here at work on July 12, 2019. My best gift yet.” — Venita Turner, Administrative Associate
We sat down with Dr. Monica Mitchell, Thriving People Advisory Committee co-chair, to talk about our new Community Investment framework rolled out in 2012. GCF’s volunteers and Community Investment staff worked closely on its development. Dr. Mitchell works on community engagement and research, program evaluation, and health and wellness promotion at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.
I think it gives us priorities to guide our work and allows us to communicate to the broader community – “here’s what GCF sees as community priorities and here’s an opportunity for you to align with our work.” GCF is also aligning with other funders that have the same priorities. (For example, United Way, The Strive Partnership, Agenda 360, Vision 2015.) It’s a very smart way to leverage the funds GCF has. GCF can invest its money along with other partners and have a greater impact beyond the Foundation’s resources.
I think in terms of outcomes, you have a chance to make a greater impact. It allows those applying for grants to be more clear. “While we may have three or four priorities, we’re coming to GCF with our health and wellness priority because that’s the one place where we most clearly align with what you’re doing.” Everyone can focus on win-wins and common agendas.
It makes me think of communities and neighborhoods that are moving forward. In spite of economic conditions, or limitations, wherever that community is, it’s moving in the right direction.
I think it’s one that holds a bright future in terms of economics, especially for those who are up and coming, college graduates, those just finishing high school. Prosperous sounds futuristic, something that is hopeful for the future. It’s also a very hopeful term, something you are planning to happen as a next step. I think all these things are true in Cincinnati. You know when I first moved here, I was hesitant to call it home because I was thinking I would move back to the South. But now, there is nowhere else I’d rather live. When I moved here I saw Cincinnati as being very conservative but I think Cincinnati is one of the most progressive cities there is in terms of how we think about making change and impact. I think that GCF and its partners have a lot to do with that.
Our two top things are that we want people and places to thrive. I think the grantmaking framework speaks for itself. If we do all this, Cincinnati will thrive and we will have a better region.
I think it helps donors direct their funds more strategically according to their own interests and philosophies.
I think the framework will be refined over time as we learn and I think the community will also evolve to better align to the priorities. GCF really invested in this process and we had great facilitators and good templates to work from. It’s clear this is a high priority for the Foundation, not just to do it but to get it right and ultimately result in better grantmaking and positive impact for the community.
Printed in the 2011 Annual Report
CINCINNATI (May 25, 2017)—Affordable housing is an important topic for the Greater Cincinnati region. The Greater Cincinnati Foundation (GCF) holds the unique privilege to be at the forefront of working on solutions to pressing issues such as this and partnering with community organizations that are on the ground making an impact in their community. GCF hosted a lunch and learn event where our donors and community partners could hear about new research focusing on the impact of affordable housing and learn what initiatives are being taken to solve the issue.
The expert panel included Liz Blume, Executive Director of Xavier University’s Community Building Institute, Mary Burke Rivers, Executive Director of Over-the-Rhine Community Housing, Kathy Schwab, Executive Director of Local Initiative Support Corporation (LISC), and Noam Gross-Prinz, Assistant Program Officer at LISC. Each shared key insights and findings that support an overwhelming need to create a more balanced housing situation for Cincinnati and the surrounding region.
View the Facebook video of the panel discussion above.
Download the Affordable Housing presentation [PDF]
Thank you to all of the community experts who spent their time and energy sharing this critical information. Thank you to all those who attended the event and gave their thoughts and insights. GCF is proud to be a part of such a bold community, filled with passion to make where we live a place everyone can thrive.
About The Greater Cincinnati Foundation
One of the nation’s leading community foundations, The Greater Cincinnati Foundation helps people make the most of their giving to build a better community. We believe in the power of philanthropy to change the lives of people and communities. As a community foundation, GCF creates a prosperous Greater Cincinnati by investing in thriving people and vibrant places. An effective steward of the community’s charitable resources since 1963, the Foundation inspires philanthropy in eight counties in Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana. At the end of 2016, GCF had net assets of $563 million.
Robert Killins Jr., Greater Cincinnati Foundation’s Director, Special Initiatives, is a native of Oakdale, LA, and has a bachelor’s degree in French from Grambling State University. He and his wife, parents of two daughters and a son, live in the West End.
Share details of your personal and professional background that helped to guide your path to Greater Cincinnati Foundation (GCF).
For 10 years prior to coming here, I was a funding partner of GCF. I worked at Procter & Gamble, in the area of philanthropy, and we collaborated and co-funded many projects jointly. I had a very in-depth knowledge of the foundation — obviously from an outsider’s perspective — but I knew a lot about, and frankly greatly admired, a lot of what GCF stood for in the community. So, when the opportunity came in my post-P&G career to work here, I was delighted. This marks the beginning of my tenth year here.
I worked at P&G for 24 years. I started out as an IT guy and worked in that area — IT and telecommunications, etc. — for 14 years. I had an opportunity for an internal career change and then moved into the foundation and did public affairs/external relations work including philanthropy, some media and government relations and community relations. When I took an early retirement from P&G, I spent most of 2009 as a substitute teacher in Cincinnati Public Schools. I had every grade level from K through 12 and just about every subject except for art, music and gym — the “specials,” as they call them — I didn’t feel as if I was up to the task in those areas but everything else I was willing to try. That was a great experience and it has informed how I do some of the work that I do here at GCF.
I have a bachelor’s degree in French. I started out majoring in computer science at Grambling State University, then I had a chance to go to France in a summer study-abroad, loved it, came back and added French as a major, then had an opportunity to spend a school year in France. After that it was so difficult to get back on track because I had missed so much of my computer science work that I graduated with my degree in French, but effectively I had a computer science degree and that’s what I was hired to do at P&G. One of the things I appreciated from my time in France was identified by my advisor and head of the foreign language department, with whom I was in constant contact. His view, about computer science and the value of humanities in general, was this: “The sciences help us to earn a living, but the humanities teach us how to live.” I have found that being able to combine those two is great — it was really helpful. The push just for training to earn a living has, I think, weakened our overall humanity, especially on a national basis and an international basis.
I discovered through my 24 years at P&G that my passion was in helping people, working with people and interacting with people, and having a career that involved doing that was important. And personally, once I left P&G, my wife and I made the decision to stay in Cincinnati. (I had thought that, once the P&G days were over, that we would pack up and head back south.)
What are your professional and community affiliations, and how do they inform your role at GCF?
I’m involved on the board of the Seven Hills Neighborhood Houses, Inc., which is a community-based organization that has an almost 60-year history in the West End. We provide social services, support to victims of crime and we’re doing more community developing, but it’s a basic organization trying to help low-income people and support grassroots efforts in the West End. I’ve lived in the West End now for 20 years, and I’ve owned property there for 28 years. I’m also on the board of St. Vincent de Paul. I enjoy that — again, it’s in that theme of helping to make a difference for people. I’m very involved in and am an officer of the West End’s Community Council. That brings you in contact with a lot of government-related stuff as it impacts communities — how ordinances and zoning and liquor licenses and all these things that happen in communities are decided.
I am a member of the Quinn Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church, and what I am most passionate about there is that I help to lead our prison/jail ministry, and it’s work that I enjoy tremendously. I’m a member of Toastmasters, which I also enjoy greatly.
I recently became a member of the Urban Land Institute and am excited to learn more about that work, again from the angle of the need for additional affordable housing. In the urban environment so much of the environment is built and I’m particularly interested in, how do we repurpose lots of existing structures that are historic for new purposes other than those for which they were built? There are a lot of abandoned churches and industrial buildings that can be made into housing and community centers. It’s an international organization, and this is the local chapter. It’s new to me, so it will be a learning opportunity.
Who or what is your inspiration, and in what ways has that driven your passion for GCF’s mission?
There are lots of people who have inspired me and inspire me. It starts with my parents — they were very giving people of very, very modest means, to say the least, but they were always willing to help, so I learned the need — and just an expectation — that you make a contribution, and they inspired that. I’m inspired by people who want to make a difference and who give of themselves, their resources and time to help others, because I think that’s how we build a world that we can be proud of, by sharing and by caring. The famed “Am I my brother’s keeper?” question that we know from the Cain and Abel story is kind of an important theme for me, because I feel like I have benefitted richly from people who made lots of sacrifices for me in general — through civil rights, through growing up in the South at the tail end of overt racism and discrimination. I’m inspired by all of that and feel that I need to do what I can for others, regardless of race, circumstances or income. Those are the inspirations — I’ve got lots of heroes and “sheroes” (heroines).
What are three things about you that most people don’t know?
I have twice unsuccessfully run for public office. In 1985 I ran for mayor for the town of Grambling, LA, when I was a graduate student at Grambling State University. In 2003, almost 30 years later, I ran for Cincinnati School Board.
I’ve shaken the hand of two presidents — Barack Obama and Bill Clinton when they were visiting Cincinnati — and I’ve been invited to the White House twice. I got to go to the White House in 1994 under Bill Clinton to see Nelson Mandela. I was one of hundreds, and I didn’t get to meet Mandela personally, but it was a highlight to see him. I also got invited to the White House to meet George W. Bush in 2003, when he had just returned from a lengthy trip to Africa.
I attended the Million Man March in 1995 in Washington, D.C. That was a very emotional, powerful experience for me.
What do you like most about working at GCF?
That’s a tough question, because I like a lot of things about working here. The thing I like most is the ability to make a difference, directly and indirectly, in the lives of so many people and in so many projects. Not only through funding, but sometimes through the ideas and the advice — because you have more of that than you have money — and so occasionally you get reminded that something you said or did made a difference for an organization or an individual. GCF is an outstanding organization and there have been so many outstanding people as staff, volunteers and donors associated with it over the years that I’m just proud to be a part of that history, that legacy of contributing to the community.
Meghan Cummings, Executive Director of The Women’s Fund of Greater Cincinnati Foundation, is a Cincinnati native and graduate of Miami University. She lives in Maineville with her husband, Nate, and son Cameron.
Share a few details of your personal and professional background that helped to guide your path to Greater Cincinnati Foundation (GCF).
My background is in non-profit fundraising and that shaped my desire to continue helping people connect to the causes they care about.
I started my career at the Alzheimer’s Association, working as a development assistant and then coordinating their charity walk. I got to experience so many different facets of fundraising there which was a great training ground for future development and leadership positions.
After that I was the development director at the Center for Addiction Treatment in the West End. I was there at the start of the opiate epidemic and I saw firsthand how complex addiction is. I also saw how treatment helped restore people and families to their healthy selves. Then, I headed to the corporate charity at Luxottica Retail called OneSight. I’ve been really fortunate to work in direct delivery environments, in corporate and now at a community foundation. I love exploring how these different sectors can work together to create new solutions to complex community problems.
Another piece that has shaped my path to GCF was two study-abroad experiences I had while at Miami. As a political science and journalism major I studied European Union politics. My studies in Europe one summer taught me how policies made at the top levels ended up affecting individuals. That was really interesting from a political point of view and it translates into my work with the Women’s Fund. When we work on policy change, how will that end up affecting individuals? Will there be unintended consequences? We have to be really thoughtful and intentional.
The next summer I studied primary education in Kenya. One of the things I learned there is that wealth is relative. People may not have a lot of material things but they may possess something so much deeper. And I think that’s a really important lesson. We tend to look at poverty from the lens of what people are lacking. How can we first appreciate their unique value and assets?
What are your professional and community affiliations, and how do they inform your role at GCF?
I’m the board president for a non-profit called Beyond Civility. We bridge political difference through effective dialogue and train community leaders to communicate with civility and thoughtfulness. The premise of Beyond Civility is not for everyone to be “politically correct” or to agree politically — because we are wired to be different political beings. Its purpose is to have a toolbox of ways we can communicate effectively and value what each person brings to the table. When we get down to the human level there’s a lot we all have in common and it’s about having that process to be able to talk to people you don’t agree with.
That’s so germane to our work at the Women’s Fund — we’re a bipartisan group and we’re always trying to find common ground. On any issue we want to bring as many people to the table as possible. We meet people where they are and we hope to be a bridge builder in everything we’re doing for the Women’s Fund, so that training has been really important.
Who or what is your inspiration, and in what ways has that driven your passion for GCF’s mission?
I have a lot of people that inspire me — for different reasons. I think that what they all have in common, though, is that they are courageous and stand up for the right thing even when it’s not easy. For example, I love the Sisters of Charity. As a group they really roll up their sleeves, authentically dive in and serve the most vulnerable people in our community. Even when it’s not popular.
What are three things about you that most people don’t know?
I lived in Australia for a while after college.
I play the violin. It’s always been a big part of my life. Currently I play with a community group called the Seven Hills Sinfonietta.
I love, love, love to travel. Growing up, my mom worked for Delta and we were fortunate to travel a lot. I have an insatiable wanderlust to explore places where everything is different — the language, the food, the religion, the climate. It’s even more fun now seeing new places through the eyes of our six-year-old, Cam.
I love being on the GCF team. I really care about equity and social justice issues, so it is a gift that I get to work on these issues everyday as a career. It feels core to who I am as a person.
I also love working with my team and developing people. Watching people grow and learn new skills as they develop into their own authentic selves is very rewarding.
Greater Cincinnati Foundation’s 55th year has been one of focused energy, purpose and forward movement. We are grateful for everyone who has joined us this year in the vital work of creating a Greater Cincinnati where everyone has the opportunity to thrive.
As we reflect on 2018, we are pleased to share with you a recap of GCF major events for the year: