News & Event
Dick Fencl was visiting an inner-city elementary school as a volunteer with Executive Service Corps. He was there to work on the school’s
security system, but what made an impression on him was a police car outside because a sixth grader had been caught selling drugs.
“It was a real eye-opener for me,” he said. “It’s very different from how I grew up. I thought, I’ve got to be involved. I can’t continue to run to the suburbs forever – this is our youth.”
Fast forward a few years to find Dick and his wife, Carol, spending Saturday mornings with second through fourth graders from Rothenberg Preparatory Academy on Vine Street.
The Fencls wear backpacks loaded down with lunch supplies, fanny packs of emergency gear and name tags around their necks reading “Mr. Dick” and “Miss Carol.”
They also wear huge smiles.
The Fencls’ work with inner-city children combines two of their passions – education and the environment.
They volunteer with the Sierra Club’s Inner City Outings (ICO) program. ICO provides environmental experiences for children that otherwise wouldn’t have them.
On a rainy April day, the Fencls and a handful of volunteers took the children to the Cincinnati Museum Center. Ask the children why they come on these trips and they are quick to answer – they like Mr. Dick and Miss Carol. Oh, and the time they tapped sap from a tree was pretty good too.
“I like it because Mr. Dick takes us places we’ve never learned about before,” third grader Lyric said. “I like seeing them because I know they are friendly.”
“They take you places that are fun,” chimed in second grader Evah. “I’ve learned about making syrup and I know about dinosaurs and wooly mammoths.” (The group had an outing to Big Bone Lick State Park to learn about mastodons.)
To an outsider, lunch time with 30-plus children may seem like controlled chaos. But Carol beams as she helps a young boy make a sandwich.
“You see how this energizes us?” she asked.
“They are very organized,” Gail Lewin of ICO said. “They make nametags for everyone, bring the food, and organize the driving. The kids respect them and listen to them. They are wonderful people.”
Parent Brenda Alexander knows they are making a difference with her children. Brenda has been going on the Fencls’ outings for four years.
“I think it’s great for the kids to get out and see other things than they are used to,” she said. “It’s a big plus. I love the Fencls. If they need me to help, I’m there.”
The Fencls, both retired, were already philanthropists.
“We have been able to give back,” Carol said. “But we wanted to give back and not just write checks.”
And there was the image of that police car at school.
“When Dick came home and told me that story, I felt like I wanted to be involved,” Carol said.
“We feel bad that children growing up in not as good neighborhoods aren’t given the same type of respect and support
in society as children living in the suburbs,” Dick added.
Working with the children of Rothenberg seemed to be the perfect way for them to make a difference and support their belief in the importance of education.
“It gives them exposure to something besides asphalt and exhaust,” Dick said.
It’s not just the children who benefit.
“They are great kids,” Dick said with a smile. “I can’t walk in their school without someone giving me a hug.”
Dick and Carol Fencl established a donor advised fund at GCF in 2001.
Originally published in the 2006 Annual Report to the Community
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
Our team invests the time to get to know you so we can support your goals, and we have the right tools and connections to amplify the impact of every gift you make. Today, we’re leading the charge toward a more vibrant Greater Cincinnati for everyone – now, and for generations to come. Contact us at 513-241-2880 to discuss how creating or giving to your fund can prepare you to make a greater difference in your community, regardless of what tomorrow brings.
Visit our website for more information on year-end giving with GCF, including the Charitable IRA Rollover.
*GCF cannot provide legal or tax advice. Please contact your tax or financial advisor to discuss how charitable giving will affect your personal circumstances.
As we wrap up 2019, we look back at our very impactful year of moving forward on many fronts! As your community foundation, Greater Cincinnati Foundation (GCF) is grateful for the support of and partnerships with our donors, nonprofit partners and community stakeholders to bring about a more equitable future for everyone in our region.