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News & Events

News & Event

The Gift of Time

It was the police car outside a school that shook him up. 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 the police car outside a school that shook him up. 

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