Michele Carey, a native of Temperance, Michigan (just across the border from Toledo, Ohio), received her bachelor’s degree in English from University of Toledo. She and her husband Matt live in Mount Lookout; their son and daughter graduated from Walnut Hills High School and attend The Ohio State University.
Share details of your personal and professional background that helped to guide your path to Greater Cincinnati Foundation (GCF).
I moved to Cincinnati for a graduate school program in women’s studies at the University of Cincinnati, with the goal of becoming a college professor. My associates in the program were involved in community advocacy, and that shifted me to more of an action orientation, which is why I became a crisis volunteer for Women Helping Women and worked as a housing tester at Housing Opportunities Made Equal. Both of those experiences made me deeply aware that “safety” and “home” are not just words or concepts, but are things that people struggle for every day. These experiences helped hone my sense of compassion for people who are fighting so hard every day for these basic needs that I had taken for granted.
Early in my career I worked at The Chicago Community Trust, the second oldest community foundation nationally. It was an experience that opened my eyes to the power a community foundation has to bring people together and activate a community. Having recently moved to Chicago for my husband’s job, working at the trust I felt instantly plugged in to regional issues and on the pulse of everything happening in the community. That was addictive, and when we moved back to Cincinnati I knew that I wanted to work at GCF.
What are your professional and community affiliations, and how do they inform your role at GCF?
I am a connector—I love seeing people connect with other people, places and ideas. I am the first to share a recipe, ask for a book recommendation and attempt matching-making people I think should know each other. At GCF, we connect people with purpose, and likewise, I seek volunteer roles that do the same. I have an entrepreneurial spirit, a curiosity about creating things. I feel like life is an experimental lab. When you put things into play or you connect people you get to see what happens, and that satisfies that curiosity for me.
I serve on the board of Cincinnati Public Radio (CPR). I love public radio because it connects us to each other through sharing news information, ideas and culture. I’m excited for the current plan CPR has to create a vibrant new physical space that will bring to life what we hear on the radio. More than just radio and podcasts, CPR will be an inviting space to exchange ideas, listen to live music and connect as members of our community.
Who or what is your inspiration, and in what ways has that driven your passion for GCF’s mission?
I am inspired by my grandmothers. From one grandmother I learned the value of volunteerism and putting others first. Blanche was the consummate volunteer who was always making meals for others, driving elderly people to church and appointments, and teaching teenagers in Sunday School. She was never too busy to help anyone who needed assistance.
From the other, I learned the value of independence and an entrepreneurial spirit. Ida ran her own business — a 1950s confectionary and soda fountain. In the ’70s, as a widow perceiving changing business trends, she upset the applecart in Temperance, Michigan, by being the first local business to sell beer and wine. The fact that her husband’s grandfather, founding pastor at the Baptist church, was key in the naming and culture of the town made this an AP wire story that her friends in England mailed her for her scrapbook.
What are three things about you that most people don’t know?
- I am an only child.
- It took me five years to complete college because I paid for it myself. I held a variety of jobs during that time, including working summers at Cedar Point. During the school year I jockeyed several jobs in retail, waiting tables and as an evening receptionist at a travel agency.
- I had a college internship at Walt Disney World, where I learned the value of exceptional customer service.
What do you like most about working at GCF?
At GCF I’ve found my professional home and community family. I am so fortunate to get out of bed every day excited to come to work, and I love connecting with professional advisors and their clients. Being at GCF, I have the pleasure and privilege of working with colleagues, donors and community members who care deeply about our region. It’s very satisfying to be a part of something bigger than myself. I am proud of the work we are doing – especially our commitment to racial equity.