When I received a call a few weeks ago notifying me that I had been selected as one of three finalists for the 2017 Cincinnati Rotary Jefferson Award, I was honored. I had heard of the award the past 4 years after receiving a letter saying I had been nominated but not selected as a finalist. I wasn’t sure who nominated me but told Bill from the Rotary that I was excited and looking forward to learning more about being a finalist. Over the next two weeks, I was contacted by Selena Reder from WKRC who was producing the videos for the finalists that would be shown at the lunch. I thought, how exciting, I will have a video that depicts what I do. What I didn’t realize is that in three to four minutes you can’t even cover a 24 hour period of what I or volunteers at Heartfelt Tidbits do. You can gain an understanding of the overall mission but the work would take a few days to describe.
You’d have to begin with getting to know the 16,000 people that have come to rely on Heartfelt Tidbits for some type of support. To put this into perspective, in 2008, year one, we supported a hundred or so people and at the end of 2015, we were supporting 12,000. Growth is an understatement. This support could be English, citizenship, acculturation support, art, sewing, driving lessons, gardening, hospital visits, wedding celebrations, school assistance, assisting with a car accident, college visits, referrals to our partners for services that they provide or just a phone call to say hi.
Next, you’d have to spend time in your car visiting the partner sites where we hold programs and classes. Trust me when I say this is the best part. When I walk into a partner site, I tell myself that if I ever give this role up, I want to work or volunteer for each one of them. Who are these great partners? Wave Pool Art Center, Tikkun Farms, Northminster Presbyterian Church, Roberts Elementary, Education and Community Matters, Academy of World Language, Reading Lockland Presbyterian Church, Ascension Lutheran Church, Franciscan Community Garden, Turner Farms, Win4Work, RefugeeConnect, ArtWorks, Ohio State Extension, countless galleries, parks, etc.
Then there are the volunteers and the volunteer groups. How many volunteers do we have? I’m not sure of the exact number because tracking those names and number on a single spreadsheet has fallen to the bottom of my “to do” list. For our Friday English and citizenship class we have 17 volunteers that show up every week to help 45-65 students. We have volunteers that coordinate in neighborhoods, tutoring in libraries, driving kids and adults to the multitude of places they need to get to, adopting families, visiting hospital patients, advocating for refugee and immigrant rights, fundraising, teaching art, quilting and sewing.
When I attended the Cint. Rotary Clubs luncheon on March 2, 2017 with my family I couldn’t wait to see the video. My husband asked why, I said “I want to see how Selena managed to take the 25 minutes or so of me talking and then reducing it to a 5 minute or less video to tell my story about Heartfelt Tidbits.” When I saw the video, it brought me to tears. Selena did a fantastic job in condensing a story that’s larger than life, so many moving pieces and parts and at times quite overwhelming, into a beautiful narrative that made sense.
While I didn’t win the local award I found myself satisfied to be considered and reminded of what brought me to this point. One single family, with a story that moved and transformed mine and my families life forever. For this I’ll be forever grateful.