Tuesday, September 28, 2010

What We Learned At This Week's Meeting

I hope you didn't miss this week's meeting...if you did, you may have missed what some called "One of our best meetings yet"! Here's the synopsis...

Today we heard from Nora Stanger, whom among her many accomplishments is currently serving as the guidance counselor of Miami Valley Christian Academy. Nora shared with us about her Appalachian upbringing in which she lived in extreme poverty in every sense of the word. "Run down" is a nice way to describe the picture she showed us of her childhood home. Her mom was the first to divorce in her family and was therefore disowned by them and her father abandoned Nora and her siblings at a very early age. They were so poor that many times they went three days at a time with no food and often woke up so weak they could not even stand on their frail, shaky legs. Nora's sisters were often abused (even told they were only good for the purpose of being prostitutes).

As you might guess, tempers flared due to these extreme, inhumane conditions. People shamed them with such phrases as “my daddy paid for your lunch”, “you are white trash”, “you are lazy and should get a job” and there were even teachers who gossiped about their situation. Nora even candidly shared how she even used to hate folks bringing Christmas gifts because they always seemed to do it more for themselves. They would never stop and ask how they were doing or even look them in the eyes and talk with them like humans.

Nora told us of two kinds of shame. One kind “we should never shake” is shame from breaking our moral code. However, there's a shame “you want to put away from you” which comes from being pressed down in life so much that it feels like you are being held under water and gasping for a single breath. Nora also told us that folks in poverty do not feel valued, cannot dream and especially can not envision themselves as successful. She spoke of how men who had broken spirits when their ability to provide was taken away.

After all of this heartfelt setup, Nora shared her story of success and hope. Believing that education was a requirement and not an option, Nora's mom read to them and taught them as much as she could and even started a 4H club. She told of how her mom walked and drove them to the book mobile any time it was in town. Nora's mother insisted the children go to college and many not only went but earned advanced degrees. Nora's own mother also earned a college degree! Somewhat jokingly Nora commented that her mom's “gift” was the ability to deny reality. 

Nora's message for us was that as human beings who live in a community, we ought to be champions for one another otherwise we would not survive. Her definition of a champion is “one who would fight for you even when you can't fight for yourself”. Nora believes we are all created for a purpose and that purpose is good. She defined Financial Poverty as “not having enough $ resources to meet basic needs” and Mind Poverty as a state of mind that diminishes or depletes the value of a person...she commented this is the most widespread poverty.

At the end of her talk Nora challenged us with several ideas...
  1. When we are broken broken (like a bone) we can become stronger when we are healed. Yet we may need someone to help us realize we are or can be stronger. Will you be that person?
  2. There should be room at the community table for all. People need to belong within a community with dignity, adventure, accomplishments and successes. When we diminish others we diminish ourselves.
  3. Ask yourself, “What do I bring to add to the feast?” We are not a real community until everyone participates in the community.
  4. Because people took a risk in this shy, dirty, little girl (Nora) many lives have been touched. Think of the many lives we are losing in our community.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

What We Learned At This Week's Meeting

Today we heard from LtCol. Rick Klinker of the USMC. He was a navy aviator, presidential helicopter pilot, squadron commander, Senior Marine JROTC instructor (which he began) and had many other accomplishments. In our presence, we was wearing a badge reflecting the Presidential emblem because he was in direct support of President Reagan (whom he referred to as an unbelievable gentleman). After living all over the states, he moved back to Ripley Ohio so his son could finish high school and “have a home town to remember”. Since our tax dollars pay military and tactical support for the Presidents he thought it best to focus on this topic for our meeting. He shared with us many interesting facts such as some helicopters take off at random times from the White House so nobody knows when an official is on them. He explained how much less expensive it is to transport a President by helicopter rather than motorcade since with a motorcade there are so many factors involved in shutting down roadways, paying police overtime, etc. Usually the helicopters travel in packs of 3 and play a shell game which makes it harder to get to the President. About 700 men and women are required for transport support. Much gear is taken on these flights. The president never travels in any foreign vehicles when he goes overseas. Everything is transported across the ocean. A couple of helicopters are flown over early and flown for 20 hours before the President is allowed to fly in them. Much is done to ensure our country does not lose a President. Even fuel trucks are chemically tested, locked and an MP is stationed on the truck. The planning and logistics are staggering and it is quite seamless as a marine will show up on the scene and coordinate the process. It was interesting to learn that every President has a double who travels with him and usually gets off the plane first, especially when there is a threat. The President and Vice President never fly in the same aircraft.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

What We Learned At This Week's Meeting

Today we heard from Billi Koonz the Executive Director of Clermont Community Services, Inc., a community action agency serving Clermont County. Their goal is to get families back on their feet and work through the barriers to that goal. They run the James Sauls Homeless Shelter (since 2004 previously ran by Salvation Army), offer help for pediatric and dental care, administrate the HEAP Program (which provides electric, oil and propane vouchers), help with senior home repair and run a youth services program. They receive funding from a variety of sources (90% of which is public funding). In December 2008 they moved into their new homeless shelter building. The old shelter capacity was 17 and the new is 38 but their funding is limited and they may only be able to handle 30 in the upcoming months. There is only 1 staff person to handle day-to-day operations. They can handle mothers with children in the women’s dorm but cannot put men with children in the men’s dorm. The shelter has 2 family units which is becoming a bigger need. They served 369 clients in 2009 and have served 306 clients so far this year. Unfortunately, the shelter has had to turn away 413 people this year. There is no shelter in Brown County which further increases their load.

We also head from Leanne Townes who is the Homeless Shelter Coordinator. She shared that they have rules like curfew and no alcohol or drugs. The residents all have chores and they must respect others. They have asked folks to leave for not following the rules. Generally the residents can stay for up to 60 days and the shelter helps them get up to Workforce One for job assistance. The shelter does have funds to help them get into an apartment. The clients range from all ages and some even have college degrees. What was interesting do learn is that these folks are not the “stereotypical homeless”. The mental health and recovery board is very helpful to the shelter as well. The shelter has seen 54 kids this year and they generally enroll them in Batavia Local Schools. They get a lot of volunteers bringing food from the community and there are some who even come and cook breakfast. There are many success stories including people who return and volunteer.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

What We Learned At This Week's Meeting

Today our spirits were "lifted" by Chris Cleary of Cincinnati Weight Lifting which is located in Fairfield, OH. This organization helps teaches proper weight lifting techniques such as the "snatch" and the "clean and jerk" and promotes a sport where there is an extremely low risk of injury (1 out of every 100k participant hours). Cincinnati Weight Lifting isn't into body building and toning but rather proper technique which is applicable in training for sports of all sorts. Chris told us of Ohio's rich history in weight lifting. In 1970 a Russian man came to Ohio and set a record by lifting 500+ pounds over his head!! Chris says weight lifting is not a size restrictive sport (there are many weight classes) and this sport is definitely not just for the young. This club even has a 62-year-old member; and on the national scene, there is a weight class for 85-92 year olds! Cincinnati Weight Lifting is hosting the "American Open" at the Eastgate Holiday Inn December 10-12. Details can be found on here.