There are so many good causes in the world. From raising funds for juvenile diabetes research to helping low-income pet owners access veterinary care, there are hundreds of good causes that are being supported by local nonprofits. And passionate, fantastic volunteers—who care deeply for their causes—are supporting those nonprofits.
Each year, we reach out to local charities to ask for their Charitable All-Stars—the standout people who donate their time and energy in ways that exceed what was asked. These are people who work passionately for what they care about while asking for nothing in return. The following pages introduce people who have gone above and beyond for their causes—meet the 2020 Charitable All-Stars.
Steve O’Bryan says JDRF is a great organization that has made a considerable difference in the lives of those with Type 1 diabetes. He should know.
He watched the treatment his cousin received for Type 1 diabetes in the 1960s. And he’s seen the improvements and less-intrusive treatments for Type 1 diabetes patients for his oldest and youngest daughters.
“I have three daughters and my oldest and my youngest both have Type 1 diabetes,” says O’Bryan. “And I think they’re in a good place because of an organization such as [JDRF]. It is the reason I am very supportive of the organization.”
O’Bryan supports the organization by serving as the treasurer/finance chairman on JDRF’s board of directors. He also helps to raise money through the foundation’s various fundraisers, such as One Walk, Cincinnatians of the Year Gala, Bourbon & BowTie Bash and its Ride to Cure Diabetes events.
“My wife and I have gotten much more involved in the [Ride to Cure Diabetes] program,” says O’Bryan. He and his wife recently rode their tandem bike 98 miles in Amelia Island, Florida, to raise money for the local chapter of JDRF, he says.
During his nearly 10 years with foundation O’Bryan has raised $40,000 for Type 1 diabetes research, says Rachel Ingram, the foundation’s development coordinator. And it’s money that is being spent wisely, says O’Bryan, senior director tax administration at Macy’s Inc.
“I’m a finance guy so I do think in terms of their efficiency measures and things like that,” he says. “I do think they are an outstanding organization and I think it’s unequivocal that [JDRF] has made a difference.”
– Eric Spangler
Teresa Tanner decided at 50 years old that it was time for a change. In her years as a C-level executive with Fifth Third Bank she integrated her passion for social issues into efforts such as committing to renewable power and creating its Maternity Concierge program. While she doesn’t know exactly what the next stage of her career will entail, she is inspired to focus on community betterment, women’s issues and other social causes.
“I really got to a point where I was like, ‘Wow, I’d really love to do this kind of stuff full time,’” she says, “so I could wake up every day and think about making a difference in other people’s lives.”
To that end, she continues to chair the boards of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Greater Cincinnati and ArtsWave while considering new ways to make a difference. Her work at the Ronald McDonald House has been driven by personal experience—her daughter Kayla was diagnosed with leukemia as a toddler. Kayla is healthy today but Tanner says she found hope during Kayla’s treatment through meeting other families who had gone through the same experience.
“Ronald McDonald House is just such a compliment to that physical healing,” she says. The environment allows children and parents to find comfort and support in each other, she says. “So often people think about it as food and lodging but it’s much more than that. It’s about relating to other parents that understand where you’re at.”
Now, Tanner is taking time to seek out new opportunities where her skills can do the most good.
“I’m really excited about it,” she says. “I know there’s something bigger coming.”
– Kevin Michell
A move downtown six years ago motivated Jackie Bryson to devote more of her time to improving Cincinnati.
“When we moved downtown [my husband, Gary, and I’s] whole philosophy was about giving back,” she says, with both of them volunteering with organizations like the Downtown Residents Council, the Cincinnati USA Visitor Center and ArtsWave.
It was at Keep Cincinnati Beautiful, though, that Executive Director Jonathan Adee says Bryson really made her mark, helping the organization grow its unrestricted funding from $91,000 to $196,000 in just two years.
Much of that growth can be attributed to Bryson’s work with the Cincy Block Party, the nonprofit’s annual fundraiser.
“It’s interesting because Keep Cincinnati Beautiful just celebrated 40 years last year. And in [almost] 40 years they’d never had a fundraiser,” says Bryson. When Keep Cincinnati Beautiful decided to create an event three years ago, Bryson (who had recently joined the board) immediately jumped in to become the liaison between the nonprofit and the board. In addition to encouraging others to get involved, Bryson collects silent auction items from companies through the city, assists with the planning, volunteers wherever she’s needed and spreads the word about the good things Keep Cincinnati Beautiful does.
“I’ve got a lot of energy and a lot of skills and I’m more than willing to share that with organizations that need it,” she says.
– Corinne Minard
The last thing Sue Burreson, president of Goodwill’s Service Guild, wants to do is take credit for all the good things that Ohio Valley Goodwill Industries does. That credit should go to others in the Goodwill organization, she says.
“I don’t deserve this,” says Burreson of the Charitable All-Star honor. “The co-managers of the [Treasure Island] Gift Shop should be the ones honored or just the whole organization should be honored because all the volunteers that give of their time and talents and money. I’m just a representative of all of them.”
Not only does Burreson represent all the good things that the volunteers in the organization do for people she also represents the Service Guild itself by serving as its president for the past seven years.
Burreson plans to be president of the service guild again next year because she believes so much in Goodwill’s mission to support the people with disabilities and the veterans the organization serves.
“Its just exciting to be able to do something to help some very special people,” Burreson says.
Not only does Burreson help those special people financially by donating the profits of the Treasure Island Gift Shop to the Goodwill organization, she also rolls up her sleeves and helps others by serving food during the group’s Thanksgiving and Christmas luncheons and helping with the home-cooked meal served each year to veterans.
She does it not only because she believes in Goodwill’s mission, but it also makes her happy to help. “Volunteering is a very healthy thing to do,” she says. “People who volunteer are just happy people, productive people.”
Plus, it’s good to stay busy, she says. “Volunteering is just very rewarding,” says Burreson. “It gives you a real purpose once you’ve retired and aren’t working anymore.”
– Eric Spangler
Mike McNamara is hesitant to take credit for the work he does with St. Vincent de Paul and is more willing to list several people whose work he is inspired by before accepting praise directed at him. But when he talks about those who St. Vincent de Paul’s programs help, it demonstrates just how much he is doing for people in need.
McNamara has been volunteering for St. Vincent de Paul since 2006, which began with a moment during Sunday mass at Nativity Parish in Pleasant Ridge when a voice came to him that said, “I want you to deal with the poor directly.”
“And I go, ‘That’s not what I’m looking to do,’” recalls McNamara with a laugh. But after accompanying a friend already volunteering for St. Vincent de Paul on home visits, McNamara realized that it was what he was supposed to do.
Since then, McNamara has been an instrumental part of two programs: St. Vincent de Paul’s Getting Ahead initiative for helping Cincinnatians dealing with poverty, which is a 16-week program of providing personalized guidance and assistance for a path to betterment, and the HELP Program for citizens returning from incarceration.
McNamara gives hope to people who can often be neglected and forgotten by society by helping them move forward and not be defined by their situation. That aid runs the gamut from assisting with finding housing, furniture and work to counseling and speaking with the people in these programs, giving them the dignity and support they deserve.
Simply, McNamara is the type of person we should all strive to be—selfless, kind, generous with his time and always willing to help.
“I’m just a small example,” he says. Would that more of us could be such an example as well.
– Kevin Michell
Ann Hill has always loved animals. While most of her professional experience centered on construction (she ran a construction company for more than 23 years), her love of animals led her to become the executive director and co-founder of Pets in Need of Greater Cincinnati, the region’s only low-income veterinary clinic.
“Helping people take care of their pets is just incredible. It’s incredibly important for two reasons: one, for a lot of our clients their pet is all they have as far as family,” she says. “To keep that pet healthy and in their home is just terribly important… Doing that keeps them out of shelters. If an animal gets sick and the person can’t afford to take care of it, it’s going to get surrendered.”
While working with other local animal nonprofits, Hill saw how much the community needed such a clinic. Today, Pets in Need serves approximately 1,800 families and close to 4,000 pets.
And to keep the clinic running, Hill does whatever is needed at the moment. Some of her responsibilities include grant writing, taking care of the nonprofit’s financials, strategic planning, fundraising, event planning, human resources, organizing the clinic’s upcoming addition and renovation, and more.
“I think my favorite part [of the nonprofit] is just when I’m at the clinic and seeing the effect that this organization has had on people,” she says. “It can be something as simple as a dog with a bad skin condition but it’s so upsetting for the pet owner and [we’re] able to say, ‘It’s OK, we can help you.’”
– Corinne Minard