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Northern Kentucky Do-Gooders Make Their Community a Better Place

Thirteen individuals and companies received Do Good awards from United Way of Greater Cincinnati Tuesday, recognizing their great work improving the Northern Kentucky community.
December 14, 2020

FORT MITCHELL, Ky. — Do Gooders are individuals or advocates serving their communities and the people in them by giving back in small to big ways, said Amanda Greenwell, director of United Way’s Northern Kentucky Area Center. The Do Good award was created in 2019 by the Northern Kentucky office of United Way of Greater Cincinnati to recognize individuals and organizations doing good things in Northern Kentucky.

“They help change lives, alter perceptions and build awareness,” she said. “Just by lending a hand, giving of their time or initiating something new, they “Do Good” in the lives of others. Their efforts and passion in going above and beyond help strengthen the communities where we live, work and gather.”

This year’s winners include:

Gina Byrd, retired Family Resource Coordinator at Dayton Independent Schools: Byrd retired in 2020 after 34 years with Dayton Schools. Gina’s job was to ensure students have necessities such as food, clothing, shoes, and school supplies their families cannot afford. She also sends “power-packs” home with the neediest students on the weekend so they have food to eat. But she doesn’t just provide them with the bare necessities – she gives them hugs, treats and love like they are her own family. This past Christmas, she made sure EVERY student at Lincoln Elementary had gifts under the tree.

Rob Sanders, Family Resource Coordinator at Bellevue Independent School District: Sanders has worked for Bellevue Independent Schools for 15 years and devotes much of his time to helping students and their families with personal and family needs, He is an extremely dedicated employee who has made a huge impact in several Northern Kentucky communities. He is recognized as a KY Colonel and is a recipient of the “Fred Award” given by the Bellevue Education Foundation. He has mentored, led and coached for almost 30 years.

Jensen Linder, Beechwood Independent Schools Class of 2020: Linder founded the Unified Tigers club at Beechwood to help disabled students, providing a sports outlet opportunity for students to get involved. The club meets weekly and conducts various fundraisers. In February, he and two others won the won the 2020 KHSAA State Bowling Unified Championship in Louisville. Jensen is a leader in the classroom and on the field, playing Beechwood football and serving as a Fellowship of Christian Athletes leader.

Linda Villa Passione, advocate: “Do Good” is an understatement for Linda Vila Passione. She connects families with numerous critical resources for basic needs and serves as an advocate for Hispanic families in the NKY community. What makes her special are the things she does to go above and beyond, such as making sure families have food, buying shoes for children and using her own money to pay someone else’s rent. Her community projects always have learning experiences for all involved. In addition to the families and communities she serves, her fellow mankind surely experiences a true learning experience in humanity.

Cincinnati Bell, Kimberly Barrett and team: Barret and the Cincinnati Bell team have been instrumental in the Northern Kentucky Digital Equity Initiative, an effort to ensure children have access to the internet for remote learning. The project currently funds service for 1,200 homes with 2,600 students in five different counties and 16 different school districts for twelve months of service.

Jeff Richardson, CEO and Founder 3R Fund for Immigrants: Richardson developed an emergency fundraising campaign to help with the urgent needs faced by the Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky immigrant community. Many Immigrant families are experiencing extreme hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic, facing unemployment, risks of eviction, health issues, food insecurity, and more. The majority of these families do not qualify for federal or state assistance programs, nor the stimulus package passed by Congress.

Jim Parker, Northern Kentucky University: Parker is the Supervisor for Building Services at NKU, but he means so much more to NKU than his job title. He serves on the board of FUEL NKU, the campus food pantry, and always makes himself available to pitch in for FUEL NKU projects. He also regularly volunteers to play music at the Benevolent Society events. During a Care Closet NKU pop-up event at 2019 Thanksgiving, he showed up on his day off to pick up clothing from the Care Closet and bring it to NKU -- all before volunteering during FUEL NKU's annual Thanksgiving dinner for students.

Billy and Neena Volk, volunteers: Billy and Neena Volk are responsible for creating Whiskey and Wishes, a local 501c3. Founded in 2019, Whiskey and Wishes couples a love for great whiskey and giving back to create "cask-strength kindness” throughout the Northern Kentucky and Greater Cincinnati region. Through a collective giving model, that donates 100% of membership dollars, Whiskey and Wishes leverages their sources of individuals to make impactful grants, benefiting non-profit organizations. In its first year, Whiskey and Wishes members organized and granted out $50,000 to local non-profits. Of the $50,000 grants awarded, $20,000 went to UpSpring and Back the Heroes, directly supporting COVID-19 relief. The remaining $30,000 was awarded to Covington Partners to work directly with 200 at-risk students with high academic needs providing wrap-around support services to students and families through Community Learning Centers.

Bishop Darin Miller, Word of Life Christian Fellowship Church: Bishop Miller, pastor of Word of Life Christian Fellowship Church, has fed the community the past two months, providing nearly 20,000 pounds of food to local residents of Covington, including hot meals on First Sundays. Bishop Miller also performs Random Acts of Kindness.

Teo Jordan, Covington Independent Public Schools student: Jordan was bagging groceries at his part-time job when he overheard an elderly customer’s dilemma: the man didn’t have enough money to pay for his food. Jordan, a high school senior, took it upon himself to offer up the cash, handing over $35 to ensure the man didn’t go home hungry. “He came to the line with the groceries, only $100, and I was just thinking, I’ve got $35 in my pocket, I’m just going to give to him [to] get all the groceries he wants,” Jordan told WCPO news outlet.

Sr. Cindy Ferenbach, volunteer: Sr. Cindy Fehrenbach has been a long-term volunteer at Brighton Center, helping with the Clothing Closet and Choice Food Pantry. During COVID-19, she helped to serve 4 times the normal number. She has taken on responsibilities to run the back-end of food distribution and has been training new volunteers throughout this crisis. She always goes above and beyond to accommodate our customers in whatever way she can. She asked to be scheduled during the pandemic so she could serve her community in a time of heightened need. She learns all the volunteer roles so she is adequately prepared to answer any questions brought up by customers and other volunteers. She treats everyone with respect and dignity and is always willing to jump in.

Linda Rawe, volunteer: Rawe is the former Board President and former Program Committee chair at DCCH but continues to serve on the Executive and Program committees, on the Halo Committee (supports initiatives to help the kids) and is a leader for the largest fund raiser (Swing into Spring). She supports programs not only with her time and leadership, but she is famous for bringing staff backed treats, such as cookies and candies.

Ron Salerno, volunteer: Ron and his group from Ethicon, visit Holly Hill Child and Family Solutions, a residential treatment facility for girls from the age of 11 to 17 that have been physically, emotionally, or sexually abused, on Halloween to decorate the hallway and boardroom for the girls to have a place to "go trick or treating". Staff will line the dark, decorated hallway and pass out candy to the kids. The kids dress up and really love the "Haunted Hallway."

Become a Do Gooder

Become a Do-Gooder yourself by volunteering through the United Way of Greater Cincinnati. Our portal will help match you up with the right fit for you.

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