CINCINNATI (Feb. 21, 2023) – When she was growing up, Tocqueville Society member Jodi Geiser didn't have to look far to see the impact one person can have on another person's life.
Several members of her extended family joined religious orders, took vows of poverty and served impoverished communities. And then there was her second cousin, Ruth "Cookie" Vogelpohl, who in 1981 started a meal program in Over-the-Rhine that a few years later became Our Daily Bread Soup Kitchen & Social Center.
As a teen, Jodi helped with those meals. The experience taught her that many people lacked the privileges she had been afforded. And that she could elicit a smile from people just by listening to their stories. And that she could make a difference.
She still carries those lessons with her.
"My personal passion is around human services," she says. "I get so much joy out of volunteering and just making our community better."
That was true throughout her working career, which began as a tax accountant for Arthur Andersen & Co. And it's been true since 2020, when she retired as senior partner in the Cincinnati office of EY. She says she was fortunate to work for employers that believed that to have a strong and vibrant business, you need a strong and vibrant community.
Today, in addition to her support of United Way, her efforts to build a strong community include:
As for United Way, her introduction to the organization came decades ago when she participated in workforce campaigns and volunteer activities while at Arthur Andersen. She's been a staunch supporter and volunteer ever since.
Today, "What I love about United Way is that it's really community-driven. (It's listening to) people who are experiencing poverty. They're saying, 'This is what I need to overcome this barrier.' It's not that they don't work hard or they're not trying. What's so exciting is we're focused on barrier removal and not just putting on a Band-Aid. This is what I call community-driven empowerment, which is going to be the game-changer."
For nearly eight years, Jodi has been a board member of the UWGC Foundation, which helps maintain the financial viability of United Way. She says the COVID-19 pandemic underscored the importance of having a strong foundation "so we make sure people are still being served no matter what's happening in the community."
She also has played a major role in boosting one of United Way's signature programs.
Years ago, while serving on United Way's Financial Stability Impact Council, she discovered the Free Tax Prep program needed volunteers. She knew EY's accountants could prepare returns. So, with the permission of EY's then-managing partner Julia Poston (a longtime United Way supporter, former board chair and fellow Tocqueville member), Jodi initiated a Free Tax Prep corporate partnership that continues today. EY partners with Kroger, GE Aviation and Nehemiah Manufacturing to provide tax prep services at several sites.
Jodi's volunteer experiences have reinforced the lessons she learned years ago at Our Daily Bread.
"People may be short of financial resources but they're not poor of spirit," she says. "They just face barriers that need to be removed."
That's the focus of United Way. "That's the leadership we need in today's world," she says.
"I like to experience things that make me uncomfortable or that challenge me. It mostly shows up in the way (husband James Miller) and I travel. I like Guatemala, the rainforest or building houses for Habitat for Humanity. I have no problem going to Nicaragua and sleeping in a place that may have only cold running water. I'd rather be out in nature with animals. My friends think I'm a little weird."
Tocqueville members enjoy meeting other philanthropic leaders at signature events such as cocktail receptions, luncheons and educational forums.
Each exclusive event is designed to give members an engaging, up-close look at how your investment is changing lives.