Category Archives: Hamilton Community Foundation

Bike path section to be dedicated Wednesday

The Hamilton Community Foundation will celebrate the expansion of the Great Miami River Recreation Trail with a dedication ceremony at 5 p.m. Wednesday, July 1.

A project of the City of Hamilton, this local part of the trail has also received funding from the Hamilton Community Foundation and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Clean Ohio Fund.

In 2001, the Foundation celebrated its Golden Anniversary by providing a series of Legacy Gifts to the community.  These long lasting, significant gifts further demonstrated the Foundation’s commitment to improving the quality of life in the community.

The gifts included the Michael J. Colligan Lodge, Foundation Field, Lentil Park and the entrance sign to the City of Hamilton.  The local expansion of the Great Miami Recreation Trail is the final Golden Anniversary project to be completed.

The ten foot wide asphalt trail conforms to ADA standards, with no elevation greater than 5 percent and is suitable for runners, walkers, bicyclists and rollerbladers.

Work started in the fall of 2014 on this two mile trail connector trail which connects two existing trails. This connector trail is now finished, stretching from an now go from Rentschler Forest MetroPark to downtown Hamilton and continue south along the Great Miami all the way to Joyce Park.

The connector trail is Phase II of a $5 million project.  Phase I, the ten mile stretch from Rentschler Forest MetroPark to Canal Road, was dedicated in June 2012.

 It is all part of The Miami Valley Recreation Trail, the nation’s largest network of paved, off street trails.  MVRT encompasses more than 300 miles of trails connecting ten counties.

The new connector trail entrance is off Canal Road near Allison Avenue. To get there, take Ohio 4 North; turn left on Allison Avenue and proceed to end of the road. Turn left on Canal Road and the trail will be on the right. 

Multiple use trails are Ohioans’ favorite outdoor recreation facilities. Ohioans want more trails close to home and they want those trails to be connected, according to an Ohio Department of Natural Resources study.


HEY! Hamilton! Shop

Scholarship applications now available on-line

The Hamilton Community Foundation has moved all its scholarship applications to an online system.

Graduating Seniors in the Class of 2015 in the greater Hamilton area can create an online account, complete their application, save their work and can go back later to revise if needed.

When students have finalized their online application they are automatically matched to the scholarships for which they may be considered.

Through this system, students complete one application and are automatically matched with one or more of our scholarship opportunities for which they qualify.

All scholarships require students to have a 2.5 GPA or higher to be eligible.

Many scholarships available ranging from $500 to $10,000 are available.

Deadline is Feb. 6, 2015.  You will not be able to change or upload additional information after the application deadline.


Student Explore — and Find– Success in Foundation Program

Hamilton Community Foundation

Research from multiple sources indicates that students whose parents did not attend college may be less academically prepared, have less knowledge of how to apply for college and financial aid and may have more difficulty acclimating to college once enrolled.

Hamilton Community Foundation’s Youth Exploring Success (YES) program was started in 2010 to meet the needs of first generation college students. The program is unique because although YES Advocate Lindsey Lassiter, MA, works for the Hamilton Community Foundation, her offices are at Hamilton City Schools. The Foundation pays Lassiter’s salary and all the program’s expenses.

The college access program reached a major milestone in 2014 when its ideal outcome was achieved: 100 percent of the 25 YES participants from Hamilton High School’s graduating Class of 2014 are college-bound this fall.

The aim is to start students in the program when they are freshmen and continue through senior year. Lassiter, the only employee working directly with the program, spends two days a week at the Hamilton Freshmen School and three days a week at Hamilton High School.

Audrey Amburgy was a YES student who graduated in 2014. She is now at Xavier University majoring in radiologic technology.

She started in YES as a freshman. Unsure about a possible college major later on, she took several tests assessing interests and skills. “Miss Lassiter works with you to set a goal on what you want to work on each year,” she said.

She eventually decided to pursue radiology. “My mom was diagnosed with an aneurism that was discovered by MRI,” she said. She said that Lassiter then helped her choose preparatory high school science courses. “Miss Lassiter was a mentor to me. When I had trouble in geometry she would meet me for lunch and help me study,” she said. “We started looking into radiology schools. We took a group campus visit to Xavier, and that is where I decided to go!” she said, adding that her parents are both excited about her starting college.

“I found out through the YES program that you can actually become something….you can actually do this! I would like to come back someday in the future and talk to the YES students at the high school and provide the same inspiration to them,” she said.

This year there were 82 students in the YES program at Hamilton High School. Lassiter says that each school year, there is an increase in the number of YES students, their level of participation and even their parent’s participation.

Students admitted to YES must express a sincere desire to go to college. There are also expectations of them throughout high school. “When they come to school, they are responsible, respectful and ready to learn,” says Lassiter, noting this is also expected of all students at the Hamilton City Schools. “I need to have high expectations for them because there are high expectations in life,” she says.

Most of her time with the students is spent one-on-one as she listens and responds to their individual concerns, challenges and goals. Lassiter says that she notices progress in freshmen YES participants as the year rolls along. “Goals are more salient to them,” she says. “They are more aware that college is an option for them and what possibilities exist in the college realm.”

Victoria Fernandez is a 2014 Hamilton High School graduate who was in the YES program for four years. This fall she is headed to the University of California to study linguistics.

“It put me on the right track,” she says, though she really did not understand the program’s purpose when she was a freshman. ”Miss Lassiter was always asking me, ‘what are you interested in?’“ Fernandez said after finally deciding on her career path, the YES program was instrumental to her in completing forms and applications. She was accepted to all seven colleges to which she applied.

Fernandez says the YES program is so important for first generation college students. “A lot of kids whose parents did not go to college think they will not be able to go. The program lets them know there is help financially,” she says.      


“The program is designed to recruit them in the 9th grade and follow them through the 12th grade,” she says, adding that student needs change as they progress through high school.

Lassiter helps freshmen and sophomores explore personal interests that could lead to a paid career. “I ask them, ‘What do you like? What are your favorite classes?’ Then we do career research and explore various professions.” She assists juniors and seniors with ACT and SAT test registration, college applications and financial aid forms. Each spring she helps college-bound seniors “sort through the barrage of info related to finances, housing, meal plans and books.”

Lassiter is also a resource for parents with questions as their children navigate an educational system unfamiliar to them. Lassiter also reaches out to other professionals who can assist her with the student’s various needs, even arranging tutoring if necessary.

YES students at all levels have the opportunity to go on group college visits. They currently visit about eight colleges a year, including the College of Mt. St. Joseph, Wright State University, Xavier, University of Cincinnati and Miami University. This past summer they visited Berea College in Kentucky.

The days grow longer and warmer but Lassiter and the YES program do not take the summer off! “This is a year round program,” says Lassiter. “We have an active book club which meets weekly, and this year we visited Berea College in Kentucky.”

Follow up with YES alumni students continues and 100 percent of those who responded are all still in college. Lassiter says former YES students’ progress will continue to be tracked through the coming years to assess the program’s long term results.

The 2014-15 school year began a new group of freshmen joining YES. Along with the other YES participants, they will receive guidance and support that can change a life – opening the door to higher education and the all choices it provides.

Miami Valley Ballet Theatre creates Dancing Without Limits program

“I would venture to say that most dance companies do not work with people with ‘disabilities,’ and you seem to seek out how you can include them. Thank you for teaching my daughter that everyone can dance. I believe as she grows up, it will allow her to be more accepting of people.”

These are words of gratitude for Michelle Davis of the Miami Valley Ballet Theater (MVBT), from Audra Buckley, whose daughter is in the Dancing without Limits program there. The Hamilton Community Foundation’s $3,000 grant to Dancing without Limits helped fund two dance classes this year for children and adults with disabilities.

The 16 year old dance company relocated to the former Hamilton Journal News Building on Court Street in downtown Hamilton two years ago. The building’s large windows and open spaces made it an ideal fit for a studio. The theater also regularly hosts classes for people in Hamilton and surrounding areas ages two through older adult, in jazz, tap, pointe, modern and musical theater and hosting two public recitals each year starring its students.

“We are extremely proud to be a part of the community of greater Hamilton, a community which has a rich history in supporting the arts,” says Davis. “Hamilton is also a community which supports its citizens with disabilities,” she adds.

This is the first grant the Foundation has made to the MVBT. The Foundation’s grant covered almost half of the costs of the Dancing Without Limits program for a year.

Davis’ idea to bring movement classes here for those living with disabilities stemmed from research she did online about a similar successful program in Boston. Staff of that long-term program have documented outcomes ranging from enhanced self-esteem to increased ability to focus, increased proficiency in distinguishing right from left, following directions, starting and stopping on cue, awareness of body movement patterns and cooperating with others.

The dance instructors for classes are trained to work with those with special needs. The class for children with Autism and Down’s Syndrome includes dance and other kinds of body movement and sometimes incorporating bean bags, balance pods and parachutes. Parents choose to whether be in the classroom or watch the class on a closed circuit monitor in the waiting room.

“Every week is different, every child is different,” says Davis. “The kids are very sensitive to change.” She keeps the music and even the order of songs in the class consistent from week to week.

Davis has a Master’s degree in education and experience teaching creative movement to pre-K classes to children with Autism and Down’s syndrome at Hamilton Public Schools and Westover Preparatory School. Dance and creative movement for this population is not only recreational, it is therapeutic and confidence building, she says.

Emma Dingledein attends the Hamilton Freshmen School and volunteers in MVBT’s class for children with disabilities.

“The experience is absolutely amazing… I think that I learn more from them then they do from me,” she says. “I think dance is pulling them out of their shells. I can’t wait to see what else they do with dance in the future and what else they will teach me.”

The class for adults with disabilities also focuses on creating a love of movement. Students are transported to the downtown Hamilton studio from Liberty Center, a program of the Butler County Board of Developmental Disabilities.

Jody Mann was one of six adults participating in the class this year from Liberty Center.

“Dancing makes me happy and I’m getting my exercise,” Mann says, adding that her favorite part was partnering with other MVBT students this past spring. Six of the adult Developmentally Disabled class members practiced for months with six children from the regular classes at MVBT.  The dance they refined together was presented to at MVBT’s spring recital. All the dancers wore custom made costumes. Brenda Tolson, Habilitation Support Specialist at Liberty Center, says the performance was “the best inclusion of people with development disabilities I have seen in my 41 years doing this work. Instead of just watching the show, they were in the show! There was not a dry eye in the house.”

One of the class participants and performers who uses a wheelchair was able to instead use supportive adaptive equipment, allowing him to be upright during the recital. The spotlight was on him as he danced, and “there was just a total expression of joy,” says Tolson. “He was beaming.”

Another adult student has wanted to dance her whole life, according to her father, and after performing at the recital, ran down the auditorium aisle toward her father, saying, ”Daddy, are you proud of me?”

“Watching the DD adults dance and have their own spotlight was amazing!” said Rhoda Abbott, a mom of one of the dancers. “Their joy was palpable and it warmed my heart to watch them have such a great time dancing. Tissues were needed all around ….”

Connie Mehlman, advocacy coordinator at Liberty Center, says that besides giving these individuals an opportunity to express themselves, other skills reinforced through the dancing program are patience, taking turns and practicing — resulting in an overall sense of accomplishment.

A new session will begin this fall. Mehlman says “I can see our relationship with the MVBT expanding. “This is a great outlet of self-expression for our participants, and they feel included and not judged,” she says.

Davis feels many more people in our community could benefit from these classes in the future.   “In our efforts to educate the community in the art of ballet, we want to embrace all of our community, including those with disabilities and the gifts they bring to the arts,” she adds.

Community Foundation to be landlord to Great Miami Rowing Center

City Council has approved the sale of the former Co-Gen building at the SMART Paper site to the Hamilton Community Foundation (HCF).  The Hamilton Community Foundation in turn will then enter into a long term lease with Great Miami Rowing Center (GMRC) for use of the site.  Ownership by the nonprofit Community Foundation will ensure that investments made on the site and capital improvements will continue to benefit the community in the future.

In 2012 the City of Hamilton purchased the former paper facility waterfront property from the departing Champion/SMART paper manufacturing company. The City made this significant investment in order to control its waterfront destiny, knowing that the riverfront was critical to the framework of a redeveloped Hamilton. It straddles the levee system and is adjacent to a proposed sports facility complex on the west side of B Street.

Included in this extensive remaining parcel is a free standing 2.7 million dollar Co-Generation building (built in 2007) sitting on a two acre parking lot and the foundation of a former cooling tower. GMRC began leasing this portion of the site in June of 2013 and has since engaged in numerous projects to redevelop the space. Land based programming and offices have already been moved to the facility. The new facility is enabling the rowing center to branch out to other water based recreation starting with community kayaking in the summer of 2014.

“The location of this facility is perfectly situated for water access.” said Nancy Wiley, President of GMRC, “Plus it has the added benefit of a former cooling tower which we plan to adapt to an indoor moving water rowing pool, known in the industry as a rowing tank.  This will enable novices to learn to row in water before attempting the river or anyone to row indoors when weather doesn’t permit rowing outdoors.”

The transformation of the Champion/SMART Paper facilities co-generation (power plant) into a recreational facility is part of a major Riverfront Recreational Facility Property redevelopment. Improvements are needed as HCF and GMRC convert the space from a former co-generation station to a working recreation facility. Phase 1 of the redevelopment will commence pending funding.

Supporting Neighbors

Moses B. Glick  LLC, a national demolition company, is generously donating a significant portion of demolition work ($172,000) to the site to be done by year end. Glick, LLC is currently demolishing several buildings on the west side of the complex and is conducting feasibility work on a potential indoor sports complex in the remaining buildings.

Moses B Glick acknowledges and supports the efforts of GMRC to provide river access and programming to the community at large. As a previous donor of Miracle League fields in various regions throughout the U.S., Mr. Glick, the owner and President, understands the importance and impact that nonprofit organizations such as GMRC have on the surrounding community.

“Moses B Glick LLC embraces opportunities to give back to the communities we work in.” said Mr. Glick, “Our company believes that organizations such as GMRC strengthen the culture of a surrounding community and ultimately a strong community is a foundation for the revitalization of a strong economy.”

Work will begin to secure further funding for a suite of many small scale projects that are needed on the site to convert the building and lot to a user friendly, Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessible recreation facility. Projects include restrooms, an elevator for accessibility to the entire bui,lding for people with disabilities, river access gangways and HVAC

River Access Underway.

The Rowing Center has been working extensively with the City of Hamilton, Miami Conservancy District, and engineers to establish new boating and river access on this site. Collectively, with the City of Hamilton taking the lead, these entities have applied to the State of Ohio for funding through an Ohio Department of Natural Resources Cooperative Boating Facility Grant. The $704,000 project is also supported by MetroParks of Butler County, Ohio’s Great Corridor Association, the United States Rowing Association and USA Canoe/Kayak.

Hamilton to honor its top educators, October 30

Thirteen local educators have been nominated for the 12th annual Harry T. Wilks “Hamilton Celebrates Education” awards, sponsored by the Hamilton Community Foundation.

The dinner and awards program is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 30, at the Courtyard by Marriott in downtown Hamilton. Five educators will be recognized as “finalists” in advance of the program. The Educator of the Year will receive a $3,000 honorarium for their school, and each of the other four finalists will receive a $500 honorarium.

Wilks, Harry
Harry T. Wilks

“Harry T. Wilks has left a great legacy of honoring education, and we’re proud to once again recognize deserving educators in the Greater Hamilton area,” said Betsy Hope, vice president of communications for the Hamilton Community Foundation. “This will be the first year we hold this dinner in the wake of Mr. Wilks’ passing, but his tremendous generosity toward the community he loved truly lives on.”

The following educators have been nominated for this year’s award:

  • Badin High – Gina Helms, Director of Campus Ministry
  • Bridgeport Elementary – Carla Castator, Title 1 teacher
  • Brookwood Elementary – Rob Clark, 6th grade teacher
  • Crawford Woods Elementary – Ashley Woodard, 5th grade teacher
  • Garfield Middle – Lisa Neel, Media Specialist
  • Hamilton Freshman – Brianne Giesting, Math teacher
  • Hamilton High – Louise Jewett, Chemistry teacher
  • Highland Elementary – Carol Christian, 5th grade science teacher
  • Linden Elementary – Ophelia Thomas, Title 1 teacher
  • Ridgeway Elementary – Suellen Albert, 5th grade science teacher
  • Riverview Elementary – Joan Hall, Kindergarten teacher
  • St. Ann Catholic Elementary – Joyce Cepluch, Secretary
  • Wilson Middle – Kristin Kwiat, Reading Intervention specialist

In addition to the Educator of the Year, a number of grant recipients will be honored at the dinner. This year, as a special memorial to Mr. Wilks and in recognition of his support for education in our area, the Hamilton Community Foundation is stepping up to match the number of teacher grants awarded from the Harry T. Wilks fund for 2014.

Photo: Gina Helms, Badin High School, photo courtesy Hamilton Community Foundation