Kentucky by Heart: Lots of good causes out there — how to decide which charities to support?

Northern Kentucky Tribune | by Steve Flairty, NKyTribune columnist | Dec 13th, 2016 | Link to Article

I don’t know about you, but I’ve received a barrage of financial donation requests from “good cause” organizations recently as Christmas approaches. By regular mail and often by phone, and by a lesser extent via social media, I learn about the needs for support of organizations that help others.

Most of the endeavors, I believe, are good and credible, doing wonderful work…but the sheer number of those requests is overwhelming, and there’s no way I can give to all. Likely, most all of us would say the same.

With so many possibilities for giving–and if we are of a mind to—my humble suggestion would be to be practical and support a few of those causes that most closely reflect our core values, along with our connected interests. What or who do we feel most passionate about in our desire to help? Would it be on the order of meeting children’s needs? Stopping cancer? Supporting America’s military veterans?

There are all kinds of causes out there and it might be helpful to lay them down beside each other and make some priority decisions on ones to support. From my perspective of writing the Kentucky’s Everyday Heroes book series, I’ve gained information about a whole host of causes that are worthy of financial gifts to help them do their work better and reach more people. Though far from an exhaustive listing, let me share some that I’ve come across over the last several years.

Sandy Hart founded and has dedicated her life to the Kentucky Veteran and Patriot Museum to give tribute to America’s armed forces personnel, past and present. Sandy is tireless in her work, and I’d recommend a trip to Wickliffe, in western Kentucky, to see this amazing collection of veteran memorabilia (Sandy will give you a guided tour!) at the museum.

Along those same lines, I wrote about U.S. Marine Cpl. Matthew Bradford and him becoming the first blind and double-amputee in Marine history to be allowed to re-enlist. Matthew recommends the Semper Fi Fund because it “provides immediate financial assistance and lifetime support to post 9/11 wounded, critically ill and injured members of all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces, and their families, ensuring that they have the resources they need during their recovery and transition back to their communities.”

For those who want to unleash the power of the arts as a tool to help at-risk youths, the On the Move Art Studio, directed by Josh Nadzam, is wonderful. Josh courageously overcame a difficult childhood to become an award-winning athlete-scholar at the University of Kentucky, and his passion to help young people to be put on a positive life path is remarkable. Check this one out for sure!

Attorney Tim Robinson, Louisa, turned his life around from an addiction to alcoholism to become a great source of hope for others. He founded a program called Addiction Recovery Care, functioning both as a residential and outpatient drug abuse treatment program in eastern Kentucky. This endeavor has been his full-time passion for the last several years; it has been a remarkable success, and an important factor in creating a better economy and quality of life in that region of Kentucky.

Teresa Oechsli was abused as a child and was headed onto a dangerous path in her own life. With support from loved ones around her, she overcame that trauma and founded Hosea’s House in the western part of Louisville. Hosea’s House is a place “to extend the love and compassion of Jesus Christ to women and children in crisis, through advocacy, education, housing, community outreach and prayer.” The program has been a lifeline to scores of people that previously had little hope for a positive future. Teresa is a fierce fighter for them.

In the Jackson County area around McKee and stretching into Madison County, Ann Williams and her Appalachian Mission of Hope has advocated for the hungry, needy, and impoverished members of the Appalachian region of Kentucky. I’m especially impressed with the way the mission has helped children under her humble servant leadership. I’ve seen literally seen hundreds of children’s eyes shine bright with joy at the huge Christmas parties Ann and the organization have annually. This program will touch you deeply.

Pendleton County’s Sheriff Craig Peoples and others established the Evan Peoples Memorial to raise scholarship money for deserving high school students locally. This was after his high school son Evan committed suicide in 2013. Along with the memorial, Craig has become a suicide awareness advocate willing to speak to groups around Kentucky and beyond. Contact Craig at craigpeop.pendsheriff@gmail.com or phone 859-322-3782.

Be sure to watch the film to learn more of the story about Evan.

A cousin of mine, Doug Bray, along with his wife Shelia, founded The Giving Fields in 2011 on their property near the Ohio River in Melbourne, Kentucky. Now under the directorship of the Freestore Foodbank, Cincinnati, the community garden produces fruits and vegetables that generate about 117,000 meals for those in need in the area.

Another Northern Kentucky program worthy of financial support is Lovesome Stables Equitherapy, a program founded by Kenton County special education teacher Jody Keeley. Jody’s program uses horses to “provide an environment where individuals with life challenges/disabilities can develop critical life skills, self-respect and feelings of competence.”

John Rosenberg, Prestonsburg, founded and directed the Appalachian Research and Defense Fund of Kentucky, Inc., which provides free legal service (civil cases) for the “poor and vulnerable in eastern and south central Kentucky.”

John gave up the opportunity for a lucrative private practice to do this work. He has a dynamic personal story of escaping Hitler’s Germany with his Jewish family and becoming a noted civil rights lawyer earlier in his career.

Here are more good cause programs to consider supporting, along with the person connected and written about in Kentucky’s Everyday Heroes:

— Nina Lee makes clothing for preemie babies.

— Borrowed Angels group A group of female Kentucky motorcycle bikers who advocate to stop spousal and child abuse, along with America’s military veterans. I’m told they don’t take direct donations, but will suggest organizations they like.

—  Dick and Ardi Wilson A Louisville couple that collects new or gently used stuffed Teddy bears in order to get them into “the arms of children that need a hug and need comfort.”

— Phone 502-352-2971 Haitian Needy Children Foundation (Raymonde Jacques). This amazing woman living in Frankfort tirelessly raises funds to support schools and medical treatment to the needy in Haiti.

— Joan Smith The Lifehouse Maternity Home provides “a safe place for teens, women, and families facing unexpected pregnancy.”

— Fanestia Massey This courageous woman from Caldwell County tragically lost her son in an auto accident. His organs were used to help others live. Fanestia became an organ donor advocate and recommends the Kentucky Circuit Court Clerks’ Trust for Life as a wonderful cause.

— Joe and June Richey This compassionate couple started this place of residence and work opportunities for adults with special needs decades ago. It is located in Georgetown.

— Bourbon County Low Cost Spay and Neuter Clinic , c/o Charles and Elaine Fuerniss, 262 Hutchison Road, Paris, KY 40361-9005. (Charles and Elaine Fuerniss) This couple truly loves looking out for the welfare of abandoned animals and devotes immeasurable hours to the cause.

I believe the state of Kentucky has some of the most caring people in the whole nation. Let’s all go out and demonstrate that by being givers during the holiday season!