Saturday, December 04, 1999

Gifts that can make a difference




BY KRISTA RAMSEY
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Walk into the tutoring room and library at the Interfaith Housing Network's day shelter downtown, and you understand immediately that somebody here knows a good bit about children.

        The room is small, but its possibilities are endless. Homeless children explore them after school every day, curling up on a cozy bench with a book or wooden puzzle. A shiny new table and chairs make it easy to settle down to homework the same time and place every day, with an adult to help out when you get stuck.

        It is the very sort of serene spot that, in their chaotic circumstances, homeless children crave.

        This special room was equipped, in large part, by the good will and generosity of Enquirer readers.

        Each year, I write a holiday column suggesting small holiday contributions. Last year, MaryAnne Wahle read about Project Connect, which provides educational services to homeless children. She took the idea to her children's school, St. Louis Elementary in Clermont County, where students raised more than $1,000 to renovate the room. Then families filled it with books and puzzles. Every day, it provides a safe and happy place for homeless children.

Help child with AIDS
        Here is my list for 1999. Every item provides the great gift of opportunity.

        For 50 cents per child — a total contribution of $12.50 — a classroom of 25 students can buy a special evening for a local child with AIDS. With discounts from the Cincinnati Mighty Ducks and toy manufacturers, that amount will provide an evening out at a hockey game and a holiday gift. Make checks payable to AVOC (AIDS Volunteers of Cincinnati), 2183 Central Parkway, Cincinnati, OH 45214.

        A $10 contribution will buy either a month of after-school snacks or a new book — you pick — for a homeless child, through Project Connect. For $20, outfit a child with a backpack full of school supplies, plus two weeks of after-school snacks. Checks should be payable to Project Connect Homeless Children's Fund, 1425 Linn St., Cincinnati, OH 45214.

        For $15, give a needy child a taste of the arts. The Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park's STAR program — Subsidized Tickets for Area Residents — provides discounted or complimentary tickets for children who otherwise could not experience live theater performances. Make checks payable to Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park — with “STAR” in the memo line — P.O. Box 6537, Cincinnati, OH 45206.

Give year of theater
        A $22 contribution to the Arts Consortium will buy a year's worth of dance, theater or choral training for a child. An added bonus: The child gets to perform as part of a company or choir. Make checks payable to Arts Consortium of Cincinnati, c/o Scholarship Fund, Arts Consortium, 1515 Linn St., Cincinnati, OH 45214.

        A $25 contribution — perhaps in honor of a special woman in your life — will help provide an extraordinary summer writing program for a girl. For years, Women Writing for (a) Change has helped local females find and share their voices. Widen its reach with a check to Women Writing for (a) Change Scholarship Fund, 4850 Madison Road, Cincinnati, OH 45227.

        Help a grieving child through the holidays. A $30 gift will buy materials for “memory candles” for two children in Fernside's extraordinary program for grieving children. The candles are used in a holiday remembrance ceremony for family members who have died. Then they go home to be lighted for special occasions. Checks should be payable to Fernside: A Center for Grieving Children, 2303 Indian Mound Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45212.

        A $50 gift will help patients at Children's Hospital Medical Center go online to communicate with young patients in 50 hospitals across the country. Starbright, a closed computer network, offers them e-mail, games, educational sites, and most of all, a new friend sharing the same struggle. Make checks payable to Child Life Department — memo line “Starbright” — CHMC Development Office, 3333 Burnet Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45229.

        Krista Ramsey's column appears on Saturdays. Write her at 312 Elm St., Cincinnati, OH 45202, or e-mail her at krista_ramsey@hotmail.com.