Tuesday, April 9, 2002

Faces of Over-the-Rhine

Soup kitchen manager
Denise McPherson

        Since the April's riots, the number of meals served at the St. Francis Seraph Soup Kitchen has doubled - but director Denise McPherson doesn't blame it on the unrest.

        "A year ago, it had dropped off considerably, to 100 or 150 meals," she says in her basement office at St. Francis Seraph School, a landmark for 96 years at Liberty and Vine.

        Now they're serving 250-300 free meals at 4:30 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Ms. McPherson attributes the increase to job losses after Sept. 11, welfare program changes and fall-out from the riots. But she's not sure.

        "I don't really know why. We don't ask questions. If they come in, they can eat," she says.

        The clientele - half black, half white - has dramatically changed in the past year. Ms. McPherson sees more families, particularly a growing number of Hispanic families with young children, and white men in suit and ties waiting for supper in the school cafeteria.

        "White guys dressed up nice do not come to soup kitchens. But we've been seeing them. Maybe they're out looking for a job, and come in here to eat."

        Ms. McPherson, 40, is an OTR native who lives in Mount Auburn with her husband, and three children. Her parents still live in Over- the-Rhine.

        She says she has never felt unsafe in the neighborhood, but the riots had a devastating impact on the kitchen's two dozen all-white volunteer staff. The elderly, mostly retired volunteers were afraid to come down here, and park down here, she says. For two months, the center stopped serving meals and just handed out sandwiches.

        A few of the longtime volunteers have come back. Most have been replaced by younger (age 30-40) white suburban residents or students, she says. The kitchen couldn't exist without help from other communities.

        "This is Over-the-Rhine, but we don't have any minority people who volunteer here," says Ms. McPherson, shaking her head. "Our volunteers are white people, suburban people."

-John Kiesewetter

Faces of Over-the-Rhine
Restaurant owner Paul Sebring
Taft senior Darrel Shields
Social worker Angela Coleman
Sarah Center director Sister Jeanette Buehler
Jordanian grocer Taraq T.A. Adwani
Filmmaker Steve Gebhardt
Gallery owner Suzanna Terril
Beauty shop supplier Chong Kim
Teacher's aide Kemberley Alexander
Waitress Karla Davis
Teacher Sharon Brooks
Dock worker Leo Sneed
Police officer Michael Ammann
- Soup kitchen manager Denise McPherson
Artist Joseph M. Winterhalter
Janitor Latrell Walker
Fund-raiser Torren "T.J." Partridge
School social worker Joe Wilmers
Rehabber Greg Badger
Medical student John Eckman
Treatment counselor Calvin W. Wooten
Photographer Jimmy Heath

The Police
Violence up, arrests down
- Changes made since April 2001
Q&A with Police Chief Streicher
Q&A with former F.O.P. president Keith Fangman

Neighbor to Neighbor
Community meetings produce results
Going beyond polite silence
What your neighbors said
What do you think?
What's happening in 145 communities
A sampling of communities:
Mount Healthy
Pleasant Ridge
What institutions are doing

Related Links
Neighbor to Neighbor home page
Matters of Race: Bridging the divide in Greater Cincinnati
On the Same Page Cincinnati
Live Without Hate
Common Ground
Cincinnati 2001: Year of unrest
Unrest in the city: Archive of riot coverage
Unrest photo timeline
Jim Borgman on race

One Year Later
What were they thinking?
Too early to assess impact
Micheal Basnight's resolve
Violence part of life in OTR
CAN co-chair has no doubt
ACLU adds its Y-E-S to deal

Restaurant owner
Taft senior
Social worker
Sarah Center director
Jordanian grocer
Gallery owner
Beauty shop supplier
Teacher's aide
Dock worker
Police officer
Soup kitchen manager
School social worker
Medical student
Treatment counselor

Violence up, arrests down
Changes since April 2001
Q&A with Streicher
Q&A with Keith Fangman

Meetings produce results
Beyond polite silence
What your neighbors said
What do you think?
In your community
Mount Healthy
Pleasant Ridge
What institutions are doing

Neighbor to Neighbor
Matters of Race
On the Same Page
Live Without Hate
Common Ground
Year of unrest
Riot news archive
Unrest photos
Jim Borgman on race