One late winter evening in 2011, a chance encounter with a group of rock-throwing children in a Northside park set the wheels in motion that would lead to the founding of WordPlay Cincy the following year. A tense confrontation with the threatening group of youngsters and teens that night evolved into to a meaningful exchange of ideas and feelings about our shared neighborhood. Did they feel that they were part of the community? Did they feel safe, included, optimistic?
Their answers were consistent in a troubling way - they did not feel they were part of the greater community, didn't feel others in the neighborhood could be bothered to care about them. Determined to find a way to continue the connection begun that night, I teamed up with good friend and fellow Northsider, Elissa Yancey, to create a space where connections like this could grow and flourish, where regular, everyday people can come together with local children to create a better future for all.
Our big-picture goal? Help children break the generational cycles of poverty by addressing their academic, creative, social and emotional needs. Teach children the power of the written and spoken word, and their stories can at last be heard. And we have a lot to learn from those stories.
WordPlay is a safe and nurturing "third place" which forms a foundation along with the home and school from which children can develop the skills they need for success in and beyond the classroom. We believe in the power of community and that bridging social and economic divides ser
ves the greater good. Build relationships with those in need, and both sides of the equation benefit.
The human capital needed to realize this vision could have been daunting.
Since this founding idea for WordPlay took shape, however, I have marveled at the community response. In the year of planning prior to opening our doors for programming in September of 2012, over 150 people gave of their time and talents to help us launch. Since then, nearly 470 caring individuals have completed our volunteer training, and another 50 donate their time behind the scenes each year to ensure we have all the support we need to deliver our programs effectively to as many as 150 children each week.
To these outstanding, passionate individuals who understand the power of "it takes a village;" to those who are inspired to reach out and find common ground, sharing their time and wisdom to help a child, I give my heartfelt thanks. To Elissa and her fiercely protective, skillful stewardship as founder and Board Chair, to WordPlay's incomparable board of directors and staff who have guided the organization through the whirlwind startup years with such dedication; to our committee members, community partners, schools, funders, and our WordPlay families, I offer my deepest gratitude for your invaluable part in this equation. Northside, you have welcomed us with open arms; your vibrancy and spirit have nourished and shaped our growth and given the children of our shared village new hope.
We are, after all, in this together. Let's continue to make it better for everyone.
If you would like to know more about WordPlay and how you can get involved, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 513-541-0930. Our next volunteer training is Saturday, January 17th at 10:30 am.
Written by Libby Hunter, WordPlay Co-Founder and Executive Director and long-time Northside resident.