Posts Tagged ‘ohio’

Photo: Cleveland.com.
Floating tents in the Great Miami River, part of Float Troy in Troy, Ohio.

As many of us say good-bye to summer haunts and head back to our year-round routines, I can’t help thinking about vacation activities that might be fun to try another year. Susan Glaser at Cleveland.com describes one that makes up in curiosity for what it lacks in practicality.

“I’ve hiked to hotels, biked to inns,” she says, “but this was the first time I’ve traveled by raft to my overnight accommodation. My destination for the evening: one of 10 floating tents, anchored along a quiet stretch of the Great Miami River in Troy, about 20 miles north of Dayton.

“Honestly, I was a bit apprehensive about this adventure, given that I’m not much of a camper: How well would I sleep on the water? Were these tents comfortable? And, perhaps most importantly, what if I had to use the bathroom in the middle of the night?

“I needn’t have worried. The tent was surprisingly cushy, I slept unexpectedly well and — spoiler alert — I didn’t need to use the bathroom in the middle of the night. But I would have been OK if I did.

“Matt Clifton, who coordinates the Float Troy program for the city, said Troy is the only place in the world where travelers can spend the night in a floating tent. …

“Purchased by the city several years ago with grant money from a local foundation, the tents were used first by students in a University of Dayton environmental program. They’re part of a broader effort to improve access to the Great Miami River, which runs 160 miles through Southwest Ohio before joining with the Ohio River near Cincinnati. …

“The public tourism initiative launched last year, but on a small scale because of the coronavirus pandemic. This year, the floating tents are proving to be a major draw, attracting media attention and visitors from throughout the region and beyond. …

“Joining me on the river during my one-night stay last month: a pair of sisters, ages 20 and 17, from Alliance; two 70-something friends from Columbus and Springfield; and a family from nearby Sidney.

“The tents are spread over a wide stretch of river, perhaps 200 feet across. They’re tethered to the ground, as well as to each other, spaced about 25 feet apart. …

“It’s not a particularly remote location. I could hear the low hum of traffic from nearby Interstate 75, and a siren disturbed the peace as I was getting ready for bed. I could also hear crickets and frogs and the wind rustling outside. …

“The park also has a small bathhouse, with two toilets and two sinks, open all night. There is no shower, though Clifton said he is hoping to add one next year.

“The 75-mile Great Miami River Trail multi-use path runs alongside the park, a popular destination for cyclists. The primary mode of transportation on this trip, however, wasn’t intended to be two wheels, but two paddles, as well as a 10-foot-long rubber raft.

“Clifton went over a few instructions when we arrived, showing us how to connect our raft to our tent using carabiner clips. Once attached, it was relatively easy to maneuver from raft to tent.

‘If you fall in, just stand up,’ he said. ‘The river is only about 3 feet deep.’

“Clifton was initially concerned about the wind during our visit, with gusts predicted as high as to 35 mph. He recommended against using one of three floating fire pits.

“ ‘The worst thing that might happen is that the wind will blow you closer together,’ he said. ‘The tents might bump into one another.’ …

“We checked in just after 5 p.m., then moved some of our stuff to the tent, about a 5-minute paddle from shore. These rafts – also made by SmithFly – were simple to maneuver, and easily held a couple of sleeping bags, pillows, a small overnight bag, lantern and a complimentary drybag provided by Float Troy. …

“SmithFly describes its shoal tent as a raft with a tent topper. The base doubles as an extra-firm air mattress and was surprisingly comfortable. It felt like a 1970s-era waterbed every time I rolled over, gently bobbing on the water. I didn’t have any trouble falling asleep, though the horns from numerous passing trains in town woke me up way too early.

“So I rose with the sun, paddled to shore and used the restroom. … The bathroom issue was clearly top of mind for many of the people I talked to. Both before and after my stay, I had numerous people – women, mostly – ask me about using the bathroom in the middle of the night.

“Fellow campers Reatha Collinsworth and Cindy Gibbons told me they had a friend who declined an invitation to join them on the water because of concerns she would need to paddle to shore in the middle of the night.

“Indeed, Collinsworth said she stopped drinking water early in the evening to avert the problem. As for why the two signed up for the adventure, Gibbons said, ‘It was something different. We like doing different things.’ ”

For great photos and some details about cost and places to eat, check out Cleveland.com, here.

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Photo: American Diesel Training via Social Finance.
The Social Finance model ensures training programs don’t get paid until students get hired. And students train for free until then.

Because one of the things this blog focuses on is “good works,” I have inevitably put up stories that later turn out to have unexpected downsides. (If I learn about a problem, I do put up a correction.) One story I recall was about an effort in mining country to train out-of-work miners for high-paid tech jobs. I don’t think anyone was trying to rip anyone else off, but there was a Pollyanna aspect to the program, and it didn’t work. Not many people acquired the skills and those that did were unable to find those high-paying jobs.

So that is how we learn. Now there’s a nonprofit called Social Finance that doesn’t pay up on a training program until the trainee has that good job.

Steve Lohr writes at the New York Times, “Bill Barber saw an ad on Facebook last year for American Diesel Training Centers, a school in Ohio that prepares people for careers as diesel mechanics. It came with an unusual pitch: He would pay for the schooling only if it landed him a job, thanks to a nonprofit called Social Finance.

“After making sure it wasn’t a scam, he signed up. After going through the immersive five-week program, he got a job with starting pay of $39,000 a year — about $10,000 more than he made before as a cable TV installer. …

“American Diesel Training is part of a new model of work force training — one that bases pay for training programs partly on whether students get hired. Early results are promising, and experts say the approach makes far more economic sense than the traditional method, in which programs are paid based on how many people enroll. …

Social Finance, founded a decade ago to develop new ways to finance results-focused social programs, is showing how the idea could grow quickly just as the pandemic made job-training programs more important than ever. The coronavirus put millions of people out of work, upended industries and accelerated automation. …

“The Social Finance effort is powered by a fund of more than $40 million raised from philanthropic investors. The money goes toward paying for low-income students, as well as minority candidates and veterans, to enter the training programs. … It has supported four job training programs, including American Diesel Training, in the past year. It has plans to have double that number a year from now. …

“A few nonprofits have a track record of lifting low-income Americans into higher-paying jobs, including Year Up, Per Scholas and Project Quest. Their training is tightly focused on specific skills and occupations, they work closely with employers, and they teach soft skills like communication and teamwork. But there are too few of them, and they struggle for sustainable financing.

“Social Finance is seeking, designing and supporting new programs — for-profit or nonprofit — that follow that training formula but then apply a different funding model.

“ ‘There is emerging evidence that these kinds of programs are a very effective and exciting part of work force development,’ said Lawrence Katz, a labor economist at Harvard. ‘Social Finance is targeting and nurturing new programs, and it brings a financing mechanism that allows them to expand.’

” ‘The goal is to create a tool for impact, to get more people on the economic escalator,’ said Tracy Palandjian, co-founder and chief executive of Social Finance. …

“For Social Finance and its backers, the career impact bonds are not traditional investments. For them, breaking even or a small return would be winning — proof the concept is working, which should attract more public and private money. …

“The Social Finance income-share agreement with students ranges from about 5 percent to 9 percent depending on their earnings — less from $30,000 to $40,000, and generally more above $40,000. The monthly payments last four years. If you lose your job, the payment obligation stops.

“ ‘Our investors aren’t after high returns. They’re primarily after social impact,’ Ms. Palandjian said.

“When screening programs, Social Finance looks for those that offer training for specific skills linked to local demand, and have data to show that its students graduate and get good-paying jobs. … American Diesel Training, based in Columbus, Ohio, met the requirements. The for-profit company’s program is designed as a short, intensive course to train entry-level diesel technicians, mostly for trucking companies and dealerships. …

“Before Social Finance arrived, Tim Spurlock, co-founder and chief executive of American Diesel Training, looked into financing through income-share agreements offered by venture-backed start-ups. The terms, he said, were far less favorable for students.

” ‘Social Finance comes at it from a completely different angle,’ he said. … ‘We’ve completely proven our educational model. The problem was the funding mechanism.’ ”

More at the New York Times, here.

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Photo: Erin Schaff/New York Times
Workers assembling face shields at Berlin Gardens’ warehouse, Millersburg, Ohio, early this month. T
he Amish community is stepping up to fight coronavirus.

I know very little about the Plain People, and as is often the case when we know little about a group, we make assumptions. Amish communities are said to keep to themselves mostly, so perhaps I assumed that they would deal with coronavirus among themselves and not participate with wider efforts to tackle it. Wrong again, Suzanne’s Mom!

Elizabeth Williamson, reporting from Sugarcreek, Ohio, writes this for the New York Times: “On April 1, John Miller, a manufacturer here with deep connections to the close-knit Amish community of Central Ohio, got a call from Cleveland Clinic. The hospital system was struggling to find protective face masks for its 55,000 employees, plus visitors. Could his team sew 12,000 masks in two days?

“He appealed to Abe Troyer with Keim, a local lumber mill and home goods business and a leader in the Amish community:

‘Abe, make a sewing frolic.’ A frolic, Mr. Miller explained, ‘is a colloquial term here that means, “Get a bunch of people. Throw a bunch of people at this.” ‘

“A day later, Mr. Troyer had signed up 60 Amish home seamstresses, and the Cleveland Clinic sewing frolic was on.

“For centuries, the Amish community has been famously isolated from the hustle of the outside world. Homes still lack telephones or computers. Travel is by horse and buggy. Home-sewn clothing remains the norm. And even now, as the coronavirus rages in the country at large, there is resistance from people sustained by communal life to the dictates of social distancing that have brought the economy to a halt — in Amish country as everywhere else.

“But as the virus creeps ever closer, the Amish community is joining the fight.

“ ‘If there is a need, people just show up,’ said Mr. Troyer, a man in his 40s with a gray-streaked beard and a mild German accent. …

“The pandemic has idled hundreds of Amish seamstresses, craftsmen and artisans, and Amish people do not apply for federal unemployment benefits.

“ ‘It conflicts with our faith and our commitment to the government,’ said Atlee Raber, who founded Berlin Gardens, an area garden furniture maker that now makes protective face shields.

“Almost overnight, a group of local industry, community and church leaders has mobilized to sustain Amish households by pivoting to work crafting thousands of face masks and shields, surgical gowns and protective garments from medical-grade materials. When those run scarce, they switch to using gaily printed quilting fabric and waterproof Tyvek house wrap.

“ ‘We consider this a privilege that we can come in here and do something for somebody else who’s in need and do it right at home here, and do it safely,’ Mr. Raber said, instead of ‘taking handouts.’

“Mr. Miller, who is president of both Superb Industries, a manufacturer in Sugarcreek with medical, automotive and commercial clients, and Stitches USA, a commercial sewing operation, calls March 16 ‘Black Monday.’ That’s when social distancing guidelines laid waste to Holmes County’s economy. … Member businesses employ about 6,000 people, the majority of them Amish. Three days later, Mr. Miller created ‘Operation Stop Covid-19.’ …

“With area businesses, he set up a website and enlisted emergency workers from Sugarcreek Fire & Rescue to model prototypes of N95 mask covers, fluid-resistant gowns sewn of tarp material from Zinck’s Fabric Outlet in Sugarcreek, and boot covers made of Tyvek from Keim, in nearby Charm, Ohio.

“Keim’s Amish millworkers built hardwood dividers for field hospitals in New York, the meticulous workmanship belying their temporary purpose. Berlin Gardens, which normally makes garden furniture from recycled plastic milk jugs, completed their first order of 20,000 plastic face shields for Yale New Haven Hospital last month.

“ ‘We’re close to 100,000 a day,’ Sam Yoder, the current owner of Berlin Gardens, said last Friday. ‘It almost covers our payroll. Not quite.’ …

” ‘Cleveland Clinic has been here for us,’ Mr. Miller said. ‘They saved my mom’s life many times.’ ”

More here. The part about Covid-19 challenges to the communal way of life among the Amish is interesting. Like the rest of us, everyone is having to rethink how things get done.

Deb at https://abearsthimble2.wordpress.com/, I know you are not Amish, but you know a lot more about their way of life than I do, so if a comment on this post comes to mind, send it to suzannesmom@lunaandstella.com and I will post it. That way we can work around the Comments glitch.

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Photos: The Wilds
In Columbus, Ohio, you can camp overnight at the zoo.

A couple of my grandchildren brought sleeping bags on their latest visit, hoping to try camping — if not in a tent, then on the bedroom floor. A tent might be a little too exotic for where they are in life, although it worked for Suzanne when she was five weeks old.

Exotic camping makes me think of my friend Cathy. I saw her on the train the day she retired, and she told me that she was planning an overnight at the Columbus zoo. Apparently, you can sleep in a yurt. It’s not cheap. There is also a lodge or cabins, if you prefer.

The website says, “Today, it’s difficult to imagine The Wilds and its 9,000 plus acres as anything but a home to rare and endangered species from around the globe living in open range habitats.

“However, the park that has transformed wild life conservation practices was once devoted to strip mining.”

I loved reading this description of how the landscape was rescued from that devastation.

“The immense landscape of The Wilds and its mining history provides an ideal setting to study the process of ecological recovery and restoration. Ongoing biological inventories have recorded over a thousand species and provide an essential baseline for studying changes in populations over time.

“It is difficult for trees to survive on reclaimed mine land due to soil compaction and low nutrient availability. Instead, The Wilds has successfully established nearly 700 acres of prairies at The Wilds which provide beneficial pollinator and wildlife habitat.  Now we are conducting research to see how prairies change soil properties over time and whether the deep roots of prairie plants can prepare the land for the return of forests. …

“Wetlands are considered the most biologically rich ecosystems in the world.  However, development has caused these habitat types to become among the most endangered. The Wilds has restored a 20-acre area into a quality wetland refuge that supports a diversity of vegetation, waterfowl, and aquatic wildlife.  The removal of invasive species such as cattail is an ongoing effort. The ultimate goal is to increase native wetland vegetation and improve habitat for waterfowl and other aquatic wildlife. …

“Many of the reclaimed forests at The Wilds are in poor health, with low species diversity and overgrown with invasive species. The restoration department is currently working on restoring ~30 acres of forest. In order to accomplish this, invasive plant species are removed and native ones are planted in their place. Removal and replacement is a long and tedious process, but ultimately it will increase the biodiversity of the area. In addition, we intend to create native amphibian habitat by constructing two vernal pools and improving existing wetlands in the area. The end result of these combined efforts is expected to encourage more native animal and insect species to not only inhabit the area, but to thrive. …

“We have expanded our scope to improving the reclamation process immediately after mining. One essential step is seeding the land with new plant species. Traditional seed mixes used in land reclamation are not designed to create diverse habitat for wildlife, they simply aim to revegetate the land. We helped [the Ohio Department of Natural Resources] create more ecologically friendly seed mixes and monitored to see if sites planted with the native mix could revegetate the land as well as the traditional mix. Thus far, we have seen that mixes including native grasses and pollinator plants can definitely be successful, and that they undeniably increase native cover over traditional mixes. We are still working on long term monitoring of this project.”

To the conservationist side of me, this is all very impressive. But having just read a deep, thoughtful history of the destruction of Appalachia called Ramp Hollow, I can’t help but think that mining destroyed not only the environment but the ability of families to make a living off the land. I’d really like to see restoration for the people, too.


Restoration Ecology

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Photo: Terry Smith/ AthensNews.com
“The American Woman,” a sculpture by the late David Hostetler in the Wolfe Garden on Ohio University’s College Green, is part of the 144-mile Ohio Art Corridor.

How encouraging to see communities embrace initiatives that lift people’s spirits and to read that towns are actually spending money on those things! It’s true that parks, trees, and art in a municipality offer economic benefits, but things are also worth doing just because they’re good.

I bet that Ohio’s 144-mile arts corridor, which is meant to lure tourism dollars to an area that has been struggling in recent years, is pretty successful at making the locals feel happy. Nothing wrong with happiness. Nothing wrong with a sense of pride and well-being.

Nancy Trejos writes at USA Today, “Southeastern Ohio is trying to attract visitors by giving them something unique to look at. … The founders believe The Ohio Art Corridor is the largest outdoor gallery in the world, surpassing one in Stockholm that covers 70 miles.

“ ‘Our desire is to draw people out of the big cities, to take a drive through the beautiful Appalachian country of Ohio, to learn, grow, and have experiences that they otherwise would not have,’ says Rebekah Griesmyer, executive director of The Ohio Art Corridor.”

Reporter Fred Kight from Athens News has more.

“The corridor extends 144 miles through Athens, Morgan, Fairfield, Muskingum and Pickaway counties. It currently consists of eight sculptures and two large murals, and organizers hope to add new works.

“ ‘I love the idea. … Public art is wonderful,’ said Athens Mayor Steve Patterson. …

“Griesmyer said, ‘We are attempting to draw people to small cities and towns with outdoor art. It is a huge project, and we couldn’t be more excited to see it implemented and adopted by cities like Athens.’ …

“In order to be included on a Corridor map, the art must [now] meet three criteria. It must be outdoors and free; it must be large; and if the art is not large (over 12 feet) as one piece, it must consist of three sculptures in one place.”

The idea’s originator is Griesmyer’s brother-in-law, David Griesmyer. He “operates a metal fabrication business in Malta, across the Muskingum River from McConnelsville. Creation of the Corridor combines his love of art with a desire to bring new life to the region.

“ ‘This part of Ohio is so rich with beauty, talent and creativity,’ he said. ‘I see southeast Ohio as a large stone ready to be carved, only to reveal a masterpiece hidden within.’ ”

More at the Athens News, here, and at USA Today, here.

Photo: WGRZ-TV
This section of the Ohio Art Corridor is located on the Muskingum Parkway across from the Morgan County Fairgrounds.


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Photo: NCCAkron
The National Center for Choreography is an initiative of the University of Akron in Ohio.

There’s a national center for everything else, why not choreography? Why not Akron? This Midwest university is thinking big.

Steve Sucato writes about its new concept at Dance Magazine. “For countless dancemakers without their own space, there is no place to call home. Enter the new National Center for Choreography at The University of Akron. Its mission: to support the research and development of new dance by providing choreographers, dance companies, arts administrators and dance writers access to the world-class facilities in the University’s Guzzetta Hall and other venues on campus. …

“The Center opened with the support of the University of Akron and a $5 million grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. [Last] month it [hosted] its first official artist residency when it welcome[d] choreographer Tere O’Connor, July 17–28.

“The Center’s founding executive/artistic director, Christy Bolingbroke, says it needs to be adaptable so as not to impose a certain way of working on any artist.

“One way of doing that is to offer several types of residencies: space, for use of the studio facilities; research, in which choreographers can explore alongside academic scholars; laboratory, in which choreographers and dancers can work without the expectation of a finished project; technical, for dancemakers and/or production designers to experiment in a theatrical venue; and commissioning, where artists receive funds in addition to time and space. …

“Overall, the Center is interested in curating dancemakers it can support on a long-term basis. ‘We are trying to shift the paradigm from just final-product–oriented residencies,’ says Bolingbroke.”

More at Dance Magazine, here. And kudos to the Knight Foundation for recognizing that the coasts do not have a monopoly on the making of art.

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Back in 1987, Frank J. Popper and Deborah Popper argued that the former manufacturing hubs of the Midwest should accept that they were now shrinking and that new realities called for new approaches.

Youngstown, Ohio, never saw itself going as far as the Poppers envisioned (turning large swaths of the country back into “Buffalo Commons“), but it did adopt its own way of making lemonade out of lemons.

As Alexia Fernández Campbell writes at City Lab, “Youngstown, Ohio, created quite a stir a decade ago when it unveiled a novel plan for the city: It would stop trying to return to its glory days as a city of 170,000 people and instead embrace the idea that maybe smaller is better.

“The Youngstown 2010 plan reoriented the former steel-mill town toward providing services to the neighborhoods with the most people, converting abandoned land into green space, and supporting the burgeoning healthcare industry. In doing so, it hoped to keep the remaining 66,000 people from leaving. Since unveiling the plan in 2005, the city has lost only about 1,000 people.

“The Youngstown plan … put into motion aggressive action to fight urban decay and revitalize many parts of the city, says Ian Beniston, director of the Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation … Part of his group’s job is to identify the healthiest neighborhoods and fix up the houses there, while demolishing abandoned ones and finding new uses for the land. …

“Ian Beniston: The way I view that is, planning within the realms of reality. It’s not that we don’t want to grow. Given the option to shrink or grow, anyone is going to pick grow. But we’re not operating in such a way as if we’re going to grow tomorrow or even growing now. I think it’s really a common-sense approach. …

“That impacts everything you do … Embracing shrinkage has to do with the fact that we had the infrastructure for 250,000 people and we currently have 65,000. …

“The 2010 plan was very basic, so there was the clean-and green-portions of it, improving quality of life, redefining the regional and local economy, but it didn’t get down to the property level of detail. [The Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation] has taken the next step to developing detailed plans with a more market-and-data-driven strategy on the varying health of neighborhoods …

“In stable neighborhoods, for example, we really shouldn’t be demolishing housing. This is oversimplifying this, but if there is a vacant home there, it is likely something that should be rehabilitated, whereas the neighborhood that is already 70 percent vacant, the strategy is probably demolition and reusing the land for another purpose. For example, recently we started working with a company that grows hybrid poplar trees on these acres of vacant land, which are then harvested.” More at City Lab, here.

Here’s hoping efforts like these improve life for all residents in Youngstown. Pretty sure you have to have everyone on board to make it work.

Photo: Brian Snyder/Reuters  

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Do we praise the work of librarians enough? I started following the Ferguson Library on twitter and Facebook after reading how it was the calm eye of the storm in Ferguson, Missouri, amid the 2014 riots. As a result, I now get good leads about other libraries. Here is a report on Ohio librarians who go the distance — and beyond.

Katie Johnson at School Library Journal describes her experience with “Play, Learn and Grow, a pop-up storytime and early learning program created through a collaboration between Twinsburg (OH) Public Library and Akron Metropolitan Housing Authority (AMHA). …

“I noticed that none of the children living in the housing development were coming to storytime at our library. I reached out to AMHA representatives, hoping they would be open to the idea of the library hosting a weekly program at the development. They were, partnering me with one of their employees, Kellie Morehouse, who was already working with families within the complex.

“We set up Play, Grow, and Learn in an unused room behind the apartment leasing office. Our initial goal was to get to know children age five and younger and their families through storytime, crafts, and free play. As the weeks went on, we saw everything that these families lacked: employment, education, transportation, healthy food, proper healthcare, access to preschool, even reliable phone service.”

They got involved in all those areas — helping children get vaccinations and nutritious food, for example, and arranging for isolated young mothers to address depression.

“Early experiences with storytime revealed a desire of the young mothers to interact with one another.  This led the AMHA representative to suggest teaming storytime with one of the organization’s programs for moms.  AMHA and a local behavioral health agency had been working together to provide maternal depression support groups to low-income women in other parts of the county. …

“Twice a month, the moms in our storytime are able to meet in a group setting with a professional to discuss their frustrations and worries. Mom-ME Time has become key, as so many of our moms are dealing with heavy pressures every day, and most do not have a strong support network. Being able to vent and get helpful parenting advice can be crucial to the choices they are making for their young children.”

It is worthy of applause when a librarian sees the whole child, not just a child in storytime, and tries to tackle the barriers to a better life. More here.

Photo: Katie Johnson/School Library Journal
Moms are included in programming for children.

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ICYMI (that’s twitter-speak for “in case you missed it”), a young man who decided to go on the crowdfunding site Kickstarter to raise money to buy ingredients for one small potato salad got more than $55,000.

According to the Associated Press, “A man who jokingly sought $10 from a crowdfunding website to pay for his first attempt at making potato salad and ended up raising $55,000 is making good on his promise to throw a huge party.

“Zack Brown is planning PotatoStock 2014, an all-ages, charity-minded party Saturday in downtown Columbus featuring bands, food trucks, beer vendors, potato-sack races, and definitely potato salad.

“His effort on Kickstarter in early July to buy potato salad ingredients took on a life of its own and attracted worldwide attention as the amount grew.

“The 31-year-old eventually raised $55,492. The Idaho Potato Commission and corporate sponsors have donated supplies for Brown and volunteers to whip up 300 pounds of potato salad for the event.

“The Columbus Dispatch reported that Brown partnered with the Columbus Foundation to start an endowment to aid area charities that fight hunger and homelessness. The account, started with $20,000 in postcampaign corporate donations, will grow after proceeds from PotatoStock are added.” More here.

By golly, I do love quirky.

Photo: Chris Russell/The Columbus Dispatch via AP
Zack Brown’s PotatoStock 2014, an all-ages, charity-minded party, is set for Saturday in Columbus, Ohio.

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Yvonne Zipp wrote a nice article about a Christian Science Monitor-designated Difference Maker. He is Mario Morino, a philanthropist based in Rocky River, Ohio, outside Cleveland. He wrote the free book Leap of Reason to help large nonprofits demonstrate that they are serving the public in the ways they think they are.

Zipp writes that in 2009, after a day of meetings with three different nonprofit boards, Morino was about to burst from frustration.

“At each, a board was discussing how it would assess its nonprofit group. The problem? ‘There wasn’t a nonprofit executive in the room,’ he says.” How could the people who run nonprofits and the boards that assess them ever get agreement on worthwhile measures?

“Morino, who owned his own software development business in the 1980s before setting up the Morino Institute and later Venture Philanthropy Partners, went home and fired off one e-mail, then another. After a fourth, he had what became the core of his book, Leap of Reason, which has more than 40,000 copies in circulation so far – an impressive number for a book about the rarefied topic of nonprofit management. …

The book isn’t aimed at small nonprofits or “civic-minded individuals, Morino says. ‘They represent the strongest core of philanthropy in the US. You don’t want to touch that.’ He likens these folks to his long-ago neighbors in Cleveland, where, ‘if somebody’s building a garage, everyone helped build the garage.’

However, “of the 1.5 million nonprofit groups in the US, 40,000 have budgets of more than $1 million, according to Bridgespan [an organization that consults to nonprofits]. They are the targets of Leap of Reason.”

More here on how the data-driven approach outlined in the book has helped some large nonprofits become more effective.

By the way, the Center for Effective Philanthropy, where WordPress blogger Judith once worked as a writer, addresses the same issue. And Zipp’s article lists other organizations that advise charities.

Photograph of Mario Morino, Ken Blaze / Special to the Christian Science Monitor

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Philip Levine, 83, is a poet laureate for our times. He expresses, as the NY Times puts it, the “gritty voice of the workingman.”

“Half an hour to dress, wide rubber hip boots,
gauntlets to the elbow, a plastic helmet
like a knight’s but with a little glass window
that kept steaming over, and a respirator
to save my smoke-stained lungs. I would descend
step by slow step into the dim world
of the pickling tank and there prepare
the new solutions from the great carboys
of acids lowered to me on ropes — all from a recipe
I shared with nobody and learned from Frank O’Mera
before he went off to the bars on Vernor Highway
to drink himself to death. A gallon of hydrochloric …”

Read the Times article.

Levine’s appointment as poet laureate feels timely to me for several reasons.

While income inequality in the country has become increasingly pronounced over the last few decades, public attitudes toward the labor unions that worked to level the playing field have become markedly negative. Are unions really no longer needed? Certainly, there have been abuses of their power: for example, the way some teachers unions have protected bad teachers. And weak government officials in Central Falls (RI), having routinely succumbed to the demands of public safety workers, now find there is no money to pay the promised benefits. This summer Central Falls filed for bankruptcy.

But intensely hostile antilabor actions in Wisconsin, Ohio, and even Maine are like throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

A balance between workers and other stakeholders seems to make more sense. Workers are still sometimes abused, after all. That’s why I was happy to see unions helping out foreign “cultural exchange” students to protest conditions at a Hersey’s plant in Pennsylvania last week. (I blogged about that here.)

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