One morning within the past month, as he prepared for work as a senior scientist at Procter & Gamble, Ashraf Traboulsi learned that his brother-in-law had been injured in a bombing in Syria.
“What is difficult for me and many of us is living daily life with this in the back of our minds,” Traboulsi said of the 2½-year Syrian uprising against the government of President Bashar al-Assad. “You still have to go to meetings. Life goes on. It’s a constant struggle.”
For Traboulsi and the estimated 600 people in the local Syrian-American community, the bloody revolution that began in their homeland in March 2011 has been a source of anguish – even division – between those supporting Assad and those against him.
For Ashraf Traboulsi of West Chester Township and the estimated 600 people in the local Syrian- American community, the bloody revolution that began in their homeland in March 2011 has been a source of anguish even division. The Enquirer/ Cara Owsley
Yet for Syrian-Americans seeking a new government in Syria and peace for its 23 million people, violence in their homeland – including recent chemical weapons attacks by government troops against rebels and civilians – has united them in a cause and drawn them into the larger community, where they say they’ve been heartened by genuine concern and expressions of support.
“Some people don’t want to know what is going on,” said Traboulsi, 47, a married father of two sons who lives in West Chester Township. He left Syria in 1990 – becoming a U.S. citizen in 1995 – but left behind a sister and four nieces. “But other people, non-Muslims and non-Syrians, want to understand what is happening.”
To combat frustration and helplessness, as anti-government tensions arose throughout the Middle East and became known as the Arab Spring, local Syrian-Americans formed the Syrian American Foundation three years ago.
Traboulsi, its president, said the organization is into its third drive to collect relief supplies – winter clothing, shoes, toys and school supplies – to send via 40-foot sea container to Turkey. There, a nongovernmental organization takes the supplies to the estimated 6 million displaced Syrians who remain in the country. Another 2 million Syrian refugees are in camps in neighboring Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan.
“We are doing what we can do,” said Dr. Mohammad Sheatt, 39, a foundation co-founder, director of TriHealth’s Pulmonary Hypertension Program and U.S. citizen for a year.
The foundation raised $184,000 at an April dinner to keep Syria’s only acute-care hospital open for two months.
Closer to home, in the Mason neighborhood where Sheatt lives with his wife and two young daughters, people who know of Sheatt’s Syrian roots have donated clothing, toys and school supplies to the foundation. Its Mason warehouse is filled with packed boxes.
No one will be rooting more for raising awareness than Laura Duello, a Lakota West mom who was diagnosed with breast cancer 10 months ago and has undergone three surgeries and 20 rounds of radiation.
Even before her diagnosis, Duello was involved with the effort. Her daughter Lexi, is a junior, playing varsity volleyball.
“I have a passion for this,’’ Duello said. “It has taken on a whole new meaning for me. I feel blessed.”
Duello said she was at last year’s Volley for the Cure and started talking with a friend who was handing out information at a table manned by the Atrium Medical Center.
“She asked me if I’d had my mammogram yet that year and I said no. She told me to get it this week and I did,’’ Duello said. “I could have waited another six months. I don’t what the outcome would have been if I waited.”
Mercy Health is bringing its mobile mammography van to this year’s event. It will be parked in front the school from 2-7 p.m. Mammograms can be scheduled by calling 513-686-3300.
The Atrium Medical Center will also be on site to answer questions on breast cancer and provide materials.
In the past six years the event has raised more than $50,000 and sold more than 11,000 T-shirts during its Volley for the Cure event.
“Our goal is to top the year before. We’re hoping for another good year – $10,000 to $11,000, Duello said. “We’re trying to raise funds to get research out there and I know it’s working. I’m tinkled pink about it.”
Eight southwest Ohio organizations will benefit Friday during Mars Hill Academy’s Day of Service.
Every student in the 300-pupil, grade K-12 classical and Christian school in Mason, will participate.
The day begins at 9 a.m. when kindergarten children make cards to go with blankets that will distributed by Southern Baptist Disaster Relief. The children will learn about the group through a visit with Judy Freeman, of the group.
First and second graders will host an appreciation tea for older adults from three senior citizen centers. During the tea, the children will perform for the senior and give them appreciation cards they made.
Third graders will visit with Mason Fire Department’s Deputy Chief Daniel Stitzel before helping to wash a fire truck. They will also hear a presentation about an upcoming mission trip to Togo from Roger Babik of Master Provisions. The children will give him cards to take on his trip.
Fourth through sixth graders are headed to Matthew 25 Ministries in Blue Ash to help assemble person care kits and repackaging liquid soap.
The Salvation Army’s Camp Swoneky in Oregonia will get help from the schools seventh through 10th graders. They will weed, rake, and clean facilities.
Juniors and seniors will go to the Teen Challenge women’s home and men’s ranch in Milford. There they will help make repairs, clean, and do farm chores.
Each year, The Enquirer recognizes a select group of area women for their contributions to our community through its Women of the Year program. The Enquirer honors its 2012 Women of the Year class today at a luncheon at the Hyatt Regency.
Ruby Crawford-Hemphill earned the nickname “Cassius Clay” in the ninth grade after she stood up to bullies tormenting a classmate.
It’s a fighting spirit the Mason nurse would carry with her all her life as she works to care for women, children and the indigent.
Born the oldest daughter of a working class family of six, Crawford-Hemphill was used to being a caretaker. So when the prom queen and drill team captain earned a full college scholarship, she knew she wanted to become a nurse.
As the assistant chief nursing officer of the Women’s Health Center at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, Crawford-Hemphill has been instrumental in expanding the hospital’s medical services to 13 community-based health centers across Greater Cincinnati.
She’s a charter member of Queen City Links, which she helped found eight years ago to improve the quality of life in Lincoln Heights, and helped launch the Women’s Health Fund, which has improved access to underserved women and their children.
She also serves on the boards for the Center for Respite Care, a 14-bed facility that provides medical care to homeless people recuperating from illness, and Every Child Succeeds, an organization that helps first-time, at-risk mothers provide an optimal start for their children.
Crawford-Hemphill is active with Delta Sigma Theta, a philanthropic group of professional women, and Bridges for a Just Community.
She also mentors at-risk girls through Rise Sister Rise.
“Ruby has a determination and fire in her belly that drives her to help our community,” said Nancy Barone, chief operating officer of University Hospital. “Her motivation is infectious and it is truly her life mission to help those in need.”
The 10 dozen small, white rubber ducks with green wings and ribbons may not stay at Mason High School for long.
Some of the ducks – a gift from the 26 Acts of Kindness group – are headed to a state conference next week for student government leaders.
Some will be offered to residents at Tender Mercies – a shelter for those with mental health issues. Others might go to those who are ill, children at the district’s early childhood center or elsewhere.
“It isn’t about us keeping the ducks. It’s about giving,’’ said history teacher Jerry Schrock, whose freshman homeroom planned the school’s Week of Kindness last month. “This is a good way to keep the kindness going.”
A group of freshmen, their senior sibs and a few adults are working together to make sure Mason High School lives up to its designation as the Kindest School in America by the 26 Acts of Kindness. They want the acts to continue indefinitely.
The organization was launched last December after NBC’s Ann Curry tweeted the idea of being kind to one another in memory of the 20 students and six adults killed in the Dec. 14 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in Newtown, Conn.
It was the inspiration for the school’s Week of Kindness, the last week of March. Administrators at 26 Acts of Kindness began a 26-month campaign encouraging kindness by naming Mason High the first of 26 honorees – one per month – in appreciation of the freshman class’ Week of Kindness.
Together with Newtown, the 26 Acts of Kindness group sent Mason High School 10 dozen rubber ducks as part of the Newtown community’s Ducks of Sandy Hook Campaign.
Mason High School students are writing each other notes with words of encouragement and placing them on random lockers as part of a kindness campaign. Photo provided
Sue Kiesewetter reports:
Mason High School may just be the kindest school in America.
That’s the feeling of 26 Acts of Kindness, a national campaign launched in December after NBC’s Ann Curry tweeted the idea of being kind to one another in memory of the 20 students and six adults killed in the Dec. 14 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in Newtown, Ct.
The school’s freshmen class is spearheading a weeklong campaign to have its 800 members perform 4,000 acts of kindness – one act per day, per student, for five days – ending Friday.
“I came into it as a skeptic. I thought the students would not take it seriously,’’ said freshman Danielle Morey. “It touches me to see how it’s caught on. It does make a difference.”
By 8:15 a.m. Friday, the goal had been exceeded, with more than 4,600 acts of kindness performed just by freshman. Each of the 34 freshmen homerooms are also making public service announcements, some of which are posted at YouTube.
Students are writing each other notes with words of encouragement or praise and placing them on random lockers. They’re helping out at home, babysitting for neighbors, holding doors open for teachers, or just smiling at classmates.
Both teachers and students have pledged to make Mason High School’s freshmen the Class of Kindness and continue the acts of kindness throughout their high school career.
Alex Pendergrass, left, and Steffon Scott, both inmates at Lebanon Correctional Institution (LeCI) pack boxes with new toys that were donated to the United State Marine Corps Toys for Tots program. Inmates at the prison raised over $5,200 through fundraisers at the prison. The staff bought toys ranging from dolls to bikes. The Enquirer/Cara Owsley
Steven Chorvas regrets not being there on Christmas morning for his own children and grandchildren.
But now Chorvas, an inmate at the Lebanon Correctional Institution, is hoping to make Christmas brighter for other needy children.
Chorvas is one of dozens of inmates who’ve helped to raise more than $5,200 to benefit the Butler-Warren County Marine Corps Reserves Toys for Tots. The toys were officially given to the Marines on Wednesday.
“It’s a way of stepping up and taking some responsibility for somebody’s kid out there,” said Chorvas, a former Marine now serving 23 years to life for murder. “Every person out there needs somebody to think about them and look out for them even if they don’t know them.”
This is the sixth year for the partnership, which is spearheaded and organized by prison military veterans groups with assistance from prison staff. The first year in 2007, only employees donated.
Inmates organize year round within prison walls to hold fundraising events, such as selling pizza or doughnuts, or by offering inmates the chance to take a photo of themselves to send home to family and friends.
Prisoners pay out of their limited commissary funds and money earned on work details. Their efforts raise between $5,000-$7,000 a year, which staff then use to purchase toys.
“From a prison management perspective and as a warden, you’re constantly striving to get inmates to do positive things,” said Warden Ernie Moore. “They’re getting together and talking about ways they can raise money to give to a bunch of needy kids in the community. That’s a win-win.”
Get your pet’s photo taken with Santa Sunday at the Mason Petsmart store.
A $9.95 donation (with Pet Perks card) will give owners a free photo session and framed photo made on-site of their pet with Santa. A portion of the proceeds benefit Louie’s Legacy, a nonprofit animal rescue that rescues and finds homes for dogs and cats.
Photo session hours are 1-5 p.m. Sunday. The rescue will also feature dogs available for adoption. Another photo session will be held from 1-5 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 9.
The Mason Petsmart store is at 8175 Arbor Square Drive and can be reached at 513-336-0365.