Non-Profit Spotlight: Be Concerned

Be Concerned is a privately funded food pantry located in Covington, Kentucky. It was established in 1968 as a Christmas store and became a food pantry year-round in 1987. Their mission is to honor the dignity and humanity of all persons. Be Concerned does this by providing choices to their customers through what Andrew Brunsman, Executive Director of Be Concerned, says this is part of the dignity model Be Concerned promotes.

Be Concerned provides eighty pounds of food to approximately 615 families a month who live in Boone, Campbell, or Kenton County. Additionally, Be Concerned provides senior home deliveries to 90 seniors at four sites, as well as fifteen seniors who are homebound. They also have started what Brunsman calls “the weekend project”, which provides 800 meals a month for low income children who do not get to eat over the weekend at John G. Carlisle and Latonia Elementary. Be Concerned also recently started the college student food securement at Mount St. Joseph University. Brunsman delivered 34 grocery boxes during their third delivery. Be Concerned also has a thrift store, called Betty’s Treasures, at their site that anyone can shop at that provides other essentials like clothes and other items for a home.

“It comes down to volunteers. We’ve learned here that the food will always show up. You can ask people for food and they’ll get it, but people don’t always have time. What we could use the most are consistent volunteers for any length of time,” said Andrew Brunsman, Executive Director of Be Concerned. As they grow their programs, they need more help. Be Concerned uses Signup genius on their Facebook page for volunteers to sign up. Brunsman also wishes they had a better digital presence to let the community know what new things were going on at Be Concerned. Additionally, with the weekend project, variety with the meals is important so they need more microwavable individual cups with protein.

Patricia Weber, a regular volunteer at Be Concerned said, “The best part about volunteering at Be Concerned is the smiles and the gratitude you see on their faces and just to see how grateful they are.

“I’m most proud of the legacy that Be Concerned has left in the community of people caring and sharing. I’m proud of them to think of how many Northern Kentuckians our volunteers have fed over the years. I’m really proud of our reputation in the community for helping people and doing it on a mostly volunteer basis,” said Brunsman.

To learn more about Be Concerned, visit their website at or visit their Facebook page Be Concerned.

by Guest Blogger:

Julia Justice Hall is a sophomore at Thomas More College majoring in Communications. She is originally from Georgetown, Kentucky.

MLK Day of Service

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”

 – Martin Luther King Jr.

In 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed a bill recognizing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s. nonviolent campaign that brought redemption, reconciliation and justice. Starting in 1986, this bill set aside the third Monday of the year to commemorate the birthday and achievements of the civil rights leader.

Despite blatant hatred toward him and his family, Dr. King used his ministry to travel across the Bible-belt and fight for equality.   At the age of 15, King began his social justice journey at the HBCU, Morehouse College.

Many people don’t realize that six years before Dr. King’s well-known “I Have a Dream” speech at the March on Washington in 1963, he recited, “Give Us the Ballot,” fighting for voting rights for African Americans. The young pastor quickly found himself at the forefront of the civil rights movement.

During his time behind bars in Birmingham (1963), Dr. King wrote “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” where he shared four steps in culminating a nonviolent campaign in which the empathic approach of the IPARD process for service learning aligns with. First, we must collect the facts as preparation to discuss difficult situations. Then, we must reflect through self-purification and finally demonstrate through direct action.

King received some of the world’s top awards for his work, including the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.   He was gunned down in Memphis in 1968 at the age of 39.

As MLK Day is the only federal holiday observed as a national day of service, it surely is not a day off.

This year, Florence Government Center will acknowledge Dr. King’s accomplishments as civil rights leader and social activist through a tribute and march around the government center campus beginning at 3 pm. The Martin Luther King, Jr. Coalition will also host events; most are free to the public:

  • 8 am King Legacy Breakfast (contact 513-333-7706 for tickets)
  • 10:30 am 43rd Annual Commemorative Civil Rights March beginning at the Freedom Center (Free)
  • 11 am Interfaith Prayer Service at Fountain Square (Free)
  • 11:15 am March Continues to Music Hall (Free)
  • 12 noon MLK Commemorative Celebration at the Music Hall (Free)

To incorporate Martin Luther King Jr. Day into your classroom, visit for lessons and ideas.

Once Martin Luther King Jr. Day comes to an end, don’t let the rest of the year pass without the continuous practice of equity. Visit Learning to Give for more justice-related service learning toolkits or Youth Service America for ideas to help kindness rise!

“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”

-Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.


Boone County Schools: Students Across the District Make an Impact with Service Learning Projects

Using academic objectives in efforts of meeting community needs, service learning has been making impacts across Boone County throughout the school year with no intentions of letting up. Boone County High School’s art program used pumpkins donated by The Parks Department to carve Jack-O-Lanterns for the 28th Annual Boone County Parks Jack-O-Lantern Walk in October.

Thornwilde Elementary School’s Girls on the Run team held a “Running for Valerie” event, raising more than $3,000 for Valerie McNamara. The former coach and teacher suffered severe injuries in 2016, when a building partially collapsed in Covington.

Ockerman Middle School eighth graders recently packed nearly 30 shoeboxes with toys, school supplies, clothing and personal care items as well as notes of encouragement for Operation Christmas Child. For many of the children receiving the shoeboxes, it’s the only gift they will receive during the holidays. To date, Operation Christmas Child has gifted more than 146 million shoeboxes to children in more than 160 countries and territories. This year, organizers at Samaritan’s Purse are hoping that groups and individuals will gift 12-million shoeboxes to children in countries like Peru, the Philippines, Rwanda and Ukraine. To learn how you can be a part of Operation Christmas Child, click here. North Pointe Elementary Student Council shoeboxes have been processed and given tracking numbers so students can follow each box on its journey to a child in need.

It’s not too late to build your own $5 to $10 shoeboxes to give to those experiencing homelessness here in Northern Kentucky.

Holiday Service – It’s not too late to Pitch-In!

As a service learning project, local elementary students helped children who are “food insecure” receive sustenance during winter break by hosting a school wide food drive and tracking the progression of each class using bar graphs to be donated to Childhood Food Solutions.

You’re not too late to be a volunteer during this holiday season.

Modo Yoga Cincinnati, Clifton & Northern Kentucky

  • When: December 23rd 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm
  • Where: 3527 Columbia Pkwy, Cincinnati, OH 
  • What: We’ll gather at the Cincinnati studio to assemble bags, which we’ll then divide up among anyone who would like to help distribute them to the community.

Mental Health America of Northern Kentucky & Southwest Ohio

  • When: December 25th 10:00 am – 2:00 pm
  • Where: 1 W. Rivercenter Blvd, Covington, KY 41011
  • What: Help serve a free Christmas Day dinner to about 2,000 people in Northern Kentucky

It also isn’t too late to build a $5 to $10 shoeboxes to gift to those experiencing homelessness here in Greater Cincinnati during this holiday season. For more volunteer opportunities, visit United Way of Greater Cincinnati.

North Pointe Elementary Student Council Participates in Operation Christmas Child

“Let my heart be broken with the things that break the heart of God” – Bob Pierce, founder and leader of Samaritan’s Purse.

Bob Pierce not only believed the story of the Good Samaritan, he based an entire nondenominational evangelical Christian organization around the parable. He has national leadership teams train pastors and community leaders who want to share the message of the Gospel and bless children in over 100 countries.

During this season of giving, the Student Council at North Pointe Elementary of Boone County School District partnered with the Samaritan’s Purse to take on Operation Christmas Child. Engaging their peers, student council members created fliers inviting everyone from their school to donate items they could include in shoeboxes to be given to boys and girls living in areas hit by hurricanes and floods. Donations were collected over the course of a month to prepare over 30 shoeboxes for the students’ first international service learning project.

Operation Christmas Child collects shoebox gifts—filled with fun toys, school supplies and hygiene items—and delivers them to children in need around the world. For many of these children, the gift-filled shoebox is the first gift they have ever received. To date, Operation Christmas Child has gifted more than 146 million shoeboxes to children in more than 160 countries and territories. In 2017 Operation Christmas Child is hoping to gift 12 million shoeboxes to children in countries like Peru, the Philippines, Rwanda and Ukraine. To learn how you can be a part of Operation Christmas Child, click here.

Groups and individuals around the world are touching the lives of children and families through similar donations. National Collection week has passed, but it’s not too late to pack a shoebox! You can still build a shoebox online and track its destination. Imagine if we packed shoeboxes and gave to those experiencing homelessness here in Kentucky. For ideas on how you can extend this project year-round click here.

Shari “The Bag Lady” visits St. Philip School

It’s been almost two years since Shari Petrie, of Latonia, became known as “The Bag Lady.” Her passion as an environmentalist led her to crochet mats for people experiencing homelessness. The bags she uses may otherwise block the flow of streams, be hazardous to the metabolism of living organisms or pack landfills as the plastic used to make them does not break down overtime. Researchers estimate that 269,000 tons of plastic float on the ocean’s surface.

Shari and her recycled treasures
Shari showing Mrs. Twehues’ & Mrs. Dee’s students how to make plarn

In science class, students at St. Philip School learned about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and the negative impacts that plastic has on our waterways. Students then invited “The Bag Lady” to help them tie what they learned in the classroom with ways they can give back to the community. Shopping bags separated by the school’s 2nd graders were used by Mrs. Dee’s 4th grade and Mrs. Twehues’ 5th/6th split class to make plarn, plastic yarn. It takes just a few easy steps to produce plarn: fold a shopping bag in fourths, cut the folded bag into thirds and the final step is to slip knot the cut pieces together. To participate in creating plarn, join “The Bag Lady” at Mackenzie’s Work Shop January 12, 2018.

students making plarn
students making plarn

Northern Kentucky University freshman, Lexi Twehues, volunteered to help students make plarn. Students and teachers engaged their community, asking the school and parish members to donate plastic bags to be processed into plarn. Using an US Q, Shari will crochet the plarn into four “bean bag” chairs.  “The Bag Lady” expects to use anywhere from 1,000 to 2,000 bags to complete one bean bag chair. All four chairs will be donated to the Duke Energy Children’s Museum at the Cincinnati Museum Center.  Children’s Museum staff is excited to receive this donation and believe the chairs will help inspire visitors to recycle.

Students from St. Philip School with Shari “The Bag Lady”

Honoring Sophia with Mya’s Wish Come True

When classmate Sophia lost her life to cancer this year, Longbranch Elementary students and teachers grieved with Sophia’s family. In the midst of their sorrow and need to ‘do something’, Sophia gave them a powerful purpose when they passed her wish forward to help another child battling cancer treatment. Sophia had wanted nothing more than to swim with the mermaids at Disney World. Before her death, the Make-A-Wish Foundation made this happen for her and her family. When Principal Erika Bowles suggested to Mrs. Melanie Roberts that perhaps their school play could help the community heal and give back to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, teacher Mrs. Roberts and the director, Mrs. Regina Melvin, sprang to action. This is the story of how they empowered their students, teachers, parents, and community partners to collaborate around a powerful service learning experience.

Partnering with the Make-A-Wish Foundation in conjunction with their production of The Little Mermaid, Jr., students raised money for Mya, another local little girl with cancer that had a similar wish as Sophia’s. In addition to practicing their roles, creating props, sets, and market items, the students debated about how much to charge for the admittance. Their decision was to accept any donation people wished to give. In addition, students made items that were sold at the “Market” each night of the play. At last count, Longbranch students and teachers had raised $18,370.00!

Although Mya is still in treatment for lymphoma, a cancer that effects your immune cells, Mya and her family now have the opportunity to visit Disney World to meet with her favorite princesses, including Ariel. The purpose of the Make-A-Wish program is to bring hope, strength, and joy to children experiencing serious illness. These experiences give children something to look forward to despite all the challenges they face.

But the gift truly was reciprocal. Longbranch students and teachers connected learning with compassion, giving them strength and hope because of Sophia, Mya and their families. Members of the cast and crew reflected about what they experienced as their favorite parts of this project. Simone was “grateful to Conner High School students that volunteered by helping the Mersisters learn their lines”. Many students expressed their thanks to Mrs. Roberts, Mrs. Melvin, Mrs. Steele, and others, for making the play happen. Fifth grader Malachi Beesley’s favorite thing is “how everyone gets to express different things.” Tyler Steffen, also a fifth grader, said his favorite thing about the play “is getting to honor Sophia and help Mya get her wish.” Crew member Christina Norsworthy agreed. Her favorite thing is that it is helping other people.

St. Cecilia Fifth Graders – Impacting the Children of Shelby County

“Kind of sad. It also made me feel so blessed for all of the food we have.”  A fifth grade girl shifted her weight as she shared her feelings. She belongs to Kathy Wustefeld’s fifth grade class at St. Cecilia in Northern Kentucky.

In November as the students excitedly returned from Thanksgiving break and eagerly stated their impatience for Christmas break, Ms. Wustefeld shared some information about students in Shelby County. She painted a raw picture of the students afraid to go home for a two week Christmas break due to the lack of food in their homes. These same children eat breakfast, lunch and a late afternoon snack at school. On weekends they are offered backpacks of snacks to take home with them.

The impact of this picture empowered the fifth grade class to make a difference. A raffle to raise money, a book drive, and a jacket drive were conducted at the school. For the raffle, students donated items from their homes. The students also gained a multitude of skills by encouraging the student body to buy tickets through classroom presentations, morning announcements, and posters created in art class. As students of all ages visited the raffle table, fifth graders paired up with kindergartners to help them with the process. A student describes his experience:

“It took a lot of patience because the kindergartens didn’t know what they wanted. But it was also fun and they were cute.”

Through the raffle 2,345 tickets were purchased, raising $586.30. The students learned a probability lesson by equating the chances for winners for each basket based on the number of tickets they had entered. They also used line graphs to measure which basket was the most popular and which was the least.

As a culmination, students prepared written reflections and made video clips to highlight their experiences… moving forward a little more grateful than before.

St. Philip – Ongoing Success

Service Learning St. PhilipChildren, Inc., the Jefferson Award Foundation and other sponsors are proud to recognize St. Philip School of Northern Kentucky for their ongoing success in implementing Service Learning into the classroom and community.  Because of this diocesan school, not only is the community being positively impacted, but the students are developing a deeper understanding for how to use their skills to make a difference in the world.


Reflecting upon elements of a successful service learning experience, 5th grade teacher  Jennifer Twehues says,

“A successful Service Learning project starts and ends with the students.  Projects must be student driven and student centered in order to be successful.  This influences our students’ daily lives and gives them a voice in a better society.  Students take away a life skill that encompasses compassion and gratitude.”

New Hope Food Pantry is a reoccurring community agency that is impacted by St. Philip’s students.  Ms. Twehues describes her school’s experiences with community partners as “fulfilling, rewarding, and gratifying”.

NKYAB – Baloney Brigade Campaign

Eight different high schools from across Northern Kentucky have come together this year to serve as the Northern Kentucky Youth Advisory Board (NKYAB). Throughout the year, students have been learning how to become effective leaders and have identified ways to make positive changes in their schools. Students focus on two guiding questions to focus their efforts at their respective schools:

  1. What does it take to make all students K-12 successful?
  2. How can students make that happen?

The NKYAB is hard at work planning for the end of the year Student Showcase on May 6th from 2:00-3:30 at Northern Kentucky University. This will be an opportunity for the public to come out and learn how students from Pendleton County HS, Grant County HS, Bracken County HS, Ryle HS, Cooper HS, Dayton HS, Notre Dame Academy, Highlands HS, and Holmes HS have made an incredible impact at their schools and communities.

NKYAB Slider 2

As they prepared their presentations and display posters, students paused to make sack lunches as part of the Baloney Brigade Campaign for the St. Francis-St. Joseph Catholic Worker House.

If you would like to learn more about the NKYAB, the Student Showcase, or how you can help, please email Kyle Reiser at