One of our members, Cathy Barney, is now into her seventh year of ministry through Artsy Fartsy, which provides safe, creative community activities for fourth- through sixth-graders in Milford’s only subsidized housing for families. The group meets the second Saturday of each month to explore arts activities that elicit voice and self expression in the context of a life lesson.
For example, twelve young participants and nine adult chaperones traveled to the Cincinnati Public Library this summer via the city bus for a tour and visit to the “MakerCenter.” Cathy’s neighborhood book club provided bus fare in her mother’s memory. The local coffee shop provided hearty bag lunches. “Most of these children have not visited the main library nor have they ridden the city bus,” says Cathy. “My goal was to instill confidence and independence in the midst of a new adventure.”
During that trip, Tony (pictured left) asked Cathy if she would help him increase his vocabulary because he wanted to write a proposal for a service project. They set a date for a study room at the Miami Township Library, another new experience for Tony.
“I want to change people’s behavior with a better environment,” Tony shared about his proposal. The new owners of the apartment complex have let it decline. Kids find needles in the playground. Drug use and deaths have increased. Families have been rocked by the sudden death of one long-time participant’s brother at another location. He had been a mentor to Tony.
“These kids are fully aware of the changes in their neighborhood,” Cathy shares. “We talk about it and they cope the best they know how. Dynamics are different as parents become less accessible and hurtful behavior among participants edges up.”
Tony’s idea is a counter to the negative influences. He wants improvements like restoring the baseball field, checking the playground for safety, expanding the play set, and trimming the bushes and flowers. At the library, Tony poured over the large thesaurus, another new experience, looking for the right word before settling on restore. “Yeah, that’s what I want to say!” While researching facts for his proposal, he found a study of cities that suggested what residents desire most to feel happy is beauty, even above relationships, safety, and health. His intuition has been telling him that long before his research confirmed it.
He also Googled videos on what it takes to reclaim a field, learning it involves heavy equipment. They solicited a City Council member, who met with them and invited them to a community development meeting, where Tony spoke and presented his request for help for the field. He is circulating a petition among residents who agree and who will help before he approaches the new owner.
“It is gratifying to watch a black teen learn to navigate the system,” Cathy said, sharing her pride in Tony, both as his mentor and as a former reporter who covered local government.
Cathy asks this of us as her empowering ministry continues:
- Consider volunteering for Artsy Fartsy any second Saturday and for Art Affaire in Milford on December 14.
- Make a donation in any amount. Her ministry is funded solely by donations (including from Cincinnati Friends Meeting) and grants.
- Pray for these children and their families, for those touched by rampant drug addiction in the area, and for Artsy Fartsy to continue to make a difference in the lives of young people like Tony.
For more information, contact Cathy at firstname.lastname@example.org.