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The evening of Wednesday, December 10th marked the occasion of Ohio Valley Goodwill’s 13th annual Homeless Awareness Dinner which was held at the prestigious Sharonville Convention Center. This year’s event welcomed more than 400 guests from local community shelters with which Ohio Valley Goodwill works as part of the Greater Cincinnati Continuum of Care. The Continuum of Care is an association of more than 22 local organizations that provide a host of services for individuals struggling with homelessness. More than 85 of the guests were children under the age of 16.
With a warm welcome offered by Ohio Valley Goodwill Special Projects Manager, Bill Darnell, guests were invited to enjoy the lavish holiday spread graciously prepared and served by Ovations Catering. This is the third year in a row that Ovations has generously sponsored the delicious meal which included roast turkey, green beans, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, salad and of course, a selection of fantastic desserts.
The extravagant meal was accompanied by Christmas music provided by a DJ and later, dance tunes that got everyone up on their feet. In addition, the Ovations team had thoughtfully organized a troop of girl scout volunteers that provided coloring books and crayons for all of the young children attending the evening party. Led by Ms. Angie Hille, the troop was from West Chester and represented Adena Elementary School.
The highlight of the evening as always, was the arrival of Santa which created such excitement that all of the kids raced over to give him hugs. Each child then had the chance to sit on Santa’s lap and receive a stuffed animal toy as well as a candy cane.
This year all of the festivities were caught on film as local television channels 9 and 12 were on hand to document and share the story. “Goodwill is grateful to WCPO and WKRC for their coverage of this very important holiday story which helps to put a spotlight on the issue of homelessness in our community,” said Michael Flannery, Public Information Officer.
Ohio Valley Goodwill has been providing services for veterans and others challenged with homelessness since the early 1990′s and last year served more than 800 veterans through its transitional housing, skill training and employment programs. The annual Homeless Awareness Holiday Dinner is just another opportunity during the holiday season to provide something special for both individuals and families struggling with self-sufficiency. “Goodwill is so pleased that the Sharonville Convention Center and Ovations Catering make this wonderful holiday tradition possible,” said Joe Byrum, President and CEO. “We can’t thank Jim Downton and his Ovations team enough for their kindness and generous support,” added Byrum.
At the end of the evening, each guest received a gift bag donated by volunteers. Goodwill is grateful to its partner organizations for their involvement and support of the poignant holiday tradition. This year’s partners included the Ladies of Distinction, YWCA, Geiger House, Goodwill Dorm, Salvation Army, Mercy St. John, SSVF, Parkway Center, VOA, First Step Homes, Bethany House, Joseph House, the Drop In Center and the VA Dom.
The Homeless Coalition reports the following statistics regarding homelessness in the United States:
• 39%, of the homeless are children.
• 45% of children who are homeless are under the age of 5
• Families are the fastest-growing segment of the homeless population.
• Families with children (as opposed to single homeless people) make up about 30% of the homeless population nationally.
• Single men comprise 51% of the urban homeless population.
• Single women comprise about 17%.
• 13% of veterans are homeless
• Unaccompanied children make up about 2% of the homeless population.
Cincinnati Homeless Statistics provided by the Drop In Center indicate:
9,675 – number of confirmed homeless people
3,395 – number of confirmed homeless men
2,191 – number of confirmed homeless women
34% suffer from mental illness
13% are veterans
30% are chronically homeless*
For more information about Ohio Valley Goodwill’s programs and services, visit http://www.cincinnatigoodwill.org/services. Our most sincere gratitude to the Sharonville Convention Center, Ovations Catering and all of the wonderful volunteers that make this annual holiday celebration possible.