Sharing Smiles with Tiger Birthday Bundle
Erica Riggall is on a mission — she wants every child to feel special, especially on their birthday.
She is the founder a new 501(c)(3) nonprofit in Loveland, Tiger Birthday Bundle. The organization creates “birthday bundles” for low-income children ages 1-18 to make their birthday special. The bundle comes in the form of a bag and includes an age-appropriate toy, book and stuffed animal, as well as comfort items like a blanket, toiletries or snacks.
In early September, Riggall dropped off 18 birthday bundles to Loveland Interfaith Effort (LIFE) Food Pantry, which serves approximately 500 families in the 45140 zip code. Riggall hopes to partner with other non-profits in the future to distribute the bundles to more children.
“I want every kid to have a birthday and feel special,” she said.
Hearing of a similar program based in Florida, Riggall searched for a group in Greater Cincinnati to volunteer her time. Alas, she couldn’t find one, so she created Tiger Birthday Bundle.
Not only did Riggall go through the paperwork process of setting up the organization, she took to fundraising for the first 18 birthday bundles. Through social media requests, email requests to friends, and two fundraisers she hosted at Scene 75 Entertainment and Chipotle, she raised all the monetary funds needed to kickstart the purchased gifts.
Gift bundles are categorized by age: 4 and under, 5-8, 9-12 and 13-18. Younger children may receive toys such as Legos, while those in the 13-18 group could receive an age-appropriate gift like a set of earbuds, pens, pencils, a zipper pouch, and a small gift card, she explained.
Once gifts are purchased, Riggall’s mission does not stop. The gifts must be wrapped! For the first set of 18 bundles, Riggall and a friend spent several hours wrapping the gifts. For her next planned drop-off, volunteers at Prince of Peace Church wrapped items.
Would you like to help make a child’s birthday special?
- Shop the Amazon Wish List. Items have been chosen based on age and recommendations.
- If you would like to make a monetary donation or donate an already purchased item, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
- If your group is interested in volunteering time to wrap gifts, please contact email@example.com.
Please visit Tiger Birthday Bundle on Facebook for more information.
Read Up on Nature with Love Our Land
Have you seen the newest addition along the Little Miami Scenic Bike Trail? Love Our Land has installed a free "Lending Library" located near Mile 42 Coffee and the Linda J. Cox Trailside Parking Lot. It is fully stocked with nature/environment-themed reading material for all ages. Borrow (or keep...or add) a book!
“Our goal is to get you information any way we can. We want to promote environmental education,” said Mike Meldon, co-founder of Love Our Land, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, citizen-driven organization that calls Loveland home. The nonprofit hosts educational events and activities for all ages, such as trail walks and plant identification lessons.
Meldon, along with fellow co-founder Doug Gilbert, wanted to create a library to collect and distribute material about nature, ecology and biodiversity — really anything that has to do with the environment — for all ages. Meldon started to research locations around Downtown Loveland, considering coffee shops and restaurants. Ultimately, he felt that if the organization could build something outside, it would embrace the project’s theme while being visible from the road and bike trail.
With the city’s permission, Meldon pursued the idea of building a “Little Free Library” just off the Bike Trail along Broadway Street. Loveland City Councilmember Neal Oury donated his time and talent to build the structure, using recycled materials.
The box itself is made entirely of scrap wood including walnut and cedar. Even the metal roof was repurposed: “The metal is from my wife’s great-great grandparent’s home in Cocoa Beach, Florida. The home was built in 1912,” Oury explained.
The library’s collection has been kickstarted with a donation of 200 nature books from St. Columban, as well as 32 books from Adopt a Book Ohio, which serves as a sort of warehouse for Little Free Libraries across the state.
Love Our Land’s library makes the second lending center along the trail in Downtown Loveland. There is currently a Little Free Library, operated by Adopt a Book Ohio, located on the opposite side of town near The Wicked Pickle.
For the Love Our Land Lending Library, Meldon and Gilbert stressed that visitors do not need to leave a book to take a book. “Read it and learn! Enjoy!” said Meldon.
Lunch, Learn & Play with NEST
Maybe you’ve spotted a NEST bus on the street or read its slogan — “Because every kid deserves a fighting chance” — on a poster around town recently. But, hey, isn’t school out for summer?! Just because schools are closed doesn’t mean that NEST (Nutrition, Education, Safety, Transformation) Community Learning Center is taking a break! Learn how you can help.
In its seventh year, NEST was founded with the mission to address academic and non-academic barriers that perpetuate generational poverty in suburban communities. The non-profit currently operates programs in the Loveland and Clermont Northeastern school districts. Through its five mobile classrooms (converted RVs and buses), NEST delivers free, customized programs to at-risk children.
During the summer months, NEST operates its free Lunch, Learn & Play Program for 7-8 weeks in three neighborhoods it serves during the school year. The program delivers a healthy lunch and focuses on helping kids retain academic lessons. NEST staff and volunteers organize book giveaways and “day camp” style fun with games to maximize physical activity.
“Our summer program helps keep NEST connected to the families we build relationships with throughout the school year. This program is a way to help kids retain their reading and math skills through the summer,” explained founder and executive director Evangeline DeVol. “We try to help keep kids on track socially, emotionally and nutritionally so they are set up for cognitive development.”
Like NEST’s other programs, its summer Lunch, Learn & Play Program is operated by a dedicated group of staff and volunteers. Approximately 30-40 volunteers are needed to operate one day of programming.
“Our volunteer commitment is more long-term than your average volunteer opportunity. You can’t start something and then not show up. Kids are counting on you. But our volunteers consistently tell us they take away from NEST as much as they give,” DeVol said.
She added: “I feel God has blessed me with a megaphone to say, ‘Hey, here’s what’s going on! It’s up to us.’ Once you know, you have to make a decision on what you want to do.”
How can you get involved?
- Financial Donations – “With the pandemic and the financial market’s uncertainty, it’s been a difficult time for many nonprofits,” DeVol explained. If you would like to make a donation to NEST, your check donation may be mailed to NEST CLC, 11905 Rich Road, Loveland, Ohio 45140.
- Volunteer – NEST is always seeking volunteers, especially for the after school and evening hours. Adults and high school students are needed for shifts for homework help and tutoring. Tutors are offered training, taught best practices, etc. Oftentimes, students will form a bond with their tutor. The ideal NEST volunteer understands the importance of commitment and showing up. If you are interested in volunteering with NEST, simply fill out the web form. Staff will contact you for a short phone interview to find the best placement for you!
- Book Donations – NEST delivers book giveaways to program participants. Donations of elementary reading books for grades K-5 are welcomed. Please no dictionaries, textbooks, encyclopedias, etc. Storybooks are best to try to foster excitement for reading! Think high interest, low reading level (i.e. a 7th grader may be reading at a 5th grade level). Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions or are unsure about books to donate. Books may be dropped off to NEST at 11905 Rich Road.
- For other ways to support the organization, please visit the NEST website.
Explore the "New" Nature Preserve
As the weather warms up, we are highlighting a place this month. Get inspired to explore your city this summer!
The City of Loveland has renamed Hidden Creek Park to West Loveland Nature Preserve.
The 26.5-acre natural area occupies a creek valley located between the Glen Lakes Subdivision and the Hidden Creek Subdivision. The preserve is a primarily wooded area with walking trails and picnic areas.
Per the suggestion of the Loveland Parks & Recreation Board, as well as the Tree & Environment Committee, City Council approved a motion to change the land’s name from Hidden Creek Park to West Loveland Nature Preserve in Spring 2022.
These groups suggested the name change because many residents are unaware of the park’s existence or link the park to the Hidden Creek Subdivision exclusively.
"I'm excited about the name change. The West Loveland Nature Preserve is a hidden gem," stated Lisa Freeman, Parks & Recreation Board member. "It is the hope of the Recreation Board and the Tree & Environment Committee that the name change will make the community aware of its presence and get families to enjoy and care for this greenspace."
The preserve can be accessed from two locations in the Hidden Creek Subdivision, from the entrance at West Loveland Avenue, and from Glen Lake Road in the Glen Lake Subdivision.
There is a trail that follows the creek. It runs between the creek and the houses on Glen Lake Road. There is a second trail that crosses the creek and leads to the picnic areas.
This summer, a small asphalt parking lot will be installed off West Loveland Avenue.
Eat Dessert First with MelaMack's
Have you visited MelaMack's, the new bakery in town? Melissa Henderson, an Air Force veteran and experienced baker of 15 years, tells us how about her family owned-and-operated shop at 401 Loveland-Madeira Road.
How did you get into baking?
I started making cakes for my kids’ birthdays. I was over the top with tiers, sculpted characters, etc. It was a creative outlet for me. Friends started asking me to make cakes, and it grew into my first baking business.
Tell us about your first business.
I owned The Sweetest Things in Cincy and specialized in wedding and custom cakes. I was rated by The Knot and Wedding Wire. I had a home kitchen license, but with the pandemic, consumables took a hit. People were wary to place orders with at-home bakers even though I was fully licensed and inspected by the health department. In 2021, I started looking at storefronts.
Why did you choose Loveland to open your shop?
As I was looking at storefronts, my family moved from West Chester to Loveland. We really liked the area, and I wanted to be part of the community. The bakery name represents our commitment to family and is a combination of my name and my daughter’s. My sister, daughter, and niece work with me.
What will customers find at MelaMacks?
Custom novelty cakes to order, daily cakes, cupcakes, cookies, brownies, loaves, cakepops, holiday specials, and fresh coffee. Hoping to add donuts, bagels, and rolls in the future!
How are customers reacting?
They’re excited I’m here! People tell me there was a bakery across the street by Goodwill years ago. They say they’ve been waiting. I’ve had a great welcoming. Even other business owners have stopped by to introduce themselves.
Give us a fun fact!
I was invited to be a contestant on the TV show Cake Boss. Unfortunately, it was cancelled because of the pandemic.
What is your business dream?
I want to grow MelaMacks into a brand, and I hope to hire locally in the future. I want our bakery to be community focused and a place where people want to hang out.
Go Green with Back2TheDirt
You could say Katie Jacobs' co-workers are worms — European Nightcrawlers to be exact — that can eat nearly half their weight in food every day.
Jacobs, a Loveland resident and Loveland High School grad, owns and operates Back2TheDirt, a vermicompost (AKA worm composting) business that aims to reduce waste that would otherwise be thrown in a landfill. Hers is one of the growing number of businesses in Greater Cincinnati joining the “green infrastructure” movement.
“I started worm composting when I moved into an apartment with no public composting. Worm composting requires very little space and happens at a very quick speed,” explained Jacobs, who holds a degree in biochemistry and previously researched cover crops.
“This is something I knew how to do, and I wanted to start a business. I felt like I could have an impact in the community.”
In February 2021, she applied for grant funding to jumpstart her business idea and was awarded a Hamilton County Waste Reduction Innovation Grant.
So what can Back2TheDirt provide for local residents?
Jacobs offers a subscription membership model. Customers can drop off organic kitchen waste at designated locations, or arrange for Jacobs to pick it up from their home or business.
“By diverting waste from the landfill, you help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. A lot of the savings comes from not having anything to release into the atmosphere in the first place,” said Jacobs.
Jacobs then feeds the waste to her “worm workers,” where it is broken down within 30 days. The end product is known as vermicompost, “worm casting” compost, or simply as “black gold.” This material is highly sought after by planters for its high level of microbial activity. Soil mixes are available for purchase.
To learn more about Back2TheDirt, please visit https://www.back2thedirt.com/.
LIFE Feeds the Hungry
The holiday season, and what many think of as the “season of giving,” has passed. But there are neighbors in need year-round in the Greater Loveland community. Loveland Interfaith Effort (LIFE) Food Pantry is preparing to kick off its largest campaign of the year — Feed the Hungry — in April. Learn how you can help.
Feed the Hungry is LIFE’s largest annual fundraising campaign, which sustains its services depended upon by approximately 500 individuals in the 45140 zip code. Services include deliveries to senior citizens; after-school and weekend nutrition for students; and meals and financial aid, such as rent and utility assistance, to families. The campaign will run April 18-May 21 to drive donations, as well as awareness about LIFE.
“This is the timeframe we see the most donations come in to support our efforts for the entire year,” explained Chad Planner, LIFE volunteer and board member.
Since the pandemic, volunteers have seen an uptick in need within the community.
“LIFE provides a necessary service to many within our community. This upcoming month, during the Feed the Hungry Campaign, is a great time to get involved. Give a little if you can, volunteer your time, or just learn a little more about us,” said Planner.
How can you get involved?
- Loveland Magazine and the Little Miami River Chamber Alliance will host a food drive April 16 in Downtown Loveland – click here for details!
- Drop off a donation to the pantry, 541 Loveland-Madeira Road. There is a dropbox for small, non-perishable donations. If you have a larger or perishable donation, please drop off during pantry hours: Wednesday, Friday or Saturday from 10 a.m. – noon; or Tuesday and Thursday from 10 a.m. – noon or 4-6:30 p.m.
- Donate funds to help the pantry make food purchases throughout the year when supplies are low, or the funds will go toward financial aid.
- Host a food drive within your neighborhood or at your work.
- Volunteer to pick up donations, assist with weekly distributions, or run seasonal programs.
- If you are a business and you’d like to partner or host a special event, contact LIFE at email@example.com or (513) 583-8222.
Over the Top Fun: How Cappy's LOVES Giving Back
A knight in shining armor… Roses… Dogs. Oh, just part of a weekend at Cappy’s! Read how this local business celebrated Hearts Afire Weekend AND raised more than $6,000 for an animal rescue.
Cappy’s Wine and Spirits, 309 W. Loveland Ave., knows how to have fun. Owner Ben Capodagli often hosts events ranging from live music and gameday watch parties to keg taps and wine tastings. The store has many loyal customers, who appreciate its 40 craft beers on tap, friendly staff, and atmosphere.
Cappy’s has been a longtime supporter of events in the city, such as the Independence Day Celebration, and quickly jumped on board to support Hearts Afire. Moreso, Cappy’s believes in giving back to the community and has hosted various fundraisers and collection drives over the years. For instance, the store has partnered with organizations like LIFE Food Pantry, Toys for Tots, JDRF Diabetes Foundation, Dragonfly Foundation, Adopt-A-Book, and CancerFree KIDS.
So, when Ben and his cousin Nicole Capodagli, who is also the Marketing Manager for Cappy’s, dreamed up a Charity Date Auction to host during Hearts Afire, it just made sense. Cue the knight, roses, and dogs….
Cappy’s Charity Date Auction took place Friday, Feb. 11. The evening was emceed by Ken Broo, former local TV sportscaster, and kicked off with live music by Briscoes Hold the Gravy. Cappy’s was decorated like the set of The Bachelor — imagine hearts, a red carpet, roses, light-up words like “Love,” and a knight in shining armor. It was over-the-top, ridiculous fun that only Cappy’s could pull off!
“After sitting in the first city meeting for Hearts Afire, I knew this weekend was going to be a hit. As we walked through the city back to Cappy’s, it just came to us that a Charity Date Auction was something totally over the top that we knew we could pull off,” explained Nicole.
Around 8 p.m., the eligible dates — store employees, beer/wine reps and some familiar faces — literally walked the red carpet. Bidding started at $50 with all proceeds going to Furgotten Dog Rescue, a non-profit serving the Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky region to rescue, educate, and advocate for unwanted shelter dogs that are left behind because of their breed, age, appearance, and special needs.
Top bidders won a night on the town with their lucky date for Saturday, Feb. 12. The date included a champagne toast at Cappy’s, chocolate-covered strawberries from Cocoa Bites, a mini-shopping spree at Lemons & Limes Boutique, and a pizza from Rodi Italian.
Cappy’s is an Ohio State Liquor agency that specializes in high proof spirits, craft, import and domestic beers and wine. Cappy’s has a sister store in Norwood, too. For more information, please visit Cappy's Facebook Page.
Hearts Afire Inspired by a Love for Event Planning
Meet Nancy Duff, one of the volunteers helping to plan the city’s Hearts Afire Weekend. Love is in the air… Nancy shares how her love for event planning helped inspire the new celebration!
I’ve lived in Cincinnati my whole life, and moved to Loveland 30 years ago with my husband, Jr. We have two kids, Logan and Lexi, both graduates of Loveland High School. I work in the Special Education Department at Loveland High School, which I LOVE.
I was a stay–at-home mom when my kids were younger, and I loved helping out in their classrooms as a volunteer/room mom. It didn’t take me long to figure out that I was born for this kind of thing, and before I knew it, I was that “over the top” room mom that was in charge of all the parties! By the time my kids were in high school, I got to take on bigger jobs like decorating for school events, band fundraisers, and show choir functions. It was around this time that I met another high school mom that suggested that I start going to the City of Loveland Events Planning Committee meetings with her.
And that’s where it all started for me! It’s been about six years now that they have let me help plan Christmas in Loveland and the Independence Day Celebration. I think they let me keep coming back because I am pretty good at convincing people to do things they didn’t even know they wanted to do!
Between these two events, meetings and planning happen pretty much year-round with a month or two break here and there. Even though it’s a lot of work and long hours, I keep coming back because I love the group I work with! City Hall’s Misty [Brents] is a great leader that keeps us organized and moving forward. Our meetings are always full of laughs and giggles.
My favorite Christmas was the year we went “Who-Ville.” We opened a “Cindy Lou Hair Do” salon, where four hair stylists created awesome Cindy Lou up-do’s! While waiting inside City Hall to see Santa, people could pet baby sharks from the aquarium (you know, One Fish, Two Fish) and dance to the “Baby Shark” song played by a DJ. It was a stretch, but people had a great time. You had to be there; it really was epic!
Over the years, I got to attend Valentine Breakfasts when my daughter was lucky enough to win the Annual Poetry Contest. It became something we really looked forward to every year. These breakfasts got me thinking that we could do so much more to celebrate Valentine’s Day in our city. My friend, Sherri, and I talked about the things we would do if we got the chance, and then, after the Valentine Breakfast last year, we approached Misty with all of our ideas. It didn’t take long until she was onboard with giving it a try!
The City of Loveland Events Planning Committee decided on the Hearts Afire name because we thought it stood out from other event names — just like we feel our city stands out from others! I think people will be surprised when they see how much fun will be going on all around town the weekend before Valentine’s Day. Nearly every shop and restaurant in town has been planning something special to offer their customers …that they LOVE! Hearts Afire will be such a bright spot during what can be a cold and dark time of year. And there will be so many fun activities…ice carving, a charity date auction, painting and craft classes, fire twirlers, a Newlywed Game, love “spell” workshops just to name a few things….that there is really something for everyone. There will be indoor and outdoor activities throughout the weekend. This is a chance to bring the community together after so many of us have been distanced during the pandemic.
Anyone who knows me, knows I love to watch Hallmark movies! The cute towns they use for their movies are the vision I have for us here in Loveland. I won’t be happy until Hallmark features Loveland in one of their movies!
I can see Hearts Afire being a popular destination that people from all over Cincinnati want to visit. We aren’t called the “Sweetheart of Ohio” for nothing!