Cincy Chic: What are some projects – big or small – that the Marvin Lewis Community Fund is working on right now?
Barbara Dundee, executive director of the Marvin Lewis Community Fund (MLCF): This time of year, we are just getting into our busy fall season. On September 11 the second annual Who Dey 5K and Flying PigSkin Party will take place starting at Longworth Hall at 11:30 a.m. Following the 5K, we’ll have the Flying PigSkin Party in the parking lot with live music, the Bengals vs. the Browns on a huge screen, lots of food and beverages. This event is produced by the Flying Pig Marathon and benefits our Learning Is Cool program.
On September 13 we have the kick Off for Learning Is Cool for the 2011 to 2012 school year. This program encourages children in grades one through eight to excel academically using the celebrity voice of Coach Lewis and the Bengals players and small reward items. This is the signature program for MLCF.
October 11 is Hometown Huddle, a joint annual project for the NFL and the United Way; in our community, it is planned and executed by the MLCF. Designed to make a lasting impression in the community and promote volunteerism, this year the project will take place in North College Hill and will include the renovation of Veterans Park on Betts Road. We will be installing a community garden, new playground equipment, benches, trash cans, a renovated picnic area and extensive landscaping with trees, plants and much more.
October 20 is Football 101, a great evening of fun and football for 450 women at Paul Brown Stadium. This annual event is our second largest fundraiser and takes place every year during the Bengals bye week. Our guests will learn the ins and outs of football from Coach Lewis and many other members of the Bengals coaching staff. Registration is online at our website. Each participant receives a gift bag, T-shirt, dinner buffet and drinks and an evening of great fun! You must be at least 21 to attend, and women from 21 to 81 participate.
Cincy Chic: What is your favorite thing the fund has ever done for the community? Why?
Dundee: It is hard to choose between Learning Is Cool and the Marvin Lewis Scholarship Fund. The scholarship fund gives a $20,000 scholarship over four years to outstanding high school graduates, allowing them to go the colleges or universities of their choice. The students must demonstrate financial need, a proven record of community service, have earned a varsity letter, have at least a 2.75 GPA in high school and write a convincing 1,000 word essay about what the scholarship means to them. We currently have 29 students in college with a cumulative GPA of 3.31, 12 have graduated and we have awarded a little over $1,000,000 in scholarship money so far. So with the scholarships, we make a huge difference in the life of a relatively small number of people. With Learning Is Cool, we make a difference in the lives of a large number of people.
Cincy Chic: Why do you like working for the fund?
Dundee: I feel like we are making a difference in many peoples’ lives, particularly with Learning Is Cool and the Marvin Lewis Scholarship Fund. I love working with kids and feeling that in some small and some large ways, we make life better for those that need some encouragement and support.
It is great to work for someone like Marvin, who has such passion and vision about what we can do to help children succeed and who has done so much for this community since he came here in 2003. I think without a doubt he has done far more than any of his predecessors or any other celebrity in Cincinnati. So far, this organization has given over $6,000,000 to the community, impacted over 350,000 people, and we are proud to say that we give back 93 cents of every dollar raised. In addition to being involved in what we do here, he has a more than full-time job coaching football.
Cincy Chic: What are your plans for the charity’s future?
Dundee: We would like to expand Learning Is Cool, increase the number of scholarships we can award, increase the amount of money we can afford to spend on grants to youth football teams to buy helmets and generally increase our positive impact on the greater Cincinnati community. In order to do these things, we need to find sponsors – both large and small – who believe in our work and are willing to help out. Every dollar helps! For instance, for just $10 we can buy rewards for one student who has worked hard and made the "A" Honor Roll each quarter of the year.