A boost for local Beatles club…

Here’s a story from Starfire’s April newsletter…


Andy is a diehard rock fan. His earliest exposure to the genre came when his sister played the Beatles for him during a tough time in his childhood. Since this year marks the 50th anniversary of the Beatles performing on the Ed Sullivan show, Andy wanted to start a project that would commemorate this anniversary, and help tie him into a group of people who also appreciate the power of rock and roll.

Recently he invited the Beatles Booster Club (or affectionately known as “The BBC”) to join his project committee. The “BBC” has been a Cincinnati fixture since 1996. Linda, the head of the group said she has loved meeting other Beatles fans.

 “By January of 1966, I was totally in love with the Beatles, especially Paul, and from that day forward my life totally changed. And then again it changed…when I met all my Beatles buddies because now I have Beatles playmates,” said Linda about forming the Beatles Booster Club. “The best part is all the friends I’ve made.”

Andy has joined the BBC and will be attending their future events. On top of that, he hosts monthly rock music trivia nights (pictured above) at Everybody’s Records in Pleasant Ridge, where he has been a crew member since 2009. Next weekend, he will also be helping run a Beatles Merchandise and Memorabilia Gala with his committee. There people can sell, trade, or display their collectibles of with other Beatles fans. The event is taking place NEXT SATURDAY April 19th, from 6-9pm at Japp’s downtown.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

April Learning Labs


Local Learning Lab

Local Learning Lab

*What is a Local Learning Lab?* Monthly meet-ups to learn from local citizens. Always FREE and always open to the public!

*Why should I be there?* To learn something of interest to you, or just to meet your neighbors!

*What’s the night look like?* We’ll start with a potluck! Bring a dish to share!  Then we will break out into FREE classes (did we mention they’re free?). You can choose between any of the offered classes! Afterward, we will join back together and hear any ideas for the next Learning Labs.

*What should I bring?* Just a dish to share for the potluck!  Our meal is made up of whatever shows up.  Bring something you like.  If you’re working on something (a project, an idea) bring it along!

*How were these classes chosen?* We let YOU decide them at our monthly gatherings. We then go out in search of the best people in Cincinnati who will teach these topics!

Here are April’s offerings!

Price Hill

Price Hill

Tuesday, April 8th
at Heritage Community Church in Price Hill
(4431 Glenway Ave, 45205)
6-8PM Potluck & Learning Lab.
Bring a dish and jump in a class that interests you!



Wednesday, April 16th
at McKie Community Center in Northside
(1655 Chase Avenue, Cincinnati, Ohio 45223)
6-8PM Potluck & Learning Lab.
Bring a dish and jump in a class that interests you!

Catch the Silverton Learning Lab back in action on May 15th…

*Who can I talk to to learn more?*
Northside: Sarah@starfirecouncil.org
Price Hill: Danyetta@starfirecouncil.org


Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment


As 2014 projects are well under way here, the need for legitimacy, and to be taken seriously as “real events” and not “special” in the sense of specifically for people with disability is a consideration each year.  (You’ll remember the debate around Brew Review logo design and why image is so important).  These events are designed to be inclusive for sure, working with one person at a time to support a passion, an interest and building a committee, a community, or a niche following. Here are some of this year’s best posters, flyers, and event promotion materials.  You can feel the cool factor, can’t you?  These are things you’d want to attend, you’d see in your local events page, and things that attract a wide audience of those curious and interested.

Dreams final poster

10 Powers of Dreaming

Natural Laws of Luck

Natural Laws of Luck

Blue Ash Music + Meditation

Blue Ash Music + Meditation



Sing Cincinnati

Sing Cincinnati


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Storytelling and “documentation”

One of the things we do to track outcomes at Starfire is to document the day in and day out. Just like a lot of places that serve people with disabilities do (and are required to do), we complete these logs as part of our job description. We are paid to do it. I’ve had to consider many aspects of documentation, as my role has been to report on effective outcomes. I’ve tried to design documentation forms that take into consideration staff time, how it aligns with our work, and perhaps most importantly: the value of these logs to the person they are being written about.

Documentation historically tells very little of the actual story, due to these considerations of convenience for staff and the need to just get it done. Typically, the most amount of writing you’ll see in logs is when something goes wrong. That’s when the full story comes into play. But on “good” days it might look as simple as this: “5pm: John sat on couch watching TV. 6pm: John got up to microwave dinner and took medication. 7pm: John sat on couch watching TV. 8pm: John took a bath. 9pm: John prepared for bed. He had a good day!”

I have to say that after months of reading logs like this at a previous job I had as a caregiver, nothing I read made me proud to work at the agency. Things began to feel flat, the exact opposite of why I got into this work to begin with. People’s lives aren’t supposed to be flat, and we work with people! Another unsettling part was how the person being written about never read their own logs, or contributed to the narrative in any way. For some people, staff were even instructed to wait until they were in bed or out of the room to write the logs (as it would upset them to see staff writing about them).

Harkening back to our March newsletter post, I’d like to share some of Starfire’s documentation. This was written as Megan’s journey to a life she imagined (the first story in the newsletter) began to unfold. Michelle, a staff person at Starfire wrote these (MR), and you can see her enthusiasm and support for Megan as she and Brenda (Megan’s “connector” or bridge in the community) work to find a food pantry near her home where she could volunteer, to find work with the elderly, and continue making friends at the Rec Center near her house where she takes Zumba classes.

Megan’s goals for November: Sort out Connector arrangements

  • Dec 9 Brenda has decided to be Megan’s connector! – MR

Megan’s December goals: Explore volunteer opportunities with Brenda

  • Dec 11 Spoke with Megan’s mom about her opportunity volunteering @ the community rec. center –MR
  • Dec 12 Megan showed me around her neighborhood. I saw her house & where the rec center is. She will be able to walk there once the weather warms up! – MR

January goals: Set up time and day for Megan to volunteer at the rec center. Make driving arrangements

  • Jan 8 ** New Connection: Judy at the neighborhood food pantry. ** Brenda, Megan, Becky & Matt explored Megan’s neighborhood and came across a small food pantry. The lady there showed much interest in Megan, saying she’d like to “pick her brain” on her experience working at CAIN! Megan is on board for working there every week if it can be worked out with her mother & her service facilitator. I see GREAT things coming her way. –MR
  • Jan 14 Megan will be volunteering at the community rec. center every other Tuesday assisting with chair Volleyball. Today was her first day. It went really well! Between the food pantry & the rec center, Megan has the opportunity to make some WONDERFUL connections, right in her own neighborhood. Excited to see everything unravel! – M
  • Jan 30 – It’s been arranged for Megan to do a three week trial of volunteer work @ the food pantry. A woman will be picking her up & dropping her off each week. If she enjoys it enough, she will no longer be in program at Starfire that day each week & will take on the volunteer position there! – MR

I love this part: “I see GREAT things coming her way,” and all the little steps taken as they do come her way. She is “getting out” of the day program Starfire has, and finding her place in community beyond her label of disability. Megan dreamt up this life. She told us the narrative, and we supported her in living it out. Things don’t always happen this fast, or go quite as smoothly, but the important piece is still there: we are supporting people in a story that is of value to them. There are lessons along the way, roadblocks, wrong turns. But it is valuable.

I should mention here too that around the same time as all of this was happening, Megan got engaged to her long time boyfriend. We can’t take any credit for that though. Congratulations, Megan!!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

“Community…that’s what it’s all about!”

Heather recently posted to Starfire’s Facebook wall this wonderful reflection about community after attending a Learning Lab in Price Hill and recognizing a neighbor at a local grocery store.

Learning Labs are monthly meet-ups to learn from local citizens. Always FREE and always open to the public!  They’ve been designed for you to learn something of interest to you, or just to meet your neighbors.  Thanks Heather for sharing your neighbor-run in story with us.  We like hearing good stuff going on in Cincinnati!

"Community! that's what it's all about!"

“Community! that’s what it’s all about!”

If you’ve attending a Learning Lab in Price Hill, Silverton, Northside or the newly formed Bellevue, what has been your experience?  What do you want to learn in the next couple of months?  Who do you know that would make an excellent teacher in your community?

Interested in starting a Learning Lab in your neighborhood?
Drop a line to Candice@starfirecouncil.org

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

March Learning Labs

northside lab

Wednesday, March 19th

at McKie Community Center in Northside
(1655 Chase Avenue, Cincinnati, Ohio 45223)
6-8PM Potluck & Learning Lab.
Bring a dish and jump in a class that interests you!

Wednesday’s offerings:
-Shadow Puppetry with Christine Langford
-Walking Tour of Cincinnati with Christopher Luessen

silverton lab

Thursday, March 20th

at Women Writing for a Change in Silverton
(6906 Plainfield Road, 45236)
6:30-8PM Potluck & Learning Lab.
Bring a dish and jump in a class that interests you!

Thursday’s offerings:
– Arts & Community: A Kennedy Heights Story with Eric Bertelsen
— Empathy & Compassion Workshop with Jennifer Wells
— Beginner Pilates with Tara Steed (bring your own mat if you have one!)
— What to Wear for Spring with Allie Harsacky

*What is a Local Learning Lab?* Monthly meet-ups to learn from local citizens. Always FREE and always open to the public!

*Why should I be there?* To learn something of interest to you, or just to meet your neighbors!

*What’s the night look like?* We’ll start with a potluck! Bring a dish to share!  Then we will break out into FREE classes (did we mention they’re free?). You can choose between any of the offered classes! Afterward, we will join back together to talk as a large group and wrap it up, and hear any ideas for the next Learning Labs.

*What should I bring?* Just a dish to share for the potluck!  Our meal is made up of whatever shows up.  Bring something you like.  If you’re working on something (a project, an idea) bring it along!

*How were these classes chosen?* We let YOU decide them at our monthly gatherings. We then go out in search of the best people in Cincinnati who will teach these topics!

*Didn’t I read that this is happening in Northside/Price Hill/Silverton?* It sure is! We have three nights dedicated to free Learning Labs with different offerings. If you’d like, you can come to all of them, whichever is closest to your house, or whichever date fits into your calendar!

*Who can I talk to if I want to learn more?*
Silverton: Candice@starfirecouncil.org
Northside: Sarah@starfirecouncil.org
Price Hill: Danyetta@starfirecouncil.org

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Building a life one person, one family at a time

Each month a few of us from Starfire put together a newsletter to send out to about 2,500 subscribers. We try to make it worth the read, and we think we’re getting better at portraying our stories and our message. So we want to start sharing the stories from our newsletter on Cincibility every month, and keep you in the loop about what’s going on at Starfire. Below is our March addition, abbreviated from the original newsletter format for easy digestion! Periodically, I will also post some of our archived newsletters that you may have missed. Enjoy!

Starfire’s march update

One question we’ve been asked lately is:

starfire community cincinnati

We think the stories in below can help people understand the “why.” It boils down to people’s value in their community. When people can be known by others while being shown in the best possible light of their gifts and passions, instead of their labels like disability, they can start to be seen as respected and valued citizens, able to contribute.

Here are a few of the reasons why one person, one family at a time is the way to go:

  • More flexibility to strive for each person’s unique goals
  • People become known as people in their communities, and are safer for it
  • Families can get stronger and feel more supported
  • Serving the person, rather than the organization’s needs, is what matters.

Start reading more here and here to learn more about Starfire’s values.

“It means getting off Starfire’s page, and onto the person’s page.”
-Starfire Board Member, Kathleen Cail

building a life

Megan and Linda volunteering together at SEM

Megan and Linda volunteering together at SEM

Megan has chosen to start coming to StarfireU two days a week instead of four. This choice wasn’t easy, because as she will tell you, she loves Starfire. But Megan also loves volunteering, particularly with the elderly and at food pantries, and told us she doesn’t want her only options at the end of her four years with StarfireU to be attending another day program for people with disabilities. So, with the help of Brenda, a Starfire staff who lives in her neighborhood, Megan has found other opportunities.

First, Megan spoke to the women at SEM, a food pantry in Mt. Washington right down the road from where she lives. She told them about how she volunteered at CAIN, a food pantry in Northside as a StarfireU member. Excited to hear all about CAIN’s model of success, Judy and Linda asked Megan to join as a valuable part of their team. With her prior experience, Megan could jump right in and do the same tasks that all the other volunteers do.

She also sought out a position at the Recreation and Senior Center down the road, where she and Brenda had been attending Zumba classes together. Through her connections, she found a spot volunteering with the elderly, and even carpools to and from with the friends she has made.

As she transitions out of StarfireU’s day program to take on these opportunities in her community, Megan is still being supported by Starfire, and Brenda. The two continue to work together, finding more ways to get deeper ties in her community with the support from her family and neighbors. This is when we know leaving the StarfireU program is the best option for someone like Megan: when our work together leads to a newfound sense of belonging in her community and she is “springing” out of the world of disability day programs, into a good life.

singing, just for the sake of it

Arlene (mom), Jordan, and Brandy (sister) at Sing! Cincinnati night

Arlene (mom), Jordan, and Brandy (sister) at Sing! Cincinnati night

Jordan loves singing, but until lately, his experiences were limited to watching other people sing on TV at home. Now as a fourth year StarfireU member, he is working on a project called Sing! Cincinnati, based off of the Canadian group Choir! Choir! Choir!. This pop-up community choir brings together anyone who loves to sing to perform a pop song each month, even if you’re not a great singer.

All sort of singers have come out of the woodwork to join Sing! Cincinnati alongside Jordan. Many admit they never had the chance to be part of a choir before. While their regular lives are spent at day jobs at Proctor and Gamble, hospitals, and schools, joining Sing! Cincinnati has linked them into a community of people who love to sing.  As one attendee, Leah Hoechstetter, commented on Facebook after their first event, “That was Total Fun!”

The next Sing! Cincinnati choir event is March 19th at 6pm at the Northside Tavern. If you go:

What should I expect? 
A relaxed, playful choir lesson lasting around 2.5 – 3 hours. A song director will teach you the three part harmonies to a pop song previously selected by the group. You’ll get a song sheet with a breakdown of each harmony to help you. By the end of the night, you will perform the song together for a video that gets posted on YouTube!

How much does it cost?
The entry fee is $5 per person.

Who will be there?
Every month new people join, and some people will become regulars. If you’re new, don’t worry, it’s an open group so you’re not the only one!

What if I can’t sing?
That’s the point! This is a group less concerned with the technical aspects, and more focused on the enjoyment of singing together. And trust us, when everyone’s voices come together, you’ll sound great!

and lastly, don’t miss our Final Four FlyAway this month!

starfire community flyaway

If you’d like to subscribe to our newsletter, follow this link.

Posted in News & Views | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Swimming Upstream



guest post contributed by Kathleen Cail

The other day I called my sister and told her that most of the time, I feel like I am swimming upstream trying to build a truly inclusive community for my daughter.  I told my sister that it is exhausting and it really is. I share my desires with teachers, staff, and other moms.  I send information to teachers and staff about opportunities to learn more about Grace, the person, or about meaningful inclusion. These attempts often seem to fall on deaf ears.  You know what I mean—the emails or messages go unacknowledged, as if maybe I’ll go away, or perhaps it’s the ostrich approach to “burying one’s head in the sand.” Occasionally though, the road less traveled is worth it and there are those golden moments, those amazing people who just like Grace for Grace.

I could have just had Grace spend most of her day in the resource room, with only special education students, but that is not what Grace has experienced throughout her school life, nor is it how she views the world.  Instead, Grace is in the resource room for one subject and all other subjects she is in regular classrooms, with significant modifications.  Grace is probably not learning some of the basic skills she needs, but there is no guarantee that by staying in the resource room, she would be learning some of the important things she is learning in the regular classrooms.  Grace is learning to work in groups, studying subjects that interest her in a way that interests her, and more. Grace is learning social skills in the real world (for good and bad, just like her brother does). She has joined clubs like Yearbook and Key Club.  Has Grace been fully embraced? No. Does Grace have girlfriends who invite her to do things on the weekends or accept her invitations?  Just one and that is inconsistent.  However, Grace has met a young man, with whom she went to homecoming, has seen the movies Frozen and Philomena, and has visited the Newport Aquarium.  Grace and her friend are doing many of the things that high school students do. Most importantly, this young man just likes Grace and thinks she is fun.  Recently, a student stopped me and told me that he sees Grace around the school and is hoping to catch her for lunch in the cafeteria some time.  Neither of these young men would likely even know Grace, were she in the resource room all day.

Last week, Grace introduced a photographer at a talk.  I invited every teacher and administrator in Grace’s school, and even at the district level, to come see Grace in a valued role and to hear this photographer speak about our shared humanity and seeing beauty in people who experience disability.  One teacher acknowledged the invite, but couldn’t make it, one teacher showed up, and most importantly, the superintendent of schools came with his wife and daughter.

It would be great if there were one or two girls who would get to know Grace. It would be great if teachers and staff even acknowledged my attempts to inform them about Grace, or real inclusion. It would have been great if a few more teachers showed up to witness Grace introduce this photographer to over 160 adults and to hear the photographer’s important message.  However, sometimes there are glimmers of hope – two young men who like Grace, because they think she is beautiful and funny, a teacher and a superintendent who show up.  These “glimmers of hope” will sustain me for a while.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

From The Archives: The Five Valued Experiences

cincibility archive
Originally posted one year ago today, The Five Valued Experiences continues to be one of our most popular posts of all time (and our second most popular post of 2013) and one of the most important things to understand about the work of inclusion.

If you missed this well-written piece or the discussion that followed, a portion is shared below with a link to the full post. The original comments can be found at the bottom of the original post here as well.
The Five Valued Experiences
February 15th, 2013 by timothyvogt

If you’re familiar with our journey, you know that we’ve had some pretty big learning moments.  One of the most important was when we started learning about Social Role Valorization.

But one of the things I struggled with when I learned about SRV was that it does an excellent job of laying out what not to do, but falls a little short on what to do.  Granted, it says “find valued roles,” and “enhance people’s image.”  But obviously there’s a need for some guidance on action, since people with disabilities are still living the same kinds of lives they lived 20 years ago.

So the question is:  “what should we be doing?”


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

On collaboration, passion, and projects


The stories below are what’s coming out of this year’s Collaboration Projects (follow the link and you’ll find a wonderful “How T0″ on beginning your own project written by Candice). But, what exactly is a Collaboration Project? It sounds a little non-profit jargony, right? Here’s the gist:

  1. All of our projects begin with a singular person’s passion.
  2. They wind-up as a group of passionate people creating together.
  3. The result, we hope, is that everyone involved feels less socially isolated, more connected, and valued for their (often simple, but unique) contribution.

And in case you’re wondering where we got the term Collaboration from, here’s a little history. The first year we launched these projects at Starfire, we called them “Capstone Projects.” It made sense because it was the member’s last year at StarfireU, our day program, and a Capstone is what many college students do before they graduate. But that sounded too final, like an “end,” when really we see these projects as a beginning to many things: friendship, creation, and imagination. And it takes the work of many. So, we re-named them Collaboration Projects, to signify the ongoing togetherness we are trying to build!



There’s another term for these projects, maybe you’ve heard of “Passion Projects.” It’s the closest definition we’ve found to our own projects that really makes sense (I’ll be quoting this article a couple more times in this post) :

A passion project (or, a collaboration project) doesn’t mean a side business, although it could grow into one. A (collaboration project) is often an indulgence of your deep inner desire to create. A drive to bring your ideas to life, whatever form they may take.”

So, a collaboration project could be a local story slam going on at a coffee shop (Margot’s story), or a pop-up choir group happening at a bar once a month (Jordan’s story), or simply spending time with other sports fans watching games. It could be working with neighbors to start a community garden (Bridget’s story), or starting a walking club (Rachel’s story, to be continued). The point is to embrace that inner part of all of us that wants to create, and to connect:

“Create. Not for the money. Not for the fame. Not for the recognition. But for the pure joy of creating something and sharing it.”


Margot’s Story

The Cinci Story Slam project is an effort to gather local people with ordinary lives to share their experiences in front of an intimate audience. Unlike the Moth Project, a popular story slam in NYC, the Cinci Story Slam is free, and open to a wide range of storytellers who may or may not have previous experience on the mic. It was through Margot’s love for the stories found in cinema that the story slam project began, and since she and a committee of passionate storytellers have gathered to plan these events. Here are a few of the stories told at the first Cinci Story Slam, themed #itscomplicated, that took place at a local coffee shop in January.

Jordan’s Story

I can often hear songs from the Toronto vocal group, Choir! Choir! Choir!, streaming from Youtube out of Tim’s office in the afternoons. When Tim’s obsession (fair to say, right Tim?) with this group collided with Jordan’s passion for song and choir, the idea to form Sing! Cincinnati was born. This is a group of people who come together once a month to learn a song and its harmonies, and perform it in the span of a few hours. The first choir lesson is February 19th, if you’re in the area, you don’t want to miss it. Even if you’re not a singer, but you love to sing, this is the place for you! Check out the videos to learn more about what Sing! Cincinnati is, and watch their debut performance Christmas Caroling on Fountain Square.

To follow these stories, and the others coming out of this year’s projects, subscribe to our Youtube channel! And, if you’re wondering what all of our projects are this year, check out Candice’s posts 1 23, & 4.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment