The art of giving

. October 23, 2012.
Community-Garden-in-July

Tamera Rooney recalls a picture of herself as a six-year-old, holding a construction paper creation of a dog.  To her, the photo symbolizes a lifetime love of the visual arts. “I think I started my art career in the womb,” she laughs.

Rooney, Communications Coordinator for United Way of Hancock County, has frequently used her artistic talent and connections in the art community to help the organization raise funds and address the myriad needs of area residents. 

Since joining the United Way staff, Tamera has spearheaded a photo competition, an “Art of Hope” session with Century Health, and several continuing art displays around the community.

“I started a display of local art at The Wine Merchant in downtown Findlay,” says Rooney.  “Then it seemed like the idea really took off.  I’m especially proud of an entire gallery wall at the Agency on Aging.”

Collaborating with area artists fits nicely into United Way’s role as a “facilitator and coordinator.”  According to Tamera, United Way of Hancock County brings organizations, individuals and resources together to make things “happen” in an efficient and timely way.

“Sometimes there may be several groups with the same idea, all working without knowledge of each other.  United Way brings those groups together to direct their energy toward a common goal,” Tamera adds.

Providing food and self-sufficiency

Tamera only hesitates for a few seconds when asked to identify a significant problem in Hancock County. . . one of which few people may be aware.

“Hunger,” she states.  “You wouldn’t think that would be an issue in our county, but surveys and experience have shown us that children, especially, are going to bed hungry in our community.”

Two relatively recent United Way programs are targeted toward alleviating hunger and promoting self-sufficiency.  Feed a Child is entering its second year and Community Gardens “bloomed” for the first time this spring.

“Teachers at some of Findlay’s elementary schools were noticing a high incidence of stomachaches and headaches in their students on Monday mornings,” recalls Tamera.  They discovered many of the kids who relied on school breakfasts and lunches didn’t have much to eat over the weekend.  That’s when we teamed up to implement the Feed a Child program.”

During the 2010-2011 school year, Feed a Child made backpacks filled with a few days of healthy snacks and meals available to students at Washington Intermediate School each Friday afternoon.  This coming year, the program will expand to include Jacobs Elementary School as well.  Feed a Child is administered through the Findlay YMCA and a large number of volunteers.

The concept of a Community Garden, divided into smaller family gardens became a reality this past spring.  With United Way serving as a funder and community liaison, The MENTOR Initiative of Hancock County divided and tilled land next to The Family Center on N. Blanchard Street.  As we approach summer’s end, 24 families are enjoying the harvests of their own labor.

“This was a true collaboration,” adds Rooney.  “The Master Gardeners through the Ohio State Extension taught classes; The MENTOR Initiative took care of the logistics, and United Way brought everything together.”

Making it all possible

Of course, any organization that distributes money must also raise money and the United Way of Hancock County has conducted successful annual campaigns, even during economic downturns.  With a theme of “Live United, the Road to a Better Community,” the 2011 Campaign will officially kick off at Car Tunes on Main, Saturday, August 20, in downtown Findlay.  The day will start with a “community cruise” from 12-4pm with late afternoon and evening festivities on Main Street.  For the first time, this year’s campaign is headed by a “chaircouple,” Kim and Chuck Stumpp. 

Findlay’s Art District

Tamera Rooney’s passion for art and community-building joined forces this year when she opened Red Tornado Gallery on Crawford Street in downtown Findlay.  Featuring exhibits by local artists, Red Tornado is joined by Gaslight Gallery and the newly-opened Bowtie Gallery in what Tamera calls “Findlay’s art district.”  Her artistic ambitions seem to have been fulfilled by her own artwork, operating a gallery, and her position at United Way.

“My job at United Way has allowed me to be so creative,” she adds.  “It’s like being able to do artwork every day!”

For more information on United Way of Hancock County programs and events,

visit www.uwhancock.org or call the office at 419-423-1432.