Tuesday, May 25, 1999

True test of region's spirit on the horizon




BY LAURA PULFER
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        What will Northern Kentucky do to dazzle us next? Really, it's getting kind of embarrassing. If this keeps up, citizens on the Ohio side might develop a serious edifice complex.

        Northern Kentucky is rolling in money, ideas and attitude. Meanwhile, to the north we are navigating around orange barrels, hoping they eventually will lead to prosperity. The only thing municipal government has managed to build in a hurry is an excruciatingly ugly plywood curtain around our most cherished fountain.

        And our county government is in a hot tub with the Bengals.

A green-eyed view
        Green-eyed Ohioans are watching as doors are opened, ground broken and plans made for attractions such as Bellevue's $14 million riverfront development, a $30.5 million convention center in Covington, the $40 million Oceanic Adventures Newport Aquarium, a $153 million Gallatin County motor speedway and Comair's $40 million concourse and headquarters.

        This is not to mention a handsome new 326-room Marriott Hotel on the river and another one near the airport. And the airport has more than $100 million in construction projects over the next 18 months.

A small, vital project
        So it will be interesting to watch what happens next month. This could be a test, a reality check. Maybe we'll see, once and for all, what this disparate association of counties and municipalities is really made of.

        A group of women is trying to raise money for another new building, a smallish development project. It will not attract tourists. There will be no exotic fish or chichi parties there. This is a building project that will serve women and children in eight counties in Northern Kentucky.

        They need $1.5 million.

        They'd use the money to buy, renovate and furnish a new shelter for battered women and children and set up a computer link to all the field offices of Northern Kentucky's Women's Crisis Center (WCC).

        There are naming opportunities. For instance, a corporation can put its name on the nurse's office for $15,000. Of course, the woman who is being treated there might have one or both eyes swollen shut, so I don't know whether she'll see the name plate.

        And the kids who escape there with their mothers might be too scared to notice who bought the bedroom where they're sleeping.

        Joyce McNeely, development director, says the group will start its campaign next month and finish by January 2000. She has the interesting challenge of trying to whip up enthusiasm for a charity that people don't like to discuss.

        And this includes the people who are served.

        The Women's Crisis Center (WCC), which began in 1976 as a telephone hot line for rape victims, now has clients ranging in age from birth to women in their 80s. The center's clients are survivors of domestic violence, sexual abuse and rape. Nobody is ever turned away and all services are free.

        Besides providing shelter for about 500 battered women and their children each year, services include counseling and court advocacy. In 1998, the WCC served more than 1,500 victims of rape or sexual abuse and nearly 3,000 victims of beatings.

        WCC staff and volunteers reached 32,000 schoolchildren last year with information about domestic violence, sexual and physical abuse. In an average week of classroom presentations, 15 children disclosed their own abuse.

        I guess you can't put a brass plate on that, either.

        Anyway, there's another worthy development project on the south side of the river. You can mail material signs of support to Joyce McNeely, 835 Madison Ave., Covington 41011. Checks can be made payable to the Women's Crisis Center or they will accept Visa and Mastercard. All gifts are tax-deductible.

        Northern Kentucky has proved that it has a head for business. Now we'll see if it has a heart.

        E-mail Laura Pulfer at lpulfer@enquirer.com or call 768-8393. Author of I Beg to Differ, she appears on WVXU radio, NPR's Morning Edition and InterMedia's Northern Kentucky Magazine.